“Her name is Bucky,” owner Phillip Horton said.
It isn’t difficult to figure out the basis for that name. The grille is made up of nine slightly different perpendicular pieces that attach to the front bumper, resulting in a buck-tooth look. Automotive writers and the public joked about the buck-tooth grille, but it was a one-year thing. Evidently, the stylists sent the 1950 Buick to the orthodontist, and the buck tooth grille was gone for the 1951 models.
Besides the unique grille, the 1950 Buick also had “ventiports,” sometimes referred to as “port holes,” on each side of the hood. Surprisingly, the oval ventiports that year were actual vents, giving greater air circulation to the engine.
Whether it was due to or despite these features, Buick had its best sales year ever. According to Automobile-Catalog.com, in 1950 Buick produced 670,256 cars, up 104 percent from 1949.
In those days, Buick was a status brand, second only to Cadillac in the General Motors lineup. Horton’s red Buick Super convertible had a list price of $2,476, or about $24,500 in today’s dollars. The car was powered by a 263.3 c.i. straight eight-cylinder engine rated at 128 HP. It wasn’t a neck-jerker in terms of acceleration, as it took the Buick Super convertible with Dynaflow 20.3 seconds to go 0 to 60 mph. “The two-speed automatic transmission,” Horton stated, “was actually developed from a Buick-made World War II M-18 Hellcat tank killer.”
There were three sizes of Buick in 1950: the Special, the smallest; the Super, the medium size; and the Roadmaster, the largest. Roadmaster had four port holes on each side of the hood, and the Special and Super had three. After that, manufacturers rushed to make fake port holes so people could install them on other makes of cars in hopes of fooling their neighbors into thinking they had a new Buick.
The hood opens like a grand piano and from either side. Some other interesting features of this Buick are it has power windows and a power top, but they both are hydraulic rather than electric. A sales feature was the Sonomatic “Wonderbar” radio, which has a red bar on the upper part, that can be pushed and the radio will seek the next strong radio station. And in the category of what will they think of next (in 1950), that radio had a floor button the driver could push with his foot to change stations.
Horton has owned his Buick for about three years. He bought it from a Southern California collector for $28,000 and decided to drive it home to Pleasant Hill.
“The trip home was an adventure. We ran out of gas on the Grapevine. Later, I smelled gas, so I popped the hood, and the carburetor was dumping gas out on to the manifold, which is not a very safe situation. I had no fire extinguisher, but it seemed to go away, and I got back on the road.
“By then, it was dark and cooling down. As we came over the Altamont Pass, all the lights suddenly went out.” He made it to the bottom of the hill, pulled over, crawled under the dash, found the fuse panel, started wiggling things around, and, luckily, everything came back on.
There were more adventures ahead.
“About a year after I bought the car, we were going to a car club meeting one day. We are sitting in the left turn lane ready to get on the freeway and I hear a big crash. Then all of a sudden, I feel a big crash, which pushed me into another car, so both ends of the car got destroyed.”
The damage to the car was $20,000, which was covered by insurance. But it took another year and a half to put the car back together, with Horton doing a large part of the work.
Horton estimates he has invested another $4,000 in his car and thinks the current market value to be about $45,000. He drives it regularly and took me for a ride in his 4,230-pound machine. The car has four coil springs for suspension with knee action instead of tube shocks in the front. There’s a lot of floating and bouncing going over the road, so Horton is hoping Santa will bring him two new knee-action units for Christmas.
Power brakes and steering had not yet become available in 1950. One day, Horton was wrestling with the 17-inch steering wheel, trying to parallel park his 17-foot-long car into a space that was not much larger. He successfully maneuvered the vehicle into the tight spot. A group of people were standing on the sidewalk and appreciated the skill and strength it took. When Horton exited the car, he received an enthusiastic round of applause.
It’s nice to have your talents appreciated.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contract David Krumboltz at [email protected].