(Found In) Northgate (Oakland, California): 1972 Buick LeSabre Hardtop Coupe

IMG_1155When did Buick become a car for the elderly? It’s really hard to say. For most of the early post-war era, Buick more or less espoused the belief in more subtle, less ostentatious luxury, in comparison to GM cousin brand Cadillac. During that same period, there were extensions downward to price categories just above Chevrolet, and attempts at re-cementing their reputation as Banker’s Hot Rods as well.

Another belief was offering a whole lotta car for a minimum of a premium. As the Special nameplate drifted out of sight to re-appear as a luxury compact in the fall of 1960, the least dear Buick for your pocketbook became the LeSabre. Perhaps being a perennial customer favorite with people starting in 1959 lead to something of a reputation.

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(Found In) Ralph Bunchie (Oakland, California): 1962 Buick Invicta 4 Door Hardtop Sedan

img_6097Buick was never really known as the flamboyant choice of cars in the General Motors stable. However, starting in the Mid 1950’s, Buick found its way to being one of the most fashionable plates car buyers dined off of. For the 1954-57 models it seemed more keeping up with the Jonesin’ for wild color and fabric combinations. However, by 1958, the glittery flamboyance jumped the shark, followed by the Batman inspired ’59, and the relatively less marvel superhero themed 1960 version.

By 1962, under the influence of ever calming industrial design, Buick found itself refining into the solid state of automotive conservatism it has been long term known for. Gone were the protrusions of previous years for a statelier ride. How did that graft onto the Banker’s Hot Rod Du Jour, The 1962 Invicta?

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(Found In) McClymonds (Oakland, California): 1970 Buick Skylark Custom Two Door Hardtop Coupe

img_4712Buick has counted on you really rather having its wares throughout its history. The turn of the decade from 1969 to 1970 was no different, as more commonality crept in between all of General Motors intermediate cars.

Gone from A-bodies were different base line Six Cylinder engines, oddball 2 speed automatic transmissions, and distinguishing curves and creases that gave more than brand loyalty to hang sales upon. Where did that leave Buick’s pride bird at the top of their fleet as buyers slid into the me decade?

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(Found In) Richmond District (San Francisco, California): 1965 Buick Skylark Convertible

image (19)As we head into Convertible season, we look back 50+ years to the peak of the Convertible Market. All American brands minus soon to exit the sales field Studebaker offered convertibles. From petite to ponderous, the choices abounded for budgets stuck in the basement all the way to Bergdorfs.

Buick didn’t stay out of the game at all, offering convertibles in all series except the super exclusive Riviera for ’65. Prize of the smaller lines however was the delightful, spritely and spirited bird named Skylark. For those looking for a pinch of personal luxury in a more petite (if not by as much in the recent past) the Skylark proved the perfect pie to consume on the interstates.

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(Found In) Anchor Cove (Mendocino County, California): 1972 Buick Riviera Coupe

14600620135_c3e1480c4f_hThe Buick Riviera, once a stand-alone model, traded more often than not on visual drama to draw in customers. The most unique, exquisite of Buicks offerings for the better part of the 1960’s offered opulence and decadence in a nearly bespoke as possible package for a mass production car.

Although this worked brilliantly for the first generation cars, it made life incrementally tougher on the 2nd generation cars as the market moved away from the most premium personal coupes towards everyday luxury offerings like the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Change was afoot for all three of General Motor’s most princely private spaces, but the Riviera would continue to make the most splendid splash at trying things sporting and different.
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(Found In) Northbrae (Berkeley, California) : 1954 Buick Century Series 60 Riviera Hardtop Coupe

24491960910_e9746b5df3_kOnce Buick engineered their Nailhead V8, they weren’t happy with letting their competitors in-house and beyond have the performance crown. Buicks were once known as Banker’s Hot Rods. Returning for 1954 was the quicksilver Century, ready to snatch trophies from in house cousin the Oldsmobile 88, among others.

Along with accessible performance came a new beefier body, and a desire to capture even more sales. On the backs of the B-Body Special and Century, Buick wanted more than the delinquents in suits, it wanted to rob the whole medium price sales bank. In a number of ways they did.
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(Found In) St. Johns (Portland, Oregon): 1959 Buick LeSabre 4 Door Sedan

12357975_10153180938342201_1941896055_n“Challenge Accepted” was the vow taken on by General Motors stylists. They made that commitment when they saw the newly wedge shaped and befinned second wave of Forward Look Chryslers starting to trickle out of Highland Park factories in September of 1956. The #1 manufacturer of motor vehicles in the world was not about to willingly surrender the design leadership crown to a competitor.

In a stroke of circumstance and marketplace upheaval, Buick, of all brands, became the purest expression of what General Motors stylists desired to do. Ready to leave the bulging behemoth persona behind, Buick shed as many ties to their recent past with their 1959 models. Rivaling the 1959 Cadillac for zeitgeist car of the year, the Buick’s influence on the full GM line truly makes it the leader in all the fresh efforts from GM that year.

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(Found In) Santa Fe (Oakland, California): 1964 Buick Electra 225 Four Door Hardtop

12242244_10153145153132201_2127920083_n1964 represented the capstone return to restrained elegance that was a long term calling card of Buick products. Swept up in the exuberance of the 1950’s, Buick spent a few seaons of the decade being the #3 volume producer of American Cars, edging out perennial price leader favorite Plymouth in 1955 and 1956. Those boastful totals right behind low priced domestic rivals Ford and Chevrolet were the result of some rather bodacious offerings from Flint, Michigan. Not totally exclusive “Doctor’s Cars” they had been in the past, (especially the price leader Special and hot rod Century) some of the upper crust mystique of Buick lost its luster as the high volume brought a few quality gremlins as well.

By 1960, the true, innately conservative streak that solidified Buick values for most of the brand heritage started to return. An emphasis on the relative restraint compared to upper crust rivals returned year after year throughout the early 1960’s before becoming resolutely entrenched by the middle of the decade.

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(Found In) Visitacion Valley (San Francisco): 1965 Buick Riviera

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The Buick Riviera was already sort of a legend as it rolled off assembly lines for the 3rd season of production. The crisp, clean lines that married Bill Mitchell’s vision of Ferrari meets Rolls Royce had seduced a diverse cross section of discriminating buyers. Where direct rival, the Ford Thunderbird, promoted a more inviting, welcoming and decadent private world; the Riviera promoted hushed exclusivity that doubled up on the Buick brand cachet.

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(Found In) The Excelsior (San Francisco) – 1966 Buick Skylark 4 Door Hardtop Sedan

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From the era of General Motors sitting at the top of the world we have what is one of their most solid citizen efforts from 1966. Perhaps this ordinary Buick is the zenith of the American Sedan. Undeniably charming, exquisitely detailed and pretty well assembled are qualities that were part and parcel of any 1966 Buick Skylark.

Credible cushiness and competence helped make the most luxurious of junior Buicks something to pay attention to as the Senior Buicks continued to pack on pounds and even more padding as the 1960’s drew to a close.

Although the least popular of its corporate relatives, the attention these Buicks generated compared to rivals outside of the GM family was genuinely envy endorsing.

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