Friday, July 27, 2012

FAST FRIDAY: Buick Carries the Olympic Torch

                                             The 1984 Buick Riviera Torch Relay Car

Certainly Buick in the 1980's is best remembered for creating two of the fastest production cars in history- the Grand National and the legendary GNX. These two rocket ships challenged the traditional view of Buick and along the way managed to embarrass a lot of Ferrari buyers. Darth Buick, as they were nicknamed, is the stuff of legends.

But Buick was a bit more versatile than that, and also managed to engineer a fleet of cars to go slow. Yes, slow. It's a fun story and it turns out there's a lot of engineering involved in making a slow car.

                                                    Buick's Offical Olympic Sponsor Logo

Buick signed on to be be a major sponsor of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It would be the first hosting of the Summer games on American soil since 1932, which coincidentally were also held in LA. Buick felt that the publicity of the Olympics would bring enormous new exposure to its fine line of cars.

                                                The Torch Relay Route included 33 states

One major part of the buildup to the games was the Torch Relay. For the games of 1984, an enormous 84 day relay was planned, beginning at the United Nations in New York and ending up at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles some eighty-four days and seven thousand miles later. And the pace car for such an event would be a very special Buick.

Actually, more than one. Three Turbocharged 1984 Riviera Convertibles were prepared as Torch Relay Pace Cars. Powered by the same basic engine as a Grand National, these cars were modified not for speed, but for slow endurance. They had enormously advanced computer controlled cooling and electrical power output systems- they were designed to be able to traverse all kinds of terrain smoothly and at speeds of 2 to 12 mph. The Rivieras were accompanied at all times by a fleet of two new front drive Electra sedans, and affiliated GMC support vans. In all, a total of 32 specially prepared slow moving vehicles were constructed for the special Olympic fleet.

                            Period advertisement touting Buick's involvement in the Torch Relay

                            The Torch is carried through the Buick Plants (from All Things Buick)

The white Buick Torch Relay fleet performed flawlessly as it traversed the country at a speed averaging 6 mph. The route traversed the United States in a series of zig zags reaching major cities in 33 of the 50 states. In deference to Buick, the Torch Relay traveled right through Buick's Headquarters in Flint, MI where Buick employees carried the Olympic Flame between the plant buildings while their coworkers cheered them on.

                                               The Torch passes through Northridge, CA

All told, over 3,600 runners were part of the historic event. Gina Helphill, granddaughter of Olympian Jesse Owens was the first torch bearer and Rafer Johnson was the last, carrying the Torch into Memorial Coliseum on July 28, 1984.

                                    Josh Reynolds models his Dad's Torch Bearer Uniform

We have a bit of personal involvement as well, as one of the Torch Bearers was none other than nineteen year old college student Don Reynolds, who just happens to be our Dealer Principal and CEO today. And while there are no pictures of him carrying the torch, his son Josh agreed to try on the togs for a photo opportunity.

                                      The Torch is carried through the City of Orange, CA

The Torch Relay pace car for that final leg was car number 31, one of the three Riviera convertibles. At the comclusion of the games, the car was presented to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum as a momento of the games from Buick. It remains in their collection today, in as new condition, and can be viewed once a month when their vehicle fleet is open to the public.

                         Torch Relay Riviera #31 in the basement of the Natural History Museum.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Memories: Covina in the early 1900s

 A streetcar on an unpaved road. Bicycles and horse drawn carts. These images aren't the wild wild west, they're our own hometown of Covina almost exactly 100 years ago. And they're a fascinating look back at our home town. The main streets of town were unpaved in these photos, the newest of which dates from 1911, or only four years before Irven G. Reynolds hung his Buick shingle at Daddy Weber's garage. Back then he was still  competing with horses.

A streetcar rumbles through the dust at Citrus and Bedillo, where Reynolds would open their brand new facility in 1922. The Fire Department will pose proudly in front of their new 1911 Fire Station, but their apparatus appears to still be horse drawn. It was a different time. Many of the buildings in the photos look familiar, but the setting seems otherworldly.

It took a lot of vision for Irv Sr. and the other civic leaders to imagine what Covina could become, and to invest their savings and their hard work into creating it. Ninety seven years later, we look back in awe and wonder. We hope you enjoy this glimpse back at Covina one hundred years ago.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Memories- The Buicks of West Coast Meet

The West Coast Meet, now in it's 27th year, has a different theme each time but one thing is certain - the cars are of exceptional quality and this year was no exception. Personal Luxury Cars were the theme, and that is a segment of the market in which Buick has excelled.

There were several notable Buicks at the show - mostly from the peak of the Personal Luxury Era from 1963 to 1973. A bevy of Rivieras took the field- a car which was always hugely popular for Reynolds- including a gorgeous Cloud Silver '63 with Silver leather, a stunning '65 with the first year concealed headlamps, and two boattails- a '71 GS with buckets and a '72 were represented.

Lots of options too- tilt wheels, air conditioning, and the gamut of wheel choices- from the Riviera cast wheel to the deluxe wire wheel covers and on to the iconic V2 Chrome Plated Road Wheel by Motor Wheel Corporation that will forever be a Buick classic.

Add to the mix a '65 Wildcat convertible, a sporty '72 Skylark Custom convertible with bucket seats and floor shift, and even a '95 Riviera representing the last of a proud lineage. Add it all together and the result is an awesome display of some of Buick's finest- take a moment and check out the Buicks of West Coast Meet:


Monday, July 9, 2012

Circle of Buick Dreams

The 1938 Buick Y-Job was the Industry's First "Concept Car"
 Buick celebrated it's 90th Anniversary in 1993 with a presence at major Classic Car Shows. There was a very special Anniversary Celebration at the Eyes On The Classics, held at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe, MI. Buick dealers from all over the country were invited and promised a very special display.

Special it was. All of the existing Buick concept cars were arranged in a circle in the center of the show field. No ropes, no guards- easy to walk up to and admire.  The circle included the 1938 Buick Y-Job, the 1951 GM Le Sabre, the 1951  XP-300, the 1953 Wildcat and the 1954 Wildcat II, the 1956 Centurion, Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrow of 1963, and modern concepts-  Lucerne of 1988, Essence of 1989, the 1990 Bolero and the 1991 Sceptre. In addition, several custom bodied one-off Buicks were on the field as well.

We recently came upon our photos from the event and will be sharing them over the next couple of weeks. It was a great day for Buick fans!

The 1951 GM Le Sabre was Harley Earl's personal transport. It gave its name to a Buick model in 1959.

The 1951 Buick XP-300 featured a V-8 engine and a fully automatic top with a rain sensor.

The 1953 Buick Wildcat closely predicted the styling of the 1955 Buick line.

The Buick Wildcat II was built for the 1953 Motorama.

Chuck Jordan created the Centurion for the 1956 Motorama. It  is packed with  innovations, including a glass roof and rear view camera. 

Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrow was created for his personal use. A rolling laboratory, it underwent many updates and revisions.

The 1989 Essence predicted the styling of the 1991 park Avenue. The Lucerne in the background was the forerunner of the 1995 Riviera. 

The 1991 Sceptre donated some styling cues to the 1997 Regal. The Bolero concept car to the right predicted the 1992 Skylark.