Buick: 110 years old and never looked better

The history of Buick is one of the most storied and checkered ones in the automotive industry. However, despite epic highs and tragic lows, the carmaker has somehow been able to stay afloat for 110 years and is today one of the more profitable marquees in the GM stable. While other brands owned by the General – like Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn – have disappeared into the annals of carmaking lore, this company has endured, even during Detroit’s darkest hours.

To commemorate their 110th anniversary this month, the automaker released a list of what they consider to be its 11 proudest creations since David Dunbar Buick hand built the very first Buick in his Detroit garage. The company went decade by decade and picked out models that they believe most helped shape the American auto landscape during each era.

At number one on the list is the recently introduced Buick Riviera concept car, which was just unveiled ahead of this week’s Shanghai auto show. While this new model is arguably one of the coolest concepts to come out of the Buick design house, it still is nothing compared to the company’s – and the industry’s – for concept car, the 1938 Buick Y-Job.

This car was designed by Harley Earl, the man responsible for dreaming up some of General Motors’ greatest models of the postwar era. Recently, however, the company continued turning heads with its designs, like that of the 2013 Regal GS, which recently broke the brand’s top speed record on a closed course of 162 miles per hour. However, the fastest acceleration time for the brand happened almost a generation ago with the 1987 Buick GNX (also known as Grand National), which was arguably one of the best performance cars of the 1980s.

In the 1970s though, Buicks were much larger, and, as a result, so were the company’s engines. Between 1970 and 1975, they put a 455 cubic inch V8 – which remains the biggest block ever built by the company – under the hood of some of the heftier models in the lineup, and their best performance cars as well.

While these days Buick is known less for speed and handling than it is for luxury and reliability, the company used to be one of the great names when it came to racing. In fact, more than six Official Indianapolis 500 Pace Cars have been Buicks, including the 1939 Roadmaster, and two NASCAR Manufacturer Championships.

Although some Buicks have been speed demons, the brand is generally synonymous with the term ‘boat’ as a result of this marquee being attached to the girthiest fleet on the road for much of the past century. However, it wasn’t until the brand introduced the Enclave SUV a few years back that Buick produced a car that could truly seat eight people comfortably, with the exception of the Roadmaster wagon sold in the early 1990s.

The longest Buick of all-time however was the 1975 Electra, which, while not designed to seat eight, was more than 233 inches long. Not only was this a milestone for Buick, but the entire industry, since no production car to hit the road since has had greater length.

While many of the car companies that are currently on sale stateside were still in their infancy – if not only sparkles in their founder’s eyes – Buick was racking up accolades. By 1923, the company had already built its 1 millionth car. Today, the company has sold roughly 43 times that.

Of all the accomplishments Buick has had, perhaps their greatest, in the opinion of many enthusiasts, was the design of the 1965 Riviera. This thing looked like it would bite you if you got too close to it, with its sharp edges, chrome detailing, wide toothy grill and concealed headlights. No other mainstream American production car on the road back then or since has commanded so much attention.

What’s your favorite Buick milestone of the past 110 years? Is it something mentioned in this article or another accomplishment entirely?

I’ll leave with this nostalgic Buick Commercial from 1953