Buick Motor Company has a long history, dating back to the 1890’s. The official incorporation date is May 19, 1903, but the company’s roots go back to 1899 when David Buick tinkered in plumbing, farm/boat engines and then created the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company, which sold engines for the farm and boat markets. The business name was briefly changed to Buick Manufacturing Company before incorporating into what it is known as today, Buick Motor Company.
Buick Motor Company started out slow, not even making a car in 1903 and finding itself in some financial trouble. The company was sold to Flint Wagon Works, a wagon maker in Mich. Who was starting to produce engines.
The first test model was built in June 1904, and was test around Detroit. Deemed a success the 37 Model B was put into production. William Durant joined the company as part of another attempt for financial bailout. He transitioned his expertise in horse drawn carriages to the wave of the future, automobiles.
Durant went to the 1905 New York Auto Show, and before they had even built 40 total vehicles, he had sold over 1,000 at the show alone. This triumph propelled production and sales of 8,820 cars by 1908. A lot of this success is due to the invention of Buick’s valve-in-head engine. The success of Buick engines was evident on the race tracks as well.
Sales skyrocketed due to the wild success of the Buick 10, which
sold 4,002 in 1908. This helped Durant create a holding company named General Motors. Within 18 months, Durant had acquired a large stake in 30 different auto manufacturers and parts suppliers, including Cadillac, Olds and Oakland (Pontiac).
By the 1920s, Buick was becoming the car of choice for kings, sultans and political leaders and winning competitions from South America to Australia to the Soviet Union.
Buick’s fortunes soured during the Great Depression. The division declined again in the late ’50s, but returned to strength with improved styling and quality, engine innovations such as the first American mass-produced V-6 by the 60s.
In the years to come, Buick made a name for itself with products like Gran Sports (1965-75), Regal Grand Nationals and GNXs (late 1980s). In the 1990s, Buick became the leader in supercharged engines. The division continued to emphasize sedans until millennium when if rolled out new marketing emphasizing “Premium American Style.” Today the convertibles and crossovers are still a main focal point of the Buick tradition but they have also branched out into SUVs.
Symbol of prestige
Buick Motor Division’s famous “tri-shield” emblem, basically three shields inside a circle, can be traced directly to the Scottish ancestral coat of arms of David Dunbar Buick. Even earlier, in Buick Manufacturing Co. literature (a 1902/03 catalog) a depiction of Uncle Sam walking astride a world and pulling a Buick engine on a wheeled cart with slogan, “Known all over the world” is linked with brand history. The first widely recognized use of the Buick name was a large brass cursive “Buick” that appeared on the mesh radiator grille of early 1900s models. There is some controversy but it is believe in 1905 models could also be seen with “Buick Motor Company” in block letters and/or “Buick” on running boards.
In 1911, an odd-looking Buick logo appeared with a giant “B” with the “uick” inside it. About that time, the famous Buick slogan, “When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them,” also was introduced.
The Buick script framed inside dates to around 1913 and showed up in grille designs well into the ’30s. Other Buick icons included hood ornaments came about during this early period. In the mid 1930s, a General Motors Styling researcher, researched ancestral arms of the Scottish Buick family and decided in an attempt to modernize the logo to incorporate it.
The interpretation is that the red shield with a checkered silver and azure (light purplish blue) diagonal line running from the upper left corner to lower right, an antlered deer head with a jagged neckline in the upper right corner of the shield and a gold cross in the lower left corner. The cross had a hole in the center with the red of the shield showing through. Minor changes to the concept were made over the years.
By 1960, the logo went from one shield to the tri-shield, representing the three Buick models then being built, LeSabre, Invicta and Electra.
In 1975, the the Skyhawk line came about and so did a hawk perched on block letters of Buick . In the 80’s the popular hawk mascot (named Happy) retired and Buick decided to re-emphasize the tri-shield. Today the tri-shield is modernized in Buick marketing and advertising, emphasizing the outline of the original design. The buck’s head and cross are gone, the diagonal no longer checkered. With the new see-through design, there are no longer colors in the shields.