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						Speedliner 19
Sensational Speedliner

Dore Timbs Buick re-creation

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

Rick Dore sums up his dramatic car designs with three simple words: “Elegance, style and attitude.” The first two stem from his fondness for the flowing, flamboyant French coachbuilders such as Saoutchik, along with Figoni et Falaschi, who created some of the most graceful automotive shapes ever seen. But as for the other word, “attitude,” well that’s all-American and boils down to a more aggressive stance and domestic V8 power. More about that in a moment, but first a bit about Dore’s unusual background and significant achievements.

Raised in New York, he admits that he didn’t have a vehicle for personal transportation, he just took the trains. So how did he get into this field?

“I never meant it to be a business,” Dore reveals. “I got into it as a love for cars.” Before that, all he reveals is that he was “unemployable.” So there are no framed diplomas from design schools hanging on the walls. Instead, his credentials are the seven, count ’em seven, Hall of Fame induction plaques, plus numerous car show trophies he’s won since his debut on the car scene in the 1990s. Dore is almost dismissive of competing for awards now — “I don’t concern myself with trophies” — preferring instead to let his work speak for itself. Which brings us to his latest project, the Speedliner.

Dore readily admits that it was inspired to some degree by a famous sport custom — the Timbs Buick — a homebuilt sport custom designed by Norman E. Timbs. Timbs initially worked with Preston Tucker on the Tucker automobiles and later on the highly successful Indy 500 Blue Crown Specials. This one-off was likely also influenced by the 1937 Auto Union Typ C Stromlinie and 1937 MercedesBenz W25 AVUS Stromlinie, which ran the 1937 AVUS Grand Prix.

Glenn McElroy tried to buy the original R Sensational Speedliner Timbs Buick when he first spotted it, but the car sadly went up in flames in Malibu, California, along with the rest of a large rare automotive collection. Undeterred, he decided to create his own version, dubbed the Speedliner, with some special upgrades.

“I wanted to build this car with horsepower and more modern conveniences,” he recalls, with power steering and other improvements.

Initially the form of the body was to be nearly identical. However, Dore convinced him otherwise.

“Glenn loved that shape and wanted to clone it,” he relates. “But that’s not what I do. ‘Let’s do something on our own.’” Since Dore builds custom cars, and is not a replica builder or restorer, Glenn wisely gave him pretty much free reign.

Drawn out (literally) by Eric Brockmeyer, the Speedliner’s shape is slightly longer and wider. The Timbs Buick measures 17.5 feet long on a 117- inch wheelbase, while the Speedliner is 17.64 feet overall with a 120-inch wheelbase. More noticeable are the changes in the contours, though.

“The fenders on the original Timbs Buick look like a roller coaster, kind of doughy and sweeping,” Eric notes. “We wanted to sharpen it up from the droopy lines for more of a speed shape, to make it look faster — like it’s going fast sitting still.”

In addition to adding rake to the fender lines, they also relocated the cockpit farther back and reworked the front end. The headlights were moved rearward, and the ornate bumper was eliminated. And if that new grille looks familiar, it’s because it was inspired by another famous concept car — the Buick Y-Job. Metal spears on the sides, a more aggressive wheel design and an intake vent behind the cockpit (Dore’s recommendation) also give the car additional attitude.

All told, “The Speedliner has a more sinister, cleaner front end,” Eric observes. “The design had a weird proportion at first but became unique and cool. We’re really proud of it.”

Other challenges included “organizing all these people,” Dore adds. “It was the biggest project I had ever been involved in. I had never done a car without doors or a hood.” From start to finish, the build took 1 1/2 years, actually somewhat less time required than to build the Timbs Buick.

Both cars’ aluminum bodies were formed over a wooden buck. Using this method was one of the most difficult aspects of the build. “Getting this car to flow was difficult,” Dore admits. “It has rhythm, and we knew what it was going to look like, but we had never used a wooden buck before.”

The body was handcrafted by Luc De Ley of Marcel’s Custom Metal. He says the sheer size of the car, with no doors or hood to break up the panels, made it difficult to form various body parts. “My arms are only so long,” he laughs. Over the years, this shop has also done work for luminaries such as Chip Foose, Roy Brizio, Boyd Coddington and Jerry Kugel.

Underneath the body is an Art Morrison chassis, with dual A-arms on Wilwood spindles up front. A multilink IRS with Camaro uprights and hubs was used in the rear, and JRi coilover shocks were installed at the corners.

The frame had to be substantially modified with help from Steve Wilk for a midengine setup and also to handle how the back end raises up. Underneath that rear clamshell is a Corvette C7 LT4, and Corvette expert Roger Odell provided assistance to mate the engine to a Stage 4 C5 4L60e transmission with an LT bellhousing. It’s connected to a C6 differential with 3.50 gears and controlled by an MSD transmission controller.

The supercharged LT4 engine delivers a whopping 650 hp. By comparison, the Timbs ran a 1948 Buick straight-eight, rated at about 110 hp (depending on the model year). No surprise, then, that Glenn is quick to point out that “This car is really fast.” He speaks from experience here, as he also owns a McLaren and many other high-performance exotics and muscle cars.

While Dore appreciates performance and realizes that’s intrinsic to achieving the right “attitude,” he says, “I like power, but I’m more about style and elegance.”

To that end, the cockpit is graced with plush upholstery from Ron Mangus. Recessed into the uncluttered dash are Dakota Digital gauges, and a panel on the passenger side conceals all the electronics, such as the Ron Francis Wiring Bare Bonz system linked to a battery from XS Power Batteries, making them easier to access than from under the dash.

Speaking of access, the crew also worked hard to ensure all the mechanicals could be serviced from underneath, considering the car’s elaborate bodywork. That included developing dropout steering rack and radiator assemblies. The latter is a DeWitt’s Z06 radiator with a Spal brushless fan and modified finned coolant tubes. There’s also a front-mounted 55-gpm Meziere Enterprises water pump to prevent cavitation in the system and a custom-made aluminum surge tank. A factory Z06 intercooler with a Meziere 20-gpm water pump is plumbed in 5/8-inch stainless hard line to a custom aluminum reservoir.

Side-by-side comparisons with the Speedliner and the Timbs Buick are simply not possible now, except from historical photos. But Dore’s Speedliner simultaneously carries on the torch and brings its design forward with some serious attitude. Just like he wanted all along.

Glenn is totally in agreement: “It is a screamer, burns rubber and hooks up real good,” he grins. And when he rolls into a show or Cars & Coffee, invariably he gets a couple different comments: “You’re the winner!” is one immediate response, while others ask what it is. “A ’46 Chevrolet, highly customized,” is all that Glenn allows.

So what’s opening next for Dore? “I’m still catching my breath from the Speedliner,” he says. “I want to go back to my roots, coachbuilt Buicks and Cadillacs, the lower-end cars.” These cars don’t cost as much but are easier to flip and help to fund the bigger projects. So we expect to see more sensational coachwork from this remarkably talented builder.

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