MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of General Motors Media Archives
Published 10.27.2021

1955 Buicks coming the assembly line GM Media Archives RESIZED 11955 Buicks coming off the assembly line (GM Media Archives) 

The 1955 model year was a great and prosperous time for General Motors. At the time, Buick was the number three brand in the country, sharing the GM spotlight with Chevrolet at number one, with Ford in between at number two.

The 1955 Buick models offered the consumer great styling and many great features that many consumers admired. When the new TV series “Highway Patrol” debuted on October 3, 1955, one of the show’s most popular characters was Broderick Crawford in the role of Chief Dan Matthews. The 1955 Buick patrol car was highlighted throughout the series and became very popular with American audiences, which paid off for GM from a sales standpoint.

Highway Patrol TV Series featuring 1955 Buick patrol car 2"Highway Patrol" TV Series featuring 1955 Buick patrol car

In 1955, Buick celebrated the manufacturing of its one-millionth vehicle. Buick’s production set an all-time record for the brand that year, with over 700,000 units. This success was based largely on the Special models, which had become one of the industry’s best sellers. However, the big news for 1955 was the introduction of the newly redesigned Riviera model, which the consumer market thoroughly enjoyed. A stylish design of the Buick 4-door hardtop was also popular. The Roadmaster Series featured the only models which used large chrome gravel shields between the rear wheel well and the back bumper.

1955 Buick Riviera four door hardtop GM Media Archives 31955 Buick Riviera four-door hardtop (GM Media Archives)

Many automotive historians have said that the 1955 Buick models were a mixed blessing for Buick. True, they set records that took decades to surpass. However, some Buick observers were convinced that the division also built far beyond its true production capacity, sacrificing Buick’s quality reputation for temporary sales success. Personally, I liked the 1955 Buick designs and thought they were great looking models.

1955 Buick interior RESIZED 41955 Buick interior

The 1955 Buicks offered a massive front-end design with lots of chrome added to the body’s overall appearance. However, the 1950s was the decade of dazzling chrome used on automotive designs.

For 1955, Buick’s most expensive and heaviest car was the Roadmaster Convertible, with a price of $3,552. The Roadmaster models offered Dynaflow automatic transmission, power steering, back-up lights, windshield washer, non-glare rear view mirror, parking brake warning lights and custom wheel covers.

1955 Buick 4 door hardtop advertisement GM Media Archives RESIZED 51955 Buick four-door hardtop ad (GM Media Archives)

The most popular model in the Buick Century series was the Riviera Coupe with 80,338 units produced in 1955. The Buick Specials used three vertiports on the fender design, while all other Buick series used four of the famous Buick vertiport holes on the side body. The 1955 Buick models offered only two sizes regarding the body chassis. Each chassis was very strong with its heavy X-bracing and torque tube drive options.

1955 Buick sedan advertising GM Media Archives RESIZED 61955 Buick sedan advertising (GM Media Archives)

Buick also featured some great looking advertising for their popular 1955 models. Print advertising would have been found in The Saturday Evening Post and Look magazines. However, one of the most influential advertising personalities that GM hired to help sell the 1955 Buick models was actor Jackie Gleason. In 1955, Gleason purchased a new 1955 Buick Roadmaster convertible from the Linden, New Jersey factory. He personally picked up his new Buick as part of a publicity stunt to help the brand boost sales. Buick was also a long-standing sponsor of Gleason’s popular TV series, “The Honeymooners.”

Actor Jackie Gleason at the Buick factory GM Media Archives 7Actor Jackie Gleason at the Buick factory (GM Media Archives)

In conclusion, if you wanted a big heavy car with lots of great luxury interior features and chrome, you would have purchased a1955 Buick Roadmaster model. Buick offered many other models in its series that included the Super Series and the Riviera, along with Century and the Special -- with 20 popular base color combinations available. The 1955 Buick models will always be remembered fondly as part of our automotive heritage.

1955 Buick ad GM Media Archives 81955 Buick ad (GM Media Archives)

Bibliography  

Dammann, George H. “Seventy Years of Buick.” Crestline Publishing, Revised Edition, 1973.

Dunham, Terry B., and Gustin, Lawrence R. “Buick: A Complete History Revised Sixth Edition.” Automobile Quarterly, 2002.

Norbye, Jan P. and Dunne, Jim. “Buick The Postwar Years.” Motorbooks International, 1978.