Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast Friday: Fast Friends

We certainly did a lot of cool things on our recent trip to Buick's Home Town of Flint, Michigan - saw some awesome Buicks at the Sloan Museum, checked out some local cruise nights, caught breakfast with the local Buick Club of America folks, even did a driving tour past some of the old GM plants where many a classic Buick got their start. And along the way we crossed paths with some nice guys who  had a lot to do with Buick Performance and lent a hand to the Reynolds Buick Racing effort way back when.

Denny Manner (Left in the pictures) was hired into Buick Engineering upon graduation from the University of Minnesota in 1959. He was a weekend racer himself, so it would only be natural that he would being his love of performance engines along. One of his early projects at Buick was developing the dual-quad arrangement that was introduced on the 1964 Wildcat and Riviera.

Later he would serve as the Project Engineer in charge of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 455 engine programs. It was in that role that he became friendly with Jim Bell, tuner of the Reynolds Buick racing cars. It seems that Denny was developing high performance parts but didn't have the budget to campaign a drag car of his own, in addition the Corporation still had an official racing ban. The solution was to ship some test parts to a couple of successful Buick racing teams, most notably our own Kenne-Bell  Reynolds team. Both our '68 and '70 race programs benefitted from his support and it was a pleasure to meet him in person and discuss some of the finest hours in Buick's history. We are pleased to know him.

On the right in the pictures is Joe Guzek, retired Motor Wheel engineer and Buick racer himself from the time the cars were new. It was Joe who supplied the Motor Wheel Spyder racing wheels to Jim Bell for our 1970 GS 455 Stage 2, and Joe went on to create the chrome wheels for the 1986-87 Buick Grand National.

Joe met Denny Manner way back in 1970 when he was seeking input into a new car order that became his own 1970 GS 455 drag car- another Buick engineer referred him directly to Denny and it was the beginning of a long association. Two, actually- because Joe still has the 1970 GS 455 he ordered with Denny's input. He also knows Jim Bell personally from the racing days and is a friend to Reynolds and Buick Performance fans in general. It was great to get to know Joe and Denny in person and hope we can coerce them out to West Covina for one of our Open Houses in the near future.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Drive: Buick Automotive Gallery

The Flint adventures continue. Today's trip to the Buick Automotive Gallery at the Sloan Museum in Flint is one that no Buick enthusiast should do without. The Gallery, housed in its own special building, is dedicated to Buick- automobiles, ephemera, and even a library of documents for the serious researcher. It is also a land of very special Buicks, as several Motorama Dream Cars and Buick one-off specials reside there as well. 

The XP-300 was a Buick Concept Car from 1951 that features an aluminum body, disappearing top, and supercharged V-8 engine. While the front end design closely predicts the 1954 Buicks, the unique tail tapers similarly to a jet fuselage. The XP-300 is on permanent display.

The 1954 Wildcat II was constructed for display at the General Motors Motorama. Designer Ned Nichols gave the Wildcat II an unmistakably sport look, with a low-slung two seat body, open flared fenders with polished inner fenders and genuine chrome plated wire wheels, and even freestanding headlamps. A suitably sporty interior with a full complement of gauges completes the sporty feel. The Wildcat II is certainly the sportiest show car produced by Buick in the 1950's. 

While the Wildcat II is a sporty car, the Centurion is more like a space ship with wheels. Constructed for the 1956 Motorama, the red and white beauty features radical styling features such as a full glass roof, pointed jet fighter tail cone with rear mounted camera, and overall styling that strongly predicted the all new 1957 Buickd, especially in the side profile. In addition, the distinctive grille design was later adapted for the Corvette. A dazzling car, and as exciting today as the day it was first shown over fifty-five years ago.

Unlike its unique bretheren, the 1963 Riviera Silver Arrow was not designed as a show car, but rather as a one off driver for GM Styling Chief Bill Mitchell. Finished in Cloud Silver paint , Silver Arrow was lengthened in the front fenders and featured chopped top, making the profile of Silver Arrow uniquely distinctive. The grille was replaced with cooling slots that were speed activated and the car was originally built with chrome wire wheels. The silver leather interior features a special console with a factory tach. Mitchell later added the wide whitewalls and the full wheel covers that the Silver Arrow wears today.

It's a wonderful place to look at some one off cars from Buick's past. Enjoy your visit to the Sloan Museum's Buick Automotive Gallery:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fast Friday: Flint's Fun Rides

Our Fast Friday Flint edition will bring you some pretty cool Buicks we encountered in Buick Town during the week. It isn't exhaustive, and there re still more cruise nights to come and they make yield some special cars as well, but here's a mid week sampler of what we have seen in the home of Buick Motor Division so far. The list includes the final GNX produced (on display at the Sloan Museum along with a GNX engine), a great 1965 Special Deluxe with Cragar wheels which looks a lot like our '65 Reynolds Buick racer, a 1972 Buick Riviera boattail , a gorgeous low mile '86 Intercooled Grand National and a rarely seen '68 Skylark Coupe, which had the same body as our '68 Reynolds Buick GS.

So please enjoy some sweet Buicks from Buick Town:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Mailbag- The Bet

Not all of the letters in Irv Sr.'s files were serious business transactions. To wit, this letter from November 6, 1935 from the Howard Automobile Company.

Recall that Howard Automobile Company, headed by the legendary Charles S. Howard, was the distributor for Buick in the entire state of California and that Irv Reynolds Sr. had been selected by none other than Charles himself to become a Buick franchised dealer in 1915.

This communication comes from the desk of Howard W. Tuttle, General Manager, Howard Automobile Company and concerns business of an urgent nature. Important dealer meeting? Sales objective? New franchise requirements? No, not this time.

The letter contained a check for five dollars to pay off a football bet. Five bucks. That's all. Apparently Sr. and Mr. Tuttle had a little friendly wager over a California game, and apparently Sr. was the winner. One is of the impression that Sr, won most of his bets.

And this little letter remains, a momento of a friendly bet between two Gentlemen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beautiful Scenery and Beautiful Buicks

Another weekend, another car show full of Classic Buicks. This week, our correspondent is in the seaside resort town of Saugatuck, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. The annual car show there he attended had some delectible Buicks on display, including a brace of sexy Riviera personal luxury coupes- the original 1963, the first restyle from 1967, and the unforgettable downsized Riviera of 1984. In addition, there were on display, all three body styles of the majestic 1965-66 Electra 225- four door hardtop, sexy convertible and even the rarely seen two door coupe. These great Buicks look just like they rolled off the showroom floor at Reynolds! Best of Show was presented to another Buick, a 1941 Century Torpedoback sedan with Compound Carburetion in a fascinating red clay color.

Beautiful Midwestern scenery and beautiful Buicks- enjoy!