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Obituary - Mr. William "BUDDY" Branch


Well-known member
It is great sorrow and a heavy heart that I must notify the airboat community of the passing of master engine builder Buddy Branch on 12/20/2020 at Tampa General Hospital of COVID-19 related health effects. Mr. Branch was surrounded by his loving family at the time of his death.

Having been raised in North Carolina NASCAR country, Mr. Branch began his love of high performance engines at a young age. As he moved into adulthood he owned and operated a full service auto repair station before landing with his growing family in the Tampa Florida area many years ago. Having first mastered the Oldsmobile engine it was then by total accident that he discovered the Cadillac 472/500 engine for high performance modification. It was during a major repair to a relatives vehicle that he was surprised at the power that the engine produced. This was at a time when a low mileage 472 or 500 cubic inch engine could be purchased at the local salvage yard for $150 with little effort.

Initially Mr. Branch was building or modifying the 472/500 engines for "Street Rods" where he quickly became well known for his budget friendly and powerful engines. From the streets and local drag strip his reputation for building Cadillac, Pontiac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile engines spread until one day a gentleman stopped into his shop in Tampa with what at that time was a rather odd request. The new customer wanted to order a Cadillac engine to mount a large wood paddle prop to it's crankshaft. While a totally new concept to him Mr. Branch embraced the build and upon completing it word spread of the power and reliability of his engines. Over the next 30 plus years Mr. Branch constantly evolved and improved upon the 472/500 platform. He was one of the first to fabricate a forged "tool steel" pedestal to address high RPM valve train needs. He was a pioneer in making a full roller Cadillac engine before such products were commercially available for sale. He accomplished this by altering roller lifters from another modern GM family of engine then having the lifters machined and married by a "link bar." Working with both Crane and Competition Cams he convinced them to build him proto-type roller camshafts off both Big Block and Small Block Chevy lobe profiles until he discovered what worked best for performance and durability.

Never being content with the status quo in recent years Mr. Branch had developed a process to eliminate crankshaft key way walk, designed a fully adjustable roller camshaft thrust bearing, perfected the 555 inch airboat gear drive engine, adapted both Nitrous Oxide systems and the GMC 871 blower to the Cadillac airboat platform.

"Buddy" as he was known had been helpful to anyone who needed engine technical advice, spending hours of his time weekly on the phone "talking them through" repairs or diagnosis of problems. Producing custom fabricated parts such as his "MAX TORQUE" Direct Drive airboat camshaft kit's, he helped to promote reliable and economical airboat power to our community.

A true "Southern Gentleman" he was always willing to assist someone with a problem, may he now rest in peace.

A private graveside service for family will be conducted on 12/23/2020 in Springhill, Florida

There will be a Celebration of Life Social "luncheon" in the very near future for friends and family to honor Buddy's memory.
I am very sorry to hear this news. I never had the chance to meet the man, but I did talk with Mr. Branch one day concerning a possible engine build. We had a great conversation, Buddy was more than helpful and free with information.
On behalf of the family, we greatly appreciate this tribute to him! He was an amazing man who truly loved what he did and it showed through his work.
Growing up, I have learned so much just watching him and would sometimes even help him clean parts and build his engines. Those times were some of my greatest moments spent with him. I’ve watched him spend hours upon hours striving to make his engines better with great detail and precision.
He is loved very much and will be immensely missed!! Thank you again!

Buddy’s Daughter,

Jamie Young
I am so sorry to hear this! Prayers for his family! I just spoke with him a month or so ago.
:rebel: Though i never had the pleasure of meeting Mr Branch l have read and heard so many good things about him. Prayers to his family and friends. R.I.P SIR and GOD BLESS :rebel:
Really sorry to hear.

One of the most highly respected reputations in airboating, Mr. Branch is gonna be missed big time.

Condolences to family & friends.

I may have the only 383 Stroker he ever did. Several years ago my engine seized and while he normally did not work on small block engines, Buddy offered to tear it down and rebuild it. He did an incredible job and did it at fair price. Living in Southeast Florida made the job a bit of a challenge, but once I got it over to him he got busy. He was extremely thorough and communicative throughout the process. He was a kind and helpful man. I will say a prayer for his family at this difficult time.
I just heard the news of Buddys passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Buddy will be truly missed. Buddy helped me out with a problem I was having with a Caddy motor many years ago. He soon became a friend and built a couple of Caddy motors for me over the years. He was a Master of his craft and a true gentleman. He always found the time to help out with any problems you might have and he loved to talk about Caddys. Buddy was a very fair man when it came to pricing a job and he was a perfectionist. It was always done right no matter how long it took. One time I drove to his place to pick up my boat and it took him a little longer to finish the job than he thought. well buddy being Buddy, he wanted it perfect. So he let me spend the night at his house so he could finish the job in the morning. He didn't want me to have to get a hotel room for the night. In my book, Buddy Branch was as good as they come. It was a pleasure doing business with him. RIP my friend.
Wow words can't say enough with the passing of a great man and the most knowledge of a cad engine on the planet..I've had the great pleasure of running one if his engines for 8 years..it has ran perfect..every time..change the oil like he said..and put gas in it and strike out.
It's a sad time for sure for the family.
He will truly be missed..

Sent from my S48c using Southern Airboat mobile app powered by Tapatalk

This terribly sad news.
Buddy was among few men who had real knowledge that he would readily share for no other reason than to help somebody out.
Doesn't seem like that long ago Marty Lane and our own Ruagatr passed on to better things.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall and listen to those three Cadillac greats comparing notes and telling stories!
Prayers sent for the Family.
A truly sad day for the Cadillac world indeed.