Buick Special

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Buick Special
Buick 4-Dorrars Sedan 1937.jpg
1937 Buick Special Series 40 Model 41 4-Door Trunkback Sedan
ManufacturerGeneral Motors
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size (1936–1958)
Compact (1961-1963)
Mid-size (1964–1969)
LayoutFR layout
PredecessorBuick Standard Six
SuccessorBuick Apollo

The Buick Special was an automobile produced by Buick. It was usually Buick's lowest-priced model, starting out as a full-size car in 1936 and returning in 1938 (after a two-year hiatus) as a mid-size.

By 1970, Special was no longer offered as a standalone model but the name would later be used for the entry trim on 1975 to 1979 and 1991 to 1996 Century models.

The entry level Buick can trace its heritage to the Buick Model 10, a companion to Buick's first car, the Buick Model B. The Model 10 started out as one of the independent brands merged into Buick, called the Janney.

Series 40 (1930–1935)[edit]

1930 Series 40 convertible

When the Series 40 was introduced, it had a 257.5 cu in (4,220 cc) six cylinder engine that produced 80.5 bhp of power at 2,800 rpm, and 74,257 examples were made, being the highest number of Buicks for 1930. For the year 1934, the Series 40 was temporarily discontinued, with the Series 50 being the entry level product. The 1935 version was introduced with a 233.0 cu in (3,818 cc) straight-eight engine and 93 bhp. In 1936 the name changed to "Special".


1939 Buick 4d sdn - brown - 13.jpg
1939 Buick Special Four-Door Sedan
Model years1936–1949
AssemblyBuick City, Flint, Michigan
South Gate Assembly, South Gate, California
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
2/4-door sedan
4-door station wagon (1941–42 only)
2/4-door convertible
PlatformGM B platform
RelatedCadillac Series 60
Cadillac Series 61
LaSalle Series 50
Buick Century
Oldsmobile Series L
Oldsmobile Series 70
Pontiac Streamliner Torpedo
Pontiac Streamliner
Engine233 cu in (3.8 L) OHV I8
248 cu in (4.1 L) OHV I8
Wheelbase118–122 in (2,997–3,099 mm)

From 1936 to 1958, Buick's Special model range represented the marque's entry level full-size automobile. The '36 was a very successful year for Buick and also marked the first time of using names rather than the simple serial numbers which had been in use before. The Special continued to also be known as the 40-series, however.[1] The first Specials rode on a 118 in (3.0 m) wheelbase, but for the next model year this was increased to 122 in (3.10 m) as all Buicks grew for that year. The engine was also new, and was now of 248 cu in (4.1 L) rather than 233 cu in (3.8 L).[2] The Special (and all other Buicks as well) underwent a full restyling for 1939, with a more enclosed nose and a wider grille.[3] The wheelbase was also two inches shorter.[4] For 1940, there was the usual restyle and the wheelbase increased by an inch. This was also the only model year that a four-door convertible Special ("Sport Phaeton") was offered, although only 552 were built.[5]

For 1941 the bodywork was again all new, with the front fenders now very closely integrated into the cars overall design. The Estate Wagon migrated from being a Super into the Special lineup. Also new was the 40-A series (the regular Special now being the 40-B), a version on a three inches shorter wheelbase which shared its body with the 1941 Chevrolet.[6] These two series, with a restyle reminiscent of the 1939 Y-Job, continued into the abbreviated 1942 model year. Production ended on 4 February 1942.[7] For 1946 only the larger Special range remained available, still using the prewar B-body. The 1946 Special is rare, representing less than two percent of Buick's production that year.[8] The Special continued with minor changes until the prewar body was finally replaced halfway through the 1949 model year.[9] Post-war Specials were only available as a four-door sedan or a two-door "sedanet", until the new 1949 models arrived.

In the movie Mildred Pierce, Veda Pierce, Mildred's daughter, played by actress Ann Blyth, was given a 1940 Buick Special convertible as a gift.

The movie Small Town Conspiracy features a 1939 Buick Special 8 that the main character of the film John Haleran (Zen Gesner) drives as his official police car. The car remained the property of director Ralph Clemente and was untouched for many years until sold to Florida restorer and car collector Axel Caravias.


52 Buick Special (9473833243).jpg
1952 Buick Special De Luxe 2-door Sedanette
Model years1949–1958
AssemblySouth Gate, California, United States
Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Flint, Michigan, United States
Linden, New Jersey, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
2/4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
2-door convertible
PlatformGM B platform
RelatedOldsmobile 88
Pontiac Streamliner
Pontiac Chieftain
Engine248 cu in (4.1 L) OHV I8
263.3 cu in (4.3 L) Fireball OHV I8
264 cu in (4.3 L) Nailhead OHV V8
322 cu in (5.3 L) Nailhead OHV V8
364 cu in (6.0 L) Nailhead OHV V8
Wheelbase121.5 in (3,086 mm) (1949–1953)
122 in (3,099 mm) (1954–1958)

Halfway into the 1949 model year, the Specials received all-new bodywork, the first fully postwar design for the series. New was also the 40D-series, a better equipped version called the Special DeLuxe.[10] The engine remained the 248 cu in (4.1 L) which had been used since 1937, but for 1951 this was replaced by the larger "Fireball" straight-eight. A two-door hardtop coupe was also new for 1951.[11] The 1954 Specials had an all-new body and chassis, much wider and lower, and were now equipped with the all-new, more powerful "Nailhead" V8 engines.[12]

Introduced in the middle of the 1955 model year the four-door Buick Special Riviera (along with the Century Riviera, the Oldsmobile 98 Holiday, and the 88 Holiday) were the first four-door pillarless hardtops ever produced. By then, the Buick Special was one of America's best selling automotive series. For 1956 the larger 322 cu in (5.3 L) V8 engine was shared with the rest of the range, although it was replaced by the bigger, 250 hp (186 kW) 364 V8 for 1957. This year also brought all-new bodywork, as well as a four-door hardtop station wagon called the Buick Caballero.[13] The 1957 wheelbase remained 122 inches.[14] In the June, 1957 issue of Popular Mechanics, the Special was rated with a 0-60 mph time of 11.6 seconds, fuel economy of 17.4 mpg‑US (13.5 L/100 km; 20.9 mpg‑imp) at 50 mph (80 km/h), and ground clearance of 6.9 in (175 mm).[15] 1958 brought the most chrome yet and twin headlights, as the car grew longer and wider, albeit on an unchanged chassis.

1949-1957 Buick Specials had three VentiPorts while more senior Buicks (with the partial exception of the Buick Super, which switched from three to four in 1955) had four. Earlier versions had a "Sweepspear" inspired character line alongside the body, while later versions had the "Sweepspear" moulding attached to the side of all models. GM renamed the Buick Special the LeSabre for the 1959 model year, taking the name from the 1951 Le Sabre concept car.[16]


1963 Buick Special Deluxe 4119 front.jpg
1963 Buick Special Deluxe 4-Door Sedan
AssemblySouth Gate, California, United States
Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Flint, Michigan, United States
Linden, New Jersey, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
2/4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
2-door convertible
Engine198 cu in (3.2 L) Fireball V6
215 cu in (3.5 L) Buick 215 V8
Transmission3/4-speed manual
2-speed automatic

In 1961, the car returned after a short absence of two years, but this time it was on the brand new unibody compact GM Y platform. The Special was powered by a 155 hp (116 kW) innovative aluminum-block 215 in³ V8, and had Dualpath transmission and power steering.[17] In mid-year a Skylark option was released with special trim, optional bucket seats and a four-barrel version of the 215 that made 185 hp (138 kW).

In 1962, the Special was the first American car to use a V6 engine in volume production; it earned Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1962.[18] This 198 cid Fireball was engineered down from the 215 and used many of the same design parameters, but was cast in iron. Output was 135 hp (gross) at 4600 rpm and 205 lb⋅ft (278 N⋅m) at 2400 rpm. In their test that year, Road & Track was impressed with Buick's "practical" new V6, saying it "sounds and performs exactly like the aluminum V8 in most respects." In 1963, the Special's body was restyled. Mechanically, however, the car was identical to the 1962 model. There was also some minor interior restyling, particularly to the dash and instrument cluster. The 1963 Special was available as a 2-door pillared hardtop coupe, a four dour sedan, a convertible, and a station wagon. Engine choices were a standard 198 cu in (3.2 l) V6 with a twin-barrel carburetor and optional 215 cu in (3.5 l) V8 with 155 hp (116 kW) (two-barrel) or more powerful four-barrel (190 hp (140 kW) in 1962, 200 hp (150 kW) in 1963).[19] Transmission choices were a three speed column shift manual transmission, a floor shift Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual, or a two-speed Turbine Drive[19] automatic. The two speed "Dual Path Turbine Drive" automatic was a Buick design and shared no common parts with the better known Chevrolet Power-Glide transmission.

The 1962 model sold 153,763, including 42,973 Skylarks.[20]

The 1963 body was only produced for one year; it sold 148,750 copies, including 42,321 Skylarks.[21] The entire car was redesigned for 1964. After that, the 215 found its way into the Rover P6 3500S in 1968, but was never sold in North America in any great numbers. It was also employed in other British cars, including the Morgan Plus 8, MG MGB GTV8, Land Rover, and Triumph TR8, as well as retrofits into MGAs and MGBs. The engine had really earned its stripes as being the sole engine powering the Range Rover for a couple decades and eventually finding its way into the original Series/Defender Land Rover; and several other Land Rover Models including the Discovery and the Forward Control.

The Skylark became a separate series for 1962.


64 Buick Special (7434940542).jpg
1964 Buick Special
AssemblyWilmington, Delaware, United States
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Flint, Michigan, United States
Linden, New Jersey, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door hardtop coupe
2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door station wagon
4-door sedan
RelatedChevrolet Chevelle
Oldsmobile Cutlass
Pontiac LeMans
Buick Skylark
Engine225 cu in (3.7 L) V6
250 cu in (4.1 L) Inline 6
300 cu in (4.9 L) V8
340 cu in (5.6 L) V8
Transmission4-speed manual
2-speed automatic
3-speed manual
Wheelbase115 in (2,921 mm)[22]

The Special, along with the upscale Skylark, were redesigned for the 1964 model year with separate body-on-frame construction—renamed the A-body—and marketed as an intermediate-sized car. The Skylark was expanded to a full top-line series that now included two- and four-door sedans, two-door hardtop coupe and convertible, along with a station wagon. The other series models included the base Special and the slightly fancier Special Deluxe, in a more limited range of bodystyles.

Also new for 1964 were engines. The capacity of the V6 engine was increased from 198 to 225 cubic inches, while the aluminum V8 was replaced by a new cast iron-block 300 cubic inch V8 with aluminum cylinder heads. In 1965, cast iron heads replaced the problematic aluminum ones. This reliable engine, produced until 1967, was based on the aluminum V8, and many parts (such as the cylinder heads) were interchangeable.

64 Buick Special Estate

The Special nameplate was used on lower-priced intermediate-sized Buicks through the 1969 model year.

1968 Buick Special Deluxe coupe

In 1968 and 1969, the Buick Special was dropped and only Special Deluxes were manufactured.

In 1970, the end of the Special came about when the Special Deluxe was dropped too in favor of the slightly upscale Buick Skylark.


1977 Buick Century Special

The Special returned briefly to the GM A platform as an entry level subseries of the Buick Century. Although officially sold as the Buick Century Special, it was sometimes also referred to as just the Buick Special.

Century Specials were usually powered by Buick's own 231 V6; a V8 (from either Buick, Oldsmobile, or Chevrolet) was offered but rarely optioned. It used the "colonnade" roofline but was fitted with a landau roof that covered most of the rear quarter windows. The opening that was left was the same shape as the windows on the higher series formal-roof cars.


In 1978 and 1979, the Special trim continued on the redesigned Century fastback and wagon models.


Special returned once again as the entry level trim on the Century sedan (starting 1991) and wagon (starting 1993). The "Special" designation was discontinued with the Century's redesign in 1997.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Gunnell, John (2004). Standard Catalog of Buick, 1903-2004 (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. p. 44. ISBN 0-87349-760-0.
  2. ^ Gunnell, pp. 46-48
  3. ^ Odin, L.C. World in Motion 1939, The whole of the year's automobile production. Belvedere Publishing, 2015. ASIN: B00ZLN91ZG.
  4. ^ Gunnell, pp. 54-55
  5. ^ Gunnell, p. 59
  6. ^ Gunnell, p. 61
  7. ^ Gunnell, p. 64
  8. ^ Gunnell, pp. 66-67. 2,999 Specials were built (plus 1,500 stripped chassis for export), out of 158,728 Buicks in total for the model year.
  9. ^ Gunnell, p. 70
  10. ^ Gunnell, p. 73
  11. ^ Gunnell, p. 75
  12. ^ Gunnell, p. 85
  13. ^ Gunnell, p. 94
  14. ^ "Directory Index: Buick/1957 Buick/1957 Buick Brochure 2". Oldcarbrochures.com. Buick Motor Division. 1957. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  15. ^ Popular Mechanics. NY, NY: Hearst Corporation. June 1957. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  16. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1946-1959 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2008), p.1021.
  17. ^ Francis, Devon (October 1960). "850 Miles in Buick's New Compact". Popular Science: 90–91.
  18. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), p.142.
  19. ^ a b Flory (2004), pp.143 & 205.
  20. ^ Flory (2004), p.144.
  21. ^ Flory (2004), p.207.
  22. ^ "Directory Index: Buick/1965_Buick_001/1965_Buick_Full_Line_Brochure". Oldcarbrochures.com. Archived from the original on 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2011-12-31.