David Dunbar Buick founded the company that bears his name in 1903, and the first cars were sold to the public in 1904. Those first cars, known as the Model B, were reliable because of their durable valve-in-head engines. So bulletproof was this design that Buick's mantra, "Valve-in-head is ahead in value" served the company in advertising pieces decades later.
Buick was often referred to as a "doctor's car", because it offered most of the luxury and accoutrements of comparable models from Cadillac, but the smaller price tag meant a "sensible" doctor wouldn't look as ostentatious when he showed up for a house call.
Sometimes people use the word "icon" to describe certain cars, and there really isn't much substance to back that up. That's not the case on Buicks. The waterfall grill, which began as far back as the 1940s, is still a prominent feature today. So too are the famous "Ventiports". The "Sweapspear" bodyline made popular in the 1950s, has made a return appearance on the current Lacrosse. There are so many styling elements that are so closely related to Buick--but why is that?
As General Motors embraced the performance era of the 1960s and '70s, Buick was right there with them. The Wildcats of the mid-to-late '60s were similar in size and performance to comparable Chevelles and GTOs. The Riviera, which arrived on the scene in 1963, was one of the most stylish, desirable cars of its day. The Skylark-based GSX of the early '70s was one of the most bloodthirsty ground-pounders of the muscle car era. Even into the 1980s, the turbocharged, V6-powered Grand National and Grand National GNX was virtually unbeatable in the raw power-for-dollar department.
None of this sounds like the "old people's car" reputation that Buick is saddled with today. So where did this come from? Well, along with all these pulse-quickening rides, Buick was building some of the most perfect, period-correct boulevard cruisers on the planet. Cars like the Roadmaster and the Electra 225 personified big luxury cars for decades.
The final big, traditional car that Buick built was the Lucerne. And here's something you probably won't read anywhere else: the Lucerne is actually a very good car. It is extremely quiet, roomy, and comfortable. In other words, it is everything people have read that they are supposed to hate about a car. It'll never overcome the old person stigma, so most of the people that will actually enjoy it are going to be senior citizens who don't buy into magazine articles. Many former Lucerne buyers seem to be replacing their vehicles with the luxurious Enclave crossover, so at least they seem to be keeping it in the family.
Buick is the second-oldest American car company in existence, and survives today even when many of GM's most popular nameplates have crumbled. They have consistently addressed performance, style, and luxury, and today do battle with some very capable cars in a very competitive environment. They have a lineup that seems to appeal to the experts. And, of course, they are wildly popular in China. Hopefully, people will trust the experts as much as they have in the past, and Buick will still be with us in another 110 years.
The slideshow below contains mostly GM promotional photos from throughout Buick's history. Click on the dialogue balloon in the bottom left corner of the slideshow to read the captions. Or click this link for a better version of the slideshow.