Rare Buick

burdawgburdawg Member 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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 1,524
    Visit www.classicar.com/bombsight/1955.html. 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    these days...!

    Somebody stop me before I do (buy) something crazy!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    You are asking for restraint here?!!! This is where the junkies get their fix!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member 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 Member 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, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    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.
  • burdawgburdawg Member 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.
  • mdelrossomdelrosso Member Posts: 18
    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, awsome...as long as u can afford the gas!
  • carnut444carnut444 Member Posts: 27
    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 WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member Posts: 1,598
    Okay, I guess it's just me and the AARP.
  • cookie22cookie22 Member Posts: 73
    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 Member 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.
  • mdelrossomdelrosso Member Posts: 18
    When I was a teen, my dads friend bought a '67 LeSabre, this car had the best brakes, ride, style ,etc any car could have ever had. What happened to that division. the last good year for Buick was '70..remember the Wildcat, wow. Michael
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I think if you liked the '70 Wildcat you might like the latest Le Sabre and Park Avenue. I've already embarrassed myself in this forum by proclaiming my admiration for the 2001 Le Sabre, but if you like big swoopy Buicks, GM is starting to style them again. Even if the new Buicks don't do anything for you, at least they don't look so generic now.
  • mdelrossomdelrosso Member Posts: 18
    The new Buick is nice, although it is difficult for me to like ANY 4 dr sedan. I didn't like the '70 because of it's size, simply it's style. it had a Buick look. The '77-'79 was nice as well and smaller. What happened to the coupe market? Old 4 doors are just as equally boring as new ones. Being single I would never consider purchasing a 4 dr sedan...they have a very stodgy look.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    That I ever owned was a 1965 Riviera Gran Sport.

    Yellow with black vinyl roof. It had I believe every option they made that year. Autronic eye, power vent windows, factory AM-FM with reverb, purse hook and some other very rare stuff.

    It was a very good looking car that would burn rubber for as long as you wanted to hold the gas pedal down.

    The two four barrels also consumed super premium at a shocking rate!

    Now, THAT was a Buick!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    about the Rivi Gran Sport. Even the base Rivis had surprisingly good acceleration and handling, they were solid and, of course, the styling was flawless. The Gran Sport simply had more of everything. I also had one but--story of my life--it ran on seven cylinders. Was going to pull the engine, and got as far as removing the radiator before some other pressing automotive need presented itself. I was impulsive in those days.

    Mdelrosso, don't worry about the extra doors. Just tell your friends you need a four door to carry your clients around ;).
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    I was in Chico, CA acouple weeks ago and stopped at a classic car dealer I'd noticed. Among other interesting cars on the lot was a mint 65 Riviera, off-white with tan/gold leather interior, and only 68,000 miles. Not a Gran Sport, but still a nice car. I'd forgotten just how impressive and plush those interiors were! What a gorgeous car! Made me want to own one, which I never have-but I also liked the 66-67 Rivs. The 67 had the new V8-seemed like a better one than the "nailhead". Anyway, my appreciation for those 60's Rivs was reawakened.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    That "leather" was really a very nice grade of vinyl. My '65 had the same stuff. It did look like leather.

    But in 1963, leather was a rare option. I've only seen a couple of them.

    Yeah...I sure miss that yellow beauty...the six to ten miles per gallon wasn't a lot of fun though.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    A neighbor had a mint '66 Riviera GS he'd bought new and he let me drive it before he sold it. He knew I'd buy just about anything, but I managed to resist. The '66 was a very nice car to look at but the styling, especially inside, wasn't nearly as distinctive as the '63-5. It drove okay but since it was wider and had a bench seat, it didn't have the sporty close-coupled feel the first Rivi had.

    I'll never forget the visual sensation I got when I drove an early Riviera for the first time, a '65. It's difficult to describe the sensation, and I never felt it as strongly again as I did during the first drive, but I suspect it's an optical trick that has a lot to do with how much fun that car is to drive. The driver's view is of the front fenders, sharply peaked along the top and plunging toward the front, and the hood sitting low between the fenders, gradually sloping toward the front. The fenders grab your line of sight and hold it straight ahead, the low sloping hood lets you see more of the road, and the whole effect creates a real feeling of motion.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    Now I REALLY miss that Riviera!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Then I guess I shouldn't mention that huge chrome aircleaner that came with the dual quad setup. What a work of art! No, shouldn't mention it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    That air filter element was almost as big around as a hula hoop!
  • burdawgburdawg Member Posts: 1,524
    Well, it looks like my investigation finally points to the decision that no model 68 was available to the general public in 1955. I realize that this topic has strayed a bit, but I thought that I would share the results.
    I looked at an original dealers model and option list, with no model 68 listed for that year. I havn't found any reference to it in any original brochures or pamphlets, nor has anyone ever told me they saw one other than the Highway Patrol version.
    What I wonder though is why the HP would want a two door sedan. Can you imagine how hard it would be to get a combative prisoner into the back seat?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That's movie German for "we have ways". The final word would come from the paperwork for the CHP order. If the number of model 68s ordered by the CHP matchs the number made, there's the proof. Wonder if that documentation is still around?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    I recall reading an article years ago about CHP Buicks. I'm almost positive they used 1955 Buick Centurys - 2 doors with three speed manuals.

    Am I dreaming?

    Is Broderick Crawford still alive? We could ask him!
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    I think I remember that same article. All of them were sold to the CHP and then auctioned off when they were taken out of service.
    I would guess they used 2-door sedans because they were the cheapest model available and it would be hard for the bad guy to get out the door if he had to go through the cop sitting next to it.
    Unfortunately Broderick is patrolling the freeways in the sky.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482

    (I loved it when he said that...)
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    "book 'em right away and wrap it all up" [heavy breathing, walk away like his shoes were 2 sizes too small] At the end of the show, ol' Brod had a "safety message," after which he'd get in that Buick [or later, Dodges] and peel out as he roared off... Loved that show!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Either you guys have a better memory than me, or you're watching way too much cable ;).

    There's a great article in the February '59 Hot Rod about how the CHP did its testing back then. Their specs were: 2-door sedan with minimum 122" wheelbase; 3800 lbs. minimum weight; HD suspension and brakes, with 15" wheels and 6-ply nylon tires; OHV V8 of at least 380 CID; not more than 15 lbs. per hp; at least 9.75 CR; hydro lifters; dual exhaust; AT with at least 3 forward speeds; top speed of at least 110; and quarter mile speed of at least 75.

    Three manufacturers submitted cars to the CHP for evaluation in November 1958: Dodge 383/345 with Torqueflite, 3.36, 12" brakes and Bluestreaks. Mercury 430/345, HD Merc-O, 3.22, 11" brakes with 3" linings and Bluestreaks. Pontiac with Tempest 420-A 389/330, Hydro, 3.08 and 11" brakes with Firestone Super Sports.

    The Dodge topped out at 122.023, Mercury 117.34 and Pontiac 121.84 (and none had freeway gears). The Dodge did the quarter at 86.89, Mercury 88.64 and Pontiac 87.88, good speeds considering the vehicle weights (Dodge was lightest at 4060 lbs.). Would be interested to know what their e.t.s were with those gears--low 16s? The Mercury brakes were the best at consistent straight-line stops and fade. Dodge was low bidder and received an order for 331 cars.
  • gulfguygulfguy Member Posts: 30
    I grew up in them.... Dad started with a 49 gray Roadmaster, then there was an off white with grey roof special followed by a 53 green/white top 2 door, a grey/white top 56 Century 2 door hardtop with red light and siren (Dad was County Coroner and as well as a Doctor and boy did my brother and I have fun in that one!) then a 57 grey Roadmaster (riviera hardtop...ie: no pillars) 75 4 door and a white/black top 60 invicta convert. The Invictas with 401 engines were NHRA A stock automatic champs in 59-60 and Buick did a dealer promotion movie titled 10,000 miles in 5,000 minutes in which they put an Invicta on the race track and averaged 120 mph for 10,000 miles including gas/tire and maintenance and driver change stops. Then Dad got the bug for a Riviera Gran Sport.......but his dealer buddy got him something better... with about 5k on the odo from GM proving grounds. It was a black with red tuck and roll buckets 63 Wildcat with four on the floor and a 425 running through a 3.08 posi. Boy was it fast. Dad kept it for years sold it to a friend of my brother and I bought it back for $85.00 when his girlfriend ran it low on water and cracked the block. When the engine was torn down to do a rebuild we learned why it always had a lumpy idle and ran so strong.... virtually nothing inside the never before opened block was standard 425 Buick..... hot cam heavily modified heads, bigger valves, yadda yadda yadda. It was one of 12 factory R&D Wildcats with 4 speeds I saw one other once. ANd met a guy from Kokomo a few years back that raced a 63, 4 speed LeSabre at Muncie dragstrip back in the mid 60s. He stopped to see my black one on his way home with a 65 GranSport he'd flown to Vegas to buy.

    The car made one road trip Detroit to Parry Sound Ontario in 3 hrs, 2 minutes and similar time Parry Sound to Ann Arbor....... Later Fort Leaonard Wood to Branson MO (before I-44) down Route 66 and through downtown Springfield, MO in under an hour and a half including the time spent on the side of the road with the cop.... Its still over 125 miles and almost all 4 lane now but back then it took nearly 20 minutes to get through Springfield. I restored the car and the last day of his life that my Dad was able to get outdoors I took him for a ride in the just redone beast and wound her tight through the first 3 gears before we ran out of road and had to begin to slow down.

    Then a 69 4 door Wildcat....... I kept that to well over 150,000 miles and it ran perfectly.....

    My last Buick was a white/white/white 74 LeSabre Luxus convertible with navy blue carpets and a Stage 1 Gran Sport 455 and a 2.73 posi. (Yeah I know ya weren't sposedta be able to get the Gran SPort engine in the LeSabre but I did) I kept it 6 or 7 years and sold it to Lulu Roman from Hee Haw for $50 less than I paid for it new.

    The black Wildcat was sold when I moved to the Gulf Coast..........simply ran out of garage space to keep it.

    I see the posts on the mid 50s Century converts.... MMMMMM Yeah..... a 56 or older.........even (or especially ) back in the late 40s and early 50s .... I could get stoopid over a white convert with white top and red leather!

    It was good to see your posts and make myself remember some great old cars.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,350
    Thank you. That was an interesting post!
This discussion has been closed.