There's nothing quite like an adrenaline rush that overtakes your senses the first time you visit a dragstrip. The air is tinged with the scent of race fuel, burnt rubber, and track food from the concession stand—only surpassed by the visual onslaught of the most wicked, hopped-up quarter-mile asphalt burners on the planet. Now imagine being 1 year old, in the pits with your parents, and absorbing all this into your very young mind. If this doesn't pave a path for your future something is definitely amiss. For 23-year-old Buddy Buser of Severna Park, Maryland, it was very real and the perfect way to establish a lifelong family bond and a direct connection to drag racing. It was his dad, Henry, who got started in the sport back in 1978 while campaigning a small-block–powered '57 Anglia at local tracks, including Maryland International Raceway (Budds Creek), Capitol Raceway, and U.S. 13 Raceway in Delaware. He gradually moved up in power and then onto a Pro Gas '48 Anglia urged by an injected big-block consistently turning 8.90 e.t.'s at 151 mph. From there, he purchased a former Warren Johnson Pro Stock '84 Oldsmobile Cutlass. This was right around the time when Buddy was old enough to race home from school, finish his homework, and help out in the garage till dark.
With the support of his mother, Terry, and sister Jamie to keep everything organized, the family rallied each week to prepare the Cutlass for its next trip down the track. It was during these formative years in which Buddy would listen intently to numerous old competition stories his dad would tell of the rivalry between the Snake and Mongoose, and the amazing presence both Tommy Ivo and Jungle Jim had back in the day.
With every passing year Buddy's responsibilities with the family race car grew while also assisting with his sister's 10-second Pro Street Vega. When it came down to it, however, it was his dad who was not only his finest inspiration but also his best friend.
One afternoon in 2005, Buddy (then 15 years old) tagged along with his dad on a stop to bring a mutual friend over to meet classic car broker Russell Hood who had a '72 Camaro for sale. The friend passed on the car and Buddy wasted no time letting his dad know he had to have it. A deal was made and the car was brought back to the family garage for assessment.
While the second-gen was a decent driver with a warmed-over 350, it didn't have the right stance or power combination. Once the garage door closed, the two tore out the interior and started cutting. Within the first weekend they had removed the rear floor and dropped the stock rearend and suspension. A fresh rear clip was fabbed-up using 2x3-inch boxed 'rails incorporating a Dana 60 rear filled with Strange Engineering 35-spline axles. Next up, coilovers, ladder bars, and Trac locator bar were bolted in. An old set of Centerline wheels with mile-wide rubber were tucked into the fenderwells, while the anemic small-block was replaced with a nasty 482ci Rat turning 13:1 slugs linked to a TH400 trans. The car easily turned 10.60 e.t.'s, while also serving as his daily transportation. It also earned him "best car" at the high school. How cool is that!
While the car was neat, Buddy had much loftier aspirations of wanting to redo it so he could run in the 7's while still being streetable. Thus, a four-year build ensued with his dad to resurrect the car with a vengeance.