The 1957 Buick lineup featured its traditional four-series lineup of Series 40 Special, Series 60 Century, Series 50 Super, and Series 70 Roadmaster, plus two new Roadmaster 75s, a Riviera hardtop coupe and hardtop sedan equipped with most every accessory on the division's shelves save air conditioning. Prices ranged from $2,600 to $4,500, which was a very broad range.
The Roadmaster's traditional spot atop the Buick
hierarchy was usurped by the 1957 Roadmaster 75.
Plymouth, for example, spanned only $1,900-$2,900, and Buick dealers frequently discounted below list. Small wonder that Buick had knocked Plymouth out of its traditional third place in sales during model years 1955 and 1956.
Along with the change in buyer habits typified by the increasing number of vehicle types, General Motors faced another problem that reflects on the Buicks pictured here. In 1957, for the first time since Harley Earl created the General Motors Art & Colour Studio 30 years before, thus making design an integral part of the automobile's appeal, General Motors was not the industry's undisputed styling leader.
The 1957 Buick Super convertible included power
window lifts in its $3,981 base price.
That mantle was wrested by Chrysler, GM's unlikely rival. For years, Chrysler had built nothing but boxy, engineering-oriented cars. Now, under the influence of design chief Virgil Exner, Chrysler products had low silhouettes, acres of curved glass, aggressive tailfins, and sleek expanses of chromeless sheetmetal. With its 1957 "Flight Sweep" fleet, Chrysler forged to the forefront of American design, claiming (for Plymouth) that "Suddenly It's 1960!"
Of course, all manufacturers planned their 1957 cars long before they knew how the public would react to them, and the 1957 Buick, like its rivals at General Motors and elsewhere, was completely restyled. In retrospect, though, there is no doubt that GM's styling strategy in this period was temporarily confused, radically shaken up for 1958, and dramatically altered for 1959.
The 1957 Buicks arrived almost simultaneously with Edward T. Ragsdale, who succeeded Ivan Wiles as division general manager in March 1956. Ragsdale had been with Buick since 1923, when he joined up as a body draftsman. His wife, Sarah, is popularly credited with suggesting the hardtop coupe, that immensely popular postwar body style combining the airiness of a top-up convertible with the all-season comfort and practicality of a closed car.
For 1957, Buick brought pillarless styling to its
station wagons, like the $3,076 Century Caballero.
Ragsdale had been Buick's general manufacturing manager since 1949, and he looked forward to being promoted to division chief. Calling his 1957s "the greatest value we have ever offered the motoring public," the new boss promised to hold third place in industry sales by moving nearly 700,000 of the new models with their "dream-car styling."
Given the competition, not everybody was so sure he could. Aside from the formidable all-new Chrysler products, Ford Motor Company makes were also fully redesigned for 1957, if somewhat less successfully.
Finalized at a time when the market seemed limitless for Buick's formula of multiple models covering a wide price spread, the 1957s were all that any product planner could have wished for in 1955.
For more on the 1957 Buick, continue to the next page.
For more information on cars, see: