THE AUTOMOTIVE CHRONICLES
 
The Buick Flashback
By Mona Nath
 

Plumbing company owner, David Dunbar Buick, who gave America its first porcelain bathtub had two other companies — The Buick Auto Vin & Power Company and The Buick Manufacturing Company, which produced L-head engines for marine and stationary use. Unfortunately Buick was not a shrewd businessman. In 1902 he relinquished ownership of both these companies.

The Buick Motor Car Company
In 1903, The Buick Motor Car Company was formed, though the first Buick rolled out one year later. During its infancy, The Buick Motor Company was pulled out of financial crisis on several occasions by Walter Marr, Eugene Richard, the Briscoe Brothers and William Crapo Durant.

With Durant at the helm, production totaled 750 units by 1905, up from 28 produced in 1904. Buick production for 1908 was 8,820 cars, second only to Ford. This success was due to two reasons — the first being Buick's Model 10, the car that 'made' Buick. The second was the merger with Olds, forming General Motors.

Beginning 1910, Durant bought over several other car makers, which mounted financial burden on Buick. To make matters worse, the inexpensive Model 10 was dropped as Buick moved into the high-priced, big-car range. By 1912 all Buicks came with doors and new, smoother lines consisting of barn-shaped hoods and radiators with front and rear fenders taking on a semi-circular shape.

Between 1914 and 1919, hoods became semi-oval in shape and from the side the fender radius outline gave the appearance of a section of roller coaster track, with steep inclines at the ends; this, of course, represented the fenders themselves.

During 1920 Buick production was 115,176, the highest priced of which sold for $2,700. Sedans and coupes were becoming popular, yet the open cars had a high style quotient. The only major change in Buick sheet metal came in 1926 with the new double belt lines and headlight bars.

It was during the 30s and 40s when GM relied heavily of the same basic body lines, letting ornamentation denote the different models. Buick by far was the car with the sharpest ornamentation of all the GM vehicles.

The year 1932 saw only 41,522 Buicks rolling off the production lines — Buick had fallen to seventh spot in the industry, selling at $1,500. Then GM announced a sales campaign to sell Olds, Buick and Pontiac through a common dealership. Predictably, 25 percent of the Buick dealerships folded up, and the campaign was withdrawn after one and one-half years.

The year 1933 was for radically streamlined cars from every car maker, and Buick was no exception, The 1933 styling theme prevailed in Buick design through 1935.

 

 
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David Dunbar Buick
 
William Crapo Durant
 
1904 Buick
 
1908 Model 10 Buick
 
1912 Buick
 
1915 Buick
 
 
 
       

Buick Ornamentation
Ornamentation made Buick stand out in the years before WW II. Taking other car makers by surprise (GM line incuded) Buick unveiled a new style for the 1942 model year. In 1949 there came a new and different body style from Buick — the hardtop.

The Super Cars of the 1950s
The Buicks of the early 50s are super cars. They have a unique styling all their own and their size makes for plenty of room, even in the 2-door models. Eighty-five percent of all Buicks built in 1952 were equipped with Dynaflow.

The one-millionth hardtop left Buick's assembly line in 1955 and under it a fresh new body style. Buick discontinued the smiling front ends which had been a Buick hallmark since 1942. Prices ranged from $2,400 to $3,700 during the mid-50s.

 
     
     
     
     
   
     


 
       
       

Sleek '57
Come 1957 and Buick engineers were back at the drawing board, redesigning body lines for the 1957 models, but this was true for all manufacturers during that time. The new Buicks looked somewhat like a chopped, stretched out '57 Chevy.

 
     

Small 60s
Prices dropped somewhat in 1959 with the most expensive Buick selling for $4,300. By year-end Buick stood seventh in sales. In 1962 there was Buick's new 198 cubic inch V-6 and the following year there was the luxurious sporty Riviera. The early Rivieras are fast becoming collector's items!

 
       
 
 
 
Updated on Nov 24, 2016
The Automotive Chronicles