1939 Buick 4-Door Special “The Duchess” By Kindig-It Design

- in Cars

When Harold and Ruth Wiley brought in pieces of a 1939 Buick 4-Door Special to Kindig-It Design, they were looking to have a daily driver built.

The Salt-Lake-City-based shop had already built the couple a 1949 Chevy pickup truck, so the Wileys knew they could expect a high-quality vehicle from the Kindig-It Design team. Little did they know that the Buick that started in pieces would go on to become an award-winning show car.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod front end
“The Buick came to us with the original straight-eight [engine] in it,” said Dave Kindig, co-owner of Kindig-It Design. “The body itself was in fair shape. The intention of the owners was not to [have it become] a show car.”

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod rear end
Things changed as the build began. Over the following eight months, the build team (which included a combination of 10 people) worked to turn the body and parts into an elegant daily driver for the Wileys.


The shop created many custom parts for the car, including custom air cleaner covers and wheel center caps. Justin Stephens of JS Custom Interior created the regal beige interior using Street Suede material from Keyston Bros.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess'
Brake and gas pedals from Clayton Machine Works were installed, along with a Lecarra Banjo steering wheel.


The Kindig-It Design team hand painted the car’s interior trim using PPG’s Envirobase paint.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod built by Kindig-It Design
The original straight-eight engine was replaced with an LS2. The powertrain also includes a Billet Specialties Tru Trac belt system, a 4L65-E GM transmission, and a sculpted air inlet tube.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod LS2 engine under the hood
For the body, the Kindig-It Design team used the factory chassis but upgraded it with a custom IFS and four-link from TCI. To give the Buick a lower stance, a RideTech air suspension was installed. The team kept the car’s factory lines intact and strived to keep it as stock as possible.




One of the car’s most-striking attributes is the custom two-tone gray paint job that was achieved using a mix of PPG’s Mineral Gray and Pearl White.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod front left side
“The irony of this is that the owner, Harold Wiley, is color blind but has heard it’s truly beautiful,” Kindig said of the paint job.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' hot rod rear righ side
The car once intended to be a daily driver ended up being too beautiful not to show off. The Wileys allowed the shop to showcase the car’s chassis during the 2010 car show season. After that, the Kindig-It Design team finished the car in only four months in order to have it ready for the Autorama in Utah in March 2011. The team adapted a display that had been used for another one of its builds the year before to showcase the car.




The Buick ended up taking home the Wasatch Cup at the show, the first of many awards the car would win.

1939 Buick 4-Door Special 'The Duchess' built by Kindig-It Design interior
In August, the “Grand Duchess” was trailered to Pleasanton, California, to compete in Goodguys’ West Coast Nationals. The Buick ended up beating out street rods from all over the world to be crowned America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod, the first time a four-door car won the award.


“Every time the ‘Grand Duchess’ would win such a [big] award, Harold Wiley [would say] with a large grin on his face, ‘Not bad for a driver … not bad at all,’” Kindig said.



Check out another two-tone painted car built by Kindig-It Design – Gary Holyoak’s 1955 Chevy Bel Air.


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