Buick's buyers were quite loyal, and in the '40s the division would be GM's number-two seller, after Chevrolet. Throughout the decade, Buick usually ran fourth behind the "Low-Price Three" (Chevy, Ford, Plymouth), building upwards of 300,000 cars a year. GM endured an extended strike after World War II and Flint took awhile to regain momentum, but was back to over 324,000 cars for 1949.
Buicks of the '40s reflected the division's period slogan "Valve in Head -- Ahead in Value": big but reasonably priced cars that were a bit ostentatious. For those who felt status was everything, there was always Cadillac.
The early-'40s lineup was one of the widest in Buick history and wouldn't be matched until the mid '50s. Model groups expanded from four to six for 1940 with the addition of the Series 50 Super (another enduring name). It bowed with fewer models than the Special priced just below it, but included a handsome wood-bodied Estate wagon. Super and Special both rode a 121-inch wheelbase and carried the respected 248-cid straight eight, still with 107 bhp (as since 1938).
Priced above them -- and still with the brawny 320.2-cid eight -- were Century (60) and Roadmaster (now Series 70) on 126-inch chassis, plus two Limited lines: 133-inch-wheelbase Series 80 and 140-inch Series 90 (the latter confined to long sedans and limousines).
Buick again cataloged several interesting wares for 1940, but some were in their last season. Low sales had been thinning the ranks of convertible sedans. This year saw the final Century model; Super and Roadmaster versions would run one year more. "Streamlined Sedans" with fastback styling reminiscent of the Lincoln-Zephyr saw just 14 copies in the Series 80. More popular was the $1952 Series 80 convertible sedan (phaeton) with conventional lines, though only 250 were called for.
Custom styles were still around, but not as "factory" models. One rakish town car by Brewster on the Series 90 chassis would be the first Buick named a "Classic" by the Classic Car Club of America. Buffalo's Brunn was also still doing customs in 1940, including one fairly conventional town car on the Roadmaster platform.
Flint had a banner 1941, with model-year production soaring to 374,000. Leading that year's line were beautiful and opulent Brunn customs on the Limited chassis: phaeton, town car, landau brougham, and full landau. Most flamboyant was the convertible coupe, offered to dealers for $3500. At that price, only the prototype sold, but it was significant for a "sweep-spear" side motif that prefigured a postwar Buick hallmark.
Among production '41s, the two Limited lines were combined into a single Series 90 on a 139-inch wheelbase. Century was shorn of its convertible, convertible sedan, and club coupe. The Estate wagon shifted from Super to Special but cost some $200 more than in 1940. Reflecting its strong sales, Special split into two subseries: 121-inch-wheelbase 40 and 118-inch 40A. Styling was evolutionary, with a bolder, heavier grille and revised "ports" on the hood sides.
A new idea was the fastback, offered in Century and 40 Special trim as a four-door touring sedan and two-door business coupe and sedanet. A clean break with the "trunkback" era, it had great buyer appeal. The Special touring sedan alone sold over 100,000.
The 1941 Special/Super engine gained new-design high-compression pistons for more-efficient combustion that lifted horsepower to 115. Available for the 40 touring sedan and sedanet was "Compound Carburetion" -- two carburetors with a progressive linkage that added 10 bhp. This was standard on other '41s, resulting in 165 bhp for the 320 engine. Chassis were carry-overs for all but Limited, which used a new X-member design.
For more on the amazing Buick, old and new, see:
- Buick New Car Reviews and Prices
- Buick Used Car Reviews and Prices
- 2008 Buick Lacrosse
- 2008 Buick Lucerne