By on December 16, 2011

The other day, I got a text message with a photo of a junked vintage Detroit wagon from Alex Vendler, creator of the CBR1000-powered Geo Metro Gnome and the upcoming Hayabusa-powered Toyota Starlet. Alex is a Hollywood cinematographer in his day job, so I figured he should be able to shoot some decent junkyard photos. “Shoot more!” I demanded. And he did.
Southern California self-service yards get quite a few ancient beaters with zero rust, like this Buick.
I love the old car radios with the CONELRAD stations marked. My ’69 Toyota Corona‘s factory radio had CONELRAD symbols, six years after CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the aluminum 215 engine that eventually became the Rover V8. The Buick version is quite rare in junkyards, unlike its Rover descendents.
It’s always nice to get the work of a professional camera guy when you need junkyard photographs, even when he is forced to use an iPhone instead of a real camera. Thanks, Alex!

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82 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1963 Buick Wagon...”


  • avatar
    tced2

    Love those mid-60′s GM ignition switches. You only needed the key to move the switch from LOCK to OFF. You could then remove the key and freely move the switch to operate the car. I don’t recall any big dislike by the insurance companies or police from cars that could be operated without a key.

    “Delco All Transistor”. As I recall my grandfather had a ’62 Buick Invicta that had the first transistor car radio that I encountered. Before that you had to wait a minute or two for the tubes to warm up before you could hear anything.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      On my eponymous 86 Chev 1/2 ton you could pull the key right out even when the truck was running.

      Nice feature in frigid Saskatchewan when you wanted to warm up the vehicle, lock it and go back inside for a few.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      That key went away with the ’65′s. I seem to remember a big advertising campaign against auto theft around that time. The ads were primarily concerned with teen-age joyriding. Guess chop shops didn’t exist when I was a kid.

      GM was always big on ‘keyless’ ignition. My ’37 Buick Special had a setup where there was a large ignition toggle switch on the right hand side of the steering column when it met the dash. You flipped up the switch and stepped on the accelerator to engage the starter. Security was provided by a key switch in the setup that, when locked, pulled the toggle switch in demobilizing it – and locking the steering column.

      Guess they had more auto theft in 1937 than in 1964. Or so they thought.

      By the way, those anti-theft ads were government sponsored. Public service announcements, as they were called back then.

  • avatar
    skor

    Back in the day GM did a lot of technically innovative things. Did the public really care? If the above car’s engine had been made out of compressed dog crap with a trans held together with J-B Weld, it probably would not have sold any worse than it did. The suits at GM ultimately came to the same conclusion, and a negative feedback cycle was born. Sometimes I think that the US auto makers and the typical US consumer deserve each other.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Special/Skylark had an interesting V-8 engine, but it was also troublesome and not very durable. The V-6 was a rough-running engine. The transmission wasn’t too durable, either.

      Sorry, but I don’t blame Americans for balking at buying a car with troublesome components, especially when you could get a Ford Fairlane V-8 that did everything as well and was more reliable. (It’s also worth noting that the thinwall construction of the Fairlane V-8 negated the main advantage of the Buick V-8′s use of aluminum.)

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        The cars had their issues, but it wasn’t apparent right from the start. Most American’s just didn’t give a crap. Alumi-what?

        When the original Ford Mustang was on the drawing boards, Ford designed a proper IRS for the car(designed using Ford’s in-house computer no less…a big deal in 1964). That IRS was tested on a Falcon and looked really promising. When Ford’s accountants and actuaries looked at the IRS they came to an interesting conclusion: The buying public doesn’t care. You can sell just as many Mustangs with a rear suspension out of a Conestoga wagon as you can with a proper IRS. To this day you can’t get a Mustang with an IRS, even though the current Mustang is built on a global platform that was originally designed for IRS. What’s that tell you about the American car buying public?

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        skor:

        First of all, the Mustang is NOT built on the Jaguar S/Lincoln LS platform as commonly and mistakenly believed. The car was originally intended to use the platform, but instead was developed on its own underpinnings that shared next to nothing with the Lincoln and Jag.

        Second of all, the current Mustang works very well – solid axle and all. Ask those who race it. The famed English auto writer LJK Setright once said that American engineers often made “primitive” technology work better than their European counterparts with their more complicated solutions.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It depends on how you define platform. They share floor pans, portions of the transmission tunnel, the front frame rails, and basic fuel tank design. The suspension components were changed, and not to improve performance. Mustangs have to sell profitably for less than Lincolns and Jaguars do. Ford wisely spread development costs around, but perhaps it is a shame that they didn’t do more with the sedans’ potentially more sophisticated chassis components.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The problems with the aluminum V-8 and transmission used in these cars didn’t take long to show themselves.

        The simple fact is that the supposedly “low tech” thinwall V-8 used in the Fairlane and Falcon was a better all-around engine for less money. Couple it with a better transmission than what was found in the BOP compacts, and it isn’t hard to see why the GM offerings didn’t sell well compared to the Ford offerings.

        Looks to me as though the American automobile customer made the rational choice for the time, unless people were supposed to buy the more complicated vehicle for its own sake, regardless of how well it worked in the real world.

    • 0 avatar

      This was around the time that GM realized (thanks to John DeLorean and cronies) that you could throw a big engine and some gingerbread at a midsize coupe, triple the marketing budget, and print money. Lesson learned: the car doesn’t matter. I always see 1964 as the beginning of the end for GM, the point at which the company went from top innovator to hypnotized-by-marketing-schmucks scamster.

      • 0 avatar
        jpcavanaugh

        I always thought that GM’s early 60s period was not so much about innovation, as about being a show-off. “Hey, all you lesser car companies, lookee what we can do! Because we CAN, that’s why!”

        All of GM’s innovation was either dead-end (Corvair rear engine and transaxle) or badly executed (aluminum V8 that was not sufficiently developed.) In contrast, Chrysler gave us the alternator while Ford pioneered the thinwall iron engine block and disc brakes (picking up where Studebaker left off).

        GM’s last hurrah as an innovator was on the Toronado front wheel drive system. Finally a durable unit, but why? A technological showcase, but a complete dead end from an evolutionary standpoint. GM would do big front drive vehicles later, but they were not based on that platform.

      • 0 avatar
        V572625694

        It didn’t hurt that gas was 25 cents a gallon either, and that we weren’t buying it from terrorists, or so we thought.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        GM’s last hurrah as an innovator was on the Toronado front wheel drive system. Finally a durable unit, but why?

        Well, that flat floor was a major selling point. With small, unibody, FWD cars, a center hump is still needed to maintain structural integrity. A big ‘ole, traditional BOF car can get away with a no-hump flat floor with FWD.

        Without that flat floor, I can’t imagine GM ever having spent the money to develop/produce either the Toronado or Eldorado.

        To a lesser extent, a relatively flat (or, at least, flatter) floor probably played a part in the short-lived, rear transaxle ‘rope-drive’ Tempest, as well as the ill-fated Corvair.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    The thing had Halogen headlights in it. So, it was still on the road in 1983.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    A former GF was a town-and-country-girl(hint…that doesn’t mean she owned a mini-van…it means her parents were well-enough-off to own a home in the city, and a farm in the country.) Her parents’ farm had a section which became a dumping ground for all of her 8 brothers’ former cars.

    One of these was a 1963 Oldsmobile version of this same wagon, an F-85. Back in the day, I truly wanted to haul that wagon (the body was nearly pristine, and I was intrigued by the aluminum engine) to a shop and restore it and turn it into an awesome party wagon…the trim size of the car and its awesome early-60′s Olds lines were just way too cool.

    Alas, I was a self-matriculating college student (that means I was working and paying for it myself)so, I had to choose between working on my passions (at the time, cars, cannabis and this particular young lady….she was the youngest of 13, born on, and named, Christmas Eve…and was the most exquisite…well, that’s not a part of this story….) and working on my education.

    Tempus has fugited, as it has a habit of doing. I suspect Christie still lives near the area. I heard she’s married with 3 kids….I kinda suspect the farm has either been sold or developed, so that F-85 was long ago turned into a Camry or a bridge girder. Lost opportunities….

    Please don’t ever stop shooting and posting these pictures. For those of us who have always loved cars, been excited by cars, lived our lives through cars, these images…no matter how decrepit or timeworn the cars appear to be….these images evoke in our hearts and minds not only the grand machines themselves…they evoke memories of where we were and whom we were with when these cars were important to us. Thanks.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    BTW…on the first shot of the rear lift-gate….the backlight has chrome pillars in it. Were these functional? Did they divide the glass so that the center section could roll down? Did the corner windows open like vent windows? Anyone know or remember?

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      My family had a 61 F-85 wagon. The center section of the back glass rolled down (ours was electric) and the side panels were fixed. Without the side panels, I believe that the window would have had too much curvature to roll down into the liftgate.

      By the way, this 1 piece liftgate was pretty unique for the era, as the 2 piece (lift the window up and pull the gate down) was still fairly common and the other prevailing design was a single lower gate that required the window to be lowered into the gate first, then the gate would lower.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Plymouth Valiant station wagons of the era, up through their last year in 1966, did have a window that rolled down into the bottom-hinged tailgate, just like larger wagons of the 1960s. I think the same is true for Ford Falcon wagons. I don’t know about the Chevy Nova or Corvair wagons, but I’m sure photos of all these are online.

        I am amazed to see any 1960s wagon today, even in photos like this. Our family was deep into them – full-size Pontiacs specifically – and I spent hundreds of hours in them as a kid. If we had a garage and the resources, I would want to do a restomod (is that the term? – modern drivetrain, safety features to the extent possible, etc.) of the last of that sequence of wagons, a 1967 Executive dealer demonstrator that had every option – yes, the standard fake woodgrain AND a vinyl top – it was our first car with a factory 8-track stereo (and I still have the tapes and a working 1973 player). The 1967 Pontiac full-size cars were something special, weren’t they?

  • avatar

    These are really great photos. THanks Alex!

  • avatar
    GS650G

    That 215 V-8 is a favorite swap on Volkswagons from what I’ve been told. I’m very surprised to see it still there.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      I did a Skip Barber Formula Ford School in the early 80′s. One of the instructors (Bruce Mcginnis?) had a VW bus with one these I believe hanging out the back. The thing was covered up by a box, because it stuck out so far.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …..dejal1….I did an early Skip Barber school taught by Bruce (MacInnes) on the Sebring course around that time. Don’t remember that microbus, but I do recall him getting seriously riled when one of the Andretti clan buzzed the track at 100 ft. in their Learjet.(he is a pilot himself). One of our co-students was the colorful Preston Henn, who flew us in and out of West Palm Beach every day, and wouldn’t dream of accepting any “gas money”. Preston went on to sponsor and co-drive numerous Le Mans and Daytona Porsches, and has one of the world’s biggest supercar collections in his famous Florida “Swap Shop” buildings. A quick googling indicates Bruce is now doing private race coaching, among other interesting things.

      • 0 avatar
        Bryce

        The Rover Buick fits inside a Kombi engine bay

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    My first car was a 1961 Olds F-85 with the aluminum block V-8 and two-speed automatic. This was in 1968, and the car was so rusty the only things holding it together were bumper stickers. Yes, they don’t build cars like they used to. Now they last a long time.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    This was a family vehicle. It was designed for men who knew how to make babies and married to women who knew how to take care of them. By this year, often American families had two vehicles, but only one single income. Suburbia was florishing and booming and only urban eggheads decried what they knew was the end of their dreams of containing Americans within cities and controlling them through mass transit, government policies and uniformity. Civil rights were being fought for, the GI generation was calling the shots, and there was a Look magazine model family living in the White House, promising humanity that we will reach the moon by the end of the decade.

    This Buick was made for people who saw a bright future for their children and for the United States. These fathers often worked a productive shift making something in a manufacturing plant. They were often paid by the hour in a union shop. Many of them were veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War. Half of them smoked cigarettes. They believed they were personally responsible for their family’s budget. They fought for their country so had no doubts as to the importance of containing Communism around the globe.

    This vehicle was designed to meet their needs for a slightly upscale family wagon. Buick was a popular choice for men striving for social recognition. Back in 1963, married couples believed that conception and birth was a natural, healthy, normal part of their lives. This wagon was designed to accommodate a robust family with more than a few children. And a dog.

    Life wasn’t easier then. It just looked easier in hindsight. A generation that didn’t run to Oprah to expose family issues, or Maury Povich to expose family embarrassments, knew the importance of a public presentation of normalcy. Uncle Gary, living with his good friend Mike, and who like wearing make-up occassionally, knew to keep his private matters private, and no one talked about how hard daddy spanked when you pissed him off.

    This vehicle was made for a generation of buyers who believed in the societal roles placed upon them, and appreciated the dependability of those roles because they knew what happened in the world when those roles unraveled during depression and wars. They knew that life was easier pushing a shopping cart through Safeway with six toddlers, than it was trying to find out what happened to your six toddlers after they were sent to Auschwitz. This vehicle was made for a generation of buyers who didn’t whine about personal fulfillment, because they didn’t expect their life to be perfect.

    By the end of this year, Kennedy was dead and a generation of school children began wondering why the color of your skin determined if you can get served at the corner Walgreens. Instead of accepting the social roles placed upon them and finding comfort in those roles, the next generation wanted self determination. A generation enriched in suburbia felt comfortable tearing down the social institutions unaware of what the walls were holding back.

    This old hulk of a wagon makes one think.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      VDude….brilliantly written and poignant. You truly are one of the B&B. Thanks for making my day.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      And the head of the “model family living in the White House” almost started WW3 in Cuba, got us deeper involved in a “police action” in S.E. Asia.

      Must have been the drugs he was taking for all the back pain he had.

      Didn’t stop him from doing Marilyn Monroe though.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOldChryslers

        Didn’t stop him from doing Marilyn Monroe though.
        Just another one of those things that nobody talked about.

        @VDude: That was really deep. Thanks. This really sets the scene for life at the beginning of the 60′s. There was also an interesting thread on CC earlier this week about the end of the 60′s.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        “And the head of the “model family living in the White House” almost started WW3 in Cuba”

        I didn’t know Nikita Khrushchev lived in the White House.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        +10 gslippy.

        The Cuban standoff wasn’t bull headed escalation between peers on a global stage. Because the USSR was a mass murdering gulag state. It had no peers. Full stop.

        Painting Kennedy as some kind of equivalent to Khrushchev is simultaneously ridiculous and insulting. Kennedy slept around. Khrushchev signed death warrants.

        I’d like to credit the moral equivalence view with simple ignorance of history. But the moonbats who hold it almost never seem to choose to be ignorant of the ways America was wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      VanillaDude, anytime you want, I’ll give you a byline at Cars In Depth. Great stuff.

      They knew that life was easier pushing a shopping cart through Safeway with six toddlers, than it was trying to find out what happened to your six toddlers after they were sent to Auschwitz.

      In 1963, I was probably at the Jewish Community Center on Meyers and Curtis in Detroit at least once or twice a week. I liked to swim, so I usually ended up getting a locker. The locker room attendant was a friendly older guy named Fritz. It was warm and humid near the pool so Fritz always wore his sleeves rolled up. It was hard not to notice the Hollerith number tattooed on his left forearm as he handed you your key and towel.

      That was less than 20 years after the camps and their few survivors were liberated.

      How Fritz and other survivors got on with their lives and didn’t just sink into despair I’ll never understand.

      My parents’ good friends, the Reeds, were both survivors, their two kids close friends to me and my siblings. Etta passed away not long ago at the age of 93 or so. When Emil died some years back, though our families were close enough that I was 7 before I realized that Uncle Emil and Aunt Etta weren’t really my aunt and uncle, that was the first time I found out that this was his second family, his first wife and baby having been killed by the Nazis.

      Some of the folks pushing those shopping carts and driving those American station wagons personally knew only too well how good their lives were then and how bad things can get.

      • 0 avatar
        BoredOOMM

        Agreed as one of the best pieces on 60 culture I have read in a long time. I would deal with more of the 3-D photos I cannot see on CID to simply read more like this.

      • 0 avatar

        BoredOOMM,

        There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the graphics on CID even if you don’t have 3D glasses or a 3D monitor. The Flash player we use for photos and the YouTube 3D video player that we use for videos both have mono/2D options. It’d be kind of dumb to have a site that the majority of people can’t enjoy.

        From the outset I knew that the site had to be compatible with both folks who have a variety of 3D systems and people who don’t have any kind of 3D. Fortunately the Flash and YouTube playera take care of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Rockford Brodie

      While I agree that this post is well written, I just cannot agree with it’s message. I’m sure life in the early 60′s was great…if you were straight, white, Christian, and preferably male. As someone who is only half of those things, the idea of living in an era where it was shameful to be different sounds just plain awful.

      As an aside, I don’t think you meant to imply that the Civil Rights movement was ultimately a negative thing, but that’s how it comes across IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        if you were straight, white, Christian, and preferably male.

        Vanilla might want to take off the rose colored glasses now and again.

      • 0 avatar
        turtletop

        Sometimes a station wagon is just a station wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Funny, I read it as a rather accurate rendition of how the probable first owner of that Buick saw life and reality. Because, in a lot of ways that viewpoint was how my late father saw life.

        A number of the replies to VanillaDude’s little essay reminds us of one of the greatest costs of breaking out of that safe, secure life in search of greater freedom and self-determination:

        The ability to become offended at the drop of a hat.

        And baby, that’s one ability we as a society have honed to the sharpest edge possible.

        If all you guys haven’t noticed, VanillaDude was writing history, not an editorial. Take it as just that – history.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …….While I agree that this post is well written, I just cannot agree with it’s message. I’m sure life in the early 60′s was great…if you were straight, white, Christian, and preferably male. As someone who is only half of those things, the idea of living in an era where it was shameful to be different sounds just plain awful…..

        +10000. It is very easy to reflect back and cherry pick your mammories. The reality then would be very hard to deal with by somebody grounded in today. It is easy to wax nostalgically about that car, but if you drove it, you would have spiteful handling, stinky, filthy exhaust and gas vapors inside. Never mind what would happen if you crashed it. I won’t even get into the DDT and “religious regulation” mindset of many back then. No thanks. Today’s world is loaded with problems that may or not have existed back then and may or may not have been solved yet but I’ll take today over yesterday…though if I could go back in time I’d buy some killer muscle cars and store them for my trip back to today….

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        I think Syke has it, VD was recalling history, not editorializing so much. Reminiscing doesn’t produce pleasant thoughts for everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Very well written “Vanilla Dude” Though speaking as a soon to be 58 year old, I can’t help but to agree with “Syke”.

        It seems these days everybody is offended by something.

        I spent 36 years in the the auto assembly buisness. What we called “shop talk” in the seventies and eighties,would today cause someone to be fired.
        The first time I was called a “mick” I had to ask my dad what it meant.

        Times have changed, and its probably for the better. VD was just giving a very well written, and thought out, historical account.

      • 0 avatar
        jkumpire

        With respect,you are 100% wrong. Life was not perfect for anyone, and to say if you were not white, Christian, male and straight life was some kind of daily hellhole is just mythology.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        It is very easy to reflect back and cherry pick your mammories.

        Mmmm…cherry-picked mammories…

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        For what it’s worth, also meeting only two of those criteria, my daily driver is the Bush-I-era equivalent of this beast – a Volvo 740 wagon. Upscale and conservative for its time; today, fallen somewhat into disrepair.

        I grew up an individual, for sure – knowing I was different from the other kids, eventually realising what that meant – and knowing that I didn’t fit in with Them, either. Defying stereotypes, chiseling away at the remains of those walls, shaping them as they’ve shaped my small-town upbringing, is a point of pride for me.

        Which means, of course, that I’m usually the only old Volvo in the fast lane.

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      Early post-WWII America was an aberration in world history. Because America was left undamaged by the war, half the world’s remaining manufacturing capability was contained within the U.S. This was an unsustainable percentage over the long run. Unions were strong, taxation of wealth was confiscatory, government invested heavily in infrastructure and education, and the middle class grew by leaps and bounds.

      Wages were high in relationship to fixed living costs, especially housing, thus allowing for single-earner families and stay-at-home moms, something not generally possible in the 19th century, when every family member had to work to support life at a subsistence level. Of my classmates in the early 60s, only one had a mother working full time. His was also the only single-child family we knew of. We felt sorry for him.

      I recently came across my second grade class photo, taken in 1956. All the kids are scrubbed and clean, but wearing work (play) clothes, nothing fancy. All are children or grandchildren of immigrants, either from Europe or the Deep South. Half the children are black. Most of our fathers worked for Sharon Steel, which had 7,000 employees. The other big employer was the Westinghouse transformer plant, which had 2,000.

      I cut the grass for several of Sharon Steel’s upper management. We didn’t call it lawn care in those days. These men lived comfortably but not extravagantly, knew all the workers on the shop floor, and were dedicated members of the local community. They ran the most modern steel mill in America at the time, most of whose production went into Big Three cars, like this 1963 Buick.

      Sharon Steel was taken over by the first of the big-time white collar thieves, Victor Posner, who transferred the wealth Sharon Steel had created into his own pockets. My father was a craneman loading the trucks that were sent to Posner’s private warehouse 12 miles down I-80, where the steel he bought cheaply from Sharon Steel was stored for later resale at higher price.

      Today, what is left of what once was Sharon Steel employs one-tenth the number of workers it once had and at half the salary. And we’re back to families needing two incomes to make it.

      • 0 avatar
        turtletop

        Fred, if no one else will do it, then let me say thank you for a much-needed injection of reality into the conversation. I couldn’t have put it any better.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Fred Schumacher: They ran the most modern steel mill in America at the time, most of whose production went into Big Three cars, like this 1963 Buick.

        The problem was that “the most modern steel mill in America” was quickly bested by mills in Japan, which could produce higher quality products at a lower cost.

        During those “good old days” unions and management squeezed the golden goose until it was dead. The union through overstaffing and generous benefits, and management through non-investment in new processes and equipment, to keep up the stock price. They could get away with this because there was little real foreign competition until the mid-1970s.

        Here in Pennsylvania it was not uncommon to see steel mills in the 1970s using production processes largely unchanged from the 1890s, and equipment from the 1920s.

        The people who were ultimately hurt by this system were customers. When higher quality products arrived on the scene, they instead bought those. Which is basically what happened with the automobile industry.

        Incidentally, the United States is still one of the largest producers of steel in the world (ranked third, last time I looked), and we produce higher quality steel at a lower relative cost than what came out of the mills during the “good old days.”

      • 0 avatar
        fred schumacher

        Re: Geeber: The problem was that “the most modern steel mill in America” was quickly bested by mills in Japan….Here in Pennsylvania it was not uncommon to see steel mills in the 1970s using production processes largely unchanged from the 1890s, and equipment from the 1920s.

        That’s true to a large degree. Over in Youngstown or down the Ohio River Valley that’s what you saw. Lester Thurow discussed this in Zero Sum Solution. Ultimately, undamaged old technology in America hurt its global competitiveness versus the recovering nations of Germany and Japan.

        However, Sharon Steel was special. It had the first Kaldo basic oxygen furnaces in America and had gotten rid of its old open hearth furnaces. The Kaldos could make a heat in a couple of hours instead of taking a whole day. Sharon Steel had the first continuous rolling strip mill in America. It made high quality alloy steels, stainless steel and even had a titanium mill.

        Victor Posner, who got his start in organized crime as a bag man for Meyer Lansky, dismantled Sharon Steel financially to transfer its wealth into his own pockets. While he was doing this, the union gave up concessions to keep the mill operating. It was the financial theft, not the production of steel, that was reducing Sharon Steel’s profitability.

        We were lucky as kids to grow up in the Shenango Valley of Western Pennsylvania. We lived a rural life, but our fathers had urban jobs. The founder of Sharon Steel, Frank Buhl, was a philanthropist who paid for and established the Buhl Library, Buhl Club, Buhl Park, and the only free golf course in America. We used to bike there and, with a shared two iron (putting left handed) and a couple of balls found in the rough, play golf.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @fred: Did you live in the Shenango Valley when they renamed Broadway in Farrell “Victor Posner Boulevard”? He was hailed as a great American hero, for “saving” Sharon Steel…

        Nowadays, the best thing to come out of Sharon is the Quaker Steak and Lube.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Fred, thanks for your posts here. The peek inside the Sharon Steel issue was quite an eye opener. It is criminal that an opportunistic crook like Posner could destroy a company and an entire region like that in his quest to grab as much for himself with no regard for those who made such wealth possible. How many places in America were “company” towns with only a couple of major employers…

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      I’m VanillaDude and I tried to respectfully represent a generation of Americans who tried their best to be responsible and give their children and grandchildren a better country. Frankly, we are discovering today that leaving behind a better country isn’t to be taken for granted. Kudos to them, right?

      I’m trying to do what I can to offset what I see as a generational prejudice against earlier generations. We are not better than they were. What passes as normal beliefs within each generation is often derided with insults by the next as though we are all decendants of fools, barbarians and idiots.

      This Buick was bought without 60 month financing, but had a 60 day warranty. That was life. Compared to what they experienced, it was a great deal.

  • avatar
    Variant

    Probably a silly question, but this has been bugging me for a while.

    What’s the deal with all of these cars balanced up on wheels? Are they stable like that? Because they certainly look precarious

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Wheels are welded. Stable and cheap. You need to get to a self serve lot ASAP.

    VD that was very well written. I had no idea that a big ol wagon represented so much.

  • avatar

    I go to a ton of car shows every year and I have yet to see one of these wagons pull into a show. Vintage station wagons in general are headed in the same direction as the passenger pigeon and I hope that one of your readers decides to save this one, despite the logistics of missing pieces for an unloved body style from the past.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      It’s a four door, generally speaking, four door anything are not real popular for restoration projects. Two door wagons like the Nomad and the two door version of the Falcon wagon are popular….so too are the “sedan delivery” versions.

      • 0 avatar
        fred schumacher

        What tends to get saved is the special. The ordinary, exactly because it is ordinary, is lost. A friend of mine who was a preservationist for the Minnesota Historical Society said they had drawer after drawer of old christening gowns but no work clothes from the 19th century. The work clothes had been turned into rags and were not saved.

      • 0 avatar

        Fred, there’s a lot of museum quality Judaica, stuff families pass down, but there are very few old sets of phylacteries or prayer shawls because they get worn out.

        There’s a reason why collectors collect ephemera.

        I was at a home once and they had a fabric Passover matzah cover in a case on the wall. It must have been exceptionally old – Passover items only get used one week out of the year, so to be worn enough to be taken out of use it had to be at least a century old.

        Getting back to an automotive vein and what you said about the common and mundane not getting preserved, one of the reasons why I like the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum is that it’s housed in an authentic 1950s style auto dealership – in this case the last surviving Hudson dealership. Where can you see what a parts department looked like in 1955?

        http://www.carsindepth.com/?p=2244

        2D images at the link

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Allow me to toss in a personal theory to add on top of the current conversation:

        I got into the antique car hobby in 1968, owning a 1937 Buick Special 2-door sedan. Back then, you saw lots of 4-door sedans, either in original condition or restored to factory showroom originality at the antique car shows. Which were, antique car shows. No hot-rods, customs, or anything that wasn’t straight off the factory floor.

        In 1974, the movie “American Graffiti” came out.

        I noticed, within a couple of years that the antique car hobby had changed. Suddenly, owners were restoring or modifying their cars to look like Saturday night cruise specials that they either owned previous, thought they owned previously, or dreamed about owning at a 16 year old, but never came close to having one.

        Four door sedans, mundane original restorations, and the low end (but most popular in terms of sales) cars started disappearing in favor of a two door something with at least bolt on custom wheels, a stereo blaring out 50′s and early 60′s pop music, and a general wish to suddenly trip over Suzanne Somers driving a white ’55 T-Bird.

        And customs (modern customs – some having never seen the original plant, not just restorations of something that some kid actually built in 1955), hot-rods, and cruisers replaced museum-quality antique cars. And antique car shows were getting pushed out by ‘cruise nights’ at the local drive-in as a placed where you took your antique auto.

        It’s not only cars. I’ve noticed that there’s way too big a chopper and cafe racer (I’m guilty on the latter, by the way) classes at vintage motorcycle shows. Although the vintage restorations still predominate.

        And with the antique bicycles, it’s the high end stuff that’s being restored. I’m a definite oddity in my crowd with my love and willingness to restore vintage low-end French ten-speeds that sold for $100.00 new.

  • avatar
    Alex Vendler

    Thanks for posting up those pics Phil. I had fun taking them and now will add a decent camera to my boneyard specific tool bag.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    BTW, I surmise from the added paint marking on the rear panel that this vehicle has been certified a GM “OK” used car and is, in fact, for sale.

  • avatar

    When my grandfather bought his big new Impala in 1972, my next oldest sister and I inherited his 1963 Olds F-85 4-door to run around in. With a strong engine and 3-speed auto in an Accord-sized option-less car, it was quite the sleeper vehicle, teeny hub caps and all. Same baby crap brown as this Buick.

    My sister rear-ended another car a few months later and totalled it. I have not yet forgiven her. I then had to drive Mom’s Vega. Double-ouch.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Yup. Vanilla is deep. My Dad had a ’63 Impala wagon. It hauled Mom and 4 kids and our luggage on 12 hour drives to the Ozarks. And him and 3 fishing buddies and gear up for Northern and Walleye fishing in Canada. Took us to Florida. I still love wagons (and have one).

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Great post. Back in GM’s glory days, they could do things like major restyles on these B-O-P A-bodies for only a single model year. The Buick refresh was, to my eyes, the least successful. The 63 Special is pretty ugly, especially compared to the nice looking 62. It was also a very adventurous episode for GM engineering: the IRS-transaxle “rope-drive” Tempest, the aluminum V8 Special and the turbo charged F-85. The General turned them from “luxury compacts” (61-63) to intermediates in 64. The 64s were larger, and a lot more conventional. Needless to add, they sold like hotcakes.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …..willb….what a great era that was. Delorean’s Tempest was a technological tour-de-force …..sohc inline 6 cylinder, fibreglass (I think) curved drive-shaft, rear mounted trans, and IRS. Oldsmobile pioneered turbocharging in a production car (neck and neck with Corvair), Buick debuted the aluminum 215 V8, a motor that lived on for 45 more years under Rover’s management. Throw in the Riviera, FWD Toronado, Stingray, Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, and the GTO, and you’re looking at a pretty busy bunch of designers and engineers…..GM’s heyday for sure.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    In the 70s, I had a ’63 Tempest Le Mans 326c.i. 3-speed manual (on floor) with bucket seats. Forerunner to the GTO. It was QUICK. I kept breaking the 1″ solid drive shafts. (Is that what you meant by ‘rope-drive’ ?) But I was a poor student, (two meanings there) and when the timing chain (or belt) broke, I sold it rather than fixing it.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      The ‘rope drive’ was the somewhat flexible drive shaft. The Tempest was set up where the back of the engine was slightly lower than the front so the drive shaft had to bow somewhat to get to the transmission. Very radical for it’s day. Also, as you found out, great for the four cylinder but a bit overstressed for the V-8.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “certified a GM “OK” used car”

    Routines vary from yard to yard but I will guess that with the yard in California there is a god chance that the “OK” designates that fluids (gas, coolant, etc.) have been drained and that the battery has been removed and any other in-place procedures required by the yard have been met.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    And the head of the “model family living in the White House” almost started WW3 in Cuba,

    Cuba was a situation he inherited. Thankfully the other guy blinked.

    got us deeper involved in a “police action” in S.E. Asia.

    Again, the advisor scenario he inherited, Johnson led the buildup.

    Must have been the drugs he was taking for all the back pain he had.

    Having broken my back 31 years ago, constant pain ins’t pretty. I’d love a Monroe-like therapy.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……..it’s kind of homely looking, but this Special is actually a pretty rare car, in fact I don’t remember ever seeing one, even in the day. Doesn’t matter much, though…..far too many doors to give it collector value, but I love that 215. IMHO the only wagons worth serious restoration costs are Caballeros, Fiestas, Nomads (Pontiac had a version, but can’t remember the model name), and any Ford with real lumber panelling. Seen any Vista Cruisers, Murilee?

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    When I was in high school (mid 70′s) a friend’s brother acquired the Olds F-85 version of this wagon for the specific purpose of pulling the engine to stuff it into an MGB. He then junked the rest of the wagon. It was in great condition. I steered the engineless car when he pushed it out to the street to be picked up by the tow truck. I almost cried. He never did finish the damned MGB project either.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I dig the VIN tag. And those had FOUR bolt hubs? Call it the early Accord of the nuclear age…:)

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Magic Mirror ACRYLIC LACQUER,
      GM in its heyday for sure.

      Four lug hubs and 13″ rims were normal for compact cars back then. The thing probably weighed way less than 3000lb even with the station wagon body, aluminum V-8 and “Dual-Path Turbine Drive” transmission.


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