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W(h)ither Buick?

Posted in auto industry, Buick, Cadillac, Car Branding, Car Photography, Cars, Classic, Collector Cars, Custom, Design, Detroit, Favorite Cars, General, GM, History, Old Cars, Oldsmobile, Popular Cars by Butch Deadlift | February 14th, 2009 | Leave a Reply |

2007 Buick Riviera Concept CoupeSometimes we get too caught up in the new cars that are out on the market. Everything’s shiny, everything’s new. Well, sometimes it’s good to remember how beautiful the old stuff is.

Buick has been getting a rough rap lately for producing a bunch of bland, boring cars. But I think we need to remember where they came from. So, without further ado, let’s look at some amazing old Buicks from years past.

Jay Leno's 1955 Buick RoadmasterFor starters, SeriousWheels has a gallery of photos of an amazing 1955 Buick Roadmaster belonging to none other than Jay Leno. It’s pretty hard to argue too hard against the Buick brand when you’re faced with photos as beautiful as these. We’ve picked a couple that stand out, but if you like them, please head over to SeriousWheels and take a closer look — and see if you can guess which one is our wallpaper right now! Perhaps we should also mention that he’s stuffed a new 572-cid crate motor in there? Yeah. Nice car.

There’s something elegant and clean about the lines, something slightly classier, slightly smoother than your typical ’50s cars. And by smooth, we mean smooth like a Vegas lounge singer. Smooth like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Smooth in that way that you just feel privileged to be in their presence.

It’s hard for some of us who have had a soft spot for Buicks over the years to hear all the criticism and critique that’s being leveled at the brand of late. They’ve got a long, proud history, but it’s been lost over the decades. They were beautiful American luxury cars — until they somehow became rebadged Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles with softer suspension setups.

It’s coming back, somewhat. The Enclave is a very nice looking crossover-thing, and it drives remarkably well, particularly considering how large it is. It’s much bigger than it looks, and the interior is surprisingly beautiful. (And not even “surprisingly beautiful for GM”, but actually just a really striking, stylish design.)

But I’m not here to defend them. Let’s just spend a few moments drowning ourselves in nostalgia, and have a look at some Beautiful Buicks.


This comes from the Old Car Manual Project, and it’s worth viewing. In fact, it’s worth downloading, taking to Staples, and printing in a nice big high resolution print to put on your wall.

In fact, go ahead, you go do that, I’ll wait. It’s okay, I don’t mind.

Back now? Okay, great. This is a brochure of the 1952 Roadmaster lineup. I’m not sure what else I have to say, other than just look at them! The vent-holes, the huge chrome “C” on the flanks, the character line on the flanks. They’re gorgeous, even for their day. This was the kind of car that you drove if you were a celebrity, a dignitary, or an executive. This was the sort of car that told your neighbours you were doing very well, thank you. This was a car you were very proud to own indeed. While you’re admiring, take note of the kink in the line of the flanks, just behind the B-pillar.


In the later ’50s, that line was even more pronounced. In fact, if you trace it back, it can be seen as far back as the 1940s. Why do we care? Because it appears to be a natural progression from that Buick line to the tailfins of the late 1950s that we all admire so much. It’s impossible to say for sure, but one can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t actually Buick whose styling inspired so many manufacturers throughout the 1950s. If so, that’s a pretty significant contribution to automotive history; most true car fans consider 1954-1957 a period of some of the most beautiful car designs we’ve ever seen. Could we have Buick to thank for that?

(While we’re still admiring the Caballero above… look at that C-pillar! A continual curve from the A-pillar to the rear fin, with a matching character line in chrome on the doors and fenders below. Personally, I’d take that car over a tri-year Chevy in a heartbeat.)


This 1966 Riviera, again heavily modified, shows the same kink. Anyone who tries to tell me that isn’t a beautiful car can just leave. Now. These were muscle cars, proper ’60s sport coupes with a luxurious side as well. If we were back in the ’60s right now, I’d be standing in a Buick showroom, drooling over a Riviera or a Wildcat.

But we needn’t go that far back to find things of beauty from the Buick lineup. The late-1960s were kind to Buick as well, although they had already started to lose their position as the highest-end of luxury brands, as that spot was snapped up decisively by Cadillac. Still, despite their slip in stature, they were still highly-regarded, and still beautiful:


This modified 1969 Riviera looked good when it was new, but looks even better now, at least to my eye. With clean, simple lines, and a quiet sense of restrained aggression, it’s a beautiful car. And it shows its heritage in the kink just below the minimalist B-pillar. That line has embodied Buicks for decades.

Why do I mention this character-line kink? It’s been a design characteristic of Buick for decades, and it’s characteristic of the problem with new Buicks today. On the Allure/LaCrosse and the Enclave, the kink is there. They know it belongs there, so they put it in, but they did it in a half-hearted, uninspired manner. On the Lucerne, it doesn’t show up at all!

Buick has an amazing design heritage to draw on, but they have to be willing to do it. “Half-hearted and uninspired” defines much of what has been done with Buick for decades, and defines much of what GM is doing across its entire line. 

There have been some that said that Buick should be next on the chopping block, or that Pontiac and Buick should be merged into one brand. (Pontiuack? Buiac?) While I’m not a passionate fan of any domestic brand, the loss of Buick — particularly after the loss of Oldsmobile a few years back — would be a tragedy, when all they really need are some people on staff who really understand where the brand used to be, and where it could be again.

Okay, enough nostalgia. A gallery of photos of some beautiful Buicks follows. You enjoy those, I’m going to go have a stiff drink and toast the Buicks of yore.

Cheers, everyone.

Big hat-tip to Sean for the photos and inspiration.


Image credit: Net Car Show, Desert Gardens Cars, Serious Wheels, Hobby Car, and of course The Old Car Manual Project

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