‘Bombshell Betty’ is the Buick Super Riviera of Your ‘Mad Max’ Dreams

Andrew T. Maness

Meet “Bombshell Betty,” she’s a New Mexico gal who like spending time in Utah, particularly the Bonneville Salt Flats. Clearly she’s had some work done, but at her age, that’s not out of the ordinary. And that work isn’t just cosmetic—oh no, Betty has some new bits under the hood too.

Bombshell Betty started life as a 1952 Buick Super Riviera Coupe, an iconic piece of post-war machinery that shared components with the Cadillac Series 61 and 61. ‘BB,’ as I’ll be referring to her for the remainder of the article, was rescued from an abandoned sawmill in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2008 by master engineer Jeff Brock, and brought to his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In June of 2009, Brock began tirelessly working on BB, and with help from a plucky team of individuals that included his wife, and two college students, the build was completed by the August 7th deadline for entry into Bonneville Speedweek.

Brock and one of the students the escorted BB to Utah for her inaugural run at Bonneville, in which she set a record in the XO/GCC class with a top speed of 130.838 mph. Each year that BB has returned to Bonneville, she’s set new records, 141.821 at the World Finals in 2010, 162.48 in 2012, and 165.735 in 2013. That record was to be BB’s last achievement with Brock, as he was ready for a new challenge, and BB is now with renowned photographer Peter Lik.

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All of BB’s records are even more impressive when you consider the fact that Brock elected to give her a heart transplant from within her own family. Brock bored out the 320 cubic-inch straight 8 from a 1950 Buick Roadmaster to his specifications, installed Arias 11:1 pistons for low compression, and added a solid lifter cam as a throwback to the stock cars of the ’50s and ’60s.

Brock also gave BB an Oldsmobile race harmonic balancer in order to cut down on engine vibration and parasitic power loss, two key things that prevent vehicles of BB’s era from achieving high speeds. The zeppelin attached to the top of the motor is an intake from Hart’s Collision Racing Shop, and features a Jegs Quick-Fuel 750 cm racing carburetor. It’s easily my favorite piece of BB, as it gives her a real ‘Mad-Max’ kind of vibe, and if you’re going racing in the desert, there’s nothing more appropriate.

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BB is operated via an early ’60s Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed manual transmission, and a Comp/Plus shifter from Hurst. Clutch and brake hydraulics are Wilwood, which is comforting because stopping BB is just as important as being able to get her up to speed. As for her undercarriage, Brock took inspiration from Dr. Frederick Frankenstien, or is it Froderick? Anyway, there’s a 1968 Chevy Van dropped axle cut down to 11″ and solid mounted up front, and a 1973 Ford Thunderbird 9″ differential with a 2.73 positraction configuration in the rear.

Bombshell Betty might not fit the conventional idea of beauty, but that’s fine, not everyone has to get it. All it’ll take for BB to find a new home is $195,000 and given the pedigree she brings to the table, I imagine someone will come along rather quickly.

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