1950 Buick

Proof of Buick's leadership in the 1950 GM body program was the 1950 Special, riding a 121.5-inch wheelbase. Introduced on August 8, 1949, it was the first GM make and model to carry the bold new styling to the public. It even preceded the Buick Super and Roadmaster by several months.

At the time of the Special's debut, only fastbacks -- or "Jet-backs," as Buick called them in 1950 -- were offered: a two-door and four-door in standard trim and in a DeLuxe sub-series. Priced at $1,856 for the standard two-door (also often called "Sedanet") and $1,909 for the four-door, Buick was now poised to give Plymouth a run for the Number Three position in sales.

Also listed was a business coupe, a fastback sans back seat, priced at just $1,803. A few months later, when the Super and Roadmaster models were introduced, the Special series added a notchback four-door "Touring Sedan" in both standard and DeLuxe trim.

The Specials were so popular that close to 82,000 copies were sold before the 1949 calendar year ended. Buick output in the 1950 calendar year leaped an incredible 38 percent to 552,827 units, due in great measure to the success of the Special. More amazing was model-year production: up 104.8 percent, assisted by the early introduction of the new Special (although some ended up being titled as '49s).

Total Special output came to 338,331, or nearly half of all the 670,256 Buicks produced for the 1950 model run. That year Buick held an 8.2-percent share of the U.S. auto market -- not quite up to Plymouth, but pushing it very hard. Although Buick actually built more cars than Plymouth for the model year, it couldn't quite unseat Plymouth in sales.

1950-1952 Buick
The Buick Super was offered
in the 1950 Estate Wagon.

The Super was built on the same 121.5-inch wheelbase as the Special, and shared the same body. It was offered as a four-door Touring Sedan (Buick also used the term "Tourback" in the early Fifties), two-door Jetback, convertible, Estate Wagon with partial wooden body, and, for the first time, a Riviera hardtop coupe.

Another addition to the Super series for 1950 was an impressive-looking Riviera four-door sedan riding a longer 125.5-inch wheelbase and sharing its C-body with the Roadmaster. Priced at only $73 more than the Touring Sedan, it was twice as popular.

Roadmasters, on a 126.25-inch wheel-base, came as a four-door, four-window sedan; two-door Jetback; convertible; Riviera hardtop; DeLuxe Riviera hardtop; and Estate Wagon. All of these Roadmasters used the same basic body as the Specials and Supers, but with a longer wheelbase and hood. In addition, there was the Model 72: a Riviera C-body four-door sedan boasting a 130.25-inch wheelbase.

This year, all Roadmasters sported the sweepspear, but the Riviera sedan and Estate Wagon didn't get it until midyear. Self-shift Dynaflow, first introduced in 1948, was standard on Roadmasters and optional elsewhere; 85 percent of all 1950 Buicks had it.

1950-1952 Buick
Buick's success in 1950 was due in
part to the Riviera hardtop.

A second reason for Buick's sales success in 1950 was the variety of Riviera hardtops. Production of the pillarless coupe jumped from 4,314 Roadmasters in 1949 to 56,030 Super Rivieras, 2,300 Roadmasters, and 8,432 Roadmaster DeLuxes, for a total of 66,762 hardtops for 1950. This was second only to the new Chevrolet Bel Air (by about 10,000 units), and represented one-quarter of the total hardtop market that year.

A few notes about the 1950 Buick are in order. Portholes, the VentiPorts, became flattened ovals and moved from the front fenders onto sides of the hood: four on each side for Roadmasters, three for Supers and Specials. Windshields for the Super and Roadmaster were one-piece units, but back windows remained three-piece on all notchback models. Windshields for the Special continued with two-piece construction.

Only Roadmasters merited the sweepspears; Special DeLuxes and Supers still featured the plainer straight-line bodyside trim, while base Specials wore none at all. Among 1950 Buick improvements were better visibility, wider seats, and a substantially shorter turning radius. Of particular interest to collectors should be the 1950 Super and Roadmaster Jetback coupes. With 10,697 and 2,968 built, respectively, they're far rarer than the Riviera hardtops today.

While the 1950 Buick's styling curves were as modern as Jane Russell's latest gown, the engineering was as tried-and-true as Clark Gable's smile. Buick saw no reason (at this point) to follow Oldsmobile and Cadillac into the short-stroke V-8 era. Its long-stroke, valve-in-head "Fireball" straight-eights still had plenty of appeal to the Buick crowd.

"Valve-in-head, ahead in value," was the advertising cry. The Roadmaster's 320.2-cubic-inch eight could be traced back to 1936, the Special's 248-cid unit to 1937. For 1950, the Roadmaster got a two-horsepower bump, to 152. The Special developed 115/120 horses, up five with stick-shift, 10 with Dynaflow.

The Super, which had formerly shared a slightly hotter Special engine, received a new variant, the F-263 (actually 263.3 cid): a bored version of the Special's straight-eight designed to operate on the new postwar higher-octane fuels. It produced 124 horses with stickshift, 128 with Dynaflow. Beginning in 1951, the 263 was shared with the Special (120/128 bhp), and was retained for the Special for 1953 -- the year the Roadmaster and Super adopted an all-new 322-cid ohv V-8.

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