Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Night at the Cocoanut Grove

A great picture and a wonderful mystery for all you sleuths out there. From our files comes this photo of the Reynolds Buick Sales Team at a glamorous function. Everyone is beautifully dressed- the ladies in evening wear, the gentlemen in suits and ties.

According to Chris Nichols at Los Angeles Magazine, the setting is none other than the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub at the landmark Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. The bottles of alcohol on the tables suggest an evening function. The Ambassador was down the street from the Buick Zone office in the 50's and 60's, so it is undoubtedly a Buick Motor Division function. The time frame from the fashions and hair styles appears to be 1957-63.

We know some of the guests. The couple on the left nearest the camera are our Patriarch and Matriarch, Irven G. and Gertrude Reynolds. At the other end on the same side are Irven "Pete" Reynolds Jr. and his wife Caroline. Seated between them we see our salesman Dave Freet and his wife Gloria. In the middle of the other side are longtime sales manager Jim Hutcheson and his wife Lillian, and Joe Henry and his wife Edna. All are longtime employees of Reynolds Buick.

Can you help us identify the rest of the celebrants? Please comment here, or on Facebook, send a Tweet, or drop us an email if you recognize anyone.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mailbag: our 25th Anniversary in Print

Reynolds Buick circa 1940.

Our coverage of Reynolds' Silver Anniversary continues. Today we are sharing the front page of the Covina Argus, May 30, 1940. The Covina Argus was itself in its fifty-fifth year, and one of the oldest newspapers in the valley, published from 1995 until 1945 when it merged with the Citizen, and creating the Argus Citizen, which was replaced by the Highlander down the line before merging with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Our own history is much more straightforward. Irven Reynolds, Sr, signed a sales agreement with Charles Howard in 1915 and became a Buick dealer. His son Pete took over in 1958, and his grandson Don took the reins in 1999. One family, in its ninety-sixth year.

This article helps to explain why. The article shared here is on the front page, and is highly affectionate in tone- even downright playful in places. It pays tribute to Irv. Sr as businessman, civic leader, and friend, and ends with a bit of lightheartedness. The fact that these original clippings were found in Irv's desk some forty years later says as much about him as the article itself.

Presented in as found condition, complete with rough scissor cuts, here is the front page of the Argus Citizen, from the desk of Irven Reynolds, Sr:

Friday, August 26, 2011

More Reynolds Racers: 1968 GS400

Pop Kennedy and Pete Reynolds with the brand new 1968 GS400

One of the most important Buick racers in our history is our 1968 GS400. You will recall that the new 400 engine family made its debut in 1967, and which just happened to coincide with Pete Reynolds' two year cycle for the racing cars. But only one year later the totally restyled 1968 intermediates made their debut, so Pete retired the '67 and ordered a new 1968 GS400.

The car was registered on the Reynolds log book on January 23, 1968, It was painted in the same special gold color as the 1965s and 1967 had been, and was a very good looking automobile. These photographs were taken shortly after its arrival to the dealership. Pop Kennedy was very fond of this car because the restyled fenders would allow this one to run on wider racing slicks than the others (Pete Reynolds wasn't so keen on whacking the fender wells with a hammer, you know.)

Pop Kennedy and the new ride.

Pop and the kids- the '67, '65 and '68 Reynolds Buick racers.

This faded bottom photograph was hanging on the office wall of none other than Jim Bell himself and shows the 67 and 68 as the torch is being passed, and in the middle, none other than the second '65, which was purchased by Pop Kennedy himself in 1967. He loved the '65 and drove it for years.

The '68 is more significant to Buick than almost anyone else. Denny Manner, Buick Powertrain Engineer Extraordinaire was developing the high performance Stage 1 and Stage 2 engines and was banned from racing by GM dictate. But he was allowed to supply parts to outside racers for testing and validation, for example, Jim Bell at Kenne-Bell Racing. And so our '68 GS 400 became a very important link in the development of the ultimate Buick Gran Sports of the era. A beautiful car, which we remember with much affection.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Reynolds Racers- Rio Red '61 Invicta

I don't have a picture of the '59. Reynolds Buick's first race car, and a very successful one at that. Called the "winningest Buick of all time", the Tampico Red Invicta coupe with the huge batwing fins and the red and white interior. The car accumulated an astonishing 132 trophies in its career before being retired in 1961. On its first run, the Tampico Red finned beauty turned a 15.0 at 90 mph. With milled heads and a 4.44 rear end, the time dropped to 14.70 at 93 mph. On the Reynolds books as a demo, upon retirement it was sold as a used car- and I have one lousy, grainy picture of it.

Someone must have given Pete a Kodak Brownie before the '61 came in. Buoyed by the success of the '59 Invicta, Pete ordered another Invicta- a '61 in a deeper maroon known as Rio Red with a sexy red and white interior. Pop Kennedy set up similarly to the '59 with a 4.44 rear end and milled heads, plus headers and his Casler tires.

This Invicta turned a 14.21 at 97.70 mph and won 38 consecutive races between May 21 and Sept 10, 1961- NO losses! Pete sprung for gas money, so Pop put the racing slicks in the trunk and DROVE the Invicta to Indianapolis where he was rewarded with a class win- a feat that he repeated in 1962. Thankfully there are quite a few nice pictures of this one. Take a look at them, Pop Kennedy, Pete Reynolds, and Irv Reynolds Sr are posing proudly with their thoroughbred.

Incidentally, the lettering on the side was removable tape, so no Buicks were harmed in the making of this race car. The professional lettering would come later, with the first '65. At this stage, the program is more of a glorified weekend racer than a full scale dragster. And don't forget, after two seasons of racing, the glorious Invicta was sold as a used car! Wouldn't we love to have it back...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Mailbag: Silver Anniversary, 1940

We're continuing on the theme we started last week, that being notable Reynolds Buick GMC Anniversaries. And since we're in our 96th year under the same ownership, there have been a lot of them.

Here this week is another congratulatory letter on our 25th Anniversary, which was in the year 1940. It is worth noting that there were a whole lot of manufacturers that went bust in the depression, let alone dealers. So even if someone did a good job as a dealer, if he represented the wrong line, such as Essex, Locomobile, Erskine, Dort, or maybe Auburn, he wasn't going to have a long affiliation.

Fortunately, Irv Sr, aligned himself with Buick and GMC, two quality products of General Motors and the result has been a long and happy relationship. This week's letter was from the California Buick Distributor, the Howard Automobile Company, and is signed by their General Manager, Mr. Harold W. Tuttle. Remember it was Mr. Charles Howard himself who selected Irv. Sr to be a Buick dealer back in 1915- I'm thinking that by now, he had realized that he made a pretty good choice. Actually, they both did.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Reynolds Racers- the Swingin '67

Our Trophy Winning 1967 GS 400

Passing of the guard. Pop Kennedy with our 1965 (which he purchased), 1967, and newly arrived 1968 Gran Sport Racers.

Our racers are, by and large, a pretty well known group of Buicks. Our '59 Invicta was known as the "Winningest Buick of all time." Our pair of '65's were legendary, and so beloved that one prominent collector created an exact recreation of our second '65. This Tribute Car, as we call it, made its public debut at last year's Reynolds Buick Open House. And there's our legendary '70, the unofficial factory racer.

But along the way, there were a couple of very important cars that are less well known today, like our very important but less famous 1967. This was an evolutionary car. Although Buick had been extremely successful with the tough little "nailheads", the engine itself was becoming dated. So the big news for 1967 was a new engine. In fact, a the basis for a whole family of new engines.

For the GS, that translated to a new 400 cubic inch big block. Rated ay 340 HP with a 10.25:1 compression ratio (in stock trim), Jim Bell outfitted the '67 Reynolds Buick racer with his usual magic and estimates that the new engine in comparable tune easily produced 75 hp more than the nailhead, which is a HUGE increase. He did strike a concern about reliability on the '67, recalling that they blew up the new engine with alarming regularity. Thankfully, when that happened, a phone call to Buick's Bill Trevor at the General Motors Training Canter made a new engine appear. So it had teething pains- But he recalls it being FAST.

As prepared by Jim, Bell, this car ran 12.10 seconds at 111 mph. The style change caused Pete to replace this car with a new one. The Gold Mist 1967 GS400 was campaigned for only one season before the totally new intermediate body was introduced for 1968, at which time Pete Reynolds, with an eye toward selling new Buicks, felt compelled to order a new '68. A regular customer bought the '67 from Reynolds, but unfortunately its current whereabouts are unknown.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Mailbag: State Assemblyman Calling

Reynolds Buick at Citrus and Bedillo, late 1930's

As Reynolds Buick's 96th Anniversary Celebration begins to draw near, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the other Anniversaries we have observed. Recall that for the Golden Anniversary Buick Introduction, Irv. Sr received a special badge denoting him as a Twenty Five Year Plus Dealer (actually, it was his thirty-seventh year as a dealer).

So today we'll take a look back at Twenty Five Years, a milestone that was achieved in the year 1940. The attached letter was written by Frederick F. Houser, California State Assemblyman in the Fifty-Third District, writing in response to a congratulatory article in the Covina Argus. Houser would go on to become Lieutenant Governor under Earl Warren in 1943. We think it's pretty telling that he took the time to write a note to Irv Sr. And judging by the fact that Irv kept the letter in his desk for over forty years, we're thinking he thought it was pretty nice, too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fast Friday: Syclones and Typhoons- Oh, MY!

Another Fast Friday is upon us and it's always a pleasure to write about high octane fun. Usually we open a chapter of the Buick story but this week will be something different.

It was only a few years after the demise of the Grand National that Reynolds started receiving limited shipments of another very special performance car, but one with even more mechanical sophistication that our beloved Grand National- and from a different division.

GMC introductory ad for the Syclone

GMC startled the industry with the limited edition Syclone pickup in 1991. A one year offering, it was a highly modified compact Sonoma Pickup which featured a high-output version of GMC's 4.3 litre V6 engine fitted with a Mitsubishi Turbocharger and a Garrett Intercooler. AWD from the Astro Van was also fitted, along with a 700R4 Transmission, special suspension, unique lower body fascias, specific wheels and tires and industry first four-wheel ABS. The power train put out 280 HP and was capable of 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. It could turn quarter miles in 13.4 seconds at 98 mph in stock trim. Just as in the Grand National, it was offered in Black only. A total of 2,995 were produced. There were plans to continue the model for 1992 but they were cancelled after only three units were built.

Motorweek tests the 1991 Syclone

GMC shifted gears in 1992. The Syclone was replaced by the Typhoon, which was the same high performance treatment applied to a 1992 Jimmy 2 door SUV. It was more practical than the Syclone with a full rear seat, although slighly slower offering official 0-60 times of 5.3 seconds and standing quarters in 14.1 at 85 mph. Typhoon was offered for two model years, 1992 and 1993. Color range was a bit wider, offering whites, reds, and blues but the black combination was still the most popular. The Typhoon was well received by the media but the car was pricey, starting at $29,970, so production was limited. Only 4,697 were produced over the two model years. They're a sleeper collectible today, considerably less costly than a Grand National and well worth pursuing.

Motorweek tests the 1992 Typhoon

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Mailbag: The Golden Anniversary Buick

This week's letter is a gem. It comes from R. J. Kelly, Buick Los Angeles Zone Manager and is sent from the newly opened Zone Office in the Miracle Mile District on Wilshire Blvd.

The letter, dated Dec. 1, 1952, is inviting Irv Sr. to the Dealer Meeting to introduce the new 1953 Buicks. Kelly proudly points out that these will be the "Golden Anniversary" Buicks marking the Company's 50th Anniversary. Those Buicks will be pretty special indeed, with their first V-8 engines and introducing the dazzling limited-production Skylark convertible for the first time. Priced at $5,000.00, it was actually more expensive than a Cadillac Series 62 convertible whose base price was only $4,144.00.

He also notes a special Anniversary for Reynolds Buick as well, telling Irv that he will receive a special credential for achieving over 25 years as a Buick dealer. Point of Fact, 1953 would be Irv's 38th year as a Buick dealer as Irv signed his franchise agreement way back in 1915!

And now, fifty eight years later, Reynolds Buick is still in business under the same family's ownership. We're proud that Reynolds and Buick both stand for continuity and longevity.