Monday, October 7, 2013

Dodging a bullet, The ‘39 Buick Special

The last weekend of September was the beginning of the fall foliage season and when I found out the Hemmings was having an auto show in Saratoga Springs, New York and the weather was going to be absolutely gorgeous, I had to make the 220 mile journey.

When I entered the show the very first car that caught my eye was this 1939 Buick Model 46S Sport Coupe. Oh my god, she’s gorgeous. One sweet ride! But it goes deeper than that.

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

Way back when Moses was floating down the Nile in a basket, I was 17 years old. Yes, with more ambition than brains, I bought a 1939 Buick Special out of a farmer’s pasture. It basically had a sound body but I had no clue that I was way over my head. As far as I could tell, mine was originally tan with taupe mohair interior. This one is Arcadia Gray.

So why did I call this post, “Dodging a bullet”? Well, 1939 was a low production year for the ‘39 Buicks. Parts are hard to come by and the straight-eight had some idiosyncrasies in its construction. But all that aside, being young and brash I had know idea what was involved in restoring a car like this. My buddy Karl told me, “Steve, too bad it isn’t a coupe. The four-door is an old man’s car.” He was right, I would have been an old man before I had enough money to do the frame-off restoration to get my jalopy to match the car in my mind.  Silly me, I thought that with a bunch of elbow grease, a new 6 Volt battery and some air in the tires I would be cruising down the road.

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

'38 Buick Special ©2013 Steve BorichevskyThere are quite a few ‘37, ‘38 (Special, see left) and ‘40 Buicks out there, but in my mind, I just love bullet head lights and the funky grill of the ‘39s. The Special that I had was a sedan and it had suicide doors. I just love the curves. Heavy? You betcha. Like my dad said in 1977, “It used to be that you could hit a deer and only do $300 damage. Now if you hit a bird, you’re in for the same amount.” Yes, you need to be a blacksmith to work on these fenders! And under the hood. There was plenty of room to swing wrenches around the Dynaflash 8. You could almost crawl inside the engine compartment. Today, the only tool you can get close to the engine is a feeler gauge.

My buddy Karl? He was into MGs. He had one running, registered and road-worthy. Cool ride. I never got used to how low it was. It felt like I was going to get road-rash on my butt cheeks compare to how high you sat in these big Buicks.

Well, as always, I’ve digressed. This year I have been trying to branch out with my images. This gave me a golden opportunity. The owner of this car and his family crated a small 1939 display and came in period cloths. I spent several minutes talking with the owner and he gave me the inside scoop on the amount of work he put into the car. I just had to ask him what kind of gas mileage his ‘39 gets. 12 MPG. Ha! my ‘70 Buick Skylark got 15!

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

Now speaking of getting out of my comfy zone, I’m not a good people photographer. I can do a snapshot and I’m getting better. However working with this family was easy. They did all the work and I reaped the reward. The challenge? Look at the shadows! The sun was at their backs. But you must be fearless with the light! This is actually a good thing. You see, if you take a photo of a person in strong sunlight on their face, they are going to squint and look like dorks. My friends here look awesome and I had a blast shooting them.

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

©2013 Steve Borichevsky

Not bad for the midday sun!

So what happened to my ‘39 Buick Special? I went off to college. My parents had taken new jobs and were selling the house. I had to sell the car. My dad worked with a man who had a ‘39 Buick for a first can and just was thrilled to death to take it off of my hands. He paid me $550 for it. Later I learned from my dad that the guy went totally full tilt boogie on the car. He built a garage, went to swap meets across the country (yah, parts for ‘39 Buicks are tough to find) and got it up and running. After blowing the family fortune on it, his wife had enough and left him.

Yah. I dodged a bullet. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart (and a space in my garage) for a ‘39 Buick.

Be sure to visit Our World Tuesday this week!


Margaret Adamson said...

HI Love the story, the car and the people shots.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had a car like that! :)

Gunsside said...

Stylish, looks like a fun day of shooting :)

Cynthia said...

What a fun post, what a gorgeous car! The only thing missing is you did not get to go for a ride!

Katrin Klink said...

Great pictures!

retriever said...

Lovely fotos
,☸ ... Wonderfull old cars!!
Have a nice day Greeting from Belgium
Blog seniorennet.Be Louisette

Genie Robinson said...

A great story, grand old vintage cars, and fun people dressed in period outfits. What more could the viewer ask for. genie

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