Classic 1955 Buick Special Two-Door Sedan / Photos and Specifications

The classic 1955 Buick Special Two Door Sedan featured in this article is a popular collector car. Buick, which fit well between the Chevrolet and Cadillac brands, had an excellent year in 1955 producing 738,814 automobiles. Buick Special models accounted for 381,946 of that amount. To demonstrate just how good those production numbers were, Buick did not surpass them until 1983. That says something. In 1955, Buick was the number 3 automaker behind Chevrolet with 1.7 million cars and Ford with 1.4 million.

1955 buick special

1955 Buick Special

1955 Buick Special Design

An all new body and chassis design for the Buick Special was introduced in 1954 and carried over to 1955. Five different models of the Buick Special were built. The new design of 1954 had it's roots back to a 1952 concept car named the XP--300.

These included a 2-Door Sedan, 4-Door Sedan, Riviera, Convertible and all-steel Estate Wagon. The model had the classic low and wide design along with the classic two-tone paint scheme of the era.The new design included a new Wide-Screen Grille and chrome-capped headlamp along with a swept back tail light.

Some refer to the mid 1950's period as the era of big steel, flashy chrome, and huge white wall tires although the new design of 1954 did not have the same amount of chrome of previous years.

1955 buick special grilleBuick advertised the Special's roominess along with quality Buick upholstery.

Following is how Buick described their interiors..."Each model of the SPECIAL Series gives you big Buick spaciousness and big Buick quality. Seats are deep and soft and  wide enough for three to sit abreast in perfect comfort. Interiors are upholstered in smart Nylon and Cordaveen with Buick's new embossed trim styling throughout."

Buick Nailhead V-8

Buick's first generation of V8 was offered from 1953 through 1956. This was the Nailhead V-8 similar to Oldsmobile's new Rocket 88. The Nailhead name came about as the engine's valve stems were quite long with a relatively small head.

The engine would be improved again for 1955 with added power. Buick advertised their 1955 V-8 as follows...The lightest of all V8 engines with the same power output -- for better balance to the car's total weight, with improved steering, handling and performance."

The second generation of Buick's Nailhead engine came out in 1957. The Nailhead was increased to 425 cubic inches in 1963 and continued as such for another three years.

1955 Buick Special Specifications

Stock engine for the 1955 Buick Special was a 264 cubic inch V-8. The engine delivered 188 horsepower. The engines in Buick's Roadmaster, Century and Super series models put out 236 horsepower.

Transmissions available were a three speed manual and a variable pitch Dynaflow automatic. The automatic was standard on the Roadmaster models and optional on all others. The three speed synchromesh manual was standard equipment through 1958.

buick special sedanBrakes were four wheel hydraulic drum. Options included improved power brakes and power steering.

Wheelbase was 122.0 inches, the same as with the 1954 model. Overall outside length was 206.6  inches. Weight was about 3,700 lbs.

Air conditioning was an option with the four door sedan and Riviera models.

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1955 Buick Special Collector Car

The mid 1950's Buick Special remains a popular collector car. The car's attractive design is a good representation of 1950's modernization.

1955 buick special two door sedan

55 Buick Special dashboard

As of this writing, the range of asking prices for 1955 Buick Specials might run from $14,000 up to $60,000 plus.

The lower end vehicles would all be in running condition with some restoration. The high end prices would be for newer restorations, plenty of originality and in some cases show quality.

As a side note, because of the high production numbers for 1954 through 1956, locating an original Nailhead V-8 engine for a restoration might not be too difficult. Most mechanical parts for these series of Buicks are available as reproductions. Trim materials and panels will take a bit of searching.

Reference material from GM and Buick Archives.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Auto Museum Online)

1948 Buick Custom Super Sedanette Fastback

The automobile featured in this article is a 1948 Buick Super 2-Door Sedanette Fastback. The 48 Buick Sedanette is a rare car today and is popular among collectors. Only a total of 20,649 Buick Sedanettes were built that model year. Some sources however show a higher production number of over 30,000. With this in mind, we're not entirely sure which figure is accurate. Buick's Sedanette eye catching design offered a sharp flowing coupe look with sedan seating.

1948 buick sedanette

1948 Buick Super Sedanette

The War Ends For General Motors and the Strike Comes

When World War Two ended, the car long known for style and manufacturing quality, Buick, was more than ready to pick up where it left off. Buick was a best seller for GM after it's budget priced Chevrolet.

Although 1945 saw peace come to the world it was another thing at home. By the end of 1945 pent up demand for new civilian automobiles meant that America's automakers would be able to sell new cars as fast as they could build them.

This was not lost on the union leaders. The United Auto Workers under president Walter Reuther demanded immediate pay increases for GM auto workers totaling some 30%. This demand was refused as well as Reuther's request to see their books. What resulted was a strike hit General Motors in November of 1945. This of course put a roadblock up for Buick which wanted to resume where it left off in February 1942.

The 1948 Buick Sedanette Design and Styling

Harley J. Earl managed the Styling Staff of General Motors from its inception as the Art and Colour Section in 1927 until his retirement in 1959. He is known as one of the few legendary designers and his design influence can be seen in all GM automobiles during his several decade tenure.

1948 buick sedanette fastback

The sleek fastback design of the 1948 Buick Sedanette

The 1948 Buick Super was a full sized automobile. Some might say, design-wise, its the final example of looking back to streamlining and prewar styling ideas and it serves as an excellent example of GM's postwar Torpedo styling.

You could call this 48 Buick Sedanette big, sleek and stunning and it took on the fastback style of Buick's 1941 and 1942 Century and Special. The car was designed wider and lower.

1948 Buick Super Sedanette Specifications

The 48 Buick Super Sedanette was built with a 248 cubic inch straight eight engine. Horsepower was rated at 115. This engine dates to 1931 when Buick developed it in three different displacements. These engines had some similarities over it's 23 year period, but development and refinement marched forward. This particular 248 cubic inch straight 8 produced serious torque and smooth power.

Buick gave it's engines some colorful names which was good marketing. This Buick straight eight was known as the "Fireball 8" starting in 1941 just prior to the war. Later there was the " Fireball 8 Dynaflash" whose name seems to allude power and speed. The "Fireball 8 Dynaflash" engine appeared in 1949, the same time that Buick introduced it's Dynaflow automatic transmission.

Transmission was a three speed manual and brakes on this car were hydraulic drums.

Electrical was 6 volts.

Car dimensions included a 124.0 inch wheelbase, an overall length of 209.4 inches, a width of 78.5 inches, a height of 65.4 inches and a curb weight of 4,000 lbs.

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1948 customized buick super

Another front view of the customized 48 Buick Super Sedanette

1948 Buick Collector Cars

Classic and vintage Buick's have always been popular collector automobiles. Buick's had a history of good quality and creative designing. The 1948 Buick Super was as big as a Roadmaster model although the Roadmaster had a larger engine.

If you were to categorize postwar Buicks that they looked quite good to the eye, were practical and were spacious and comfortable. For the car collector, the sedans and sedanettes are found to be affordable and representative of 1940s American automobiles.

A car collector may put a premium on milestone automobiles. After World War Two it took the American automakers some time to lay out a new design and actually put it into production. For Buick it's been said that all newly postwar design models appeared at dealerships beginning in 1949. There is also an argument to be made that 1947 and 1948 were transitional years as well.

buick sedanette

Flowing design of the 1948 Buick Super Sedanette

Asking prices for 1948 Buick's will vary greatly due to degree of restoration and originality. As of this writing and to offer you an example of some current prices for 48 Buick's we've assembled some offerings.

We have seen 1948 Buick's generally priced form the teens to over $100,000. The higher priced models typically are frame off restored convertibles. Some of these have only a few thousand miles after their frame off restorations. On the flip side you may also run across non-restored 48 sedans priced at about $10,000 which could make excellent project cars.

An excellent reference book regarding Buicks is...Motor News Book of Buicks (Hemmings Motor News Collector-Car Books) 

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)

A Modified 1972 Buick Riviera Boattail

General Motors was proud of it's 1972 Buick Riviera for a variety of reasons, and the automobile's innovative styling was certainly one of them. The 71 Rivieras were radically redesigned.These models were designed under the direction of GM's Bill Mitchell who had worked previously under legendary auto designer Harley Earl.

1972 buick riviera

Modified 1972 Buick Riviera

The Riviera Boattail Design

The 72 Riviera's styling stood out with it's beautiful Boattail. On the Riviera this took the form of a huge, tapered, wrap-around rear window and protruding trunk. The boattail design on the Riviera's was a bit controversial on a design standpoint at the time and may still be controversial with some collectors.

Auto collectors will usually associate the flowing boattail design with the Auburn Speedsters of the 1930's. That same styling was also seen on the Chevy Corvettes from 63 to 67 and no doubt hung around the GM design rooms long enough to makes it's reintroduction in 1971.

buick riviera boattail

72 Buick Riviera boattail designed rear with wrap around window

Buick Riviera's MaxTrac

Buick offered it's MaxTrac all-weather traction control system beginning with the 1971 Riviera. The system operated with a small computer two sensors. One of the sensors is located at the transmission output link and this measures rear wheel speed. The second sensor is located on the left front wheel hub and measures front wheel speed. MaxTrac kicks in when the computer detects the rear wheels going significantly faster.

What happens at this point is that the computer cuts the ignition ( the 12 volt coil wire passes through the computer) for only 10 milliseconds which doesn't cause the car to stall out.. This process is repeated many times per second until the rear wheels recover their grip on the road and the difference between the front and rear wheel speeds are down to within eight percent of each other. MaxTrac also keeps the car on course by cutting torque.

1972 Buick Riviera Specifications

The 1972 Riviera had the same 455 cubic inch V-8 that the 71 model had however horsepower as re-rated going down to 250 from 315 and the torque also was decreased. The GS models were rated at 260 horsepower. This change all came about when General Motors ruled that all of their engines had to be rated in net SAE output. This same 1972 engine was also put in the 1973 Rivieras.

Transmission was a three speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 automatic. The shift lever was put on the steering column but as an option the buyer could have it placed on the center console.

The front wheels received 12 inch ventilated disc brakes while the rear wheels had 11 inch drums.

buick riviera boattail

1972 Buick Riviera front view

The 1972 Buick Riviera Boattails had a different suspension than the previous Riviera models. Independent suspension with coil springs and upper and lower A-arms were found up front. In the rear was a four link suspension that consisted of coil springs and upper and lower control arms.

Total Buick Riviera production for the 71, 72 and 73 model years were 101,618 vehicles. For the 1972 model year the total was 33,728.

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72 buick riviera photos

Modified 72 Riviera front view

 The Buick Riviera Boattail as a Collector Car

The 72 Buick Riviera is an affordable collector car and does generate good attention at local auto shows. The design as mentioned above is different but stylish and the boattail design of the rear is innovative, especially for an early 70's vehicle. The 1973 models were the last of the collectible Rivieras.

An article on Edmunds.com lists the 71 Buick Riviera among the 100 cars that take their collective breath away. Automobilemag.com has an article that includes the Buick Riviera Boattail models as among the Eleven Best Buicks of the past 110 Years.

The rarest of the 71-73 Riviera's are the Gran Sports versions. These had the Stage I version of the 455 cubic inch V-8.

buick riviera logo

Buick Riviera boattail automobiles can be found in a variety of conditions. You may see price ranges from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on mileage and general condition. As of this writing we also see a 1973 Riviera, slightly modified and restored and with 97,000 miles with an asking price of $42,000.

For those with collectible Buicks, there are two major auto clubs for owners. These include the Buick Club of America located in Columbus, Ohio and the Riviera Owners Association in Altoona, Iowa.

(Article and photos copyright AutoMuseumOnline)