The time has come. I've finally decided to review my 1955 Buick Super. This has been something I've intended to do for a while, but haven't gotten around to until now. A little bit of background on this car. We got it not very long ago (August 4, 2012- Ill always remember that date.) I got it off of ebay as a "project," even though it looks just fine. We wanted something that we could drive and have fun in, but still have things to work on. And now, the review:
I'm probably slightly biased, but I think this car has a fantastic looking body. It's clean and simple, but still amazingly stylish. It turns heads all the time. The paint, however, is not perfect. I think that it had a repaint a few years ago, because theres an inspection sticker on the windshield from 1983 that displayed 95,xxx miles. When we bought it, it had 96,2xx. I think it sat in a barn from 1983 to 2012, and it was repainted in 2012 and then sold to us. Anyway, the paint is not all that great. It doesn't have the "richness" of a concours-level restoration. But it doesn't matter. The car looks fabulous, the lines are great and the proportions are spot-on. I love a short front overhang and a long rear overhang, so it just looks right to me.
The car's interior is pretty good. The seats are just like you would expect from a 60 year old american battleship: like a couch. There is no fancy sculpting, no support, and not even headrests. The dashboard is solid metal, with turned aluminum trim. The gauges are beautiful, and the speedometer looks space age even today. The steering wheel is absolutely massive. Theres about 6 inches from the bottom of the wheel to the top of the seat cushion. It's also really thin, maybe ⅓ of an inch. That metal ring on the inside of it is the horn. Ours also has the optional ($17!) tissue dispenser underneath the glovebox. Finally, it also has the optional 6-way power seat and power windows, which is pretty stinkin cool on a 60 year old car.
This car accelerates just fine. According to Motor Trend, a 4-door roadmaster gets to 60 in 10.2 seconds. Ours is a 2-door, and feels more like 8 seconds to get to 60. It never feels underpowered trying to get on to the freeway. This car has the Dynaflow transmission, though (more on that later) and if it was equipped with the 3 speed manual I think it would be really quick. This was actually the 3rd fastest american car in 1955, behind the Buick Century and the Chevy Corvette. The highway patrol used 3MT Centurys as pursuit cars, so it was really fast back in the day.
The brakes work. They're nothing amazing, though. All 4 corners have drums. When you press on the brake, the car stops. Thats it, really. They do seem to fade a bit when used continuously.
Buick marketed this car as having a "Million Dollar Ride" in 1955. They are correct. You don't feel any bumps at all. Imperfections are smoothed out like you wouldn't believe. I just can't stress it enough. The ride is perfect. You could drive over a prius and this thing would soak it up like a pebble. However, while the ride is magnificent for comfort, it strikes out on…
This car doesn't really do handling. When you turn the wheel left, the car goes left. When you turn the wheel right, the car goes right. Push it a little too hard (its really easy) and the tires moan and groan. It understeers like an elephant on roller skates, probably because its still rocking' bias-ply tires. It just doesn't handle like a normal car, more like a tank. Maybe because the transmission literally came out of a WWII tank destroyer.
Oh yes. The Dynaflow. To fully explain this transmission, I'm going to give you a little background. During WWII, Buick made transmissions for tank destroyers. These transmissions had to be able to cart around 40,000 pounds, withstand hours of sand, water, gunfire, land mines, and explosions, and never, ever break. After WWII, Buick had a whole bunch of these things laying around. So what did they do? Put them in passenger cars, of course! The transmission literally never shifts. Instead of gears, 32 turbine-blades in the transmission open at increasingly large angles as you put your foot down further. The result is befitting of a comfort-oriented land barge: it never shifts. From 0 all the way to 120, it just roars and roars as it gets faster and faster. No sound change, just a steady growl as it gets faster. Think of it as the first CVT, but with a cool backstory.
Lets get this out of the way: The radio sucks. One speaker. AM only. That doesn't really matter. though. Its what they were doing at the time, and it adds a lot of character to the cars interior. The audio that bumps this to 8/10 comes out the exhaust pipe. It sounds mean. The low rumble coming out the back is just sensational. The engine is a 322-cubic inch, natural aspirated V8, and all that thundering glory flows unrestricted out the back. No emissions controls, just raw noise. From the drivers seat, it sounds good too. When you step on it, it growls progressively louder up to about 20 mph. Then, a sort of electrical whir joins in, until about 40 when it fades away. Following that, its just the rumble of the engine.
Compared to a new car, this doesn't have any toys. But for a 60 year old car? There are many toys. It has power windows, power seat, power steering, and power brakes. Its also got a seek button for the radio down in the pedal box, which you operate with your foot. Seriously. It also has a tissue dispenser under the dashboard. Oh, and a heater.
For waaaay less than an average new car, you get a stylish, powerful, comfortable, head turning American coupe. Whats not to love?