My father was always a GM guy, at least through most of my boyhood. Later on he moved away from General Motors products, first with a Mustang, and then some Japanese cars. But during most of the time I lived with my family, my dad’s daily driver was either a new Chevrolet or a used Pontiac or Buick.
It was probably 1969 when, while perusing the Sunday classifieds, he mentioned to me that Reedman’s in PA had a used Buick in which he was interested. At that time, Reedman’s Auto Mall had a reputation as one of the largest used car dealers in the Northeast. While they did sell new cars, they never seemed to advertise them. Years before the advent of the automotive superstore, they regularly ran newspaper ads which featured their gigantic pre-owned inventory. Located in Langhorne, PA (and still in existence today as Reedman-Toll), it was an hour ride from our house on Staten Island. Dad invited me to accompany him to check out the car, a 1966 Buick Sportwagon. He had never before involved me in any aspect of a vehicle purchase, and I was utterly thrilled.
We arrived and found the car. The concept of a gold station wagon did nothing to excite me. But its list of comfort and convenience features did. This car had factory a/c, power windows and seat, AM/FM radio, and cruise control. NO vehicle in the Reina family fleet up until now had ANY ONE of these, much less all of them in one automobile. A second glance at the body style made me realize that this “Sportwagon” had the second windshield above the rear seat, as did the more aptly named Olds Vista-Cruiser. So this was something cool, at least as station wagons go.
The passage of time has caused me to completely forget the dealer’s asking price. A check of my Encyclopedia of American Cars tells me that a 1966 Buick 2-row custom Sportwagon carried a base MSRP of $3,155. What could the price have been on a 3-year-old example, $1,900? Whatever it was, I begged my father to buy the car. He did. We traded in the Corvair; I think we actually drove the Corvair there and drove home in the Buick, the deal done in one day.
The Buick became mom’s car; dad was still driving the ’63 Pontiac Catalina (of which I have no photos). (Writing that previous sentence brought out a chuckle in me; in the 1960s, wives had no input in the selection of their cars – their husbands just bought them and brought them home.) He was soon about to get his Mustang, which is a story for another time. I got my driver’s license in 1971, and by 1973, mom was ready for a new car. The Buick became mine. The FM radio, along with its ability to swallow my drum set, were its best features. By far its worst feature was the 8 miles-per-gallon I was achieving in local Staten Island driving. By 1974, when the first gas crisis hit, the fillup costs were crushing my meager budget. The Buick was also using a quart of oil about every 500 miles. It was sold for $400. I bought a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe, which could get an amazing-for-its-time TWENTY miles per gallon!
Buick Sportwagons never appear at any of the various car shows and auctions I attend. Hagerty’s Classic Car Price Guide pins the value of one today (Nov. 2015) at $9,850. Gee, if I had only held onto it….
All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.