1953 was the curtain call for Flint’s final woody
1953 was a big year for Buick. As you would expect General Motors’ finest, best-appointed marque save for Cadillac, most Buicks were heavily chromed, properly comfortable, and quietly capable. Back then, they were still known as ‘doctor’s cars.’ It was a fine choice, a respectable one, but not as flashy and glitzy like a Cadillac. And Buick was doing very well in the postwar era. 1953 was extra special, however, as the company was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Buick dealers were happy, healthy places during this time, as the Flint, Michigan-based GM division was 4thin overall sales. 488,755 Buicks were built for the year, split across Special, Super, and top-of-the-line Roadmaster models.
There were more than just great sales to cheer about though. There was a brand-new engine, the “Fireball” V-8. The Special made do with the old straight-eight, but all Supers and Roadmasters came with the new powerplant. A 322-cubic-inch unit, it had five main bearings and hydraulic valve lifters. A three-speed manual transmission was standard.
Dynaflow, Buick’s automatic transmission, was a $193 option on the entry-level Special and mid-level Super, but standard in Series 70 Roadmasters. In Roadmasters, the V-8 produced 188 horsepower and had an 8.5:1 compression ratio. Supers, one level down from the Roadmaster, received the same V-8, but with 8.0:1 compression and 164 hp.
The Series 50 Super line had the same basic body as the Roadmaster, while Specials had a different, narrower body-so don’t buy a ’53 Special grille if you’re restoring a ’53 Super! The various Super models were visually differentiated via three Ventiports on each front fender, instead of the four per side on flossier Roadmasters, plus a little bit less chrome trim on the rear fenders. Available options included wire wheel covers, electric clock, Selectronic radio, power steering and power brakes—the latter two coming standard on the Roadmaster).
Yes, there was a lot new at Buick in 1953, but it was also the final year for a model that had been around quite a while: The woody wagon. This was the last year Buick Estate Wagons had structural (and aesthetically pleasing, albeit maintenance-intensive) wood in the body. Wagon bodies were produced by Ionia. Base price for the Super Estate Wagon was $3430. It weighed in at 4150 pounds and rode a 121.5-inch wheelbase.
A mere 1830 of the previously-mentioned 488,755 Buicks were the Model 59 Super Estate Wagon. Last year, my friend Dave Mitchell was fortunate enough to locate and acquire this very original example. Believe it or not, the wood on this car is the original Ionia-built wood, it’s never been replaced. It even still has the dealer logo on the tailgate!
As with 80 percent of Buicks built for the ’53 model year, this wagon has Dynaflow. Dave also added the period-correct wire wheel covers, as they give the car a little bit of extra flair. They were a factory/dealer option when new.
He found it in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where it had been sold new. It was in a collection that was being liquidated. Most of the cars were prewar-there were even some very early brass-era cars there—but the Estate Wagon was the one that really caught Dave’s eye.
The original owner was a lady who heard that 1953 was the last year for the true woody Buick wagon. Upon learning this, she went down to the local dealer and ordered this car.
Dave’s favorite marques are Packard and Mercedes-Benz, but the Buick had no trouble convincing him to take it home. It is one of the newer cars in his collection. But it’s a real beauty, especially in metallic blue with the tan and cream two-tone interior.
I was fortunate enough to get to go for a ride in this car last summer. I had stopped by, and got very excited when I saw the wagon sitting out front. While we were visiting, he told me a friend across town was selling a 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special and suggested we take the Buick there to check it out. Well, he didn’t exactly have to twist my arm! So off we went. These ‘50s Buicks are so smooth and comfortable. And the Fireball V-8 just purred! It was a real pleasure to see and experience this great old Buick.