WE RECKONED ABOUT 8,000 kms….. By Lois Haime It was at the Christmas Lunch of the Western Australian Buick Club in 2016 that the idea came to me. Some of the blokes were talking about attending the 50th Anniversary of the Buick Club in Australia, to be held at Moama/Echuca in 2017. I had said to Marny Howe, what about it? We should drive across in the Riviera. Marny agreed so we did it. Because most of the blokes were talking about putting their cars on the train, we were more determined to drive. Sunday 1st October 2017 we met up with Steve and Jenny McLennan in their burnt orange ‘74 Century at Mundaring at 7 a.m. After lunch at Southern Cross we were breathalised on the way out of town. The young policeman said to me “does this car get any bigger?” I replied, “only when you try to park it”. The first day was a leisurely 600 km or so through to Boulder where we stayed overnight at the Albion Shamrock Motel, a well-known Buick stopping spot. We fuelled up at Norseman and headed east. During a late afternoon stop at Cocklebiddy we decided to push on to Madura Pass. Big mistake. We had forgotten about Central Time where we were going to come ahead 45 minutes. My fuel gauge had been flopping around as these old gauges do and it suddenly flopped down onto empty and decided to stay there. The sunlight went as quick as switching off the lights and there we were with about 60 km to go, both sides of the road lined with decaying corpses of kangaroos in various states of rottenness. I was the lead car, down to about 30 kmh trying to conserve fuel and keeping an eye on what seemed like dozens of live kangaroos perched on the edge of the road – both sides. My shoulders were tensed up and I’m sure my knuckles were white on the steering wheel, just waiting for one of these roos to cross the road. While keeping an eye on the gauntlet of kangaroos I hadn’t spotted a big dead one which I ran over. This lifted the front of the Riv up and the lights shone up into the trees. I was hoping no bits of the roo were stuck under the car. The lights of Madura were so welcome. The car must have been running on fumes but I wasn’t too concerned as I knew Steve was carrying fuel, however, I really didn’t want to stop and fuel up in this area. On checking in, we found out about the time difference and the fact that the kitchen wasn’t far off closing. Bags were tossed in our rooms and a very satisfying roast of the day was had with a few extremely welcome cold beers. Not bad for a spot which doesn’t have mobile coverage! We took a vow never to be on the road after 5 pm again! The next stop was Nullarbor and then Ceduna. The signpost at Ceduna informed us we were 2,000 km from Perth. We enjoyed a great meal at the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel / Motel which started with the fabulous Coffin Bay oysters. Some rain overnight just put spots on the dusty cars. Wuddina for breakfast and we reached Port Augusta late afternoon. The Buick favourite spot is the Courtyard Motel with the really good Western pub just across the road. Steve was having a spot of trouble with a tyre with a slow leak which he had pumped up in PA. Early morning saw the Buicks driving towards Renmark. South Australian roads seem to get lumpy and goat tracky once off the major roads. We saw some interesting dark green crops which we were later told were fava beans, obviously farmers diversifying here. We seemed to have made good time so we pushed onto Mildura. Steve was familiar with this neck of the woods and directed us to a great motel called the Commodore which was probably the best and cheapest we had stayed in. A young couple there came up and said they had seen my car at Ceduna and wondered where we were going. We had an excellent meal across the road at the hotel plus some really good SA wine. Saturday 7th October and we were in Two Buicks Tyre changing The Buick News Page 11 December 2017 Moama and checking in at the Resort. Great to be able to spot a few Eastern state Buicks already in. The other West Australians were in, only one car having trouble when it got off the train. These meets are a wonderful opportunity to spot familiar cars and faces from previous meets. I met up with a SA driver who recognised my car from 2014 when we had arranged a Meet and Greet in Tanunda for the eastern state cars prior to their heading across the Nullarbor. He had attended the dinner there together with about seven or eight SA Buicks so it was nice that he was in the Buick fold now. His 72 blue Boattail looked so different to the other Boaties because of its distinctive paintwork. The Victorian Club had done a great job of organising the next five days and the catering and touring couldn’t be faulted. I’m sure the everyday programme will be covered fully by other writers. Breathalysed again in Echuca after coming from the car wash. Friday was the Show-and-Shine which wasn’t really. Unfortunately, the area for the cars to park down near the historic Echuca wharf area was very cramped and the cars were either parallel parked or angle parked and were not in their decades as is usually the case. I was one of the last cars in and was directed to the public parking area. Alan had always said that the 11th Commandment was – “Thou shall not park the Riviera in a public parking area”. I whizzed around the corner and parked in a perfect spot in front of a No Parking sign near the ice cream shop. Despite dire predictions of getting fined, this didn’t happen. You have to live on the edge occasionally. The car was safe as patrons from the ice cream shop were busy taking their photos in front of the Buick. Although not a good area for Buicks it was brilliant for people with great pubs, restaurants and shops. Friday night was the Gala Dinner and the venue at the Moama Bowling Club was stunning. A great meal and excellent speeches. Saturday morning, 14 October saw the farewell breakfast well attended and goodbyes being sent. Marny and I considered it had been well worth the trip! Heading north-west we reached Port Augusta that night and Ceduna the next night. At the Quarantine Checkpoint coming out of South Australia, the officer asked were we doing a “Thelma and Louise”. I wouldn’t have minded a dollar for everytime I heard that remark. The sign at the border informs you that Perth is only 1,000 km away. A mere nothing. Coming out of South Australia and heading west we picked up 2 ½ hours as South Australia had gone onto summertime. Thank heavens WA and Queensland don’t get into such nonsense. As it was only early afternoon we pushed on. Thick smoke blanketed the road at Madura coming from a scrub fire to the south. We were concerned about possible closure of the road so put our collective feet down and reached Cocklebiddy. It turned out there had been a control burn which had got away from the firemen (this sounded familiar). While checking in at Cocklebiddy a voice said “I know that car! It used to belong to a brothel owner in Perth”. This was quite true as the original owner had been a lady of the night and had imported it in for her boyfriend in 1972. The bloke was a friend of the bloke who had bought it from her after a falling out with the above mentioned boyfriend. This has happened more than once that the car has been recognised and you can see people wondering about the connection. The next morning there was still a smell of smoke in the air but the sky was much clearer. We headed towards Norseman. Steve’s Century gave a few coughs before we reached there and he stopped to add some fuel to the tank. Taking advantage of being out from under his surveillance and with a sleeping passenger, I decided to give the 455 ci a bit of a go and floored it for a few kilometres. It made me realise that I could have probably done the trip in half the time with double the cost of fuel. Great fun though. The final night, after about 800 km driving that day, we arrived in Southern Cross and stayed at the old Palace Hotel. We had some wonderful meals everywhere we stayed and the Palace didn’t disappoint. The cars attracted attention everywhere we went and I thought afterwards, if I had charged everyone $5 for taking a photo of the car my fuel bill would have been much less. There was some initial apprehension on my part about driving such distances but my security blanket was Steve and Jenny coming along behind me in the Big Orange Buick. Steve filled up the Riviera whenever we stopped and Jenny actually washed it in Echuca. Good driveway service. I noticed Steve’s knees were painful getting down under the Riv’s bumper but felt that at the end of the trip, he had loosened up somewhat so I was glad to have helped him along! We totalled up the mileage and inclusive of tootling around the Echuca area on the day runs, the distance totted up to about 8,000 km. I haven’t add up the fuel bills. These long drives do have their boring bits but it’s great to have a yarn and a laugh when stopping for coffee and nothing beats that first cold beer after a long days driving. Would I do it again, you bet but not just yet. (WA Buicks) Welcoming sign at Cocklebiddy
BUICK by Royal Appointment
A couple of years ago an article was run in Buick News about the Prince of
Wales (the one that scarpered, not the current one) and Mrs Simpson’s Buick
and its luxurious silver fixtures.
However having come across a 1986 copy of the UK Buick Club’s magazine
(supplied by WA member Alan Chapman who migrated to WA with his family
and his Buick ‘37 8/80 Roadmaster), it seems that there were six royal
The firm of Lendrum and Hartman in London’s west end was the franchise in
1936 for sales and service of Cadillac, Buick, La Salle and Marquette motor
BUICK NATIONAL MEET AT COLORADO SPRINGS, USA
It was a wet Friday evening that we boarded our Qantas flight through to Tokyo and then by American Airlines through to Los Angeles. Arriving in LA about 10.30 am we headed to National Car Rental to pick up our previously ordered Buick Lucerne or a Lacrosse. But no, said the bloke behind the counter, we no longer keep Buicks! Alan’s motto is that you always upgrade, never downgrade so we drove out of the National lot in a pretty snappy Cadillac CTS which had only done about 4,000 miles. We bunked down locally and slept off the rigours of 20 hours flying time.
Sunday saw us in Las Vegas in hot weather. I walked into the Imperial Palace on the strip and booked for two nights, the first night was $20 per night and the second was $40. We had a lovely room on the 10th floor so this was a real bargain.
A visit to the Auto Collection at the Imperial Palace revealed an awesome 1954 Skylark Convertible for sale at $125,000, and a 1980s Gran National for $45,000.
1954 Skylark Convertible at Las Vegas
Australian group Human Nature was playing at the Imperial Palace so we booked for their concert which was tremendous. Talking to the blokes afterward as they signed our CD, they said they had been given a one-year contract at the Imperial Palace. They were certainly well received by the mainly American audience.
Leaving Vegas we headed north in Nevada and then across to Utah. There is a hair-raising road in southern Utah called the Moki Dugway with a speed limit of 5 mph as the road snakes down towards the flat country near Mexican Hat. This is not for the faint hearted as there are no safety rails and it is better not to look over the edge. A rainstorm swept across as we reached Mexican Hat on the San Juan River with the river turning blood red from the red dirt being swept into it. Blood red waterfalls cascaded across the road from rock ledges. The storm disappeared as quickly as it had begun and we found ourselves in a very clear and freshened Monument Valley. We drove someway in and stopped at a sign which told us that this was where Forrest Gump in the movie had stopped his run and returned home.
That evening near Twin Navajo Rocks Diner at Bluff, we came across a 1949 Buick Super abandoned without its engine. The body was a bit rusted but wasn’t too bad. Perhaps it will be snapped up by someone one day.
A project waiting to happen
The next day we had reached Colorado and the town of Durango at about 8,000 feet. We booked on the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge steam railway for the next day. The coach we had chosen had a glass curved roof but open windows so safety glasses were a must to avoid grit in the eye. The scenery was awesome with waterfalls and vertiginous drops into a fast flowing river. A lot of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” had been filmed from the railway, including the scene where they both leap off a cliff. This cliff was actually only about 20 feet high but looked a lot more in the movie. Silverton was an old mining town and had a 19th century charm about it, despite being cold and wet.
A hair-raising ride on the Durango – Silverton express
We pushed onto Colorado Springs and soon found the Crowne Plaza which was the host hotel. Its wonderful to pull into a huge parking area and see Buicks bustling around, being washed, hoods up and every make and model that you can imagine. The 59s (about 29 I think) had pride of place in the lineup in front of the hotel, this being their special anniversary year.
Happy 50th birthday for these Buicks!
At registration we met up with Colin Hinxman and Adrian Dearling from Queensland and Ray and Mary Cook from Melbourne. Somewhat later we spotted Dave and Aileen Chaffey from Tasmania and Doug Hawkins from Queensland who seemed to have bought his usual swag of cars to take home. The following morning we ran into Jack and Barbara Gertskamper who had driven from Washington state. Those who attended the Queensland Nationals will remember Jack visiting from the US. Simon Fraser from Victoria and two of his friends made up the Aussie contingent.
The town of Colorado Springs is very pretty with some lovely houses and old historic buildings. Strategically it is the centre for the army base of Fort Lincoln with 24,000 grunts on site as well as the Air Force Academy and the Petersen Air Base. As well as all this, there is the NORAD base (North American Air Defence) in Cheyenne Mountain, about 400 feet underground and bristling with all sorts of antennas.
The Buick Club of America had planned a good assortment of events including a cog railway ride up to Pike’s Peak which is over 14,000 feet. The air was somewhat thin at the top and there were patches of snow. The day we went up was remarkably clear and you could see down to five American states from there. Other events were a trip to the Cripple Creek Casino which was a lot of fun plus a coach ride to the Royal Gorge with its suspension bridge and aerial car across the gorge. One of the benefits of these events is that you eventually get talking to the other Buick members and some great stories get swapped.
A very well attended event was the Flying W Chuckwaggon dinner. There was some rain as we all alighted from half a dozen coaches so it was decided that the mob would eat inside a large barn building instead of in the open. We bumped into a rather grim Doug Hawkins who told us he hadn’t been able to find a bar. Unfortunately the venue was totally dry (except for the rain). I must say that there are a lot of Americans who do tend to wowserism and if they consider an event is a family thing, then its dry! We found a table up the back and sat with Ray and Mary Cook. The feeding was along prison type style with everybody getting in a queue, taking a tin plate and being served. The food was okay, beef or chicken with beans and bread. Afterwards you had to scrape your scraps into a bin and return to your seat. The entertainment was a group of country and western musicians and singers who were excellent. This was for about an hour and then we headed back to our coaches. I guess those of us who had attended the R M Williams Spectacular in Queensland were pretty spoilt as far as food, drinks and entertainment went. This was the gold standard and anything else was less!
With the American nationals, the judging of the cars is a big thing. This seems to take up most of the Saturday and is taken most seriously. Some of the cars are trailered in but most do seem to have been driven. Some Florida cars had certainly covered some ground to attend. There were nearly 300 Buicks on display.
The dinner was in the Summit Ballroom with a lovely view of the mountain peaks out of the windows. Mind you, everywhere in Colorado Springs has a view of the peaks.
The centrepieces on the tables were red, white and blue as it was after all Independence Day. The Aussie table consisted of Adrian, Colin, Ray, Mary, Alan and myself, Simon Fraser and his two friends. Prize giving for the many categories took place with pictures of the cars shown on large screens. There was a special category for modified Buicks which seems to be gaining ground compared to the Seattle meet. The President of the BCA and other Buick luminaries gave speeches.
The next morning saw the Cooks, Adrian and Colin and ourselves at the local IHOP for breakfast. This stands for International House of Pancakes (not I hate old people). This was the usual total American overindulgence with the table soon jam packed with breakfast fare ranging from oatmeal to grits and everything in between.
Farewells were made and the group split to go in various directions. All the lovely cars from the main parking area were leaving or had already left. It is just so amazing to see such a superb collection of Buicks. These can be viewed on our website.
From Colorado Springs we drove south into New Mexico. We stayed at Taos for the first night and then drove up to Los Alamos in the Bandelier Mountains. Los Alamos was the site where the scientists such as Oppenheimer, Fermi and Teller and others worked on the A-bomb in utmost secrecy. The guard stations to the town were only removed in 1957. Today the town is on a high plateau with pine trees and wonderful museums showing the workings of the scientists. The Los Alamos National Science Laboratory is still a going concern with an annual budget of $2.2 billion dollars. This sort of thing certainly reflects a country’s wealth.
About lunchtime we noticed rumbling thunder and some lightning. As we walked between museums we could hear the sound of hail. We took cover under a small tree and watched in horror as hailstones about the size of golf balls struck the cars in the street and the car park, including our Cadillac. One large hailstone hit me on the head and nearly laid me out so we decided to make a run for the shelter of some office buildings. For over half an hour this icy deluge continued. Hanging baskets with petunias were stripped bare, as were the street trees. The ground turned white as the hail mounted up and the temperature dropped considerably. When it was all over we examined an old Buick (about 80s model) and marvelled at the dents all over it. And then we saw our car …… with at least a hundred indentations over the roof, the hood, the trunk and a red plastic strip below the back window had been shattered. At this point in time we were glad we were not the owners! We drove down to Santa Fe and there was sunshine and warmth and no sign of any storms. We checked into our favourite El Rey Inn and notified National about their peppered Cadillac.
On our second morning we were in the lovely breakfast room and who should come around the corner but Ray and Mary Cook. They had been down to Albuquerque and Ray had bought a 1954 Buick Roadmaster convertible for a pretty good price. Apparently Richard Nixon had sat in this car in his prepresidential days. It was great to catch up again. The Cooks were heading towards Durango and we were heading south to Alamogordo so our trails split at this point.
We turned west at Alamogordo and drove past the White Sands Missile Base and over the mountains to Las Cruces. At Deming we headed north. The border patrol is fairly active and have checkpoints in this region but usually they spot two gringos in the car and wave you through.
We stopped for a break about midday and had some fruit and a drink. We spotted a police car pull in behind us. Sheriff Loma from Luna County very courteously asked us were there any problems. We had a chat to him and he said there had been a report about an abandoned car on our road. Seeing we were alright he took off up the road. I noticed he was half crouching down when he approached our car from the rear. It probably pays to be cautious in this neck of the woods.
We passed some huge copper mines further up the track. At Eagar we branched off to the Gila Wilderness Area. Geronimo who was a Chiricuhua Apache, was born in this area in 1809. His famous portrait, kneeling with a rifle, certainly portrays him as a wild eyed bod. We trekked along side a river and then climbed up to where there were cliff dwellings of the early Indians in this area. This was very enjoyable and it was good to stretch legs a bit.
We drove through Fort Apache on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and through the stunning Salt River Canyon. What a road and what it must have cost to construct. It was like driving down one side of the Grand Canyon and up the other side.
Arizona was bakingly hot. We came out of a diner about 8 pm one evening, south of Phoenix and the temperature was 111 ° F. We decided to head for San Diego and hole up there for a few days.
Because the road runs so close to the Mexican border, there were about four border patrol checkpoints for traffic, obviously looking for illegal immigrants. They actually call these people illegal immigrants, because that is what they are. They are entering the USA illegally, somewhat like our asylum seekers who are entering Australia illegally. We had no problem here and got into San Diego late one afternoon. Accommodation is very easy to come by so we booked in for four nights.
Spent a great few days sightseeing including the USS Midway, the aircraft carrier which is permanently moored at Navy Pier. When this was finished in 1945 it was too large to fit through the Panama Canal. Its great that some of the blokes working as guides had actually been sailors on the Midway. One was giving a talk on the flight deck about the difficulties landing on a carrier.
The pilots have a saying that a carrier is the only thing that appears to get smaller as you approach it.
The USS Midway at berth in San Diego
Because San Diego is a naval base as well as a submarine base, there are 37,000 sailors permanently based there. We cruised past the naval dockyards and saw all sorts of modifications and work being done.
San Diego is only 15 miles from the Mexican border, so we decided to take a short trip down on a little tourist bus. There were only 16 of us on board as the driver said not too many tourists were interested in going to Mexico because of the drug cartel wars and violence there. He asked Alan what we were doing in the US and Alan replied we had come over for the Buick Nationals.
When we arrived in Tijuana a Danish bloke from the back of the bus came and introduced himself as Eric. He had heard Buicks mentioned and he himself had a 1970 Pontiac in Denmark. He is a member of the American Wheels Club in Aarlborg which has about 200 members, including some with Buicks. They sounded a fairly active bunch (only in the summer). They weren’t into judging but from his photos they seemed to enjoy BBQs, drinking and driving around. Sounds familiar. We swapped websites with him and promised to keep in touch. Its great to network with international likeminded people. While the rest of us were doing some serious shopping in Tijuana, Alan and Eric were showing each other car photos and discussing engines!
The next stop was LA and then dropping “Al Dente” off to the National Car Rental. We drove into the return lane and about four Latinos’ jaws dropped open. “What happened?” was the cry. We explained what had happened, handed the keys over, got our luggage and headed off for the shuttle to LAX. Thank heavens for insurance.
A quiet day on the Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana
The long flight home is over and we returned to cold rainy weather. All of a sudden the heat of southern Arizona is very welcoming.
We saw a lot, caught up with old friends at the National Meet and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The US never disappoints.
L M Haime (WA Buicks)
BUICK GOES RACING
Featuring the Buick Bug!
The following article is reproduced from an article written by Dave Norton from
the UK Chapter of the Buick Club of America 1988, found amongst some old
yellowed papers. What an era of racing it must have been with thundering cars
and smoke over some pretty rough tracks, and also the involvement of Bob
Burman and Louis Chevrolet driving Buicks to success.
“It has always been felt among motor manufacturers that a success in a race or
rally would almost certainly increase sales from the showrooms. Nearly every
company has attempted this, although if Mr Average Motorist really does
concern himself with this is a matter of conjecture. Obviously if a chap is
motoring minded and follows, as it were, the sport, then no doubt any decision
to buy a particular make could be encouraged by a big race success. It was
to this end that William Durant like many other early car builders, decided to
plunge his company into the fray.
The year was 1905, the event was held at Grosse Point, and the car …….. a
diminutive little Buick that was not even an official entry. As the field was
somewhat sparse, the Buick was allowed to compete. Its eventual first place
was in no small way attributed to its capable handler – Bob Burman.
Its strange to think that the name of Wild Bob Burman coupled with Buick was a
force to be reckoned with in the years around 1910, when a couple of years
earlier he had been a wheel painter in the old Durant-Dort Company. Durant,
although very busy producing motor cars for the clamouring public, was quick to
see the duo’s potential, and so Burman was entered for races at St Louis and
Grand Rapids with similar results. Walter Marr, Buick’s first Chief Engineer,
won the Eagle Rock Hill Climb in a 22 hp Model F, and the Mount Washington
event during 1907.
By 1908, Durant was working on a full race team for the season and it was at
this juncture that the Chevrolet brothers, Arthur and Louis, were enlisted to join
Bob Burman and Lewis Strang. It was also in this year that Burman thundered
to victory in the Massachusetts Dead Horse Hill Climb, Giants Despair Mountain
Climb and the 100-mile Free for All at Empire City Track, New York.
One of the biggest events of the year was lost to Bruce Brown in a massive
Benz, this race being the Savannah Georgia Grand Prix, against formidable
opposition of Lancia, Fiat and Benz in the hands of professionals like Hemery,
Wagner and Nazarro. Burman in a modified Model 10 Buick suffered no less
than 15 tyre changes against Brown’s Benz needing only one. Burman
finished third having no doubt quite a heated exchange with the tyre men!
During 1909, one success followed another. C E Easter won the Light Car
Championship on the Vanderbilt Cup Course, while Louis Chevrolet averaged
69.9 mph to gain a new American road race record and World Stock Car record
in the Riverhead, Long Island road race. The 200-mile Coca Cola Stock Car
trophy at Atlanta was also won by Chevrolet at 72 mph.
An actual Bug at Flint in 2003
In fact, by 1911 Buick had collected over 500 trophies, having competed all over
America, and even at the Coupe de l’Auto in France, St Petersburg in Czarist
Russia, and at Brooklands in Surrey, England, where in fact, an all Buick benefit
race was run in 1912.
Unfortunately, due to a culmination of events, no participation took place in
racing after 1913, but a treatise of Buick’s early racing history would not be
complete without mention of the Buick Bug as a motor car rather than a
somewhat fanatical state of mind.
The Model Sixty Special, or “Bug” as it was christened was built in 1910 and
looked like no other Buick. The power supply came from a four cylinder engine
of approximately ten-litre capacity fitted with overhead valves and two plugs per
cylinder. Seemingly, she had rather a large appetite for oil, thus an oil injection
system was manually operated to replenish the ever decreasing six quarts in
The Bug would tick over at 600 rpm and could be eased back to about 10 mph
in top gear, but could also be opened up to 55 mph in second. Of its top
speed, at the Indianapolis Raceway on July 1st, 1910, it was clocked at 105.87
mph on the straightway ….. yes, in 1910!
The Bug ran on 34 x 4 ½ tyres, and had foot brakes and transmission mounted
hand brake. The latter was the only means of stopping as the foot brake was
absolutely useless! It was said of the car that visibility was excellent in all
directions…….. except straight ahead! What a fantastic machine it must have
After the incredible success at Indy, Burman took the Bug to Pablo Beach
where he won a 20-mile free for all at an average speed of 91.06 mph.
Thankfully the Buick “Bug” is still with us. The car is on display in the Sloan
Panorama of Transportation in Flint, and the state of mind is in many.
L Haime (WA Buicks)
BUICK AIMS YOUNG
Those who were at Flint, Michigan last year and attended the final wingding at the J K
Whiting Auditorium will remember the speech given by Mr Roger Adams, General
Manager of the Buick Motor Company. Rog gave a talk on the future of Buick,
where it was heading and talked about the new prototype – the Velite.
The following article is from Forbes Magazine and written by Dan Lienert. Of special
interest to us Down Under is the Aussie connection mentioned in the article.
I think it is great to see Buick making a grab for its share of the market. A look in my
Funk and Wagnall dictionary (funking what?) reveals that “Velites” is a latin word
meaning light-armed Roman soldiers used in skirmishes in ancient legions. Okay.
“Vehicle of the Week – Buick Aims Young.
At next months New York International Auto Show, General Motors’ Buick Division will
show the Velite, a convertible prototype that Buick wants to build as its flagship model.
Buick’s current flagship car, the unexciting Park Avenue sedan, has grown old and will
be killed after next year.
Buick says it wants to put the Velite into production but not before it replaces the
LeSabre sedan in late 2005. As a rangetopping, well appointed convertible, the Velite
would make Buick’s image sportier and more upscale. It might even lower the total
number of jokes that link Buick and old people.
At this prototypical stage, the Velite is known as a “concept car.” It uses a V-6 engine
and the Zeta platform, a new set of mechanical underpinnings for the convertible and
other rear wheel drive cars. General Motors developed Zeta with a great deal of input
from Holden, its Australian subsidiary, and plans to use the platform around the world.
The company says it tapped the Aussies for the project because of their experience
with rear-wheel drive cars: Holden builds the Pontiac’s new rear-wheel drive GTO
coupe in Australia. Zeta has yet to be used in production, but it lends the Velite a
long wheelbase and short overhangs.
While the division would love to sell the Velite, Buick hinted at some other plans in a
statement about the convertible, saying that the car “forges ground in the exclusive
territory of expressive, upscale rear-wheel drive sedans.” What, do you ask, does a
two-door convertible have to do with sedans? The answer is that in fact, Buick is
considering a plan to build two flagship cars: the Velite and a new, rear-wheel drive
sedan that could share the Zeta platform.
The rear-wheel drive sedan would cap a run of major changes to Buick’s sedan roster.
The division’s new LaCrosse sedan will replace the tired Regal and Century lines when
it goes on sale this fall. At an auto show early next year, Buick will display the 2006
model that will replace the LeSabre later in 2005. The new car may not keep the
LeSabre name but it will come in low and high end versions. Buick says it can sell
the high end car to fans who don’t want to see the Park Avenue go.
These new sedans will be front-drive, like the LeSabre. The purpose of teaming the
Velite with a second, rear-drive flagship would be to have a sportier Buick sedan atop
the roster. The rear-drive sedan would be more expensive than the high end LeSabre
You won’t find any front-drive sedans in the rosters of BMW or Daimler’s Mercedes-
Benz subsidiary. The time is right to imitate the Germans, since Americans can
apparently beat them at their own game; according to Consumer Reports, Buicks now
break down less than BMWs.
GM has yet to finalise plans for the Velite. It hasn’t even decided if the production
model would be a convertible, even if the concept is. Buick is no spring chicken –
but it will catch the attention of BMW and Mercedes if it prowls into their territory with
sporty rear-drive convertibles and sedans.”
L. Haime (WA Buicks)