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Buick /ˈbjuːɨk/ is a luxury vehicle marque of General Motors (GM).[1][2] Buick models are sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, and Israel. Buick holds the distinction as the oldest active American make. Buick models share some architecture with other GM brands.

Early years[edit]

Buick is currently the oldest still-active American automotive make, and among the oldest automobile brands in the world. It originated as the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company in 1899, an independent internal combustion engine and motor-car manufacturer, and was later incorporated as the Buick Motor Company on May 19, 1903, by Scottish born David Dunbar Buickin DetroitMichigan. Later that year, the company was taken over by James H. Whiting (1842–1919),[3] who moved it to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and brought in William C. Durant in 1904 to manage his new acquisition. Buick sold his stock for a small sum upon departure, and died in modest circumstances 25 years later.

Buick in the early years
  • Louis Chevrolet driving a Buick Bug in the 1910Vanderbilt Cup

  • 1910 Buick Bug Race Car and 1944 M18 Buick Hellcat Tank Destroyer

  • 1910 Buick Model 17, at Randall-Dodd Auto Company, Salt Lake City

  • 1914 Buick 5-Passenger Touring

  • 1932 Buick

  • 1937 Buick 4-Door Convertible. Captured at Utstein, Norway, August 1, 2009

Between 1899 and 1902, two prototype vehicles were built[4] in DetroitMichigan by Walter Lorenzo Marr. Some documentation exists of the 1901 or 1902 prototype with tiller steering[5] similar to the Oldsmobile Curved Dash. In mid-1904, another prototype was constructed for an endurance run, which convinced James H. Whiting to authorize production of the first models offered to the public.[6] The architecture of this prototype was the basis for the Model B.

The first Buick made for sale, the 1904 Model B, was built in Flint, Michigan.[7] There were 37 Buicks made that year, none of which survived. There are, however, two replicas in existence: the 1904 endurance car, at the Buick Gallery & Research Center in Flint, and a Model B assembled by an enthusiast in California for the division's 100th anniversary.[8][9] Both of these vehicles use various parts from Buicks of that early era, as well as fabricated parts. These vehicles were each constructed with the two known surviving 1904 engines. Buicks were first built to replicate the living room in a moving automobile, and were nicknamed the "moving couch of America".

The power train and chassis architecture introduced on the Model B was continued through the 1909 Model F.[10] The early success of Buick is attributed in part to the valve-in-head, or overhead valve (OHV), engine[11] patented by Eugene Richard and developed by David Dunbar Buick. The Model F had a two-cylinder engine, an 87 inch wheelbase and weighed 1,800 lbs.[12]The creation of General Motors is attributed in part to the success of Buick,[13] so it can be said Marr and Richard's designs directly led to GM.[14]

The basic design of the 1904 Buick was optimally engineered even by today's standards. The flat-twin engine is inherently balanced, with torque presented to the chassis in a longitudinal manner, actually cancelling front end lift, rather than producing undesirable lateral motion. The engine was mounted amidships, now considered the optimal location.[15]

Durant was a natural promoter, and Buick soon became the largest car maker in America. Using the profits from this, Durant embarked on a series of corporate acquisitions, calling the new megacorporation General Motors. At first, the manufacturers comprising General Motors competed against each other, but Durant ended that. He wanted each General Motors division to target one class of buyer, and in his new scheme, Buick was near the top — only the Cadillac brand had more prestige. Buick occupies this position to this day in the General Motors lineup. The ideal Buick customer is comfortably well off, possibly not quite rich enough to afford a Cadillac, nor desiring the ostentation of one, but definitely in the market for a car above the norm.

At first, Buick followed the likes of Napier in automobile racing, winning the first-ever race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.[16]

In 1911, Buick introduced its first closed-body car,[17] four years ahead of Ford.[18] In 1929, as part of General Motors' companion make program, Buick Motor Division launched the Marquette sister brand, designed to bridge the price gap between Buick and Oldsmobile; however, Marquette was discontinued in 1930. Buick debuted two major achievements for the 1931 model year, the OHV Buick Straight-8 engine and a synchromesh transmission in all models but the Series 50. The Eight was offered in three displacements, the 220 cubic inch (bore 2 7/8 in. stroke 4.25 in.), was available in the Series 50 with 77 brake HP. The Series 60 engine was a 272 cu. in. unit (bore 3 1/16 in., stroke 5 in.) giving 90 brake HP. The Series 80 and Series 90 used a 344 cu. in. version (bore 3 5/16 in., stroke 5 in.) for 104 brake HP. Automatic vacuum-operated spark advance was another new feature replacing the steering column mounted spark lever although an emergency lever was now dash mounted. Buick scored another first in 1939, when it became the first company to introduce turn signals.[19] All 1939 models also had a steering column mounted shift lever.

In the 1930s Buicks were popular with the British royal family, particularly Edward VIII.[20][21] He imported and used a Canadian built McLaughlin-Buick that were GMs top brand in CanadaCadillac not having caught on there.[22] George VI used one for a coast to coast royal tour of Canada in 1939.[22]

Post World War II years[edit]

Post World War II years
  • 1942 — produced the M18 Hellcat army tank
  • 1948 — Dynaflow automatic transmission first offered
  • 1949 — Portholes Debut
  • 1953 — Buick's 50th Anniversary and introduction of Buick V8 engine and Roadmaster Skylark
  • 1955 — Best model year sales to date with 738,814 Buicks sold
  • 1957 — New 364 cu. in. engine block & Ball joint front suspension debut, Roadmasters now had aluminum finned brake drums
  • 1959 — ElectraInvicta and LeSabre and 401 cu. in. V-8 (in Electras & Invicta) introduced
  • 1961 — Skylark nameplate returns as top model of new Special compact car with new 215 cu. in. aluminum V-8
  • 1963 — Riviera introduced as its own model with 425 V-8 as an option
  • 1970 — GSX high performance option package first offered on Gran Sport (GS) 455
  • 1971 — "Boat-tail" Riviera introduced
  • 1973 — Regal introduced as upper trim level on Century
  • 1975 — Park Avenue introduced as trim level/option package on Electra 225 Limited
  • 1978 — Buick's 75th Anniversary and Turbocharged V6 introduced in the Regal Sport Coupe[23]

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