During the 1930s, Buick was a mainstay of the General Motors lineup. Positioned above Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac, Buicks seen in a separate class altogether and were generally seen as a stepping stone to the prestigious Cadillac range. Within the Buick line, the Special (which started life at the Series 40) was considered the entry level, though it was usually better equipped than any range-topping Chevrolet. From 1936 onward, the Series 40 was renamed as the Special and it underwent several changes and improvements with each passing model year. For 1939, the range was restyled with an enclosed “waterfall” grille and more fully enveloped fenders. The headlamps were still mounted on pods, but within just a few short years, the influence of Harley Earl would see its way into the lineup with fully integrated fenders and lamps. It was, after all, the same year the revolutionary Y-Job concept car debuted for Buick.
Standard bodies included a four door sedan, 2 door coupe, and a convertible coupe. A scant few buyers opted for the Model 41-C – officially known as the 5-passenger Trunkback Sport Phaeton, as featured here. The 41-C is a very attractive car, with four doors, a full folding soft top, roll-up windows and removable pillars that lend a stately, elegant appearance whether the top is up or down. Regardless of the body chosen, all Buick Specials for 1939 featured the 248 cubic inch, overhead valve, Dynaflash straight-8. In the face of the flathead engines of its competitors, the Dynaflash was considered to be very advanced. Of the over 200,000 Specials produced that year, just 830 left the factory gates in 41-C Phaeton specification, making this far and away the rarest of all the 1939 Buick Specials.
Our featured example is a very attractive and very correct 41-C Phaeton. This car was awarded a prestigious AACA Grand National 1st Place in 2013 and has since been enjoyed regularly by its past owners. It presents in very attractive condition and proudly displays its Senior and Grand National winner badges, showing it is a highly correct example that has lived up to the scrutiny of AACA judges. We believe it has never had a full body-off restoration; rather, it has been well maintained and restored on an as-needed basis through the years. The color combination of black bodywork over a red interior with a tan canvas top is very sharp and wonderfully suited to the elegant Harley Earl lines. Red wheels and wide whitewall tires add a bit of visual splash, and the wheels wear proper chrome wheel covers and trim rings. The older paint and bodywork are straight, attractive and free of major blemishes, though showing some signs of use here and there. Chrome bumpers, trim and other exterior details are excellent, while the front bumper features an interesting and unusual 3-bar overrider to protect the prominent grille.
The spacious interior is trimmed in red upholstery on the seats and door panels, while the original dash is finished properly in wood-grained metal. Original instruments feature in the gorgeous Art-Deco styled dash. Driver and front passenger get a slightly utilitarian rubber floor mat, while rear seat passengers are treated to more luxurious matching dark red carpets. The large soft top frame operates well, and gets covered by a tan canvas boot when folded.
Underhood, the Dynaflash inline-eight is detailed in correct gray with red/orange graphics. The engine is well presented, tidy and largely correct. It runs strong and smooth, and when mated to the three-speed manual transmission, delivers very respectable performance. That performance, coupled with robust mechanicals makes the Buick Special a fantastic choice for touring. The Convertible Phaeton bodywork on our example is not only rare and attractive, but it is also quite practical for as it provides the enjoyment of open-air motoring, with the weather protection of a full top and glass side-windows. This is a very handsome, honest and well-presented car that has been cherished yet very much enjoyed as intended. It will surely reward its next keeper.