BUICK "DREAM" CARS
Buick Communications - media release to commemorate 100 years of Buick (1903-2003)
by Lawrence R Gustin. Additional photography courtesy of Eric North Collection of origional Buick Factory Photography.
DETROIT A distinctive, luxurious vehicle named Centieme, revealed to the public at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is the latest in a long line of Buick concept vehicles. Centieme (pronounced sent-e-em, meaning 100 in French) was named in honor of Buick's centennial in 2003. It is designed to combine the best features of a sedan and sport utility vehicle.
Concept cars were commonly known as "dream" cars in the1950s. But concept or dream car, the idea is about the same. A concept car is a design and engineering, and often marketing exercise, a method of trying out new ideas and generating excitement with the public about a company's products and expertise. It's also sometimes a way to tease upcoming production models.
Historians generally claim the first true dream car was a Buick. A black two-place convertible created by General Motors Styling and Buick Engineering back in 1938. It was, and still is, the Buick "Y-Job", designed by Harley Earl, GM's first design chief, and built on a production Buick chassis modified by Charlie Chayne, Buick's chief engineer.
There are various theories behind the name, the most prevalent being that the letter "Y" was used for experimental aircraft at that time. Also, Earl tended to use "job" to refer to his project cars.
In June of 1993, the 13 then-existing Buick dream cars were brought together for Buick's 90th anniversary, photographed at Grand Traverse Resort near Traverse City, Mich., and appearing at Eyes on the Classics, an auto design show in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich.
Highlights of the Buick dream cars:
Y-Job, 1938 Harley Earl was always striving to make cars lower and longer "because my sense of proportion tells me that oblongs are more attractive than squares." The Y-Job fits that description, strikingly modern and sporty in design, with front fenders swept back into the doors. Other features: a straight 8 engine, disappearing headlamps, flush door handles, convertible top concealed automatically by a steel boot, electric window regulators and small (13-inch) wheels with airplane-type air-cooled brake drums. It is owned by General Motors.
XP-300 and LeSabre, 1951 Harley Earl and Charlie Chayne had so many ideas they couldn't put them all in one car. So Earl had charge of LeSabre and Chayne, by now head of GM Engineering, had XP-300 (though he was in charge of mechanics for both). Both cars were the result of a long-term cooperative venture between GM Styling and Buick Engineering. Both cars feature aluminum bodies, supercharged 335-hp V-8 engines using methanol/gasoline fuel, push-button seats and windows (including convertible rear windows) and power jacks operated from the driver's seat. Four-wheel disc brakes are cooled by forced air.
While XP-300 has the clean styling of an American sports car, the more dramatically sculptured LeSabre has a nose scoop suggestive of the intake of a jet plane. No wonder, its name was derived from an F86 Sabre jet fighter.
Emblems on XP-300 carry the initials C.A.C. for Charles A. Chayne. The white XP-300 is owned by Sloan Museum and the pale green LeSabre is owned by General Motors.
Wildcat I, 1953 This is a white single-seat convertible with fiberglass body, 188-hp V-8 and Twin Turbine Dynaflow transmission. The front wheel discs are stationary, the wheels revolve around them. This car is in private ownership.
Wildcat II, 1954 This is a rakish sports convertible. Now painted and trimmed in bright blue (the original color, after being shown for years in tan), it features what Buick called "a revolutionary front-end design with flying-wing fenders that flare straight out from the body, exposing the entire front wheel and part of the front-end suspension." The body is fiberglass. The engine is a 220-hp V-8. It is owned by Sloan Museum.
Wildcat III, 1955 This was a red two-door four-passenger fiberglass convertible with red leather interior. It had a sloping beltline and the rear wheels were completely exposed. The hood sloped toward the front of the car, increasing immediate forward vision. The fine screen grille was wide and low and the parking and directional lights were housed in the bumper "bombs." The engine was a 280-hp V-8. This car no longer exists.
Centurion, 1956 A spectacular four-passenger coupe with fiberglass body and all-glass top, this red and white model was particularly known for its "seeing-eye" television camera in the trunk. The TV camera had a receiver on the instrument panel to replace the rearview mirror. The camera was mounted in a jet plane-like tailcone. The engine is a 325-hp V-8. Centurion is owned by Sloan Museum.
XP-75, 1958 This was a two-passenger coupe with twin white leather bucket seats. It was hand-built by Pininfarina in Turin, Italy. Its wing-like rear fins became a 1959 Buick styling feature and its sculptured metal side treatment a hallmark of the 1960 Buick line. Features included power windows, air conditioning, paddle-type door releases, floor-mounted transmission lever, vertically indicating radio and specially designed steering wheel. The engine was a 348-cubic-inch V-8. This car, featured in GM's Golden Milestone Parade in 1958, no longer exists.
Riviera Silver Arrow I, 1963 This was GM design chief Bill Mitchell's car and, using the original 1963 Riviera as a base, had a lowered roofline and lengthened hood. (Silver Arrows II and III were relatively minor modifications of production Rivieras.) It is owned by Sloan Museum.
Questor, 1983 This red fiberglass bullet-shaped model is a non-motorized test bed for innovative ideas in electronics. It was very popular with the press and for several years wason display at Flint's AutoWorld amusement center. It has 14 micro-computers and such features as laser key entry system, automatic system for level, attitude and spoiler control; a "systems sentinel" to monitor the status of vehicle systems, head-up display for speedometer and gauges, map and navigation system, automatically aimed headlamps, theft-deterrent system, road traction monitoring system, TV rearview mirror (shades of Centurion!) and a touch-command system for entertainment, comfort and convenience functions. It and the following concept cars are owned by GM.
Wildcat, 1985 This spectacular red model incorporates four-wheel drive and a McLaren engine based on Buick's 3.8-liter V-6 block, mounted just behind the seats. The engine has 24 valves, dual overhead camshafts and field-programmable sequential-port fuel injection. Unlike other Buick dream cars, this one emphasized engine. The top of the powerplant is visible through an opening in the rear deck.
Besides an unusual aerodynamic design, the latter-day Wildcat features technical and design breakthroughs in joining the transparent and solid portions of the body. It has no traditional doors. As the canopy is raised, the steering wheel tilts forward for ease of entry. The body structure is composite carbon fiber and glass. This car, developed in cooperation with PPG Industries, was given the coveted 1986 award for prototype projects by the International Jury of the Car Design Award Turino-Piemonte, presented at the Turin (Italy) Auto Show.
Lucerne, 1988 This silver-blue concept car was introduced at GM's "Teamwork and Technology" exhibition in New York in January of 1988. It was described as a prestige/luxury front-drive coupe with exceptional comfort for four adults in stylish environment. It features a Navicar computer navigation system, developed by GM's Delco Electronics Division. Navicar used advanced "dead reckoning", through sensors on the wheels and steering to track the car's location continually from a starting point entered by the driver. The engine is a 165-hp V-6. Two years after its debut, Lucerne was transformed into a convertible.
Park Avenue Essence, 1989 First light green and later white, this sedan was displayed at auto shows as a forerunner of one of Buick's most important cars of the era. The 1991 Park Avenue Essence has graceful contours and instruments displayed in a wide, sweeping panel, and the Delco Navicar system navigation similar to Lucerne's. Essence features the then-new 185-hp 3800 V-6.
Bolero, 1990 This light blue mid-size car has a 3.3-liter V-6. It was considered a teaser for the 1992 Skylark. Its power is suggested by its aerodynamic shape, with a rear deck slightly higher than the hood. It has a steeply raked windshield, vertical-bar grille and smooth lines throughout. The car has a fiber optics light panel extended along the width of the rear, and other fiber optics are used in the instrument panel and doors.
Designers had families in mind when they provided a built-in cooler in the rear package shelf, dual cupholders front and rear and portable radio headsets located in the rear of the front seats. Rear passengers could listen to their own music while in the car, and take the radios with them when they left.
Sceptre, 1992 With a hint of European style, this rear drive car was described by then Buick General Manager Edward H. Mertz as "a design statement that could attract those purchasers who have been drawn to the international brands."
The white mid-size sedan concept, includes a 3.5-liter supercharged V-6 with an exceptionally clean underhood appearance, five-speed automatic transmission and air bags front and rear.
XP2000, 1995 This is an elegant rear-wheel-drive sedan showcasing advanced technology to enhance the convenience, comfort and safety of its passengers, and excellent packaging, the length of a mid-size Regal, wheelbase of a Roadmaster and interior space of a Park Avenue. XP2000 is a five-passenger car with a pearlescent silver-gold exterior color. It also has a full-size five-liter V-8.
The heart of XP2000 is a conceptual network of advanced computers that tailors the car to the needs and desires of the individual driver and allows it to use the Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems planned for the next century. These computers also link XP2000 to the rapidly growing "information superhighway", making it easier for the driver to work and relax while in the car. Among specific features is a remote keyless fob that can position the car's seats, climate controls and even driving response to a specific driver's tastes; a "Smart Card" setup in which a plastic card may be inserted into the instrument panel, allowing the driver to charge tools, fuel, food and other services; an advanced head-up display, and an instrument-panel display that can be adapted for use with a personal computer, a navigation system with arrows guiding the driver along a map display, and an array of safety features, ranging from eight air bags (including one in each door panel) to a detection system for obstacles near the path of the car.
Signia, 1998 This is a concept multiple-activity vehicle that offers the versatility of a van or sport utility while retaining the comfort, convenience and safety of a premium family sedan (it's based on Park Avenue architecture). Signia is taller, somewhat wider, and significantly shorter than the Park Avenue. It also has higher seats and roof as well as inset rocker panels for easier passenger access.
Cargo space is enhanced by independently folding seats and a powered rear floor that extends 15 inches out the back. Large rear doors, with 90-degree opening range, also provide easy cargo access. A hinged, composite-plastic hatch functions as sunroof and outside cargo carrier and is removable for transport of bulky items.
Infrared sensors detect objects in the blind spot and trigger warnings displayed in the outside rear view mirrors. In front of the driver's seat are reconfigurable head-up and head-down animated color displays. The remote keyless entry fob can be used to provide Personal Choice settings for seat positions, climate controls, entertainment sound systems and the tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
The engine is a 240-horsepower supercharged 3800 Series II V-6. An innovative hybrid all-wheel-drive system controls torque based upon wheel speed sensors monitoring traction needs. The color is described as metallic-ochre.
Cielo, 1999 This is an elegant, stylish four-door convertible. Its name, pronounced see-A-low, stands for "sky" in Spanish. It was positioned as a mid-size family car and "no compromise convertible." Two front-to-rear roof rails provide body strength and permit using three opaque panels that slide into the trunk when the driver wants the top down. A voice-activated system opens and closes doors and operates the convertible top as well as entertainment and climate controls. The engine is a 240-hp supercharged 3800 Series II V-6 with electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission, the transmission operated by a push-button control.
It was originally painted a pearlescent gold/bronze but was repainted for 2002in a silvery gold color called Goldleaf Chromaflair. Styling draws from Buick's design heritage with strong vertical grille reminiscent of Y-Job, fully functional portholes recalling this famous Buick feature that first arrived on '49 models, and the "sweepspear" side look of the late1940s and1950s.
LaCrosse, 2000 This is a graceful and stylish luxury sedan, painted a deep red wine color, that's quickly converted to a carrier of oversized cargo when panels open to reveal the pickup-type bed. Five-passenger "flagship" combines roominess and comfort with elegant exterior design featuring heritage styling cues similar to Cielo, "sweepspear" side profile, vertical-bar grille, portholes and cross-car rear lighting. On a voice command, the sunroof retracts and a single assembly that combines the back window and trunk lid slides forward to convert trunk into open cargo bay. Powertrain showcases Buick's return to V-8 with a 265-hp 4.2-liter version of GM's premium V-8, branded with the Buick name.
Bengal, 2001 This sleekly sculptured roadster (convertible) features a high-performance powertrain and hidden compartment that holds jump seats or storage space for golf clubs. It also features "wheels forward" architecture and voice-activated controls. This car was honored by AutoWeek magazine as the 'best of the best" of all concepts revealed at 2001 international auto shows. The innovative drivetrain has a six-speed automatic transmission in front of 250-hp supercharged 3.4-liter V-6 (transverse mounted), rather than behind it. Among its heritage styling cues are portholes and strong vertical-bar grille. It was named with Buick spokes-person and golf superstar Tiger Woods in mind. It was painted a two-tone medium blue.
Centieme 2003 The Buick Centieme concept is a distinctive, luxurious vehicle that combines the best features of a sedan and sport utility vehicle. Commemorating Buick's 100th anniversary, the progressive design suggests a rolling piece of sculpture, embodying the romance of travel for which Buick is renowned.
The four-door Centieme seats six passengers in a three-row, dual seat configuration. The low, wide-stance vehicle sports Buick's graceful flowing signature lines and classic grille. Combined with a relatively long wheelbase and tight overhangs, Centieme's form also projects a nimble and energetic appearance.
A 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine - good for 400 horsepower and 400 lbs.-ft. of torque - complements the spirited design. It is mated to a Hydra-Matic 4T65-E electronically controlled four-speed automatic transaxle with General Motors' Versatrak all-wheel-drive system. The front end uses a strut configuration, while the rear employs an SLA independent suspension with coils for car-like performance and handling.
Built by famed Italian design house Bertone, the Centieme rides on 22-inch front and rear aluminum wheels with Michelin tires. Interior is both luxury and technology. Inside, "captain's chair" seating in the front and middle rows give the spacious cabin a look of comfort and security. Armrests are located on the adjacent doors and integrated in the seats for perfect symmetry and enhanced comfort. The front and middle-row seats power-adjust in six ways for individualized coziness. The middle seats also slide forward for easy access to the power-folding, flat-load third row. Ease of entry and egress for rear passengers is aided by wide-opening rear doors. The center consoles for the front and middle seats are service areas that also slide forward on tracks submerged in the flat floor for extra utility.
Technology is advanced but understated, such as with the steering-wheel-mounted electronic shift controls. The back panels of the front seats also incorporate DVD entertainment centers for rear occupants.
"A crossover in style, Centieme is a fitting vehicle to celebrate a century of Buick heritage while fulfilling contemporary values. Sleek, romantic lines accentuate full sculptural forms, and shroud necessary practicality to create a preview of future Buick designs."