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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/4/20 9:11 p.m.

Now, don't get me wrong: We've substantially increased the Buick's off road ability. But there's still a slight chance it could get stuck off road. Maybe. Okay definitely.

That's not a big deal, though: We have shovels and sand ladders, and we know how to dig a stuck car out. Exhibit A:

But there's one problem with digging: It's just not CLASSY, you know? And like any Buick owners, we wanted to stay classy and have a LUGGURIOUS way to self-recover.

Hey wait a second we've got a detachable winch for our truck... that would fit the Buick, right?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/4/20 9:23 p.m.

Bye bye, bumper!


And on the welding table it goes...


Next, we did some precision measuring/centering with a piece of 2" I.D. square tube from the scrap bin. 

And after some time with the plasma cutter...


We had two holes cut in the bumper!

All that was left was a quick trim and a dash of welding:


And some silver paint to make it completely invisible to the other patrons at the country club:


To help increase our chances of actually using the winch without the bumper falling off, we welded the shocks solid, too.


After some cursing and nearly dropping the 100-lb. bumper on our toes, we put the winch on and took a photo. Success!

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
5/4/20 9:25 p.m.

That is one majestic son of a bitch 


I also stand by my comment from the fire side chat, this needs to be gifted to JG after it's intended use. Put a note in the glovebox, thank you for 30 years of service


Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/20 7:05 a.m.

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

It's got a 307.  That's more of a berkeley you for 30 years of service 

At first I was going to say thank goodness Florida is a no-front-plate state, but then your comment on painting to match for the country club, I suggest a Buick chrome logo plate on some extensions to hide the winch mount when not in use.

volvoclearinghouse (Forum Supporter)
volvoclearinghouse (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
5/5/20 8:04 a.m.

Front mount receivers are also great for maneuvering one's boat into one's garage.  In Florida, I would think this would be standard equipment on any car. 

Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter)
Adrian_Thompson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/5/20 8:13 a.m.

Wow, this thing is outstanding.  You realize this car would have been $3k here in rust belt.  

Patrick (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to captdownshift (Forum Supporter) :

It's got a 307.  That's more of a berkeley you for 30 years of service 

But 307s make fun induction noises through the Q-Jet with the lid flipped!

noddaz GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/5/20 11:19 a.m.

Whats next, hockey pucks between the sub frame and body?



captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
5/5/20 11:49 a.m.

In reply to Patrick (Forum Supporter) :

that's in large part why JG needs he. It came about that he's never really owned a terrible car. This thing is endearing enough though, that it might be worth swapping one of the FWD V8s from a late lumina into when this is all said and done. 

Uncle David (Forum Supporter)
Uncle David (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/5/20 8:44 p.m.

I know I'm being a little bit like "That Guy", but ya know, these have stupid-tall gears, and now it has really tall tires too.  Is there a plan to address that?

Oh, and an Olds 403 is externally identical to the 307.  

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
5/5/20 8:54 p.m.

We won't be doing any hardcore rock crawling, so the worst side effect I'm anticipating is running in first instead of second. Don't really need a low crawl ratio for mud and sand. 

Stampie (FS)
Stampie (FS) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
5/5/20 9:02 p.m.

In reply to Uncle David (Forum Supporter) :

One of my easiest days of mudding here in FL I got water into my MAF and the truck went into limp mode.  I found I was able to go through anything cause I couldn't over power my tires anymore.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/20 3:15 p.m.

The Gambler 500 was this past weekend, so it's time for an update. 

First, though, rewind the clock to last Wednesday. There I was, sitting at my desk, when I remembered that the Gambler was only a few days away. I mean, I'd mostly remembered that, but hadn't really put too much thought into it. 

Then I remembered something else: I hadn't touched the Buick since installing the winch. It had been sitting for months while I worked on actual project cars. That meant I had no idea if the tires rubbed, if it still ran or if it could handle the weight of four people. Plus I'd never got around to installing a CB radio, putting together tools/spares/recovery/navigation gear, or really doing any prep at all.

To the garage! I ordered up the cheapest CB radio and antenna that Amazon could deliver in one day, then went to work. Fortunately the Buick started with only a jump, so I pulled it into the shop and went to work. I had quite the to-do list to knock out in just two evenings!

My first to-do item was a biggie: The wheels weren't really attached. I'm not sure why/how, but at some point during the Buick's life it was treated to wheel studs and lug nuts with mismatched threads, with the wheels only held on by 500 ft.-lbs. of ugga duggas. I'd noticed this while bolting the new wheels on, and ordered a full set of replacement studs and lug nuts just to be safe. Call me a wuss or anti-Gambler or whatever, but I really hate it when wheels fall off. 20 minutes and $40 of parts was worth it for the peace of mind. 

With the wheels attached for real, I finally went on a decent test drive. The results... weren't awesome. I spotted a few more areas of tire rub, and liberally applied sawzall and hammer to fix them. 

Next up... a CB radio! This took the most time out of anything, as I really didn't want to hurt the Buick's shockingly nice interior. I routed the antenna through the trunk and mounted it on the decklid, then screwed the CB under the glovebox and wired it off the cigarette lighter. Not my finest work, but way better than anything else we'd be sharing the trail with. 

(I hid the wiring the rest of the way after taking this picture)

Next up: The glovebox, which had a missing latch striker and wouldn't close as a result. I wanted to make sure we could appreciate the real burl wood photo printed on it during the event, so I made a new striker and bolted it in place:

Next up, the battery: It wasn't bolted down, and it wasn't wired to run the winch. No, there's no tech inspection at the Gambler, but I'm a big believer in restrained batteries. 

It turned out to be my lucky day, as the factory tie-down and hardware was wedged under the washer bottle. Success! I simply bolted the battery down using those parts. To hook up the winch, I used extended battery bolts to hook two wires with a circuit breaker to a quick-disconnect through the grill. 

Complete! Or, well, not quite. As I was loading the Buick up, I realized there were no recovery points on the rear of the car. There's no way I'm crawling under this thing in the mud to hook onto the rear sway bar, so I put it back on the lift and dumped out the scrap bin. Miata to the rescue!! At least, I'm pretty sure this is a Miata tow hook. I welded it onto the Buick's frame without doing any prep, which was a bad idea but did save time. 

All that was left was recovery gear, so I borrowed my recovery bag, survival bag, and tool bag from the truck. At some point I'll put together a dedicated set for the Buick, but I was in a hurry. Navigation would be handled by the Gaia GPS app on my phone, which I was already well-versed in using. The Buick was nowhere near perfect, still didn't run that well, and was mostly untested, but it was ready to Gamble. To the event!

Here's the Buick in its new natural habitat with Nicole (left) and her best friend Teri. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/20 3:21 p.m.

So, let's take a minute to talk about how we did (or didn't do) the event. Put simply, we really don't want to catch 'Rona, so we scaled back our plans for the weekend and only Gambled for the day on Saturday. No camping, no wild party, just a day on the trails. We just weren't comfortable with the density of humanity in camp. 

Here's the team we spent the day with. From left to right: Wayne, who couldn't finish his Commanche in time and drove his F-250 instead. Charlie, who brought a rusty Bronco patched with beer cans and pop rivets. It was dubbed the beer can bronco. That lifted and snorkeled Civic was built by Miles and Katie. Next to the Buick is my dad's Miata, while the Baja Beetle is Britt and Ellen's rallycross car. Each car had its strengths: The beetle was light and fast, the Miata was extensively prepared for deep water crossings, the Buick had traction that couldn't be beat, the Civic was already scheduled for scrap the next day, the bBonco had character, and the F-250 had air-conditioning. We'd never seen a better team of adventurers. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/20 3:25 p.m.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/20 3:45 p.m.

The Gambler 500 is a checkpoint navigation challenge, so we spent the day trying to reach as many waypoints along the way as we could. 

We shot a ton of video so I won't totally ruin the surprise, but I will speak to the Buick's performance: IT ABSOLUTELY CRUSHED IT. Not only did it make it through all of the deepest holes, but I was winching and snatching our teammates out of them with its mighty FWD V8. This thing dominates, and it's earned a permanent place in the collection because it did so well. Here are a few more photos; video and a full Gambler story are coming soon. 

Nicole and I smiling at our excellent choice of off-road vehicle. 

For the record, the Buick charged through this hole with no issues, then winched the Miata out. Points!

It went through this just fine, too! After the F-250 couldn't budge the Bronco, we used the Buick's fancy new recovery point and a kinetic strap to snatch the Bronco to safety. 

There's no better feeling than dominating an off-road rally in your Buick!!

I'm told that the back seat was comfortable and luxurious while off-road, too. Every Jeep needs velour!

Ok, the Buick did finally let us down once. After a particularly deep hole, it lost spark and needed to have its distributor dried out with WD-40. We'd found what seemed to be the only weakness! This process thrilled and excited Nicole and Teri, who have both experienced the joy of hiking out of the woods after mechanical failure. Fortunately we had it running again a few minutes later.

How about that hood ornament!

Finally, after a long day on the trails, we called it and headed home. We came, we saw, we conquered. Success!

We'll have more photos and stories once everybody finishes downloading camera cards, but I didn't want to keep anybody waiting too long. The moral of the story is this: Buy a crappy car, put knobbies on it, and take it offroad. You'll have more fun than you could ever imagine, and probably won't even destroy it. 

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard GRM+ Memberand Marketing Coordinator
6/22/20 3:58 p.m.

I would like to point out that I always had full confidence in the Buick's gambling ability from the moment I picked it. So stoked for next year.

Also, a little story for the "Redneck Riviera" thing:

We had been workshopping team names/call signs for the whole ride to the start point. Beige Eagle, Velour Mafia, and Half-Throttle had all been floated as contenders, but none really had that magic combination of instant recognition and phonetics that carry well over radio. Just as we were about to give up, Tim came in over the CB and addressed us as "Redneck Riviera". The name stuck, so Teri wrote it on the car in permanent marker. In return, we gave Tim his call sign: Baby Zebra.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/20 7:07 p.m.

In reply to Nicole Suddard :

I've started calling the MS Coast, and Biloxi in particular the Redneck Rivera. Maybe that needs to be the car's destination sometime?

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
6/22/20 8:31 p.m.

It's remarkably comfortable both on and off road. I'd do a road trip in it!

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/22/20 8:48 p.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Register it for Crusin’ the Coast the first week of October. They have an autocross course that's free to run unlimited for entrants. 

maschinenbau (I live here)
maschinenbau (I live here) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/22/20 9:23 p.m.

Looks like a blast! This makes me really want to do a Gambler. Georgia's got postponed indefinitely.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
6/22/20 11:17 p.m.

It's been fun following this. Can't wait for the full write-up and videos.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
7/12/20 9:48 a.m.

I am just finishing the magazine story. It should be in our October or November issue. As for the Miata, I have cut off more of the fenders and added flares to keep the tires from rubbing. The car is a keeper and now resides at my cabin in the Ocala National Forest. I will definitely do the event again next year.


captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
7/20/20 9:10 p.m.

I suddenly want to find a mk3 Jetta TDI and H&R "dune" coilovers to lift it. Skidplates are out there. 

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