About This 1905 Buick Model
Posted: 21 Jul 2003
July 21, 2003
Ancient Buick To Be Restored As Centennial Project
FLINT, Mich. - As Buick gets ready for its big centennial celebration in its former hometown of Flint July 23-26, it is also working with Flint's Sloan Museum to reconstruct one of the oldest surviving Buicks.
Buick will provide $15,000 in 'seed' money to help the museum's Buick Gallery and Research Center restore a 1905 Model C Buick, encouraging other Buick organizations to participate as a centennial project. For example, Dennis Meyer, head of the Buick centennial program for the Buicktown Chapter of the Buick Club of America, said his organization will donate.
Jim Johnson, assistant director of Sloan Museum and project leader, said his goal is to complete the restoration by June of 2005, on the 100th anniversary of the month it was produced. It will be a very public restoration. Pieces of the original car - the seventh oldest existing Buick --are now on display at the museum and the public will be able to view the work as it progresses.
It is said to have been in Flint since it was originally purchased by Fred A. Aldrich, an early executive of the Durant-Dort Carriage Co. and close associate of early Buick promoter and General Motors founder William C. Durant.
Pieces of the car have been stored at the museum since 1976, when other parts were used to create a replica of a 1904 Model B, the first Flint Buick. One of two Model Cs owned by the Sloan, it was considered in poor shape in 1976 and a 'parts car.'
'But while it was important to create the 1904 replica, we now think we can find enough replica parts so we can take back the 1905 parts and rebuild that car,' said Lawrence R. Gustin, Buick's assistant public relations director who has researched the early surviving Buicks. 'It would be great to return another Model C to the small pool of survivors from that era - and this one is particularly important to Flint, because it has been in Flint longer than any other surviving Buick.'
Buick Motor Co., incorporated in 1903, began automobile production in 1904 with 37 Model B Buicks built in Flint. In 1905, Buick assembly was moved to a vacant plant in Jackson, Mich. (engine production remained in Flint), while Buick's promoter, William C. Durant, gathered money to build a large factory on Flint's north side. In Jackson, 729 Model C Buicks were built in 1905.
No 1904 Buick is known to exist. The oldest surviving Buicks are 14 Model Cs from 1905 - including the fourth oldest, owned by Buick, and the 12th oldest, recently restored by the Sloan Museum for its Buick gallery. The oldest Buick, a Model C believed built in April of 1905, is on display at Harold Warp Pioneer Village in Minden, Neb.
However two 1904 Buick engines survive. In 1976, as a local historical project in the U.S. Bicentennial year, Flint auto enthusiasts used one of the 1904 engines to create a replica of the first Flint Buick, borrowing some parts from the Model C and having others fabricated from original designs.
The vehicle they created, a 'skeleton car' without fenders and body, looks exactly like the historic original Flint Buick in photos that were taken as it returned from a famous test drive to Detroit July 9-12, 1904. The vehicle is popular, and no one wants to lose the replica.
However Johnson, who helped lead that project and drove the car to Detroit and back in a 1976 re-creation of the 1904 test drive, kept the pieces left over from the Model C that donated the parts for the 1904 replica. Now, after 27 years, Buick and the Sloan will try to reconstruct the 1905 while keeping the replica.
Flint Buick buff, Greg Fauth, said the car to be restored was bought new by Aldrich. There are photos in the 1930s of Walter Marr, Buick's first chief engineer, and his son with the antique car. Around 1950, Fauth and his father studied the decrepit vehicle as it leaned against a fence in a field behind Aldrich's house. It wouldn't run, so they felt it was unrestorable. However longtime Buick dealer Ed (Smilin' Ed) Lunt bought it and tried to restore it.
Today, Johnson said he thinks a complete restoration is possible. The original parts he has include the frame, engine, hood, instrument panel, radiator, gas and water tanks, oiler and two wheels. The parts that are now on the 1904 - that need to be replaced with replica or original parts before they are taken back - include the springs, axles, transmission and two wheels. If the car is totally restored, an entire wooden body would have to be built and such items as fenders and headlamps found.
The other surviving 1904 Buick engine is being used by a California collector to create a 1904 Model B Buick. It is expected to be at the centennial celebration in Flint. That event will include nearly 1,800 vintage Buicks, all on display without charge at the Flint Cultural Center in a celebration that begins July 23. The best viewing days are expected to be Friday July 25 and Saturday July 26.
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