Monday, January 30, 2012

BUICKS with the BARRIS Touch

It's no secret that King of the Kustomizers George Barris' first car was a Buick, a 1925 Buick roadster passed down from family when he was just a teenager. But it would be a few years later when his touch would create some very special ones. This 1941 Buick convertible featured flow through fenders and a Cadillac grille. It helped young Barris get noticed, in fact he featured it on his business card. Many chopped and channeled "Kustoms" followed.

After the era of the chopped and channeled "lead sleds", Barris made quite a few customs for movies. This caught the attention of Buick Motor Division itself, who provided him with a new 1963 Riviera to customize. The result was the "Villa Riviera", a frost white custom which was used in the movie "For Those Who Think Young", featuring a young Nancy Sinatra.

After the movie was completed, Barris changed the color to Translucent Cherry. It seems much sportier in the red hue. But Barris wasn't completely satisfied and kept experimenting. Note the open roof section and the extended fenders. The headlamps are concealed behind the fender ends.

Here's the Villa Riviera again, this time wearing a Cherry and White scalloped paint treatment. The wheels have also been changed. It may have been more successful in solid Cherry.

Speaking of successful, AMT was so impressed with the Villa Riviera that they featured it as a build option for their 1963 Riviera 1/25 Scale Model. Note the groovy 1960's graphics.

The Buick Wildcat Mystique began as a 1965 Wildcat hardtop. The roof is chopped, the hood and front fenders are stretched, the rear deck is lengthened, and the bumpers are replaced by rolled pans. The hand made bar grilles front and rear complete the custom effect.

Note the rear grille effect, the W shape, and the lowered roofline. The styling accentuates the original Buick lines to their dramatic pinnacle. The interior is basically stock with some wood trim and upgraded audio added.

The color is pretty attention-getting too. It's finished in 40 coats of Apricot Pearl, and these Tangerine scallops were added shortly after completion. It was reportedly made for a movie actor, although that had not been confirmed and Barris' book makes no mention of the client.

And this is a great shot- George Barris, wife Shirley and children Joji and Brett pose in the driveway of their Lake Encino home with a very special 1966 Riviera. Built again for Buick, the car is painted in Gold Tangerine Murano Pearl and features an ASC Sun Roof, special wheels, and red line tires. It was used promotionally and helped Buick dealers such as Reynolds popularize the Sun Roof.

Of course, George Barris built many interesting custom and movie cars over the years, including the Batmobile, the Monkeemobile and other truly legendary cars, but we think its interesting that he got his reputation going with Buicks, and he certainly did some great custom Buicks in the sixties.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Secrets of the Buick Bible

There are almost fifty years worth of history in this worn ledger. It was used to keep track of the Buick Company Owned cars in service, which means that every time the Los Angeles Zone put a company owned vehicle on the road, it is recorded in this book. Most of the entries were made by Phil Vogel, Buick's longtime Company Car Coordiantor. Phil called the notebook his "Buick Bible", and never let it out of his sight.

Inside the front page were telephone numbers for everyone at the Buick Zone office- even the IBM computer room. When this log was began in 1962, the Zone was located in the Miracle Mile on Wilshire. Phil was based nearby at Gunther-Langer Buick. All the company cars were shipped there. After they were used, they would be sold through local dealers. Reynolds Buick handled many such sales.

Each car was logged by model, color, trim, key numbers, license number, delivery date and driver. A glance above shows some of the drivers that Buick provided cars for. Jack Entratter owned the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Dick Van Dyke you've probably already heard of.

Here's where we start to unravel last week's mystery of the celebrities in the 1967 Buick interiors- company car entries for Robert Lansing and Charleton Heston. Lansing was given an Electra convertible, Heston a Riviera. Both cars were hard plated as opposed to sporting Manufacturers plates.

And here it starts to add up. Cliff Robertson and Van Heflin both got Sportwagons. Fess Parker got a Riviera and David Janssen must have looked great in an Electra Convertible.

Bill Bixby and Lloyd Bridges were both furnished with new Rivieras. And now we understand- every celebrity that appeared in the brochure sitting inside a new Buick was given a brand new Buick. By today's standards, it was a pretty inexpensive way to obtain endorsements. But I'd love to see who approved the budget.

There are more fascinating entries in the Buick Bible. Who was furnished with the most Buick courtesy vehicles? None other than Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Electra Limiteds for himself, and Sportwagons when he owned the Cal-Neva Resort, all on Manufacturer plates. Mr. Sinatra and Buick were close friends in the sixties.

The entries end in June, 1998, when Phil Vogel was hospitalized for surgery. He had a stroke shortly after and died. The Buick Bible was returned to Buick by his family and has been preserved for history. It's a treasure of information and an interesting insight into how the automobile business was conducted in Tinseltown in an era gone by.

(Originally posted on the Reynolds Buick GMC Blog)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Buick 1967: For The "In Crowd"

Automobile Manufacturers have passed out a lot of brochures in the last century or so, but I can honestly say that few automotive brochures in history can come close to the Buick Deluxe 1967 brochure. It was an outstanding offering at the time, and remains a singular effort today.

It wasn't just that the 1967 Buick models were singularly exciting, although they were- it was that such effort went into the piece to make it outstanding and memorable. It was billed as "The Magazine for the In Crowd," and was produced in the style of a magazine, with features and articles.

Here is the table of contents. Instead of being arranged by model, it is organized into articles about each body style. There's an article about convertibles, using renderings done in an interpretation of a turn of the century Art Nouveau style of rendering that was popular in the day.

The next article reviews all of the two door offerings, as seen with six of the major fashion models of the day. The Wildcat is shown with the glamorous Wilhelmina.

The Skylark Sport Coupe is shown with Delores Wettach

And the Electra 225 Coupe is paired with none other than Suzy Parker. She was the first supermodel and this was a big coup for Buick. Other fashion models shown in the brochure were Dolores Hawkins, Jean Shrimpton and Penny Ashton. It's worth noting that each of the models were identified by name, something that was highly unusual in the day.

Next the wagons are pictured in a setting that resembles a family photo album. Very charmingly done.

Note how the photos have "handwritten" captions (SportWagon shown)

Next article features the four door hardtops. In this section, each of the cars is shown with a sports legend- Buick called it the Sports Hall of Fame. It features Sam Snead, Joe Schmidt, Ted Lindsay, Bob Cousy, Frank Crosetti and Rocky Marciano each alongside a new Buick four door.

Here's Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings on the ice with a new 1967 Buick LeSabre.

But Buick saved the best for last- they went all out on their giant Interiors section. Hosted by movie Actress Diana Lynn, Buick showed each interior with a Hollywood celebrity behind the wheel.

Diana Lynn steps out of the new Riviera

Robert Taylor shows off the Riviera Custom Interior.

Cornell Wilde is forced to make do with the standard Riviera.

Charleton Heston looks comfortable in the Electra 225 Custom.

Cliff Robertson tries on the brocade seats in the brand new Electra 225 Limited Sedan.

Gardner Mc Kay looks good in the Electra 225 with base trim.

Bill Bixby looks great in the Wildcat Custom Convertible.

Stuart Whitman relaxes in the Wildcat 4 Door Hardtop.

Tony Franciosa smiles behind the wheel of the Le Sabre.

And Fess Parker does his best Daniel Boone in the western themed Sportwagon.

Van Heflin had just made a movie called "Stagecoach", so the Special Deluxe wagon was a good fit.

Bob Cummings smiles in a GS400- who wouldn't?

Lloyd Bridges picked the wrong week to give up Skylark. (Think about it, Airplane! fans)

Robert Lansing chose the Special Deluxe- pretty snazzy.

And David Janssen got the Special Deluxe. I wonder if he felt like a Fugitive.

The a special section showed colors and options, again grouping all the models together.

And finally a section on powertrains including a glamour shot of the 1967 430-4 bbl V8 in 360 HP tune.

And the back cover with the classic slogan:

So there's the revolutionary 1967 brochure- an unforgettable 60 page full color spectacular featuring just about every graphic style of the day in a shockingly different format, featuring the top sports figures, fashion models, and Hollywood Celebrities of the day. A classic from the first day.

One question remains- how did they get all of those celebrities into the interiors?

We'll save that one for next time. It's a great story.

(Cross posted on the Reynolds Buick GMC Blog)