Recent frame-on restoration. Very nice Carlsbad Black paint, new interior, rebuilt 320 cubic inch straight-8. 12-volt conversion makes for quick starts and new WWW radials ride great. High-speed pre-war tour car ready to go!
We don’t know where this handsome Century spent its life, but it’s quite clean with no signs of ever having been rusty or patched back together. Someone spent a good deal of time and money on it in the not-too-distant past, giving it a better than average Carlsbad Black paint job, a rebuilt engine, and a very handsome interior. Basic black is always a great choice on big sedans like this Century, and the high-gloss finish looks better than some cars costing three or four times as much. The only notable demerit is that there seems to be some minor bubbling at the base of both front doors, but given how clean the car is and hos symmetrical it is, we suspect it’s a prep issue, not rust. Some of the chrome has been refinished, including the bumpers, but some is really nice original stuff that shows only the most minor pitting that’s all but inevitable considering the materials Buick used—the probably had pitting almost from new.
The interior was neatly restored using brown striped broadcloth that’s very similar to what might have been in there when this car was new. Fresh door panels were created at the same time and do a reasonable job of replicating the originals, and new carpets were installed on the floors. Someone spent big money on the plastic steering wheel and other knobs, which use a bright ivory color as original and really stand out in the otherwise monochromatic cabin. The gauges are all fully operational, although we suspect the fuel gauge is a bit of a pessimist, and the row of knobs under the dash for secondary functions gives it a finished look. The back seat is spacious for two and comfortable for three, with a drop-down center armrest and acres of legroom. The headliner is rather nicely done, too, and original window garnish moldings give it a clean, finished look. Century sedans offered big trunks, too, with this car’s cargo bay finished with correct cloth material.
In 1940, Buick’s 320 cubic inch overhead valve straight-8 was rated at 141 horsepower with a single 2-barrel carburetor. But what makes these engines special is all that creamy-smooth torque on tap, and that’s exactly why the Century was often referred to as the “banker’s hot rod.” The engine was rebuilt under previous ownership and remains almost entirely stock save for a 12-volt electrical system with alternator. That 12-volt battery kicks the giant engine over with vigor and it always starts quickly and easily with no hassles, settling into a muted idle that doesn’t quite sound like any other 8-cylinder engine you’ve heard. It’s finished in correct gray engine enamel, which was used in 1939 and 1940, with red lettering calling out “Buick 8” and “Dynaflash” on the valve cover. The carburetor and air cleaner are correct and it includes the spark plug cover and engine splash pans, details that often get omitted simply because people think they’re unnecessary.
The chassis appears largely original and we don’t believe the body has ever been off the frame. It isn’t detailed, of course, but there are no red flags or issues that a new owner will need to tackle. The 3-speed manual transmission shifts well, although you need to be deliberate going into high gear because the linkage is tight—if you don’t get it just right, it may pop out. Clutch action is light and the brakes are powerful enough to be a match for the engine. On the road, ride quality is excellent and that big, torquey straight-8 hustles this Century along without working very hard at all and with 3.90 gears in back it will cruise all day at 65 MPH, making it a fantastic choice for touring. Factory wheels were painted Dante Red, which really pops against the black paint, and outfitted with 235/75/15 Diamondback wide whitewall radials that ride and handle great.
Is this a perfect car? No way. But it’s exactly the right sort of car that you can get in and do just about anything. Drive it to work, take the family out for a drive, or hit the road for a long-distance tour. Big Buicks like this are superlative road cars, the hardware is bulletproof reliable, and their performance makes them comfortable in modern traffic. The Century remains perhaps the ideal combination of performance and luxury in the pre-war era and we can say with confidence that few other machines of the period can run the way this big black sedan does. Call today!
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