1953 Buick Special 45R Hardtop - $22,900
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  • Overview & History
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It also makes great sounds, a nice 8-cylinder burble from the exhaust and a wonderful mechanical symphony that sounds expensive under the hood.

1953 was a big year for Buick: it was their silver anniversary, the all-new “Nailhead” V8 debuted, and the cars featured 12-volt electrical systems for the very first time. But for traditionalists, the Special held on to earlier features, including the silky smooth straight-8 engine, so that no buyer would be unable to find something he would love in Buick showrooms. The formula was a huge success, with Buick building more than 58,000 of these wonderful Special Model 45R 2-door hardtops in 1953, proof that the formula still held significant appeal. Today, there’s something unique about firing up a Buick with a straight-8 and setting out on the road—the combination of effortless torque and Buick’s big car manners make the Special stand out among similarly-priced Chevys and Dodges. After all, if you can have more car for the same money, why wouldn’t you? It was a formula that worked as well in 1953 as it does today, and this wonderful 1953 Buick Special does indeed offer a whole lot of car for the money.

We don’t know who performed the restoration, but it was a high-quality frame-on job of a complete, straight car that was probably finished 10-15 years ago. The car was obviously disassembled for the job, as the color was changed from Teal Blue to Matador Red, both with a contrasting Majestic White top. There’s no trace of the original blue anywhere on the car, so they were quite thorough and the quality of the work speaks volumes given its condition today. There may be a few very, very minor signs of use, but nothing is unwinding—no cracks, no misaligned panels, no fading, and the car looks fantastic from any angle today. The Special got all the same design cues as the other models, from the revised grille and teardrop-shaped headlight pods to the sweep spear trim along its flanks and, of course, the famous Buick portholes in the front fender. Any ‘50s car is going to have a lot of chrome to restore, so someone made the investment here—it looks fantastic with all the pieces shining up brilliantly and showing very few signs of age save for some minor pitting on the vent window surrounds. The only noteworthy damage is a small crease in the stainless trim ahead of the right rear wheel opening, but it’s barely even visible. The car also features excellent glass with the traditional GM Sof-Ray tint, reproduction emblems and lenses, and accessory side mirrors.

Like the bodywork, the interior is a color change so virtually everything inside the car is new. Handsome checked cloth and red vinyl give it a very ‘50s look that’s still all-day comfortable and it’ll take an expert to find anything that isn’t done to Buick’s specs. The big steering wheel features the same horn ring and button as other Buicks, celebrating that 50th anniversary, and all the gauges are fully operational. It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and the view down the long hood, where you’ll find the famous Buick “Bomb Sight” hood ornament, is still worth the price of admission. The clock and radio are offline, which isn’t unusual, but otherwise everything works, including lights, signals, and horn, making this a great hobby car that can be enjoyed right away. For functionality, the carpets are protected by heavy-duty rubber mats that look like original equipment, and with that big back seat you shouldn’t think twice about bringing some friends along for the ride. The massive trunk is outfitted with what appear to be the original cardboard bulkheads and black carpet, and includes a full-sized spare and jack assembly.

1953 was the final year of a straight-8 in a Buick, with this one displacing 263 cubic inches and making 130 horsepower when linked to a DynaFlow transmission. The 263 was much more than simply a bored out 248, and offered significant upgrades such as hydraulic valve lifters, insert bearings, improved oiling, and dozens of other little improvements that make the 263 arguably the best of the straight-8s. In this Special, it’s smooth and torquey, starting easily with the pushbutton on the dash and pulling the sleek hardtop around with relative ease. It also makes great sounds, a nice 8-cylinder burble from the exhaust and a wonderful mechanical symphony that sounds expensive under the hood. Detailed in correct Buick Turquoise engine enamel with a black oil bath air cleaner, the engine bay looks crisp and bright. You’ll note reproduction decals were added to give it an authentic look and the big oil filter up front was a dealer-installed accessory. Unlike many of its peers, this one has no exhaust leaks, no burning oil, and thanks to ownership with a Buick mechanic of some note, it is beautifully tuned so it runs right. You’ll also spot neat details like a correct wiring harness, proper hardware, and even tower hose clamps for the perfect finishing touch. If you want a reliable cruiser, this is a fantastic choice.

The DynaFlow transmission was a popular option in 1953, with a vast majority of Buicks receiving the no-shift automatic. Look past its reputation and you’ll find a silky smooth gearbox that is a perfect mate for the equally smooth straight-8, giving the powertrain the effortlessness of an electric locomotive. It just accelerates without any shifts and cruises easily at 60 MPH today. As I mentioned, this was not a frame-off restoration, but the underside of the car shows nothing scary or in need of attention, just some normal surface scale on some of the heavy iron parts and nothing to hide. There is one patch about 10-inches square at the bast of the driver’s A-pillar (a common spot on these cars) that has been properly repaired and is not a point of concern. It also offers powerful brakes, light steering (both manual), and a correct exhaust system that is hushed but muscular. It looks like the shocks were rebuilt at some point in the not-too-distant past, there’s a new gas tank out back, and all DynaFlow cars received 3.60 gears so it’s a relaxed cruiser under almost any conditions. Factory steel wheels and hubcaps look appropriate and carry 7.60-15 wide whitewall tires.

Documentation includes an original owner’s manual.

Offering a lot of car for the money, this Special is powerful, smooth, quiet, and easy to handle. Sure, you could buy a comparable Chevy, but why be like everyone else? The Buick stands out in a big way, and that’s not by accident. Add in a flashy color combination, quality restoration, and the silky smooth straight-8, and you have a delightful hobby car that asks for very little in return for all the fun it provides. Call today!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1953 Buick Special 45R Hardtop
Price: $22,900
Stock Number: 118017
Mileage: 2690
VIN: 46871599
Engine: 263 cubic inch straight-8
Transmission: Dynaflow Automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.6
Wheelbase: 121.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: 7.60-15 wide whitewall
Exterior Color: Matador Red
Interior Color: Black and red cloth
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