Pearl Harbor survivor ’39 Buick comes up for auction

The 1939 Buick Special convertible has been restored to original condition | Woltz & Associates
The 1939 Buick Special convertible has been restored to original condition | Woltz & Associates

On the eve of the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one special survivor will roll onto the collector-car auction block looking as fresh as it did on the “date which will live in infamy.”

The handsome 1939 Buick Special Model 46C convertible was parked at the dock – its Navy officer-owner, Dee Venter of Connecticut, at sea on the USS Pensacola – when the attack was launched in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. Despite the vast destruction all around it, the Buick was found unscathed when Venter returned from sea six days later.

The Buick wears a 1941 Hawaii license plate | Woltz & Associates
The Buick wears a 1941 Hawaii license plate | Woltz & Associates

Now restored to original condition, the silver-gray Buick Special will be offered Saturday, December 6, by Virginia auction house Woltz & Associates in a sale of some 70 domestic cars, most of them in abandoned condition and scattered around a wooded property in Martinsville, Virginia, where the auction will be held.

Woltz & Associates is mainly a real-estate auctioneer in the Southeast with occasional forays into equipment sales, said Boyd Temple, auctioneer and real-estate broker with the company. “This is the first mainly classic car sale we’ve done,” he said.

The Pearl Harbor Buick survivor is the standout of the auction with just one other car, a 1969 Buick Electra 225 convertible, presented as restored, Temple said, adding that a few of the other cars are in running condition.

The current owner of the ’39 Buick, retired Martinsville quarry owner A.C. Wilson, obtained the car from his cousin, Mary Bullard of Radford, Virginia, who had owned the survivor since the war years when Venter traded it with her and Navy pilot husband, George Bullard, for a Ford Model A.

Red highlights were part of the original look | Woltz & Associates
Red highlights were part of the original look | Woltz & Associates

With the war in progress and her husband fighting from the sky, Bullard returned to the United States and brought the Buick back with her. She met her mother-in-law, Pamela Bullard, in California, and the two women drove the convertible cross-country to Pulaski County, Virginia, a trip that took 11 days and included many flat tires.

During the war, George Bullard was shot down, survived without water on a desert island, and was captured by Japanese soldiers. Mary Bullard, who thought her husband had died in the crash, was joyously reunited with him when the conflict ended. After they returned home to Virginia, the Buick was used extensively for transportation and road trips.

In an article about the Pearl Harbor Buick in the November 2007 edition of the Buick Bugle, the magazine of the Buick Club of America, the writer notes, “She has traveled from sea to shining sea in this country. She has crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, shuttled passengers to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and sailed the Pacific Ocean on a boat.”

The Art Deco interior is beautifully detailed | Woltz & Associates
The Art Deco interior is beautifully detailed | Woltz & Associates

Mary Bullard was widowed in 1966 when her husband died of a heart attack while working on their farm. A short time later, she retired the aging Buick to the barn. When A.C. Wilson – a Buick enthusiast and collector – visited his cousin, he’d ask about the Pearl Harbor survivor out in the barn. In 1973, she finally agreed to sell the dingy relic to him.

Wilson kept the car for a number of years until he treated it to a total restoration, which was completed in 1993, reportedly at a cost of $100,000. The car has been driven less than 1,000 since the restoration, Temple said.

“This car has really had a charmed existence,” said Jim Woltz, president of the auction company. “First, it survived Pearl Harbor, then returned to the United States, where it was finally restored with great care and attention to detail. In all that time, it has had only three owners.”

The property in Martinsville where the auction is being held is owned by Wilson, who collected the cars and parked them there.

For more information about the December 6 sale and the Pearl Harbor Buick, see The auction company has included several videos about the rich history of the car on its website at

My Classic Car: Mark’s 1962 Buick Skylark

Mark's 1962 Buick Skylark | Mark Parrish photos
Mark’s 1962 Buick Skylark | Mark Parrish photos

Thirty years ago in October, I went to buy a 1965 Buick Skylark hardtop, found out it was a four-door and decided to pass. The guy said wait, I have another car. I said, what is it? He said, a 1962 Buick Skylark convertible.

I looked at it. It was in need of a bunch of work. But I made him an offer and have ended up owning it for 30 years.

— Mark Parrish, Bellingham WA

The Skylark's interior
The Skylark’s interior

Pick of the Week: 1960 Buick LeSabre hardtop

The 1960 Buick LeSabre is best remembered for its bodacious tailfins
The 1960 Buick LeSabre is best remembered for its bodacious tailfins

When the talk turns to tailfins, who could forget the sleek pair that adorned the 1959-60 Buick? Slanted outward from a crested line starting at the front doors, they were a stunning embellishment of sporty style that closed out an exuberant era of car design.

The Pick of the Week is a red-and-white 1960 Buick LeSabre hardtop, a big and brassy 42,000-mile beauty that looks factory fresh with a repaint and new interior.

The low-mileage Buick has been repainted and reupholstered
The low-mileage Buick has been repainted and reupholstered

The Buick is a lifelong Southern car that has never been rusted or in an accident, the seller says. The hardtop was delivered new in Shreveport, Louisiana, in April 1960 to a woman who drove it sparingly until she sold the car in 1999. It is being offered by a classic car dealer in Lakeland, Florida.

The Buick is described by the seller as having “new dual-stage repaint in factory bright red with white hardtop, excellent new red-and-white vinyl interior in as-new condition, mint original dash, new correct door panels and carpet, and very nice original chrome and stainless.”

The car is powered by a 364-cid V8 with four-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission, with a new air-conditioning system by Vintage Air.

A ’60 Buick hardtop in this great original condition is a rare find, and the asking price is $34,500. The car would make a great cruiser and appears all ready to go with its low-mileage drivetrain, restored body and interior, and a new set of radial whitewalls.

“Now it will look great in your garage,” the seller says.

My (Dad’s) Classic Car: ‘Green Hornet’ 1942 Buick Roadmaster

Brother Johnny’s 1948 Buick Roadmaster | Anthony Calati photo
Brother Mike Jr. and Dad's 'Green Hornet' Roadmaster | Anthony Calati archives
Brother Mike Jr. and Dad’s ‘Green Hornet’ Roadmaster | Anthony Calati archives

When I was a baby, my oldest brother, Mike Jr., gave my Dad a ’42 Buick Roadmaster that he had bought and drove for about a year. At the time, my Dad had a ’37 Chevy with a rumble seat — and 5 children living at home. A ’37 Chevy with a rumble seat really didn’t make the grade, but at the time was the only car my Dad could afford.

Well, the ’42 Roadmaster became a family legend. It was nicknamed “The Green Hornet.” In my opinion, it was a freak. Nonetheless, it wore its model name with pride!

My brother Johnny would tell me the stories about The Green Hornet. When  Johnny was 17 years old and I was 2, we were making a trip upstate in New York and bringing everything we thought we needed — and everything we could fit in the Buick. This is where it gets really interesting: My Dad removed the rear seat cushion and filled the space with 50-pound bags of potatoes. On top of the potatoes rode two of my brothers — Richie and Bobby — our German Sheppard, Duchess, and myself.

In the trunk were 5 bags of cement, the spare tire and some tools.

In the front seat were my Dad, my brother Patsy, and my brother Johnny.

Do you think there was enough weight in this Buick?

We were making a 150-mile trip and on the way, there were some steep hills. My brother Mike Jr. and a childhood friend, Frank, were following us in a 1948 Dodge. When we got to this one long, steep hill, Frank started blowing his horn and flashing his lights because we were going too slowly. The Green Hornet was really loaded down, so Frank thought his ’48 Dodge could outrun it easily.

To Frank’s surprise, the Green Hornet started to pick up some speed, so much speed that it waved good-bye and left the ’48 Dodge, with only two people in it, in the dust!

Yes, that ’42 Roadmaster was a freak! It out-pulled Frank’s car so bad, the Dodge finally disappeared in the distance.

My Dad parked the car for good in 1956, and it hasn’t run since the year after that. It’s still in upstate New York, though lacking some of its parts.

In 1960, my brother Johnny bought a 1948 Buick Roadmaster with the Dynaflow transmission. He still drives it!

Obviously, Johnny was really impressed and I was overwhelmed by the stories. I bought a ’48 Roadmaster Model 76S just so my Dad could ride in it. I asked him if he wanted to drive and he said, “No, just take me for a ride.”

That was just 4 months before he died. I kept the car for 39 years in his memory, but then I realized that whether I had the Buick or not, I had my memories — of my Dad and his Roadmaster.


Multiple Choice: 1957 Buick or 1957 Mercury?

Once again, you’re at an auction (in this case, it’s a Silver Auction) and you can afford to bring home only one of these classics. Your choice involves 1957 models from two of Detroit’s upscale brands — a two-tone green Buick Century and a red-and-white Mercury Turnpike Cruiser. Which one do you want, and why?

Stylish Buick Riviera shows enduring appeal

The 1963 Buick Riviera was a groundbreaking design statement | Steve Evans
The 1963 Buick Riviera was a groundbreaking design statement | Steve Evans

The proclamation last weekend at the Detroit Autorama of a spectacular custom 1964 Buick Riviera, named Rivision, as winner of the coveted Ridler Award got us thinking about the first generation Riviera coupes,  one of the most beautiful car designs of their era.

The 1963 Buick Riviera was a startling creation when it was unveiled in October 1962 as General Motors’ “personal luxury coupe” and challenger to the Ford Thunderbird. Today, the original Riviera is considered a true milestone of automotive design (officially pronounced so by the Milestone Car Society).

The uniquely expressive front end of the ’63 Riviera | Larry Edsall
The uniquely expressive front end of the ’63 Riviera | Larry Edsall

Lavishly proportioned with a look that was utterly unique, the Riviera was a product of GM’s design studio headed by Bill Mitchell and originally drawn by stylist Ned Nickles. It had been intended as part of Cadillac’s stable of luxury cars, but when the Caddy people said they didn’t need another model, Buick won the car in a GM-division shootout and dubbed it Riviera, a name Buick had used off and on since 1949 for trim and styling packages.

Highlights of the Riviera’s “knife-edge” styling include the Ferrari-like egg-crate grille flanked by towering fenders, a long and sharply detailed hood, bold flanks detailed with subtle chrome accents, a squared-off roofline akin to the contemporary Rolls-Royce, and small rectangular taillights decorated with the Riviera emblem.

The ’64 Riviera was essentially the same with slight trim variation, while the ’65 version wowed the public with hideaway headlights concealed behind the vertical features on either side of its sweeping grille. The covers opened like clamshells when the headlights were switched on.

The early Riviera has long been a popular collector’s item because of its looks, but the big coupe also boasts a decent level of performance. The standard 401cid “Nailhead” V8 made 325 horsepower and a prodigious 445 pound-feet of torque, while the rare 425cid V8 with dual four-barrel carburetion raises horsepower to 340. Zero-60 was accomplished in less than eight seconds despite a curb weight of around 4,200 pounds. GM claimed a top speed of 122 miles per hour.

Nathan Evans gets a kick out of his dad’s Riviera | Steve Evans
Nathan Evans gets a kick out of his dad’s Riviera | Steve Evans

Steve Evans of Anthem, Ariz., remembers when he first laid eyes on a Riviera when he was a teen-ager in Holden, Mass.

“A guy down the street from us, he had a Riviera,” Evans recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ When I got my license about a year later, I said, ‘I’d really like to have one of those Rivieras.’ ”

Fortunately for Evans, now 46, his father is a classic car hobbyist and was eager to indulge his son with the ride of his choice. First, it was a ’64 Riviera, but after about a year, his dad decided the car was too shabby and offered to supply a better one. That turned out to be a handsome ’63 model in a paint hue that GM called Glacier Blue.

“I found the car that I have in New Jersey,” Evans said. “My folks effectively bought it for me for my high school graduation. And I’ve had it ever since. I drove that car from Massachusetts to Arizona.”

“I had it out here for awhile, but I was young and not married and didn’t have any garage space. I was beating it up, so I shipped it back home. It sat on blocks in my dad’s garage for eight years. He took it on himself to do a little mechanical work to get it back on the road and had it painted.

“So it got shipped back to me. I’ve only had it out here with me about a year. In which time, I fell in love with it all over again.”

Ed Mell’s Riviera at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona before the Copperstate 1000 road rally | Larry Edsall
Ed Mell’s Riviera at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona before the Copperstate 1000 road rally | Larry Edsall

Another Arizonan who owns a Riviera is Ed Mell, an acclaimed landscape painter and sculptor. Mell has driven his Buick in such events as the Copperstate 1000 road rally. He has been the owner of several landmark cars, and his choice of the Riviera speaks to its appeal even under the most critical artistic eye.

Evans drives his Riviera on occasion around the Phoenix area and puts it on display at car shows. The coupe is painted in the Glacier Blue factory color with its original wire hubcaps (a $55 option) and powered by the 401cid V8. He has the original paperwork on the car, showing its base price as $4,300, which rose to a then-lofty $5,409 with sundry options, including a Wonderbar radio with electric antennae.

As with most enthusiasts, Evans is mostly intrigued with the Riviera’s looks.

“I love the styling,” Evans said. “It’s just an iconic piece of American automobile design.”

Despite its status as a stylistic breakthrough, the ’63-’64 Riviera has remained a fairly low-hanging fruit among collector cars, with average values starting out around $12,000 and topping off just above $40,000 for pristine examples, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Rivieras have provided the template for countless custom-car efforts, and it’s a popular model for custom lowriders. The magnificent Ridler-winnng Rivision is the latest example of the enduring appeal of these cars among customizers at the top of their game.


Buick Regal celebrates its 40th birthday

1975 Buick RegalThe Buick Regal recently celebrated its 40th birthday as a car model. Originally known as the Century Regal, it was introduced in 1973 as one of General Motors’ first “personal luxury” cars and was propelled by a 350-cubic-inch V8 engine. The Regal would be the only mid-size American car to retain a standard V8 engine during the oil embargo.



All photos courtesy of General Motors

Partway into its second generation, the Regal lineup expanded from a coupe to include a sedan and estate wagon, though the V8 engine would be replaced by a turbocharged V6. Third-generation Regals had their drive wheels moved from the rear to the front of the car. In its fourth generation, the Regal GS became Buick’s first car with a supercharged V6. Regal began its fifth generation with the 2004 model year. In 2014, that version becomes available with all-wheel drive.

Our question for your consideration: Will any of the Regals come to be considered a collectible classic? If so, which? (You can respond in the comment section below.)