Back in 1942 when World War II rudely interrupted American car production, the massive Buick Limited models were the most expensive this mid-market company produced, riding sedately on the longest wheelbase and having lavish interiors. The ‘Limited’ designation was appropriate, as these exclusive limousines and touring sedans sold in small numbers.
Fast forward to 1958, when a Buick Limited series was revived as the ultimate Buick, designed as a top-end luxury challenger to smartly restyled Chryslers — and with its stretched rear end the Limited was the biggest car on the market, outgunning the rival Imperial by several inches. Size (at least in the minds of car makers) definitely mattered.
Junior Buicks for the new model year saw the application of flashy chrome and indubitable styling excesses, and the classy Limiteds were hardly more restrained. They had the extraordinary Fashion-Aire Dynastar front end consisting of 160 chrome-plated squares, each with four concave faces, that ensured the grille constantly sparkled. And Limiteds (which were essentially upgraded Roadmasters) flaunted more chrome and polished steel than any car ever made, earning nicknames like ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ and ‘Wurlitzer on Wheels’.
Limiteds have quad headlights, acres of sparkling brightwork and U-shaped rear side panels with vertical hatching. Three models were offered — a four-door Riviera sedan, a two-door Riviera coupe and the luscious convertible. Interiors were finished to the highest standard and some even swore the big Buick was better than its Cadillac rivals. But badge perception is hard to beat; the established luxury marque massively outsold the Limited and that was that — after just one year the revived Limited expired again. It was replaced by the less impressive (and cheaper) Electra 225. However, that makes these glittering gems both rare and very desirable today, when Limiteds are seen to represent the very soul of excessive late-1950s American auto-culture.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
6 l (364 cid) V8
Top speed around 85 mph (138 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Limited models had Buick’s hugely complicated automatic Flight-Pitch Dynaflow transmission, which delivered a terrifically smooth ride but was heavy on fuel – around 11 miles per gallon on a run and less in the city.