1952 Buick

For 1952 Buicks, changes were so minor that it takes a trained eye to tell a 1952 from a 1951. The Special standard models, which were phased out early in the model run, got a sweepspear, but kept a two-piece windshield. The easiest way to tell the model year from the sides was by the sweepspear, which changed slightly each year.

For 1952, it did not run the full length of the car. Instead, it flowed back to the rear wheel opening, then curved gracefully forward and rode along the rocker panel to the front wheel opening (the Special standards lacked the rocker panel strip). The 1952 Supers and Roadmasters also sported modest chrome rear-fender fins, and all 1952 Buicks (save wagons) featured a more squared-off decklid than in 1951.

The Special lineup remained unchanged from 1951, but the Super line listed only one four-door and one two-door, both Rivieras. Special and Super engines went unchanged, but the Roadmaster's Fireball eight was boosted to 170 horsepower -- via a compression ratio jump from 7.2:1 to 7.5:1 and a new Buick-designed four-barrel "Airpower" carburetor (that Olds and Cadillac borrowed for 1952, to Buick's displeasure). A much-needed option, power steering, was offered for the first time on Supers and Roadmasters, although priced at a whopping $199.

1950-1952 Buick
All 1952 Buicks, like this Roadmaster Riviera,
featured a more squared-off decklid
than 1951 models.

Ads for the 1952 Buick proclaimed that " ... a million dollars' worth of engineering, research and special components have gone into perfecting its ... Million Dollar Ride," while still providing "road-hugging security" in all conditions. "There's a special transverse radius rod extending from the frame on one side to the rear axle on the other side -- to control sidesway and 'side shift' on curves. And Buick shock absorbers have two sets of cylinders and pistons to control upsurge and down-thrust." Further, Buick made a point that its "honest heft" was offset by the Roadmaster's increased horsepower and that the new "Airpower carburetor needs less fuel at 40 [mph] than was formerly used at 30."

Still, production faltered to 303,745 units for the model year, again due primarily to Korean War production restrictions mandated by the government. But because other automakers were also forced to cut back by about the same proportion, Buick retained a solid fourth-place standing, a position it would keep for two more years, before finally taking over third.

Motor Trend evaluated a 1952 Buick Roadmaster sedan, now in its last year with the big 320.2-cid straight-eight. Lavishing some enthusiastic praise for a car fast going the way of the World War II Army tank, editor Harry Cushing pushed the ponderous Buick all the way from Flint, Michigan, to Ensenda, Baja, Mexico. His 0-60 time using Low and Drive came in at 17.1 seconds, top speed at 100 mph, while fuel economy at a steady 60 mph measured 12.6 mpg. He found the car so comfortable to drive at high speeds on primarily straight roads that in one day he drove the entire 756 miles between Eiko, Nevada, and Los Angeles.

His only real complaints about the car were a tendency to heel and break loose on curves when traveling at 70 to 75 mph, and the slow, slow Dynaflow. He noted that the mediocre cornering was the result of the softly sprung four-coil suspension. The Dynaflow, while smooth, required the use of both Drive and Low ranges in the mountains despite assurances from Buick officials back in Flint that this wouldn't be necessary. Even on straightaways, the editors weren't impressed with acceleration in Drive, especially when passing. And this was with the new four-barrel carburetor.

Cushing asked, "Have you ever wondered why Buick is one of the most popular cars in America? Take a cross-country trip in one. You will find it almost incomparable for comfort and luxury to your destination. Rabid car enthusiasts, lovers of sports cars, and other automotive fans at first may find this statement difficult to accept; but, to those who will take the time to step into a 1952 Buick Roadmaster and embark upon a piece of serious, constructive driving, it is a fact which will hit them as a pleasant surprise ... Buick has a remarkable hold on the American and world automobile market. Why? Because Buick has incorporated many desirable features into an automobile package which the car buying public demands: a design that appeals to many, smooth acceleration ... and a mattress type ride."

The reason why Buick was such a strong fourth in the industry for many years was the outstanding management and sales organization, which had the foresight to bring Buicks within the financial reach of nearly every new car buyer. In addition, Buick put almost as much emphasis on service as sales, and never lost sight of the importance of its dealer network.

Another secret of Buick's success was the advertising: never ponderous, and sometimes as light and lyrical as the old Jordan Playboy advertising of the Twenties. It was created by the Kudner Advertising Agency, which had held the account since Curtice had introduced a new "brand" of Buick way back in 1936.

1950-1952 Buick
Simple and catchy advertising was used to
sell the 1952 Buicks like this Buick Super Riviera.

Buick's advertising slogan for many years was, "When better automobiles are built Buick will build them." Ads often added tag lines, like "Sure is true for '52." With the coming of the Buick overhead-valve V-8 in 1953, trendy new styling in 1954, and soon after the division's massive problems with styling and quality control, the 1950-1952 cars remain about as "better built" as older Buicks ever got.

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