Automotive Technology Blog

Automotive Technology

The Automotive Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about electrical/electronic components, materials, design & assembly, and powertrain systems. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Now That’s What I Call Power Wheels   Next in Blog: Porsche’s Most Controversial Engineer

Remembering the First Buick

Posted July 27, 2007 2:44 PM by Steve Melito

One hundred and three years ago today, Dr. Herbert Mills of Flint, Michigan bought the first Buick automobile ever sold commercially. Walter L. Marr, a machinist for Buick Auto-Vim and Power, had purchased the first car to be called a "Buick" several years before, in a private sale, when company president David Dunbar Buick faced insolvency and sold most of his company's assets. The car in the picture on the left – the first Buick ever manufactured in Flint – is from 1905, a year after David Buick lost control of his company. Of these three cars, which one is the "the first Buick"?

An Inventor, Not a Businessman

David Dunbar Buick was a gifted inventor, but his mastery of machines never made him a rich man. The Buick Motor Car Company that he founded in 1903 produced a powerful and efficient valve-in-head engine, but control of his company soon passed to William Crapo Durant, owner of the country's largest carriage maker. Whereas Durant was a skillful businessman who mass-produced vehicles, Buick saw every automobile as a work of art. In 1906, a frustrated Buick quit the company he had created and moved back to Detroit. Two years later, the Buick Motor Car Company became the top producer of American-made automobiles, surpassing Ford and Cadillac combined.

Never Call Retreat

During the last years of his life, David Dunbar Buick held a series of low-paying jobs and couldn't afford a telephone, never mind one of the cars that bore his name. Still, Buick was not bitter. A year before his death from colon cancer in 1929, David Buick was interviewed by Bruce Catton, a young newspaper reporter who later became a Pulitzer-prize winning historian. According to Catton, Buick spoke of his life without regret and expressed no ill-will towards William C. Durant.

We'll never know what went through David Buick's mind on that day long ago, but maybe he kept his cool by remembering a hot day in July of 1904, when his first successful vehicle reached 30 mph on a trip around Flint, going so fast that the driver "couldn't see the village six-mile-an-hour sign".

Was that car the first, real Buick?



Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Previous in Blog: Now That’s What I Call Power Wheels   Next in Blog: Porsche’s Most Controversial Engineer