A couple of auto legends hit (minor) milestones

Happy Belated Birthday Buick and CorvetteOur attitude towards age seems to evolve over the course of life. When we’re young birthdays can’t come fast enough but, if you’ll pardon my crude comparison, life is sort of like a roll of toilet paper. It moves a lot faster towards the end. In any event, we tend to grow less anxious for birthdays as the decades stack up.

In the business realm, however, advanced age is viewed differently; seniority typically imparts strength behind a product name. In the automotive industry, in particular, major milestone years are often marketed with great fanfare. But on the lesser milestone years, say 110 and 60, the pomp is relatively restrained.

Buick’s 110th and the Chevrolet Corvette’s 60th birthdays flew sort of low on the media’s horizon. Not all that surprising though since, as with marriages, only the major milestones seem to garner attention. Nevertheless, it’s a good time to stop and reflect on various stages that led up to the present product. General Motors put together a press release for each of the occasions that include bulleted points and historical pictures that I thought were pretty interesting.

Buick turns 110
So I missed writing about this when the actual date passed last month. On May 19, 1903, the Buick Motor Company was incorporated and, during the generations that have since passed, there have been many a peak and a few valleys.

Just over a week ago Buick released a list of 11 models that they believe best define the brand’s 11 decades, one selected from each 10-year span. Each was accompanied with a brief description and corresponding picture which are presented below. Pictures in this post can be enlarged by clicking on them.

1904 Model B (first production Buick)


The first Buick ever is quite significant, so Buick’s first decade honor goes to the 1904 Model B. The first one of the line was sold to doctor Herbert H. Hills of Flint, Mich., decades before the brand developed its reputation as a “doctor’s car.”

1916 Buick Model D-45 Touring


The 1916 D-45 Touring was the top-selling model in 1916, a year when Buick switched its lineup from four- to six-cylinder engines. Sales tripled that year and reached six digits for the first time. Buick became the top-selling brand in the industry a few years later, with five-passenger touring models remaining most popular.

1931 Buick 50 Series Two Door Sedan


The 1931 Series 50 was the best-selling model in the year of another upsizing of powertrains – from six- to eight-cylinder engines. The more powerful engines, paired with a major design overhaul the year before, helped boost Buick’s image during the Great Depression.

1936 Buick Century


Harlow Curtice became Buick’s president in 1933, and three years later, a model range including the 1936 Century showed his revolutionary vision for the brand. Its streamlined designs were a dramatic change and Buick’s engines grew more powerful, making the Century the first Buick to reach 100 mph. Sales grew from 53,249 in 1935 to 168,596 in 1936 and continued to rise in the years to come.

1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera


Buick’s most iconic design features, including signature waterfall grilles and portholes, date to the 1949 Roadmaster. One of the most collectible Buicks of all time, the Roadmaster even became a Hollywood star in the 1988 film Rain Man.

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible


Buick celebrated its 50th birthday with the 1953 Skylark, an opulent, limited-production convertible with advanced design and technology. Each had Italian wire wheels and the owner’s name engraved on the steering wheel. The same year also marked the first year of Buick V-8 engines and a new twin-turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission.

1963 Buick Riviera front left


Buick’s most famous production design is the 1963 Riviera, a powerful sport coupe said to be inspired by a Rolls-Royce that Buick design boss Bill Mitchell saw through a fog in London. It energized a brand emerging from a period of design criticism.

1975 Buick Regal Coupe


Amid an oil crisis, the 1975 Regal offered a standard V-6 engine at a time when other mid-size sedans offered only gas-thirstier V-8s. Buick still leads the way in the downsizing trend, offering four-cylinder engines on four of its five 2013 models.

1987 Buick GNX


Buick’s lightweight, high-tech V-6 engines, mixed with the brand’s success in NASCAR, resulted in the brand’s most iconic performance car, the 1987 GNX. Its 276-hp turbocharged and intercooled V-6 delivered 0-60 mph acceleration in just 4.6 seconds, according to Car and Driver magazine.

1999 Buick Century (China)


A 1999 Century was Buick’s first model built in China for the local market. Although Buick has a long reputation as a prestigious brand in China (one in six cars on Shanghai roads in 1930 were Buicks, according to the city’s government,) production there has driven the brand’s success over the past decade. China is now Buick’s largest market, with 700,007 vehicles sold in 2012.

2008 Buick Enclave CXL


The 2008 Enclave luxury crossover ushered in Buick’s current design language and brand focus. Along with the LaCrosse luxury sedan, which went on sale as a 2010 model, the Enclave introduced buyers to a new era of Buicks with leading design, quietness, quality and safety.

Below are some additional images from Buick’s storied past.

1939 Buick Roadmaster (Indy 500 pace car)1940 Buick Super Estate Wagon1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera Convertible1953 Buick Skylark Convertible1953 Buick Skylark Convertible1956 Buick Super Riviera Sedan1958 Buick Super Riviera Coupe1959 Buick Electra Convertible1959 Buick Invicta Hardtop1959 Buick LeSabre Sedan1961 Buick Invicta Sedan1962 Buick Electra 2251962 Buick LeSabre1963 Buick Riviera1968 Buick LeSabre1968 Buick Riviera Coupe1970 Buick Electra 2251970 Buick Electra 2251971 Buick Riviera Coupe1975 Buick Electra sedan

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