#0027 - Buick Model 59 Super Estate Wagon, 1953
Photographed: York Heritage Trust Concours d'Elegance, 2007. Owner: Dick & Karen Beckley
Last of the American Woodies: As much as the post-War era became known for chrome, American auto designers' first industrial love affair was with wood. One could argue a transition occurred during which the care for extravagant wooden ornament was replaced with flashy chrome sweeps, darts, and faux ventilation devices. And, as this isn't a far-flung theory at all, this Buick Super Estate Wagon epitomizes that transition.
From here on, wood was moved out of the American automotive design vocabulary, and chrome was king. More overtly, around 1953 Buick employed a new design (in large part the Skylark) across their premium cars, incorporating the grille, headlamps, and flanks. The Estate Wagon's main departure is in the wooden paneling and extended hatch section, matched at the back with straightened rear quarters and partially covered rear wheel as seen on the standard production Super. But taken as a whole, the proportions are arguably more pleasing on the Super Estate Wagon than on the storied Skylark. A blend of textbook Harley Earl know-how and Ned Nickles whimsy, the design elements are bold, with tall, broad belt lines and long longitudinal lines; somehow, the long wagon plan has enough metal to balance them accordingly.
Buick Style & Motion: In the Super Estate Wagon's composition, the design components can be broken down into four planes: the bonnet, fender sweep, hood, and rear quarters. In particular, the long hood balances the long bonnet—this is the missing element on the great Skylark which, for all its notoreity, sacrifices proportion for open-air comfort—while the fender sweep and rear quarters are tied together by the wooden paneling. The wood also provides contrast, making the elegant metallic lines pop out from the body. Together, these pieces form the most striking vehicle among Buick's premium offerings.
Common to both the Skylark and the Super Estate Wagon were low production figures. Numbers being the finicky things they are, I'll eschew specifics and make a general point that less than 2,000 of each were produced which, for a branch of General Motors, was exclusive stuff.
As for the notion that the Skylark is perhaps less pleasing on the eye, such is the fate of the convertible—disrupt the lines in deference to glamour. That much certainly plays to personal taste. But, on the more practical side of things, the Skylark, Roadmaster, Super, and by association the Super Estate Wagon not only shared styling traits, but also took the fitment of Buick's first V-8. Displacing 322 cubic inches, the nail-head V-8 pushed 170 horsepower (it was rated at 188 hp) and quickly became the bellwether of Buick's new line. Apart from a standard 3-speed transmission, Buick was a leader in the automatic movement, offering the Dynaflow transmission since the late forties. One of the more noteworthy names for a drivetrain, perhaps no other automatic transmission captured the assertive, carefree style of post-War motoring, something Buick embodied so very well.
Mecum Auto Auctions: Featured a 1953 Super Estate Wagon at the Muscle & More Auction in Indianapolis in 2008
The Performing Art of the American Automobile by Jonathan A. Stein, photographs by Michael Furman, Coachbuilt Press, Philadelphia, c. 2005, pages 148, 153Back to Index