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Rare Buick

burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
edited March 2014 in Buick
I was just looking at production numbers for Buick
in 1955. Usually, in 50's era cars, convertibles
are low production cars, making them more sought
after and correspondingly more valuable. Of course,
the 54 and 55 Skylarks were produced in even less
quantity than the other convertible models for
Buick, but they were in a class all their own. What
is surprising however, the 55 Century Model 68, a
two door "tourback", is the rarest of all, with a
production number of 270. My parts manual for 55
doesn't even have a picture of it. I'm going to
look at my 55 service manual and see if it does,
since it seems to have pictures of all the models.
I have a 55 dealer sales brochure, which shows the
model. Has anyone ever seen one? Do you know where
one is for sale?


  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    I think they had a center u-joint didn't they?

    There was a plug that came out to grease the center joint or was it a slip yoke?

    It probably would be hard to find a u-joint for one of these now but not impossible.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    I'm pretty good with Buicks but haven't the foggiest idea what you may be talking about...?

    Skylarks were produced in 1953 and 1954.

    Back in those days there were dozens of models to choose from!

    If you wanted a convertable, you could have it as a Special, a Century, a Super or a Roadmaster!

    Whew! You could get hardtops, sedans, wagons just about any way you wanted them.

    Must have been an inventory nightmare!
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Posts: 219
    Was that perhaps the 2-door Sedan that they built for the California Highway Patrol? I seem to recall reading that they used the Special 2-door sedan body with the Century drive train. These were the TV stars on the old Highway Patrol TV series.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    Those were Centurys and the CHP did use them!

    For those who don't know, the Century was the "hot" Buick those years. They were basically a Special with the Roadmaster engine.

    The CHP cars had three speeds on the column.

    Few cars could whip one of those Buicks!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Just checked my '56 Buick manual and the 68 model isn't listed that year, so it doesn't look like the Century 2-door sedan made it past '55. Century is series 60, and 48 is the Special 2-door sedan, so it makes sense that a 68 would be a Century 2-door sedan.

    This reminds me of a '57 Special 2-door sedan I had with three on the tree. That year the Special engine was the same 364 as the other series, but with lower CR and a 2-barrel carb. The synchromesh had even lower compression, but it was still a quick car. The tranny was a close-ratio 3-speed and first was something like 2.2:1, like a close-ratio Muncie. The '56 (and '55?) three-speed had a shorter 2.39 ratio, so must have been a different box. The '57's axle ratio was 3.64 with stick, and it was quick off the line even with the tall first.

    I remember reading in a Motor Trend from the late fifties about the tests the CHP did when evaluating patrol cars, and by then they required automatic. I guess by that time automatics had come a lot farther than manuals. Apparently automakers had stopped spending much money developing 3-speed sticks by then. Not a high-demand item. In fact, by the middle '60s GM was using Ford's 3-speed manual.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    I looked at my 55 sales brochure last night and it doesn't show model 68, but does show model 48.
    The production number for model 48 was 61,879, less than half of the 46R (two door Riviera).
    Model 68 is essentially a 48 with the 236hp 322 engine, and the front fenders from a Century to accomodate four portholes.
    Was it produced only for Highway Patrol use? Could be, since we all know it was used by the CHP. I used to love that old TV show, and had completely forgotten that those were two door cars.
    The model chart in my 55 parts manual doesn't show it. The manual is dated Nov. 19, 1954, but most of the pages are later updates judging by the dates on the bottom of the page.
    My father is retired GM, and says that he seems to recall that it was offered early in the model year, but sales were poor, and it was a priority to get the 4 door hardtop Century (63) in production, since it was predicted to be a hot seller (it came out about mid year). The model 68 may have been dropped early.
    My dad said that in those years production couldn't keep up with demand.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    Visit This 46R is similiar to a model 68 CHP car, and the text implies that model 68 was a limited edition for CHP use. I guess I need to dig into my Buick books more.....
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Posts: 219
    I remember an article from a couple years ago in SIA (I think), about the CHP cars. Somebody had one that they had picked up at an auction after they went out of service, and had restored it back to it's original condition.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I also read something a few years ago disputing the idea that every '55 Century 2-door sedan was ex-CHP. Apparently some people were trying to pass off civilian Centurys as CHP cars. It would be interesting to know how large the CHP order was.
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Posts: 219
    My understanding was that these were special built cars. Since they both had the same wheelbase, I imagine that it's not hard to take a front clip off a Century and put it on a Special 2-door sedan and change out the model script on the side to come up with a knock off.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    You wouldn't even need a front clip, the fenders are interchangeable. That way you would get 4 portholes. The script isn't hard either.
    I wonder if the CHP cars were equipped with the Offenhauser intake and 2X4 carbs-I have ads from 55 that explain this as a dealer installed option. It claims a 20% increase in HP, probably optimistic on a nailhead engine.
    I looked in my 55 service manual last night and there's no picture of a model 68. There is one of a model 48, but that's no surprise. My other Buick books refer to a model 68, but only say it is rare, and don't refer to it as being a special build for CHP only.
    I've never personally seen one (well, on TV of course), but I do remember the article mentioned earlier in SIA. I don't remember what issue, though.
    BTW, the "tourback" designation refers to any model that has a post between the front and rear side windows, regardless of the number of doors.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,448
    Of course, rarity doesn't always mean more value (sometimes the "classic" car in question is "rare" because nobody wanted them!). But it is nice to have something that few other people do.

    I really liked the old Centurys. I'm very tempted every now and then to go find one.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    these days...!

    Somebody stop me before I do (buy) something crazy!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,448
    You are asking for restraint here?!!! This is where the junkies get their fix!

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I wonder what it is that excites us about '54-6 Buicks? Maybe we have a porthole fetish. I think there's something sensuous about those lines. They're maybe the last Buicks where you could see the connection with Harley Earl's Q Job. Plus the great dash, and good engines for their time. I think the '54s were the prettiest, but the '55s were so overtly...Buick. I had a '54 Special hardtop with three on the tree that, like many of my old cars, barely ran and spent most of its time resting. I wish I'd had the money to rebuild it and keep it.
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Posts: 219
    I have a soft spot for that vintage Buick, especially the '56. Maybe because the first car I remember was our Pink and White '56 Special Station Wagon. 42 years after getting rid of it just mentioning this car to my dad will earn you a dissertation on what a lousy car it was.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,448
    I think they were very handsome, muscular cars that had very recognizable styling and lots of shine and sizzle. Unfortunately, like all GM products, the Buick fell prey to styling excess, leading to the abomination called the 1958 Buick. How could they go so far wrong in only 4 years?

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    The Buicks with the straight eights. My parents bought a new 1951 Roadmaster and kept it until 1966. I learned how to drive with that Buick.

    They had a very distinctive sound and were bulletproof tough!
  • sgaines1sgaines1 Posts: 44
    What is it with the '58? I think it's pretty cool. It's a huge rocketship jukebox. It may be a little over the top, but it's fun. I've seen people complain about similar cars('57 Turnpike Cruiser, '59 Lincoln), and I love those too. They're really long, and covered with a riotous chromestravaganza. I guess can't call a big, swoopy, lux-cruiser ugly. It's much easier for me to think of cheap, embarrassing cars like Subaru Brats and Mustang II's as ugly. But I'd be proud to be seen in a '58 Buick. I'm also the poor deviant who likes Edsels,so...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 58,448
    As a cultural icon, yes, the '58 Buick has what it takes. But as a styling lesson, it's pretty god-awful. It's like bad art, I guess, which also has its appeal because it can gross so many people out. Maybe the 1958 Buick is to automotive styling as Graceland is to good architecture.

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  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    My favorite has always been the 54 Century. I like the small twin tail lights and the rounded "fins" on the back. I'm not crazy about the teardrop trim on the headlights, though. When my 55 is finally done (if ever!) I'm going to look for a 54 Century two door, or perhaps a Special.
    Several years ago when I was having some machine work done on the block for my 55, the shop owner showed me a completely rebuilt long block for a 54 Special (264 ci) that someone had brought in and never picked up. Evidently it had been there for some time, and they wanted to sell it for what they had in it. I wonder if it's still there.
    As far as the later years, it seems it was fashionable to indulge peoples overindulgence. A recession in 58 really put the damper on things and in some ways led to the toning down of styling, as seen by the early 60's. The performance mill marched on (gas was still cheap), and there was still a market for glitzy chrome, fins, etc, but mostly on high end luxury cars.
  • I believe the best Buicks were the last half of the '60 decade,up to & including 1970. Everyone one of them was a beautiful,well engineered car. '68 &'69 weren't so hot, but '66.. & oooh that '70 Wildcat convertible, long as u can afford the gas!
  • I believe I have the model name and year correct. It was the same as the Olds F-85. Had the alloy block V8, with four-speed available. Still remember the midnight blue with a white hardtop. has anyone seen one lately?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    My parents bought one new in 1962. It was a four door Special that they gave me later on.

    Everyone said those engines were no good but despite my rough treatment, it never gave me trouble. The POS Dual Path sutomatic was another story. These were probably the worst transmission ever built by GM.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I just saw a '62 Skylark today. I had a '63 for a short time, and it was a very nice cruiser, although that year it looked a little like a car that 16 circus clowns would come bailing out of. I ruined it by overgreasing a u-joint. With any other car that wouldn't have been fatal, but the driveshaft was a very special two-piece unit and no one made replacement u-joints for it. When a driveshaft shop starting talking about welding on a Bronco CV joint (at great expense) I just sold the car. Too bad.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Fifteen years ago it was impossible to find a u-joint, at least locally. I probably should have looked in Hemmings for Buick specialists. Yes, it had a center u-joint, just like the full-size Buicks, for extra smoothness.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Just wondered if any fans of old Buicks share my opinion that the 2001 Le Sabre looks great. I'm serious. It's got the old muscular curves and waterfall grille right off the Y Job. I have a sales brochure and can't take my eyes off the car, especially in Dark Bronzemist Metallic.

    By the way, got my first senior discount recently, at 46. Could be the white hair, but I think the cashier sensed I like Le Sabres.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Okay, I guess it's just me and the AARP.
  • Used to drive Buicks all the time. Back around 1946-7 I guess I have owned nearly every one --Regal---La Sabre---Centurin--century you name it. THEN I graduated to Cadillac's. Darn nice automible too. Now I'm driving a Mercury Villager Estate mini-Van and really enjoy it.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Owning a Buick used to be a big deal. There's a photo in the current Le Sabre brochure of a young boy admiring the inside of a Buick, his nose pressed against the window. That was me forty years ago, and the caption might as well be "Boomers, come back to Buick." My parents had a '55 Roadmaster and a '60 Le Sabre. My grandparents had a '60 Invicta and a '67 Skylark, and when they were thinking of replacing the Skylark in the late '70s they went to a Buick dealership. What they found there, for what they wanted to spend, made them hold onto the Skylark.

    What would a big Buick be like today, if GM had decided to compete on engineering instead of price, rebates (price again) and styling? A slightly softer 740 with portholes? Works for me.
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