The Big V-8 1957 Buick Century

The 1957 Buick Century featured in this article has a heritage that goes back to the 1930′s. The production run for the earlier Buick Century’s lasted from 1936 to 1942 and was interrupted by the war. These were powerful Buicks being able to reach speeds of over 90 MPH during the late 1930′s.

1957 Buick Century Convertible

1957 Buick Century Convertible

After the model was dormant for years the name reappeared in dealership showrooms in 1954 as one of General Motor’s performance car offerings. The 1957 Buick Century’s would be noted for sporty design, luxury features and big powerful V-8 engines.

The Buick Portholes

One of the most remembered features of the Buick Century were the portholes on the /side of the front fenders. These were also called ventiports which really were their official name.

The portholes or ventiports would signify the engine. The Buick Century sported four portholes designating the V-8 engine. Four portholes on each side of the car. The portholes were also seen on the Buick Roadmaster models. The meaning of the portholes had to do with emphasizing the power output of the Buick’s big V-8. In regards to those Buick portholes, for those that might remember the old television series from the 1950′s, Highway Patrol, these were the cars you would have seen each week portrayed as California Highway Patrol cars.

1957 Buick Portholes

1957 Buick Portholes

The 1957 Buick Century’s all had four portholes on each fender which signified the  364 cubic inch V-8 putting out 300 horsepower. These were 100 MPH automobiles.

1957 Buick Century Advertising

Buick advertising for the 1957 model year stressed power. One of their motto’s during that year was “gives you the power to take it easy“. Another motto was “the dream car to drive“. Buick touted that the big V-8 gives you enough power to have some in reserve for those tall hills along with smoothness provided by their Variable Pitch Dynaflow automatic transmission. Dynaflow’s claim to fame was it’s smoothness and instant response time.

Another feature advertised in 1957 was a “buzzer” that would sound when you attained the speed you wanted. They called it a “built in conscience“. This was quite a unique feature in 1957. Today it’s offspring is the automatic speed control.

Buick Century side chrome spear

Buick Century side chrome spear

The 1957 Buick Century Design

Buick was known to have produced some of the most stylish and powerful cars of any nameplate during the 1950′s.

The 1957 Buick Century was a  sporty looking car and was a departure from Buick’s more laid back designs of the earlier 1950′s. Buick touted it’s low sweeping grace and fresh lines. Many say that the 1957 Buick Century was the best looking Buick ever produced. All Century models in 1957 had the eye catching chrome side spear which added a sporty touch with class. As the photos in this article illustrate, the 1957 Buick Century was a very good looking car.

The 1957 design was in many ways a continuation of the earlier 1950′s designs by GM’s Harley Earl. Probably the most popular model in 1957 was the Buick Century Convertible which remains a sought after collector’s car today. Their value has appreciated well over time. Don’t be surprised to see price tags for original 1957 Buick Century Convertibles, in mint showroom condition, with asking prices north of $50,000.

Buick claimed to have built the 1957 Century on the most level riding compact chassis ever built offering great maneuverability. GM also claimed the highest power to weight ratio of any Buick model ever built.

Buick Interior and dash 1957

Buick Interior and dash 1957

Also in 1957 Buick unveiled the Caballero station wagon using the Century body. The Caballero was produced for two years in 1957 and 1958 and then discontinued. Although Caballero sales didn’t meet expectations, this station wagon with the Century body and it’s side chrome spear trim is one of the sportiest looking classic station wagons you’ll ever see.

1957 Buick Century Models

Buick Century buyers had several models to choose from. There was the Sedan, the Riviera hardtop coupe, the ever popular convertible and the four door Caballero station wagon. The Riviera hardtop along with GM’s Oldsmobile of that year were the first four door hardtops built.

1957 Buick Century Specifications

As stated above, power meant a lot to Buick in 1957 and the Buick Century came with a 364 cubic inch V-8 engine delivering a big 300 horsepower. This was powering an automobile with a weight of about 4,200 lbs.

The 1957 Buick Century wheelbase was 122.0 inches which was about five inches shorter than both the Roadmaster and Special models.

Compare the 1957 Buick Century to the cars on the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below…

The 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 Convertible

The 1958 Ford Fairlane Retractable Hardtop

To learn all about the Buick automobile and the company, an excellent book on the subject is The Buick: A Complete History by authors Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gustin.

Buick emblem

1957 Buick Century Collector Car

As mentioned in this article, the 1957 Buick Century is a popular automobile among collectors. Prices being asked have been increasing over the years and many collectors view this model as one of the most stylish ever produced by Buick. In addition to the styling, the 1957 Buick was in many ways a 1950′s muscle car with it’s big V-8 and 300 horsepower. If the vehicle wasn’t so large it could have competed head on against 1950′s European imports.

If you can find a usable body shell somewhere the 1957 Buick Century can be a terrific project car where restoration costs might be recouped and more.

Mint condition 1957 Buick Century Convertibles can command prices of $50,000 and above.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

 

 

 

The Rare 1954 Buick Skylark Convertible

The Buick Skylark Series 100 came on the market in 1954 as it’s own series of cars. The car had been originally designed by Harley Earl as a part of the 1953 Buick Roadmaster series and was available as a convertible only as was the 1954 model. Both Flint Michigan built cars were planned for very limited production runs.

1954 Buick Skylark Convertible

1954 Buick Skylark Convertible

General Motors claimed that their Skylark Convertible was their answer to the European imported sports car which appears to be a stretch.

This was something both Ford with their Thunderbird and Chevy with their Corvette also claimed but probably a little more convincing story. It’s hard to see an automobile weighing in excess of 4,000 lbs being classified as a sports car. By the same token the 1954 Buick Skylark had terrific pep and a new engine.

The Skylark was brought out in 1953 to commemorate Buick’s fifty years in business. In fact, three convertibles were brought out in 1953 to celebrate Buick’s fifty year mark.

1954 Buick Skylark Design

The contrasting colors of the 1954 Buick Skylark wheel wells

The contrasting colors of the 1954 Buick Skylark wheel wells

The 1953 Skylark was originally intended to be offered only for one year but GM elected to carry it over into 1954 as it’s own distinct series. The low sleek design, round wheel openings and sloped trunk put together by Harley Earl in 1953 was pretty much intact on the 1954 Skylark. The Skylark also offered contrasting colors for the wheel cutouts which really made them stand out from the car’s body color. Probably the biggest difference from 1953 to 1954 was in the car’s rear with the addition of chrome tail fins and new tail lights. The car appeared lower than most convertibles at the time and the interior was luxurious leather.

It’s thought that some of the styling in the 1954 Skylark came from the XP-300 which was Harley Earl’s show car experimental LaSabre project. many might say that the 1954 Buick Skylark represented the top design of Buick’s styling history.

Distinctive 1954 Buick Skylark Badge

Distinctive 1954 Buick Skylark Badge

The chassis was new for 1954 departing from the Roadmaster chassis used in 1953 and adopting one that was used with the Century and Special Buick models which was shorter. The powertrain was the same as on the Roadmaster and Century models.

Harley Earl is known as GM’s first design head and used the first sculpted clay models for automotive designing. His trade was that of a coachbuilder. During the Second World War Earl worked on camouflage vehicle training and research for the Army and General Motors. He is also credited with signing off on the 1948 Cadillac design which some say was the first use of tail fins on automobiles. Earl retired from GM in 1958.

1954 Buick Skylark Specifications

The 1954 Buick Skylark was built with a 322 cubic inch V-8 engine delivering 200 horsepower. This was a new GM engine and first appeared in the Buick Skylark. The engine came with a four barrel carburetor.

1954 Skylark headlight design

1954 Skylark headlight design

Zero to 60 MPH was reported to be in 12 seconds and the car could reach a top speed of 105 MPH. Pretty good statistics for a 4,300 pound automobile.

The car’s transmission was a Dynaflow automatic which was standard with the model as were power seats, steering and windows. A power convertible top was also standard.

Brakes were four wheel power drum.

Front suspension was independent coil springs with rear suspension of a longitudinal leaf spring.

The 1954 Buick Skylark’s dimensions included a 122.0 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 216.8 inches, a width of 79.8 inches and a height of 64.4 inches. The car’s weight was about 4,300 lbs.

1954 Buick Skylark grille

1954 Buick Skylark grille

New car price for the 1954 Buick Skylark two door sport convertible was about $4,500.

You may enjoy comparing this 1954 Buick Skylark Convertible to the automobiles on the links below…

The 1955 Cadillac Coupe

The 1954 Pontiac Star Chief

1954 Buick Skylark, A Popular Collector’s Car

The 1954 Buick Skylark, Buick’s top of the line model that year, was a car with a total production of just over eight hundred. Talk about rarity. Both the 1953 and the new 1954 Skylarks were limited production models. In 1953, 1,690 vehicle were produced and in 1954 830. After this two year limited production run, the Buick Skylark disappeared and wasn’t seen again until 1961.

When the Skylark reappeared in 1961 it was a an intermediate sport coupe and with a 215 cubic inch V-8. The designs of the 1953 and 1954 Buick Skylarks were a world apart from the 1961 model.

Engine on this 1954 Buick Skylark

Engine on this 1954 Buick Skylark

As of this writing, car auction prices for the 1954 Buick Skylark in mint showroom condition have been over $100,000. Not a surprising price at all for this rare limited production vehicle. One such price asked is at $165,000 and another is $129,000. You’ll see that over the past few years the average sales prices have been at about $120,000 with the highest recorded price being almost $250,000. One thing for sure is that both the 1953 and 1954 Buick Skylarks are near the top of automobile collector’s lists.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)