Friday, June 29, 2012

Fast Friday: 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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In a Gran Manner- Hot Rod and Buick Sunday

This is one of the most interesting vintage articles we've seen yet. Hot Rod tested a new mid year '65 Gran Sport Coupe for their May, 1965 issue and were thoroughly smitten- with its power, its comfort, and even its fuel economy. But it didn't stop there- they describe being at San Fernando raceway with a half dozen Buicks owned by the local Buick dealers- and how they won classes B,C,D,E,F and K. Quite a day indeed.

Who did they find to show them how to set up the Gran Sport and then get the most of it? None other than our own Lennie "Pop" Kennedy. And the car he was driving? Our 1965 Gran Sport Number One- this was before Pete Reynolds' lesson in drag slick rain driving.

It had to have been "Buick Sunday"- Sunday, February 21, 1965, when Buick won every class in which it was entered. Not only did Buick tout the triumph to the press, they went so far as to have General Manager Roland S. Withers send a letter to every Buick dealer in the country talking about Buick's success.

The balance of the text we've taken verbatim for the original article, and the scans are attached for your perusal. It couldn't have praised the new Gran Sport more highly if Pop Kennedy had written it himself. And we're certainly not going to put that past him.

 All the normal driving done with the Gran Sport served to whet our appetite for a couple of shots at the quarter-mile, and just about the time our appointed drag weekend was coming up, a fantastic stroke of luck fell our' way. Various members of the L. A. County Buick Dealers Association had recently begun campaigning a number of Gran Sports at area strips, and when they heard that we were doing a test on one, offered to bring a number of cars to San Fernando Raceway for us to try. The beauty of the whole operation was these rigs were slightly set up for class competition, or about as the average buyer might design for himself. In the end, the "several" cars turned out to be six, ranging from Lennie Kennedy's B/S, which most nearly resembled our test car, to dealer Ted Baker's coupe, sporting a small 225-inch V6.

 Lennie's car was representative of the modifications performed on all the Buicks so we jotted down the information, which really didn't represent much alteration as "stock" classers go these days. The engines had all been disassembled, checked through for factory-recommended clearances, and the deck height of .030-inch attained. While the heads were still off, their combustion chambers were measured out to 123 cc's and a fresh-up valve job applied. The engine was buttoned back up and' a set of Hooker headers leading into 3-inch collectors fitted for improved scavenging. 

All the cars had Positraction rear ends to which 4.30 gears were added, as well as a set of super-bite Casler recaps. The final touch was a set of Delco air' shocks added in the back of Lennie's machine which he declared enable him to jack more weight to the right side for bite on acceleration. And that was it. All the cars had been driven in the 'Fernando front gate and remained entirely docile for street use. Up to that day Lennie's best time was, now get this, a frantic 104.46 mph in 13.42 seconds with headers open. Such performance is truly remarkable.

And that's the way the afternoon went, with the Buicks gobbling up everything in sight, copping B, C, D, E, F and K classes for a spectacular string of successes in a mixed field of sticks and automatics.

 The message from these triumphs and others like them at Southern California tracks is stamped large on the competition scene, for anyone who surveys the situation has to concede that Buick will be the car to beat in the lower classes, wherever they run.

Thinking back over the days we had the Gran Sport, and especially the drag fling, the test was a most happy experience, including the Flint price tag of $3,441.40 ($3,090.40 without air) and the gas mileage which ranged as high as 19. Of the GM Divisions, Buick was the last to introduce a sports model, but as in former days, "When better automobiles are built ... " Need we say more? -HR

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ten Fine Fifty-Nines

Yes, we love the '59 Buick, and think overall that it's pretty much a masterpiece. We discovered back in the day that it was pretty fast too, which is why we raced a '59 Invicta coupe that became known as the "Winningest Buick of all Time."  We're pretty darn fond of the '59 and we like to show fine restorations and original factory photos whenever we can.

But that's not to say that there aren't some pretty terrific examples of customized '59s out there. So just for fun, we went out and found ten cool custom '59s to show you. The come from different schools of thought- some are scallop painted, one is flame painted, one is matte finished, they interpret the basic styling of the '59 Buick in different ways. Two common themes stick out- they're all coupes, and they're all lowered- because the '59 looks the coolest when its the lowest. Oh, and we've got a surprise at the end.

So take a minute and give a glance to Ten Fine Fifty-Nines:

Oh, and just for fun- here's a customized '59 that was more than half way to Miami before it was sunk by the Coast Guard. We're betting it would have made it, too. 

And while we're at it, why not listen along to the Medallions and their hit song, "Buick 59:"


Monday, June 18, 2012

GM Design and Buick celebrate 85 Years

This week marks the 85th Anniversary of GM Design, formed in June, 1927 as Art and Color and headed by the legendary Harley Earl. There is no doubt that GM revolutionized automotive design and created the blueprint which is still in use today. Renamed GM Styling in 1937 and then GM Design in 1972, GM revolutionized the industry with dedicated studios, separate studios for interiors, and the creation of what is known today as the "Concept Car."

To mark this milestone in a Buick way, here are the most significant Buick concept cars from the thirties into the seventies. Let's start chosen the industry's first concept car, the 1938 Buick Y-Job - still one of the most admired cars of all time, the Y Job featured hidden headlamps and taillamps integrated into the fenders, and eliminated running boards completely. The design direction for Buick in the 1940's can be clearly seen. The Y-Job is part of the GM Heritage Collection.

The long, low XP-300 of 1951 looks like a combination of sports car and aircraft. The front end predicts the 1954 Buick line while the tail tapers like a jet plane. The wraparound windshield makes its debut as well. Fully driveable, the XP-300 is in the Sloan Museum in Flint. 

The Wildcat I of 1953 explores Buick themes old and new. The front clearly predicts the 1955 Buicks while the tail lamps and sweep spear trim recall the 1949 model. The Wildcat I featured fixed brake drums in front which the wheels rotated around. While more than one were supposedly built, there is one known survivor in private hands today.

Wildcat II of 1954 was possibly the sportiest Buick ever designed. The exposed front wheels and freestanding headlamps have the car the look of a Le Mans racing car. The wire wheels are genuine. The car is finished to a degree that suggests production was considered. It is part of the Sloan Museum Collection in Flint. 

The Wildcat II Show car of 1955 previewed the side profile of the 1957 models. The car was made of fiberglass and unlike most of Buick's concept cars of the 50s, this one has been lost to history. Few images survive of the Wildcat III. 

Centurion of 1956 is stunning from any angle. Designed by Chuck Jordan, it features a clear plastic canopy roof, delta wing fins, sculptured sweep spear sides and unique headlamp pods. Inside it has bucket seats that swivel and rotate. It has a fantastic interior including a back up camera. Many design cues for the 1957 Buick can be seen here, as well as a hint at the future Corvette grille. It survives in original condition at the Sloan Museum in Flint. 

 The 1956X Century was created for the personal use of Bill Mitchell. It features over 100 changes from a production Century convertible, including special bucket seats that swivel and rotate, side exhausts, wire wheels, and a special two tone color scheme. All of the special trim on this car was hand made. It is being restored by a private owner in Michigan. 

Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrow was a constantly evolving automobile. It was literally a rolling test laboratory for new ideas and underwent many changes at Mr. Mitchell's command. It has a stretched hood and front fenders, chopped top, and a hand sewn silver leather interior including handmade gauges on the dash. It survives in the Sloan Museum in Flint, MI today.

Silver Arrow III was created in 1972. Like the first Silver Arrow, it became the personal transportation of Bill Mitchell. It features a chopped top, six Cibie headlamps, wire wheels and an interior of hand sewn silver leather. It survives today and is housed in the GM Heritage Collection. 

Reynolds Buick GMC congratulates GM Design on 85 years of outstanding and innovative products. Keep those beautiful Buicks coming!

Friday, June 15, 2012

BUICK With a BITE: Pop Kennedy and the '66 GS meet CAR CRAFT

The May 1966 issue of Car Craft Magazine featured a road test of the new '66 Gran Sport. The GS was in its first full year and word was spreading like wildfire (almost said Wildcat) about the hot new ride from the folks in Flint. The editors were very impressed with 401 V8 and the refined new styling and they thought the car was a screamer- the headline called it "Buick With a Bang."

They were so impressed. in fact,  that they decided to talk to the premier Buick drag racers to get their take on how to set the GS up for optimal performance in NHRA D-Stock racing class. Their first choice? None other than our own Pop Kennedy. The fun begins om page 62. Here is their introduction exactly as they published it:

"This month we decided to see what the pros were doing with this moving machine, so we contacted Lennie (Pop) Kennedy of Reynolds Buick in West Covina, Calif., for the answers. Kennedy has really brought Buick into the racing limelight since he started racing them in 1955. Having three national championships to his credit, it was only natural to have him and co-racer Jim Lane show us how to get the most and still remain in NHRA D/SA Class."

Pop told them exactly how he sets up a GS for drag racing (which just happened to be our car, of course) and we won't reprint it here, because it's all right below for your enjoyment on pages 62 and 63. While you're at it, read the whole article and step back into the days when Pop Kennedy struck terror into the heart of many racers when his Buick rumbled up to the staging light.

(Thanks to John Reynolds for the copy of Car Craft)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Covina Union High School 1910 Commencement

It's kind of amazing what we find our files- like this 1910 Commencement program from Covina Union High School. There were fifteen graduates in the Class of 1910, including our own Founder and Patriarch, Irven G. Reynolds. The class flower was the red carnation, the class colors were blue and gold, and the class motto "Esse Quam Videri" is a Latin phrase meaning "To be, rather than to seem," which pretty much sums up the philisophy that Irven G. Reynolds Sr. used to run both his business and his personal life.  

It's worth noting that there were ten teachers and two administrators for a Senior Class of fifteen. All told there were probably about sixty students in the High School. The program is in excellent condition, especially for a document that is one hundred and two years old. We've scanned it for your enjoyment.

Kind of a nice reminder that, even as we enter our ninety-seventh year in business under the same family ownership, we've been part of the fabric of Covina and West Covina for even longer. And we hope to be for many years to come. 

Aerial view of Covina Union High School from the Cardinal yearbook, 1954

Friday, June 8, 2012

FAST FRIDAY: Pop repeats his Indy Win in '62

After the success of the 1961 racing season, with thirty eight consecutive wins through the summer and a class win at Indianapolis in the fall, it's no surprise that Pop Kennedy was eager to return to Indianapolis for the 1962 NHRA Nationals. Again he drove the red '61 Invicta, with the drag slicks in the trunk. Pete Reynolds paid for the trip and Pop was more than happy to drive back to Indy.

Eager to show the drag racing world that what happened in '61 was no fluke, Pop was prepared (well, almost- we'll get to that.) This time he repeated his class win in D-Stock Automatic, and even improved on his speed. From last year's 15.19 second run at 91.21, Pop and the Invicta turned in a 15.85 at 93.20 MPH to take the class for a second time in a row. Slightly slower time, but higher top speed, and he still won the class.

Pop was a happy man indeed. At least most of the time. At one point during the weekend, Pop was asked by the Technical Inspectors to pull the heads. He complied, but realized that he forgot to bring spare head gaskets and was forced to re-use them. There's that little issue I hinted at. No problem- not only did they withstand the race, but he drove home on them as well. The back to back wins were noted in the Novenber, 1962 issue of Hot Rod where Pop and the Invicta even got their photograph in the magazine. And upon returning to California, Pop and Pete and the proud Invicta posed with the trophy for a great photo.

Below you can enjoy the article from Hot Rod and our photos. That sure was one sweet running Buick.

Pop and the Invicta staged for the race. 

Pop Kennedy and Pete Reynolds pose with the prizes