Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hot Wheels Buick Favorites

Sad new this week with the passing of Mattel Co-Founder Elliot Handler at age 95. He will be especially remembered in the Classic car Community for being the father of Hot Wheels. The iconic toys were introduced in 1968, and featured metalflake paint jobs and patented go-fast Mag Wheels. In short, handler took the California Custom look and sold it to the world. We're happy to note that over the years, Hot Wheels have paid tribute to quite a few of our favorite Buicks. Having raced our share of Buicks over the years ourselves, here are a few we particularly enjoy:

Of course we love the boattail. This 1971 Riviera was introduced in 2005. It has been issued in a myriad of colors, including dark teal, purple, gold, blue and Bright Red. The model does an excellent job of capturing the boattail styling.

And you have to have an original Riviera for your collection. This 1964 was introduced back in 2002 and is still available. It has been issued in orange, ice blue, white, lime green, matte black, and even magenta.

This cool 1957 Century "Caballero" wagon was introduced in 2007. It has been issued in orange and white, dark blue, yellow and white, and Ice Blue with white. It is based on the first "pillarless" Buick station wagon.

The 1970 GSX was introduced in 2009. At launch, it was issued in the original factory color combinations of White and Saturn Yellow with black stripes. Later editions were red, metallic blue, metallic green, and orange. A MUST have for a Buick fan!

And that brings us to the iconic Grand National, or "Darth Buick" as we used to call it. Introduced in 2007, it was initially offered in period perfect black with black and grey interiors. Later issues have been in a cornucopia of colors- blues, red, greys, maroon- all fun but a cool black is a MUST HAVE.

Search out your own favorite Hot Wheels Buicks here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mailbag: Fairness for Dr. Fairchild

This week's letter has a charm all it's own. It was written to Irv Sr. by a man named James Fairchild, who was a Dentist in LaVerne. Now of course, when one receives a note from a Dentist, the first thing that jumps into mind is often pain, but read on and this is far from the case.

A fine longhand script letter from June 20, 1939 details how Dr. Fairchild purchased a used Buick from Reynolds Buick in late 1938 (that would have been at our Citrus and Bedillo location) and it had an engine problem related to using too much oil.

Used car warranties were unheard of in those days- indeed the NEW Buick warranty at the time was only 90 days- but Reynolds Buick stood behind their car and replaced the piston rings, this solving the problem for Dr. Fairchild, and he wrote a letter of thanks to Irv Sr. for the fairness treatment which Reynolds showed to him.

Although many things have changed in the world since 1915, two things that haven't changed are the Reynolds Family who still own and operate Reynolds Buick GMC Isuzu, and their commitment to customer satisfaction which is as important today as it was with Dr. Fairchild way back in 1939.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Futurliner: GM Forward into the Future

Starting with the revolutionary Buick Y-Job of 1938, General Motors virtually created the concept car. A vehicle designed not for sale, but for trying revolutionary ideas and testing the public's reaction to them. These vehicles were fully operational, and GM Styling Chief Harley Earl actually tended to drive them as his personal transportation.

But one of the most ambitious programs involved GMC Truck and Coach- the legendary Futurliner. The Futurliner is special because it was created not just to dazzle the public, but to literally carry the superiority of General Motors from town to town.

Charles Kettering came up with an idea he called "Parade of Progress", which involved taking the impressive science and technology exhibits GM created for World's Fair displays and caravaning them through smaller towns across America. The transport vehicles themselves would be rolling advertisements for GM.

The Parade of Progress began in 1936 with a fleet of nine specially bodied trucks known as Streamliners. Their concept was to use specially designed trucks that would not only carry the display, bit could also house them. The success of the program convinced GM to reach for something grander and in 1940, the twelve Futurliners made their debut.

The Futurliners were made by the GMC Truck and Coach Division to a space age design by styling wunderkind Bill Mitchell. They were huge bright red coaches- thirty three feet long and almost twelve feet high- and featured a plastic domed driver's canopy, dual front and rear wheels with enormous whitewall tires, an entire lower body covered in ribbed aluminum and enormous gold GM letters on the front. They proudly carried the General Motors Parade of Progress lettering in cast aluminum on their flanks, and in addition to hauling the display, their sides opened up to house displays inside the vehicles. Mechanically they featured enormous four cylinder diesel engines and four speed transmissions. Quite a sight to see these twelve bright red spaceships coming down the highway- they very clearly carried the message that General Motors was carrying the future.

The Futurliners were utilized in the Parade of Progress until the war placed the effort on hiatus. They were stored until GM decided to resume the program in 1953. Several modifications were made to the behemoths- the plastic domes (which were very hot) were replaced with a more permanent roof and wraparound windshield, they were repainted in a two tone red and white combination, the powertrains were updated to six cylinder gas engines with Hydra-Matic transmissions, the net result of which made them much more pleasurable to drive. They carried the Parade of Progress to some thirteen million spectators before the program ended after the 1956 season. That newfangled television, which many people saw for the first time at the Parade of Progress, was seen as a better way to spread the word of General Motors.

The twelve coaches were sold or donated, and many had long second careers- Goebel Beer, The Michigan State Police, Peter Pan Coach Company, and even Oral Roberts made use of former Futurliners as promotional vehicles. Amazingly, nine of the twelve have survived in varying condition. One in Van Nuys has been converted into a Motor Home, a couple have undergone meticulous restorations - one sold for over $4 Million dollars at a Scottsdale Auction- and one is even being painstakingly restored in Sweden. GM's largest concept vehicles continue to fascinate and delight to this day.

Here's a GM Film from the '50s about the Parade of Progress

And a great site about the restoration of Futurliner #10 is here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mailbox: Irv and the 1947 World Series

The 1947 World Series was a New York event, pitting the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The match up took all seven games to decide, with the Yankees winning the title on their home turf of Yankee Stadium.

Out on the west coast, our favorite Buick dealer, Irv Reynolds Sr., wanted to see the series, so he wrote to Leslie O'Connor of the Chicago White Sox to see if he could assist.

A charming reply from Comiskey Park arrived on Sept. 16, 1947, advising Irv Sr. that he could assist with the Yankees games (and thereby the deciding game) but that he hadn't been on speaking terms with the Dodgers President for over twenty five years.

The two teams would rematch in 1955 at which time the Dodgers would win, before moving west in 1957 to become our beloved Los Angeles Dodgers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beautiful Buicks

Last week our correspondent was traveling up to San Luis Obispo for a classic car show so we asked him to take some pictures of any cool Buicks that he encountered.

He was showing a classic 1972 Riviera, a low mileage beauty still sporting Reynolds frames. It was renowned for its dramatic boattail styling, and he reports that the car was trouble free throughout the 650 mile journey. Along the way, he encountered a number of beautiful Buicks including a 1957 Special hardtop in black, a white 1955 Century which had been purchased new by the owner's uncle, a sleek razor sharp 1965 Riviera in a dramatic deep blue, a 1958 Special in shades of blue, and a pair of gorgeous 1965 Wildcats to dream about- a convertible in bright red and a coupe in aqua and white- both loaded with bucket seats, floor shifts and lots of accessories. So take a moment and look at some of the beautiful Buicks.