Archive for the ‘The Great Race 2002’ Category

14 Sep, 2010

1950 Buick Special 2 Door

Posted by admin under 50 BuickStreet, The Great Race 2002
1960 Buick Special 2 Door

1960 Buick Special 2 Door

Owner/Navigator: Paul Thorpe of Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

Driver:John Lassen of Scottsdale, Arizona USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 248 cubic inches

Horsepower: 110

Transmision: Automatic (Buick’s unique Dynaflow Turbine)

Top speed: 90 mph

Original cost: $1990

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

14 Sep, 2010

1940 Buick 4 Door Roadster

Posted by admin under 40 BuickStreet, The Great Race 2002
1940 Buick 4 Door Roadster

1940 Buick 4 Door Roadster

Owner/Driver: Dale Bell of West Palm Beach, Florida

Navigator: Ken Downing of San Marcos, Texas

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 320 cubic inches

Horsepower: 150

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 90mph

Original cost: $1768

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

14 Sep, 2010

1938 Buick Shafer 8

Posted by admin under 38 BuickStreet, The Great Race 2002
1938 Buick Shafer 8

1938 Buick Shafer 8

Owner/Driver: David Coker of Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

Navigator: Daughter, Kelly Coker of Chattanooga USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 344 cubic inches

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 130mph

Original cost: ?

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

1938 Buick Shafer 8

1938 Buick Shafer 8

14 Sep, 2010

1937 Buick Shafer 8

Posted by admin under 37 BuickStreet, The Great Race 2002
1937 Buick Shafer 8

1937 Buick Shafer 8

Owner/Driver: Corky Coker of Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

Navigator: Son, Cameron Coker of Chattanooga USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 344 cubic inches

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 130mph

Original cost: ?

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

1937 Buick Shaffer 8 Engine Bay

14 Sep, 2010

1936 Buick Standard

Posted by admin under 36 BuickStreet, The Great Race 2002

1936 Buick Standard

Owner/Driver Len Harpenau of El Cajon, California USA

Navigator: wife, Gloria Harpenau USA

Engine: Buick Straight

Displacement: 233 cubic inches

Horsepower: 93

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 90mph

Original cost: $885

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

Yellow Buick Roadster

Owner/Driver: Dennis Schlecta. Grapevine, Texas USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 320 cubic inches

Horsepower: 120

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 85mph

Original cost: $1565

In 2002 I was especially lucky to live in San Antonio, because our beautiful city was the site of the beginning of the 20th running of “The Great Race”. On Saturday morning, June 15, 2002, I showed up at San Antonio’s historic Sunset Station, camera in hand, ready to take pictures of some of the great old cars that had entered this event, and hoping that some of them would turn out to be Buicks. Wow, was I surprised. Buick was the second best represented marque among all automotive manufacturers with entries in the Race. Here is one of the most spectacular Buick entries, a 1937 bright yellow four-door roadster. – Text & Photos by Rich Suddick

 

14 Sep, 2010

The Great Race – 2002

Posted by admin under The Great Race 2002
8 Engine
Text & Photos by Rich SuddickI recently found BuickStreet after seeing a post from Bill to the gnttype list. In my opinion, Bill Stacy has created a wonderful place for admirers of older Buicks to visit, look and enjoy some truly excellent photos and stories about these great cars. As a longtime Buick fan, I wanted to contribute something to Bill’s efforts and hopefully, something interesting for visitors to BuickStreet.com.

Well, fortunately, this year I was especially lucky to live in San Antonio, because our beautiful city was the site of the beginning of the 20th running of “The Great Race”. On Saturday morning, June 15, 2002, I showed up at San Antonio’s historic Sunset Station, camera in hand, ready to take pictures of some of the great old cars that had entered this event, and hoping that some of them would turn out to be Buicks. I hadn’t expected many. Wow, was I surprised. Buick was the second best represented marque among all automotive manufacturers with entries in the Race. Here is one of the most spectacular Buick entries, a 1937 bright yellow four-door roadster.

Yellow Buick Roadster1936 Buick Roadmaster Convertible

Owner/Driver: Dennis Schlecta. Grapevine, Texas USA

Navigator: Brother, Mike Schlecta. Cottage Grove, Wisconsin USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 320 cubic inches

Horsepower: 120

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 85mph

Original cost: $1565

Let me tell you a bit about the Great Race, itself. To qualify for entering the “race”, cars and trucks must be manufactured before 1951 or before 1960 for sports cars, racecars and motorcycles. Vehicles in this year’s race span five decades of early automotive history starting with a 1911 Velie Racetype Speedster to a 1958 Porsche 356A. The Great Race is a rally-race, not a speed race. While superior mechanical condition is highly desirable, good navigational skills and split-second timing of the race teams, ultimately determine the winners. Racers are given detailed driving instructions at the beginning of each day and pass secret checkpoints along the route, this year spanning 2500 miles. Instructions include every course manoeuvre, including stops, turns, and speed changes. The goal was to arrive at more than 40 checkpoints en-route from San Antonio to Anaheim, exactly on time. As little as 1/1000th of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing so it is a highly competitive event, with $260,000 in purses.

But the fact that will be of greatest interest to BuickStreet’s visitors is that of the 100 plus cars that entered for the full race from San Antonio to Anaheim, California, eleven were Buicks. As I mentioned, this constituted the second highest representation (after Ford) among all automakers. I certainly didn’t realize this when I set out to attend this event but I was delighted to see all those stunning old Buicks. I took pictures of those of which I could get a reasonably clear view, considering difficulties presented by the large crowd of people wandering among the cars, admiring them, and talking to their owners.

1936 Buick Standard1936 Buick Standard.

 

Owner/Driver Len Harpenau of El Cajon, California USA

Navigator: wife, Gloria Harpenau USA

Engine: Buick Straight

Displacement: 233 cubic inches

Horsepower: 93

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 90mph

Original cost: $885.

 

I should probably give a brief summary of other cars in the race before getting into our Buicks. More than 30 different American and European marques were represented, and Fords predominated with about 40 entries altogether, including Andy Granatelli’s 1934 Rocket Indy Car. There were a couple of other Ford Indy Cars including the Grand Winner ’34 Ford Indy sponsored by Roush Racing with Wayne Stanfield driving and David Dingman navigating. Other vehicles included: a 1916 American LaFrance Fire Chief’s Car, a 1949 Volkswagen Hebmuller, a 1943 Jeep 4×4, six spectacular Packard’s which included a 1916 Twin 6 and a 1950 Standard 8, four Hudsons (including two 1916 speedsters), three LaSalles from the ’30s, two Chevrolets (a 1916 Speedster and a 1954 Corvette), a 1915 Dodge Speedster, a 1933 Dodge Sedan, a 1941 Cadillac Roadster, a 1935 Chrysler Airflow, a 1916 Indy Racer, a 1917 Peerless “Green Dragon” Racer, a 1933 Mercedes Benz 380K, a 1934 Plymouth Coupe, a 1935 Auburn Cabriolet, a 1940 Mercury 4-door Convertible, a 1949 Studebaker Champion Convertible, a 1920 Essex, two Marmons; a 1922 and 1927, a 1925 Pierce Arrow, a 1925 Rickenbacker, a 1929 DeSoto, a 1953 MG TD, a 1955 Mercedes 190SL, and a 1957 Triumph TR3.

1932 Convertible Each vehicle had a unique history. Some were painstakingly restored, others “pieced together” from parts found all over the country. Many are cars their current owners fancied in their youths but couldn’t afford until much later, by which time the cars had become “classics.”

There are some things that visitors may want to think about as they peruse my photos of the Great Race Buicks. These cars represent, essentially, one of the most interesting and successful eras of Buick history. But it was an era of success that did not happen by accident; it had its origins much deeper in the long history of Buick. When David Dunbar Buick began making and selling the very first Buicks in the early 1900’s, their outstanding feature was their performance compared to other cars of the day. This performance derived from their technologically advanced engine design. At a time when every other carmaker was using a flat head engine, Buick came out with an overhead valve two-cylinder engine designed by Buick’s able engineers, Walter Marr and Eugene Richard. The latter had patented the overhead valve concept (although Richard had seen an OHV engine in France earlier). From these early beginnings the Buick Motor Company laid the foundation for, and essentially created, General Motors itself.

But Buick’s overhead valve engine design didn’t really come into its own until much later – the Buick era which began in 1930 – when it was incorporated into a new inline eight-cylinder engine. This design remained the basis of Buick’s superior performance from that year until 1953. A definite milestone for the automaker occurred in 1938 when the Buick Century coupe with the big Straight Eight (displacing 320 cubic inches and developing 141 horsepower) reached a timed top speed of 103 mph. Hence, the “Century” model designation was born.

Buick EnginebayWith such a long perspective available to us today, it is interesting to look at Buick’s distinguished history strictly from the viewpoint of those models produced with Buick’s best engines. Doing so clearly defines rather well circumscribed eras of high success that were demarcated by the automaker’s best engines. And when you think of it, this is also generally true for every major auto manufacturer, historically speaking. After all, what is it that people see in a particular car, which leads eventually to a commonly held view that it is “a great car”? Two features must be obvious to even be in the running for such a designation: great lines and great performance. Keep in mind here that I am not talking about “super cars”, but autos that could have been purchased by the average car buyer at the time of their entry into the marketplace, but which subsequently became recognized as highly exceptional vehicles of great style and superior performance. And by the term “performance” here, I mean all around performance, including durability.

The Four Great Eras of Buick History

Buick’s early overhead two cylinder engines and cars quickly evolved into four cylinder and then six cylinder OHV engines, all of which were very good performers for their time. The overhead valve design certainly got Buick off to a fast start in the automotive world, but the Buicks that really started to make a great impact on the car buying public came out first in 1930 with what was at that time the most impressive engine out of Detroit – Buick Straight 8. This engine marks the beginning of what I believe to be the first of four of the most successful periods of Buick’s long history.

The primary reason for these four periods of great success were the engines that Buick developed and offered to their customers. The four eras lie between 1930 and 1987 and they correlate with the best of four different generations of Buick engines. What is even more remarkable is that, over this period there were about 30 different engines that Buick put into its various models, of which 13 were made by other GM divisions. But the best engines in Buicks, without exception, were designed and made by Buick itself, and the very best cars sold in these four eras came with Buick’s best engines.

The Straight 8 Era, 1930 – 1952

8 Engine The big Straight 8 engine was the first of nine engines that went into the Buicks that eventually became classics, collectables, or, at the least, highly desirable automobiles. Of these nine engines, only six would eventually qualify for universal acclaim: the 320 cubic inch Straight 8, the 400 and 425 ci nailheads, the 400 and 455 ci V8 engines of the 1969 –’71 GS models (especially the “Stage” motors), and the 3.8L EFI Turbo V6 of the Grand Nationals and other Turbo Regals, as well as the Turbo Rivieras. Conceivably, the 3800 Series II Supercharged V6 engines will, at some point, be seen to qualify for inclusion in this grouping of the very best of the Buick’s best engines.

Essentially, this accounting for success would begin with this era, which started in 1930 and ended in 1952. The best and most desirable cars produced during this period came equipped with the biggest (320 cubic inches) of Buick’s overhead valve (pushrod) Buick Straight 8’s (Buick produced Straight 8’s in several sizes.) Some individual models during this era might truly qualify as ‘great cars’ – by virtue of their outstanding lines. All of what are universally recognized today as the best of this period came equipped with that incredibly smooth and quiet, but powerful, 320 ci Straight 8 engine. These are the cars that are well represented in my “Great Race” photos.

The Nailhead V8 Era 1953 – 1966

Buick’s second great era began in 1953, marked by a major design shift to the big overhead valve (pushrod) V8’s, embodied by the various “nailhead’ designed heads (so-called by virtue of their small diameter, vertically oriented valves). The combination of large displacement (in their early years, 322 cubic inches) and smaller valves produced engines of exceptional torque in the lower RPM ranges – characteristics for which the nailhead engine Buicks are very well known. The later nailhead V8’s included engines of 400, 401, and 425 cubic inches in displacement. This second successful Buick era lasted from 1953 through 1966. Cars of this second era include many of the most highly regarded cars in Buick history from the style and vehicle line viewpoint. They are certainly some of the most favored Buicks represented on BuickStreet.com. Included would be essentially all of the Buick models produced in the mid fifties, and models such as the Riviera, Electra, Wildcat, and Skylark of the mid 1960’s

The Big Block Muscle Era, 1967 – 1972

The next, or third era of great Buicks represented more of an evolutionary change in design of Buick’s V8’s – to the “improved design V8’s” which were also pushrod overhead valve engines of varying displacements, with more conventional GM head and valve layouts. These engines had significantly larger valves than the Nailhead V8’s and produced great torque characteristics over a broader RPM range. Included in this grouping are the 350, 400, 430, and 455 ci engines manufactured between 1967 and 1980, beginning with the smaller displacement engines in 1967, and extending to 1976 for the 455 ci engine in the Electra and Riviera models (and until 1980 for the 350 ci motor). These Buick automobiles, especially the GS models made between 1969 and 1971, are widely regarded today as being among the most potent muscle cars of America’s muscle car era. Yet, they still retained that trademark Buick look and the feel of luxury. Perhaps that is the reason they have become the most sought after representative of the muscle car period. The third era ended prematurely in 1972 even though the basic engine designs continued for a few more years. However, quality and styling suffered, as did the power outputs of the same engines due to the struggles of Buick (and all US automakers) to comply with new exhaust emission standards by the federal government. Third era muscle cars are also highly represented on BuickStreet.com, and many other web sites.

The Turbo V6 Era, 1978 – 1987

As the big block muscle car era played out, Buick shifted gears (pun intended), more so than any other division of General Motors. While retaining its bent for impeccable style and luxury, Buick began work in the mid 1970’s that led to the unique and powerful turbocharged 3.8L V6 engines, which included, of course, those remarkable motors that powered the Buick Grand Nationals, other Turbo Regals and the Buick Indy cars in the mid 1980’s. This fourth era of high success spanned the years most prominently from 1978 through 1987, with the best performing and most sought after collectable cars made in 1986 and 1987. These great Buicks are certainly very highly regarded among their owners and others who know them well, but probably have not yet achieved the broad acclaim in the automotive world that they deserve. I am convinced that this will come, however. At the time of this writing, the GN’s and other Turbo Regals have started to be represented on BuickStreet in Bill Stacy’s great photos of the 2002 BOP Nationals event at Bristol, Tennessee. [More turbo Buicks will be be featured in the near future – Bill]

The 3800 Series V6 Era

This brings us up to what might also be termed the modern era. Most would agree the case remains to be made for the place in Buick’s history, for Buick’s modern era, which is dominated by the 3800 Series I & II V6 engines, including the supercharged engines in some Buick models, the Regal GS and the Riviera. This era has spanned the years from 1988 to the present. At this point, many might agree that the modern era doesn’t yet belong in the list of “Great Eras of Buick History”.

I want to return for a bit to the Great Race Buicks and that first era, which I’ve named for Buick’s famous Straight 8 engine. After it introduction in the early ‘30’s, this engine was immediately adopted for competitive racing by the Shafer Company, producing the Buick Shafer 8. Shafer increased displacement to 344 cubic inches and other modifications, which resulted in a major increase in power to 200 brake horsepower, an impressive figure for the time. The Buick Shaffer 8 ran in numerous Indy 500 races between 1931 and 1938. It was always highly competitive, much more so than the Ford Indy Cars of the time, though coming in first remained elusive. The two Buick Shafer 8’s in the 2002 Great Race, as seen in the photos, were beautifully restored and sponsored by the Coker Tire Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It seemed like the whole Coker Family was involved in this year’s 20th Great Race.

1937 Buick Shafer 8

Owner/Driver: Corky Coker of Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

Navigator: Son, Cameron Coker of Chattanooga USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 344 cubic inches

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 130mph

Original cost: ?

1938 Buick Shafer 8

Owner/Driver: David Coker of Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

Navigator: Daughter, Kelly Coker of Chattanooga USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 344 cubic inches

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 130mph

Original cost: ?

In a kind of high tech (for it’s day) footnote to the history of Buick’s Straight 8 era, the automaker introduced “compound carburetion” in 1941 (dual single throat downdraft carburetors on that long intake manifold), enabling the big Straight Eight to produce 165 bhp in so equipped models. This was 15 more horsepower than Cadillac could muster. Buick’s top-of-the-line models outsold Cadillac and its mid and entry-level models were priced only about $200 above Chevrolet. These early ’40 Buicks were fourth highest in US sales, pushing Plymouth hard for third place. This strong sales pattern would be repeated again in the early fifties. In the early forties, there was talk of Buick taking over General Motors, with the entire GM lineup marketed under the Buick nameplate. One of the best representatives of the early 1940’s Buicks that were offered with compound carburetion is this gray 1940 4 Door Roadster.

1940 Buick 4 Door Roadster

Owner/Driver: Dale Bell of West Palm Beach, Florida

Navigator: Ken Downing of San Marcos, Texas

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 320 cubic inches

Horsepower: 150

Transmission: 3 speed manual

Top speed: 90mph

Original cost: $1768


The second and third periods of flourish for the Buick marque (in the 1950’s, ‘60’s and early ’70) produced many cars that have become highly desirable collector vehicles.. These would include the original Buick Skylark convertibles in 1953 and 1954, all models but particularly the Specials and Century’s of 1955 through 1957, all occurring in Buick’s second great era, the Nailhead V8 Era). There was only one early 1950’s Buick represented in the Great Race, this very pretty maroon 1950 Buick Special.

1950 Buick Special 2 Door

Owner/Navigator: Paul Thorpe of Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

Driver:John Lassen of Scottsdale, Arizona USA

Engine: Buick Straight 8

Displacement: 248 cubic inches

Horsepower: 110

Transmision: Automatic (Buick’s unique Dynaflow Turbine)

Top speed: 90 mph

Original cost: $1990

This was followed by another rash of exciting automobiles – the Riviera’s, Skylark Gran Sport’s, the GS’s, and the big, luxurious Electra’s, all produced during the automaker’s third great era, the Big Block Muscle Era. These second and third era cars are very well represented on BuickStreet.

Once again, in the mid eighties, Buick rose up mightily and produced some of the most exciting automobiles ever sold in the US – the Grand Nationals and other Turbo Regals. This was the Turbo V6 Era, which was Buick’s fourth great era; I am lucky enough to own a 1987 Grand National, which I bought as a new car in December of 1987; it can be seen at GNregistry.net (member BGN00002A) and I would like to refer readers to that web site for more on the history of Buick, particularly material about the Turbo V6 era. My hope for this particular summary of Buick’s history, and my photos of the Great Race Buicks is that it will give BuickStreet’s visitors a small taste of the long, difficult and inspired efforts of many individuals, from the highest levels of Buick Motor Division to the individual owners, that went into all of the beautiful cars that can be seen on BuickStreet.com.

Text & Photos by Rich Suddick