Bud Bourassa — Driving Art

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 04/2011
  • posted in: Great Garages

Born in Detroit — where else for an automotive fan? — Bud Bourassa has loved cars since he was a boy. “He would sit in his mother’s Terraplane and practice shifting when he was 8 or 9,” says his wife, Stephanie. The Terraplane was a Hudson model from the ‘30s.

“I could name all the cars on the road like any other kid who loved cars,” he recalls. When a neighbor purchased a 120 Jaguar, he was in love. “I enjoy all kinds of cars but I still have a special place in my heart for ‘50s and ‘60s open two-seaters,” he says.

The first car he restored was a 1956 MGA — on his back patio because he had no extra garage space. “I sold my motorcycle to pay for part of the MGA because, at that time, I had to sell one thing to buy the next,” he recalls.

He relocated his family to the Valley in 1971 after visiting his brother and enjoying the regular sunlight — and the great opportunity the climate offered for driving cars and restoring them. “As things got better for my company, I started acquiring a collection of cars,” he adds.

In 1999, he sold his electrical wholesale distribution company. Since then he has devoted more time to his collection, restoring and showing his cars.

Although retired, Bud still needed an office and a place for his expanding car collection. The solution: Build a combination garage/office. Today, several of his cars surround his desk, and others are parked in one of several other garages on the property. Automotive memories hang on the walls, reminding him of the joy and friendships his cars have provided him.

He’s currently working on a 1963 Apollo. The car, he explains, was conceived by young designers who made a deal with Intermeccanica. They shipped the frame to Italy where it was bodied. Back in the U.S., they installed a 215-cubic-inch Buick alloy motor and other over-the-counter Buick parts.

“They ended up making about 35 and offered it for a couple years,” he explained. “They had lots more orders but ran out of capital. The assets were sold to a Texas company who continued making about 50 as Via Venturas. Maybe 20 or so, maybe a few more, are left today, he believes. “They were lightweight at 2,400 pounds and quick.”

Next on the Bourassa bench: a recently acquired Austin Healey 100-4.

Bud’s finished cars just don’t sit; they’re regularly cruising Valley roads: “Some people hang their art; I drive it,” he says.

Below, he word paints some of his art:

•Jaguar XK150 — “I purchased the car 15–20 years ago and rebuilt it. I did all the mechanical but sourced the paint and interior in the Valley. I’ve run it in a number of events such as the Copperstate 1000. It’s won a number of awards, including the Jaguar Club of North America’s West of the Rockies Best in Class. I also have an alloy-bodied replica 1951 C-type racing Jaguar. Newer cars include an XJR and an XK convertible. If I had to choose among so many marques, so many cars, Jaguar is my favorite.”

•Austin-Healey ‘Bug Eye’ Sprite — “The popular Sprite was built from 1958–61. They sold for just $1,800. This features the bulging lights known as ‘bug eyes’ or ‘frog eyes’ which make the cars so distinctive. The company wanted to use foldaway headlights at first, but they found that it would be too expensive, so they went with these. I built this car as a gift to Stephanie.”

•1966 Chevrolet Corvette — “In this Corvette, I replaced the original engine with a crate motor putting out 330 horsepower and added a five-speed Tremec tranny. We shipped it this year to the Posies Driven Dirty Tour out of Virginia, and we drove it with 10 or 12 other hot rodders cross country to the SEMA show — 3,000 miles — and it got over 20 miles to the gallon.”

•2004 Ferrari 360 — “I bought it two or three years ago. I had a 355 and a Testarossa before. Everyone with a car garage should have a least one Ferrari in a lifetime. I have been fortunate to have had a few.”

•1933 Ford Highboy — “This steel-bodied, numbers-matching five-window coupe has flames painted by Art Himsl. I bought it a several years ago at a ‘Cars and Coffee’ event in Irvine, Calif. It got my attention, and that’s the most important thing for me, that is, if I love to look at a car. I shipped it home and have been updating it since. It has a Corvette 327 and Richmond quick-change gears.”

•1954 Chevrolet Corvette Bubble Top — “They only made 20 bubble-tops, 15 clear and five green. This is one of those five. I found the car in parts and pieces five years ago in St. Louis. It was owned by the president of the Nesbitt Bottling Company: Remember that? The car was still owned by the family. I had it transported back to Scottsdale where I began a two-and-a-half year frame-up restoration. The top had been painted silver and, using progressively grit-rated sand paper, I spend several weeks removing the paint and repairing the broken corners. The body was perfect and only needed paint.”

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