Everything you want to know about the Buick; The Buick: A Complete History, by Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gustin with the staff of Automobile Quarterly. Princeton, N.J: Princeton Publishing Inc. $ 59.95.
By Charles E. Dole
For an industry in the midst of unmitigated turmoil, this is a good time to look back on days gone by when the US motor magnates were just starting their ride to fame and fortune and the whole magnificent future lay before them.
This is one of those superbly crafted books by Automobile Quarterly magazine, a high-type publication in its own right, which was founded in 1962.
"The Buick" tells the full, unabashed story of the founding of one of the most notable marques in the history of the industry. Indeed, it began with a plumbing-supply worker by the name of David Dunbar Buick. In time his name became a household word under the wise hand of promoter William C. Durant, who not only saved the Buick company from extinction but used it as a key piece in formulating General Motors.
Since those halcyon days soon after the turn of the century more than 22 million Buicks have hit the road.
Chris Sinsabaugh, a newspaperman who had covered the domestic auto industry since its inception, is quoted in the book as saying 40 years ago: "Buick was the first real success of the automobile industry and did more to provote the industry's well-being, in terms of public education, engineering advancement, and manufacturing progress, than perhaps any other company."
Benjamin Briscoe Jr., an early supplier to the auto industry as well as manufacturer, who bought the second car built by David Buick in 1903, later wrote: "No man in those days . . . would have gone into the automobile business if he had been a hard- boiled conservative businessman. It took a man of pioneering instinct, an idealist [and] of an adventurous nature."
Such a man was David Dunbar Buick and the host of other early-day pioneers who carved out an American Midwestern empire built around Detroit and ultimately made the US auto industry the envy of the world.
The highly motivated Japanese automotive juggernaut had its start in Detroit, for example, as American know-how showed the island empire the way.
An expensive book, it is not for the casual onlooker but more for the deep-dyed Buick buff or automotive historian who wants not a quick paint job but the whole bucket of nuts and bolts as well.
In other words, this book is an exhaustive work, replete with uncounted details, on the ups and downs of Buick and the industry around it. It includes a minute description of the founding of GM on Sept. 16, 1908, as the General Motors Company of New Jersey because that Eastern state placed almost no restrictions on the activities of firms registered within its borders. This was the same year that Henry Ford began the 19-year run of his famed Model T, which is credited with putting America on wheels.
Between its pages are 638 photos, the majority in black and white, but many in full color as well.
Too, there are 14 pages devoted to the year-by-year production record of every Buick ever built. Following in the appendix are selected specifications, starting in 1904 and running through 1980. There's an index of cars and personalities, plus an index of illustrations.
Ten years in preparation, the book draws on the expertise of numerous libraries, archives, museums, and private collections throughout the world.
It could be overwhelming for the less- than-avid Buickphile. Even so, it's worth an evening or two just perusing the photos -- and remembering all the while.