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Cars with Character: The Rise and Fall of the Buick Super

Joe Jenks - July 7, 2017

The 1940-41 Buick Super featured an all new

The 1940-41 Buick Super featured an all new "torpedo" C-body design.

It's hard to understand why the Buick Super faded away in the late 1950s. Just a step below a Cadillac in the GM pecking order, the Buick Super tried to bridge the gap between a luxury car and the car for the common man. It was the mid-level Buick, and had plenty of luxuries while being competitively priced when compared to other large sedans on the market.

As the post war auto boom blossomed, the 1950 Super sold 251,883 cars - the most ever for Buick. By 1952 that total was down to 136,000, but back up to almost 200,000 in 1953. The Super shared GM's 'C-body' with the Roadmaster but on a shorter wheelbase and came standard with a smaller straight-eight engine and shorter engine compartment when compared with the Roadmaster.

The handsome styling of the 1948 Sedanet fastback was popular with consumers.

The handsome styling of the 1948 Sedanet fastback was popular with consumers.

The Super was originally introduced as the Series 50 in 1930, and ran a straight eight cylinder engine. The Super was introduced again in 1940 with the "Torpedo" body style and it ran the C-Body that it shared with the Roadmaster. The Super was five inches wider and three inches lower, which made it a real six passenger car. In 1941 the "turbulator" was introduced, which had twin two-barrels and was the forerunner of the four-barrel carburetor.

The 1953 Series 50 Woody Estate Wagon was a favorite of wealthy

The 1953 Series 50 Woody Estate Wagon was a favorite of wealthy "country gentlemen" who owned large rural estates.

The next generation Super lasted from 1949-1952 and introduced the classic three ventiports on each side of the front fenders. The holes were an attempt to mimic the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane and are a Buick trademark to this day. Though Buick had used a three-speed manual transmission for years, a dyna-flow automatic was introduced for the 1949 model.

The 1950 Super had the twin two barrel carburetors and when combined with the Fireball I8 engine, cranked out 112 horsepower. The car could go 90 miles per hour, which was an accomplishment for any big car at the time. The classic Sweepspear was introduced in early 1950, and it also became a symbol of timeless Buick design.

The 1953 Super was the first Buick to run a V8 engine, and that engine was used well into the 60s on a wide variety of Buicks. The 1953 edition had nearly all the luxuries that the Roadmaster had that year, unfortunately that was the last year that sales were strong.

The decline of the Super began in 1954. It had the same engine and had an even larger panoramic windshield. It was a big Buick and meant to appeal to the budget minded buyer. Interiors were made of nylon and were less flashy than the top-of-the-line Roadmaster. Even so, the convertible was outfitted with leather interior. This car had a strong engine, power windows, outside rearview mirrors, and the horizontal speedometer instrument panel. Consumers tastes began to change and by the end of the year sales had fallen to 118,000 units, a drop of about 70,000. The Buick Super would never recover.

Among car customizers, mid 50s Buick are popular candidates for restomodding.

Among car customizers, mid 50s Buick are popular candidates for restomodding.

Over the next couple of years four ventiports became standard on the fenders. More luxuries were added as well. In 1956 the Super had a trunk light, electric clock, sliding sunshades, cigarette lighter, glove compartment and map lights and dual horns. This was matched with a dynaflow automatic transmission and a Strong V8 engine. However, sales continued to decline.

Part of the reason for the Super's decline was a change in how people bought cars. For decades there had been a set hierarchy, starting with the Chevrolet, and going up to Cadillac. Rising American affluence, and multiple models of cars for different uses, changed the way people bought cars. Buick kept offering different models, and it seems the Super was a victim of that more than anything else.

Can you guess how much the chrome weighs on this 1958 Super?

Can you guess how much the chrome weighs on this 1958 Super?

The Super is not the first car you think of when thinking of a classic car, but there are some very valuable Buick Supers out there. Those Supers that have survived over the years are generally in decent condition just because they were relatively expensive cars when new.

When a 50s model Super is restored, it generally fetches a very good price. It is not the standard car you see restored every day, which makes it unusual, and it still had a lot of charm just as it did when on the road.

The Buick Super, especially the 1950 model, is a classic car with considering if you want a great car. It was advanced for its day, and that quality will still show through when restored.

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