Some design features of the 1957 Buick recalled the past -- bodyside sweepspears and portholes, open wheel wells -- while a lower beltline, newly hidden fuel filler (in the back bumper), and more angled A-pillars addressed the future.
Ad copy called the 1957 Century Caballero "the pace
car for a brand-new line of Buick Estate Wagons."
Also new, though not at all predictive, was the four-door hardtop station wagon, available in both Special Riviera Estate and Century Caballero versions. Elaborately equipped and priced around $3,200 and $3,800, respectively, they had limited appeal because four-door hardtops, particularly wagons, never caught on nearly as much as hardtop coupes.
Buick offered hardtop wagons for only two seasons, making them rare today and, particularly in Century guise, highly collectible.
Special and Century shared General Motors' B-body with Oldsmobile; their 1957 bodyshells were new, but the 122-inch wheelbase carried over from the 1954-1956 Buicks. Similarly, Supers and Roadmasters shared a new-design C-body with Series 62 Cadillacs, with wheelbase increased a token half-inch to 127.5. Typical of the times, all models stood some 3.5 inches lower overall; Specials and Centurys grew 3.4 inches longer to reach 208.4, while Supers and Roadmasters stretched 1.7 inches to 215.3.
The 1957 Super four-door hardtop was the only
model to wear series identification on its bodysides.
Replacing the previous year's 322-cubic-inch V-8 was a new-design over-square engine of 364 cid. Horsepower was higher than ever: 250 for Specials, up 30 from 1956, and 300 for other models, an increase of 45 bhp.
Highlights included wider carburetor throats, larger and higher-lifting valves, higher-capacity ports and manifolds, a new high-lift camshaft, and a beefed-up crankshaft.
Ipso facto, Buicks used more fuel than ever, too. Ragsdale pulled a boner at a debut press conference when asked about the poorer fuel economy: "Well, we have to keep the gas companies happy." (Imagine how that lead balloon would go down today.)
Other mechanical refinements involved an extra universal joint, which lowered the transmission tunnel, and adoption of ball-joint front suspension, though the cars still wallowed in turns, a penalty of soft spring and shock damping.
The Century Riviera four-door hardtop accounted
for about 40 percent of all Series 60 orders in 1957.
Century remained the performance Buick, combining the hotter engine with the lighter body. Whereas Specials had a two-barrel carb and 9.5:1 compression (with the commonly ordered Dynaflow), Century, Supers, and Roadmasters had four barrels and 10:1 compression.
And if their 300 bhp wasn't enough, Buick offered a power-pack option that boosted output to 330. All 1957 Buicks were heavier than the 1956s by some 150-220 pounds (even more in the case of station wagons), but the Centurys were much quicker off the mark.
See the next page for sales information and to find out how these changes were received by the buying public.
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