Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday Memories: Holiday Style

Hollywood Blvd, 1940's

We hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful Holiday season. We love the texture of the holidays, the connection to years gone by as we observe our Holiday traditions. There was a time when beautiful decorations were utilized by many of the communities in Southern California.
It seems that some of the most elaborate decorations were in Hollywood, and recently we were fortunate to come across a stash of old Hollywood photos that show some very charming and elaborate decorations, as well as some scenes from old Hollywood Christmas parades. We also found the Eastland Tower made into an atomic Christmas missile, and our own downtown Covina in 1962.

We hope these scenes of days gone by will bring back happy holiday memories of good times with family and friends.

Hollywood, 1946

1949 Roadmaster in 1948 Christmas Parade

1949 Hollywood Christmas Parade

Hollywood Blvd, 1950

Hollywood and Vine, 1950

Streetcar in Inglewood, 1957

Eastland Center's "Christmas Tower", 1957

Our own Downtown Covina, 1962

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Memories: Still on Citrus-The New Building

Architect's rendering of the proposed facility, 1963

Success, it is said, comes with a price. This was true for Reynolds Buick in the early 1960's. They were doing so well that they had outgrown their longtime location at Citrus and Badillo. The new Buick models- the Special series, the Skylark, the sporty personal luxury Riviera- were doing great in the marketplace. So great that the lot was jammed. And all of the storage lots in the city could only stall off the inevitable for so long- they had outgrown their location.

So Pete and his Dad began scouting locations. Closer to the new freeway, like the developers had done with Eastland Center. A spacious parcel was located on Citrus Ave, just across the border in West Covina. A local architect drew the rendering above for the new facility. Neat, clean, and modern- but not wasteful or extravagant. A tall glass showroom with lots of light, and a space age sign to announce the new location to the world. Note that the rendering even shows a 1963 Buick in the driveway- a classy touch.

It only took just over a year to build. The new facility dedication photos show the lot full of sparkling '64 Buicks and GMCs, and the towering sign is repeated on the congratulatory cake. The clean, modern facility was designed for years of service, and that it certainly has provided. There have been minimal changes since we moved in back in 1964, just in time to get ready for our 50th Anniversary.

Now we've got to start thinking about the 100th.

Newly completed Reynolds Buick-GMC, 1964
The sign makes its appearance on the cake.
Pete Reynolds at his desk, with his sales managers.
Pete and sales manager Jim Hutchinson pose with new 1971 Buicks.
Pete and Don Reynolds welcome back the Reynolds Racers and their owners, 2010.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fast Friday: We raced the little ones, too

The drag racing days of Reynolds Buick came to and end after the 1972 season due to a number of events coming together- first, the decision by GM to reduce compression in order to burn unleaded fuels effectively ended the Factory's interest in racing. Second, the gasoline shortage of the early 1970's made performance cars temporarily out of fashion, and third the retirement of Lennie "Pop" Kennedy left the effort without a car, a purpose, or a driver. Racing had been good for Reynolds, but the landscape had changed. So clearly it was time to rethink.

It was around this time that the Sports Car Club of America introduced a new "Showroom Stock" class of road racing, and it turned out that one of the most competitive cars turned out to be the Opel Manta. Reynolds happened to have a lot full of them, so it wasn't long before the boys were back at the races.

Exept this time, there was a girl as well. Arlene Hiss was a schoolteacher who was not only married to a racing driver- Indy car racer John Hiss, but was a driver herself, and a darned good one at that. She was introduced to Pete Reynolds and he agreed to provide her with a ride. Reynolds also sponsored racers John Hall, Bill Johnson and Fred Tervet in the 1973-75 SCCA seasons.

Arlene was the standout of the bunch. She won the SCCA Showroom Stock Championship with her bright red Reynolds Opel Manta in 1974 and was so successful that the SCCA disqualified the car the following year. She was forced to step down to a 1.9 litre sedan, which she still campaigned quite successfully before losing the championship to Ron Smaldone in a Mustang II.

The following year Arlene herself moved on to USAC Indy Car racing and became the first woman to complete a USAC race, finishing 14th in the Jimmy Bryan 150 USAC National Championship race on March 14, 1976. The fast little Opel was replaced in 1976 with an Isuzu designed model, and Reynolds discontinued their efforts in SCCA racing. But it was a fun chapter in their long history and is a story well worth remembering. Although known for the big ones, Reynolds raced the little ones too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Memories: It's a Match

It can be a lot of fun going through Irv. Sr's desk. It's full of the exactly the type of ephemera one would expect to accumulate while operating a hometown Buick-GMC dealership for sixty years. Besides all of the wonderful letters, and the photographs, and the newspaper articles, there's a lot of fun old Buick stuff.

This matchbook was in his desk drawer. It's printed in four colors with two glamorous full color pictures of new Buicks on the outside- a Roadmaster Riviera Four Door Hardtop in Bedford Blue with a White top is on one face, and a Tahitian Coral and White two-toned 1956 Special convertible on the other. The lid says "Best Buick Yet."

Inside there are listed the many advantages of the 1956 models, such as the Variable Pitch Dymaflow and the new Color Harmony, along with the imprint of our favorite local dealer, Irven G. Reynolds at Citrus and Badillo. It's very quaint and fun, but it was also a smart merchandising idea in its day when the vast majority of adult men smoked. The piece itself was printed for Buick by Universal Match Company in Detroit and sold to the local dealers by the factory in bulk lots. A great souvenir of a very special time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fun Friday: Buick Compacts and Little Limousines

Buick has long been known for large. powerful, comfortable cars- for powerful Roadmasters and sporty Rivieras and roomy Le Sabres and sumptous Park Avenues- but that's only a part of the story. Buick has also produced some of the finest compacts in the industry and we thought we'd take a look at some today, starting all the way back in 1908.

It was in that year that Buick introduced the car that put it on the map- the Model 10 runabout. A well built car, Model 10 was priced at $900, featured a 165 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine, and sold like hotcakes- 4,000 were produced in 1908, doubling to 8,100 for 1909 and 10,998 for 1910. Buick was now a serious car company, and they had the success of the cute little Model 10 to thank for it all. When new management discontinued the Model 10 in 1911, sales fell dramatically.

Buick did well through the roaring twenties but again found itself with declining sales as the depression wore on in the early thirties. They experimented with a lower priced companion known as Marquette in 1930, but the marque failed to launch. The year 1933 was particularly bad, with only 40,930 cars produced in total- Buick's lowest since 1914.

Newly appointed General Manager Harlow Curtice knew that a small car had to have the Buick name to be successful. He created a new small "Series 40" Buick with a smaller straight-eight engine and a price tag starting at $795 for a business coupe. The car was an immediate hit and sales doubled. The following year, the car was renamed the Special and an icon was born. The car really took off with the beautifully restyled 1936 models- Of the 168,596 Buicks produced for the 1936 model year, over 2/3- 120,714 to be exact- were Specials. The car had literally saved the company and the Special would be an important part of the Buick line up for the next twenty two years.

Buick rode high in the postwar era until a deep recession affected all of the upmarket brands in the late 1950's. Volume plummeted in 58, and all new car in 1959 didn't recover, and even 1960 languished, with model year production of only 253,999 units- about a third of what they had built in the record year of 1955. Clearly, help was needed.

It arrived once again as the Special- a totally new compact car in three styles- sedan, coupe and wagon, and with an all new engines- an aluminum 215 V8 that was praised as nothing short of brilliant. Special was an immediate hit, selling 87,400 units in its first year. A new V6 engine would be introduced for 1962, and sales would again nearly double to 154,500. Again the Special had rescued the company.

As cute as the Special was, some buyers wanted a more luxurious version and so the Skylark made its debut at mid-year. Featuring a luxurious interior and the name from the exclusive dream car of the fifties, it was offered as a coupe or a convertible and was not only a hit, but became an instant classic and the Skylark name became an icon for Buick luxury on a smaller scale. Bucket seats and the 215 aluminum V8 were standard.

Changing times mean changing Buicks. Skylark was totally restyled for the 1980 model year on a compact FWD platform. Featuring Custom and Limited trim levels and a choice of 2.5 litre four cylinder or 2.8 litre V6, Skylark's timing could not have been better and Buick's "Little Linousine" was a solid success and a well liked car. Sales were astronomical- topping 240,000 in the 1980 model year.

And now the premium Buick Verano compact is arriving. The compact new sedan is powered by a 180 HP 2.4 litre 4 cylinder engine mated to a six speed automatic transmission. Verano also features Stabilitrak, On Star, Bluetooth and Remote Start as standard equipment.

Projector beam halogen headlamps are standard. Verano comes in three trim levels- Verano, Convenience Group, and Leather group. Available options include Bose audio, fully integrated Navigation, sunroof, and leather interior. Pricing starts at $22,585.

Verano is the most highly contented and luxurious compact Buick of all time. USA TODAY pronounced it "nearly perfect." It will be arriving at our showroom later this month. Stop in and see the latest in a long line of "Little Limousines" from Buick.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Memories: Our Fast Friends

1970 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 raced by the "Dead End Kids"

It's no exaggeration that Reynolds Buick raced some of the fastest Buicks around in our heyday, and we're very fortunate to have some pretty good photo archives about them. But there are also pictures in our files of some of the other racing Buicks out there, so we though it would be fun to show a few pictures of some of our fast friends.

1966 Buick GS raced by Jim Lane

1965 Buick Le Sabre coupe raced by Jim Robinson for Bill Murphy Buick, Culver City CA

Tuner Extraordinaire Jim Bell with his 1972 GS455 at the 1975 Winternationals

Another pose of the "Dead End Kids" 1970 GS 455 Stage 1. Often confused with our '70.

An east coast car, 1966 Gran Sport pillared coupe raced by Smyly Buick of Malden, Mass.