Pick of the Day: 1951 Buick Special, with a great straight-8

Desirable 2-door in Ok condition offered for an affordable price

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The Buick looks like it's been well cared for

The straight-8 is a bygone engine configuration that was once common for automakers seeking enhanced performance and refinement. Buicks were powered by straight-8s for more than two decades, in varying displacements.

Sometimes referred to as the Fireball Eight, Buick rolled out the engine across its entire lineup beginning with the 1931 model year, and the straight-8 continued powering all Buicks until it was replaced by the 322-cubic-inch “Nailhead” V8 beginning in 1953. 

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The Pick of the Day is a straight-8-powered 1951 Buick Special, offered in West Babylon, New York, by a dealership advertising the club coupe on ClassicCars.com.  It’s finished in a two-tone black and silver, and adorned with lots of chrome accent trim – including, of course, its Buick-signature portholes on the side of the hood.  The upper portion of the toothy grille even spells out in cursive script “Buick Eight.”

The dealership states that this Special was female owned for 30 years and has been shown at special events.  It has its original engine, which is paired with Buick’s Dynaflow automatic transmission.  While specifics around maintenance history are not called out in the ad, the sedan is said to run and drive great and has been mechanically well-maintained, according to the seller. 

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The Buick lineup in the early 1950s was easy to map out, with just three models starting with the Special (Series 40) at the entry-level position.  Moving upward came the Super (Series 50) with such features as distinctive rear side windows.  Sitting at the top was the Roadmaster (Series 70) flagship with “sweepspear” fender trim and wide chrome panels below the windows and doors. 

Buick aficionados will be quick to point out that the Roadmaster was the only model with four portholes on each side of the hood instead of three.  That styling cue was a visual nod to the Roadmaster’s straight-eight being 320 cubic inches as compared with the 260cid of lesser models. 

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The seller has included detailed photos showing the dashboard and interior, which though imperfect appear to be in decent shape for a driver-grade vehicle approaching 70 years old.  The dealer is asking $9,900 for this Buick. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Tyson Hugie grew up in a family of gearheads and enjoys anything to do with automotive and motorsports. He is a contributing editor to Redline Reviews, a YouTube channel with coverage from major auto shows. He also writes for Arizona Driver Magazine and holds leadership positions with a number of car clubs. Tyson has lived in Arizona for 10 years and his current obsession is Japanese cars from the early 1990s which, though hard to believe, are now becoming classics. Tyson can usually be found exploring offbeat and obscure road trip destinations on his blog "Drive to Five," which started as a way to share travel stories and experiences with his now-550,000-mile Acura.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Seems like a nice deal. As far as the number of portholes on the sides. Every year was different. While the Roadmaster always had 4 holes, some Supers also had 4 holes. That has been a great topic of conversation among Buick Aficionados. I have a 55 Super with 4 holes. There’s no rhyme or reason, at least that I know, what determined the number of holes.
    Tony M. BCA #45939
    Proud owner of a 4 hole Buick Super and member of the Buick Club of America

  2. I loved the smoothness of the Buick straight eight, but we used to call the early Dynaflow the Dynaflush as it was very mushy and you never really felt a shift. Also they were very comfortable cars that were not easy on gasoline, about 10 to 12 MPG. Enjoy

  3. Agree. One of the things that Buicks are known for, is all of their chrome. At least the bumpers are still attached and , if in good shape, can be re-chromed.

  4. Glad we have some Buick enthusiasts in our midst. I referenced some official sales literature as well as the Hometown Buick website when writing this. Every photo I saw of a Super & Special had only 3 portholes, but I could be wrong and I’ll definitely defer to the expertise of Anthony who is an official member of the Buick Club of America. Sounds like you have a great Super!

    As for Michael’s comment on the porthole location – for 1951 you’re absolutely right. I’m most familiar with the 1950 models which had them on the side of the hood. So, glad you caught that.

    I’m determined to own a Buick from this era at some point – my grandfather and grandmother drove a 1950 Special “Jetback” 4-door on their honeymoon in 1954. I have photos of the car hanging in my kitchen so I see them every day as a reminder. Thanks for reading!

  5. Seems like a nice deal. As far as the number of portholes on the sides. Every year was different. While the Roadmaster always had 4 holes, some Supers also had 4 holes. That has been a great topic of conversation among Buick Aficionados. I have a 55 Super with 4 holes. There’s no rhyme or reason, at least that I know, what determined the number of holes.
    Tony M. BCA #45939
    Proud owner of a 4 hole Buick Super and member of the Buick Club of America

    I don’t know everything there is to know about BUICKS, but I will share what I do know. The portholes were introduced in 1949, from 49 to 54, The Roadmaster was the only model to have 4 portholes In 1955 The Roadmaster and Super had the 4 portholes, and were the only two models to have the tear drop headlight ring to include the front signal/parking lights. The 1955 Buick Special was the only Buick to have 3 portholes, the Buick Century had 4 portholes in 55. The Special, and Century were the only models to have round headlight in 55 with the signal/parking lights separated below the headlight with its own small ring. The Century was a Buick Special body with The Roadmaster engine. The Century was reintroduced in 1954 with 3 portholes and the 322 V8, the last year before that was the 1942 model Century which had the 320 Straight Eight. From 1955 to 1957 Super, Roadmaster, and Century had the 4 portholes. In 1958 and 59 the portholes so to speak were gone, reintroduced in 1960.

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