From the first Cold War days of the late 1940s until well into President Eisenhower's second term, Buicks absolutely dominated the highways of America above the Chevrolet-Ford-Plymouth trio. Bold design, a smooth ride, and superb after-sales dealer service paved the way for Buick's amazing success. Here was a majestic car that actually looked more modern than a Cadillac, Chrysler, or Lincoln, available at a 25% savings. No wonder Buick regularly sold over 350,000 units annually in the post-WWII decade.
Preferred transportation for U.S. army officers in occupied Germany, the Buick's ostentatious grille with its many vertical chrome bars was called the Dollargrinsen ("Dollar grin") by the poor Krauts. It's an American icon, just like Coca Cola and Wrigley's Gum, personifying the era in movies such as Dustin Hoffman's "Rainman."
In 1947, Buicks came in three series: Special, Super, and Roadmaster. They all featured Buick's famous, long stroke Straight Eight engine. Back then, every child knew Buick's advertising slogan by heart: "Valve in head - ahead in value."
Today, a Super convertible coupe, such as this lovingly restored Series 56-C example (of which 28,297 were built in '47), is a rare sight. Prices for fine, correctly restored examples are moving toward the stratosphere. Roadmasters are already fetching $70K and more, and prices for these superbly crafted cars will never go down again, you can bet the farm on it.
The 1947 Buick Super Convertible presented here must be one of the finest surviving examples in the Country. Originally purchased in California, its second owner, a wealthy Los Angeles businessman and car enthusiast, had the car shipped to his central Oregon country estate upon retiring. The Buick was always stored indoors and sparingly driven, on sunny days only; the indicated mileage of 73,369 purportedly is correct, but who knows for sure, after 58 years? Following the owner's untimely passing in the year 2000, the car promptly returned to Southern California.
Factory data plate on firewall confirms that this "Body by Fisher" Buick was manufactured in Flint, Michigan.
Engine # *49574605* is a 248 cubic inch Fireball Dynaflash Eight unit producing one-hundred and ten lively horses. It looks all stock and runs almost imperceptibly smooth! Engine compartment is very dry and clean, although the Buick does mark its spot. Hood can be opened either from left or right side for easy access to all mechanical components.
Picture above perfectly shows off Buick's distinctive body side "dip" which elegantly accentuates the rear fender line. Check out those factory skirts! Panel fit on this superb example is excellent. We've checked with a magnet and could not find any plastic filler: this Buick is all metal! There is no rust to be found, not the tiniest bubble. Re-finished during the course of restoration in its original metallic dark burgundy (color code 56), the paint is lustrous and smooth, with but few touched-up chips and nicks acquired during storage.
Painted, 15 inch safety steel wheels wear the original chrome dog dish hub caps and beauty rings. 3-½ inch Ambassador wide whitewall tires of the dimension L78-15 seem a bit hard, but are correct equipment and show plenty of remaining tread.
Ivory canvas convertible top is in wonderful condition. It is electro-hydraulically operated: pull out a bone-colored knob and it magically disappears into the top well, push in the knob, and it rises like guided by an invisible hand. Chrome-framed glass rear window can be unzipped, if need be. Top mechanism is richly chrome plated.
Apart from the power top, the big, bulbous Buick also boasts of a power-operated bench seat and hydraulic door windows. Back in '47, that was considered "state of the art!"
Focal point of the cockpit is the ocean-liner-sized, faux ivory, banjo-style steering wheel. Miraculously, there are no age-induced cracks. The bejeweled horn button is bigger than a pie plate. Gently caress the chrome horn ring and you'll hear a sound reminiscent of the Queen Mary's fog horn.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
The painted metal dash looks simply beautiful. Chrome-bezeled gauges with copper-and-bakelite faces, the WURLITZER-style speaker of the--long silent--Sonoramic radio with its BUICK buttons, and the clock featuring a mock odometer reading "BUICK" are but a few of the luxurious trimmings. The smallest details have been lovingly styled: even the rear ash receivers could double as centerpieces on an executive's desk.
Superbly comfortable bench sits three abreast, has been expertly re-upholstered with finely mottled, oxblood Leatherette, just like the remainder of the interior. There are no visible flaws in the upholstery. Matching red Detroit carpeting looks plush; it's very clean, too. Note the power button and seat-mounted interior light.
Fit for a king and a gaggle of his knights: the rear cabin is extra spacious. Ship ahoy!
Ready for a test drive?
So are we, but first let's check out the trunk, shall we?
Fully lined with original-looking, nicely bound squareweave material, the cavernous trunk contains spare wheel and jacking equipment, as well as a soft, fitted car cover, an original shop manual, and dash plaques from various shows. There's no rot or mold to be found anywhere.
Also noteworthy is the car's wonderfully preserved chrome trim. It's not brand new throughout (it would be cost-prohibitive to re-finish the myriad plated trim pieces in the year 2005) but it's free of rust or flaking and especially the bumpers and toothy grille display a deep, luxurious luster. The stainless trim spears have been carefully polished and virtually look like chrome.
Finally, we hit the road. Turn on the ignition key and push the pedal to the metal: thanks to a new 6-volt battery, the Super starts willingly. It idles smoothly; engage first gear on the column-mounted three speed and the whisper-quiet but torquey engine overcomes the inertia of this heavy hitter with ease. A smooth shift into second, then third, and we're cruising at freeway speeds. Suspension feels taut, brakes are certainly adequate. Unusual perhaps for a 1940s car, the Buick is equipped with turn signals; you'll also enjoy the dual outside rearview mirrors to monitor what's following you. At night, you appreciate the large, chrome spot light, especially if your name is Philip Marlowe.
Another highlight: all gauges work flawlessly! Great oil pressure is indicated, and the Buick always runs cool, even on a 95-degree Southern California summer day. We were sad having to put the car back inside after returning from our leisurely trip to Ojai on September 7, when all of these pictures were taken. It's just so much fun to drive and to be seen in!
"When better automobiles are built BUICK will build them." Thus went the company's advertising jingle for decades; after driving this fabulous classic, we fully subscribe to this truism. Here's a vintage automobile, 58 years old, that can be driven and enjoyed just the way it is. It'll turn heads at the Country Club, any restaurant valet will proudly display it close to the front entrance, and it's a must if you happen to have a circular driveway!
Here it is: a bigger head turner than any new Aston, Bentley, or Mercedes costing three times as much. A royal carriage destined to appreciate in value and gain in character, year after year, like a fine wine. An all-American Classic, built to last forever.