A Special Buick Special

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In 1899 David Dunbar Buick founded the Buick-Auto Vim & Power Company which would later evolve into Buick Motor Company in 1903. In 1906, Mr. Buick accepted a severance package and under the direction William Durant in 1908, the Buick brand would merge Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Oakland (later named Pontiac) into General Motors. Many may think Chevrolet is erroneously missing here, but that company was not founded until 1911.

Marking Buick’s 50th year in production, the 1953 models, including the Super convertible, would be the last cars in which Buick installed its Straight 8 engine, better known as the “Fireball.” Its configuration was inline as opposed to the standard V shaped 8 cylinders of today. The “Fireball” nickname came from the shape of the pistons, which gave the combustion chamber a ball shape appearance. This flagship Buick motor was produced in 6 and 8 cylinder from 1931 to 1953.

The tri-shield Buick emblem with its distinctive, diagonally arranged red, white and blue shields, was introduced in 1960 and was featured front-and-center in the grilles of the LeSabre, Electra and Invicta models. The three-model lineup inspired the three shields design. Each shield sported a staghead and a gold cross taken from the single-shield design of Buick’s previous logo.

With the highly artistic styling of this car, there are many noteworthy elements to point out. The front grille is called a “waterfall” grille and the two chromed cylindrical protrusions are known as dagmars. The three or four portholes on the front fenders are a unique feature, the four “Cruiser-Line Ventiports” as they are referred to, distingusing the higher line Buicks like Roadmaster from the smaller line like the Super in this photo.

As for the man in the picture, who knows what he was up to the day this photo was made? I envision him just having won a pool tournament and headed home with his winnings. But what I can tell you for certain is that in 1996, I married his daughter. This wonderful man was full of stories, never knew a stranger and loved his 53 Buick Special convertible. Regrettably I never saw this car, but he did leave me a 1977 baby blue Ford Granada that he bought from a nun. Now that’s a story!


Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is the author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, and host of the Classic Car Corner podcast, on iTunes, Spotify and all your other favorite outlets. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age. Jason is also a certified appraiser and would be more than happy to assist in helping valuate your collection or answer any of your questions about cars. Email him at jason@gdherring.com.

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