1936 was a good year for Buick, with the entire model range being successfully redesigned by the brilliant Harley J Earl and relaunched with suggestive new names.
One of the most imaginative creations in the new four-model range was the Buick Century, which replaced the old Series 60. The concept that ruled from 1936 to 1942 was simple but effective – the Century (hinting that it could reach the magic ‘ton’ when flat out) would be the company’s speediest offering, created by mating the short-wheelbase Buick Special from the bottom of the range with a larger engine from the superior Roadmaster (powerful enough to propel 40-seater buses).
The combination of light bodywork and massive motor was not altogether successful, as those who still drive one of these nonetheless popular machines will testify. The Century certainly lives up to its name by delivering fantastic straight-line speed but handling isn’t brilliant and high-speed cornering can be problematical. It came in various body styles, with the regular four-door sedan comfortably outselling the other options – nowadays deemed more desirable and including two-door sedans, a Victoria coupe, sleek fastback sedanets and rare open-top phaetons. Interestingly, the Century was supplied as a rolling chassis so various classic examples with custom coachwork may be found.
The 1936 Buicks effectively saved the company, which had nearly foundered during The Great Depression. But the four new models – The Special, Century, Roadmaster and Limited – sold well as the economy (and consumer confidence) revived and the coffers refilled again. Even so, although sales levels remained good the Century was discontinued for the abortive 1942 model year and didn’t reappear immediately after World War II, though the Century badge was subsequently revived twice – from 1954 to 1958 and 1973 to 2005.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1936 (until 1942)
5.2I (320 cid) Straight Eight
Top speed around 98 mph (158 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Century was the fastest Buick of its generation, and (in language that seems quaint today but was racy at the time) this speedy vehicle was nicknamed “The Banker’s Hotrod”.