(first posted 11/20/2012) The place is Chihuahua, Mexico. The year is 1967, and there are only a few thousand cars on the local roads. It’s no wonder this one in particular left an indelible impression on my young mind and heart.
I was a first-grader in elementary school, and every day my school teacher, Miss Chabela (María Isabel García de Legarreta) would arrive at school driving a fabulous two-tone Roadmaster. Its exterior colors, white ivory and red brick, seemed to meld seamlessly into the similar hues of the interior. The first time I saw the Buick, I was mesmerized by its dimensions as much as by the shape of its body, which was so completely different from anything else I’d seen in my six years. The picture of my beloved and dear Miss Chabela driving her Buick has lingered in my mind ever since. It’s something hard to forget: You see, she was the very image of class and elegance, and had somehow bequeathed those qualities to the Roadmaster, which enhanced its magnificent looks, opulence and quiet stance all the more.
this and other black Roadmaster images by: bsabarnowl
The car’s subtle fins nicely integrated the back-up lights and tail lights in a sculpture extending into the rear bumper.
The square fuel cover on top of the bumper spelled out “F U E L” in embossed letters. It was good camouflage, and very practical as well.
The styling from this view really appealed to me. That back window was a magnet that instantly attracted my sight every time. The fine-looking “basket handle” treatment added definition around the C-pillar. Each side wore a molding that started at the middle of the front-wheel opening and ran up and back to the rear wheel opening behind a downward curve at the rear door. The side moldings made the car look longer and lower than it actually was.
Up front, a pair of round housings framed a fine-tooth, whale-like grille that contained the Buick logo. I considered the grille’s smile a daily greeting; always, the beautiful automobile was already parked at school when my mother dropped me off, waiting once again to subjugate my mind to its spell.
In the center of the long hood sat the the focal point: The famous gunsight that had distinguished Buicks for over a decade. The single headlights were complemented by two lower driving lights, an arrangement that would later be seen on future Pontiacs, including the Aztek.
The front fenders harbored Buick’s trademark portholes; four were found on Roadmasters and Supers, but the lower-series Century and Super got only three. The very thin and low roof topped four huge side windows and equally large windshield and backlight . The reverse-slant side window at the C-pillar was also splendid, as was the rear-door medallion with its two chromed stripes. I so loved these things that I spent hour after hour looking at them!
I still can picture the interior of the car quite clearly–the electric window switches, the remote control rear side mirror, the petite yet hefty shifter and PNDLR selector down the dashboard. The huge brake pedal that resembles a barber-chair’s footrest; the cavernous back seat; the radio’s B-U-I-C-K pushbuttons and WonderBar scan control; the jewel-like A/C outlets. I can’t be certain whether it had the floor-mounted radio-station changer behind the brake pedal or the Autronic-Eye sensor that magically and automatically dimmed the high beams for oncoming vehicles.
At the moment, I can’t recall every one of the many things I loved about the ’57 Roadmaster Riviera, but I do remember that they established my preference for GM cars in general, and for this one in particular.
Nineteen fifty-seven was an excellent year for most U.S. automakers. Overall, the Big Three enjoyed record sales as most independents struggled with dwindling budgets and changing buyer attitudes.
Without question, GM, Ford and Chrysler were the leaders in style and design, which even the Europeans copied for their stream of new models that would do battle in the North American market. It was the age of a chrome-plated excess that extended to even the most modest Chevrolets, Fords and Plymouths.
It’s hard to believe how greatly the passage of time can distort popular perception, but even today people greet cars of this vintage with both astonishment and admiration, appreciating them as the magnificent works of art they are. The compound curves of their huge wraparound windshields and sculpted front grilles recall a time when the economy was robust and gas prices were low–even though their rate of fuel consumption could cause you to sweat and shiver when you pulled up to a gas pump.
The driving characteristics we expect today were absent in these cars, They were awkward and bulky, and often would be junked soon after the next year’s new models hit the showrooms. Nonetheless, they provided comfort, luxury and elegance in abundance–and equally rich memories of times, now gone forever, that linger in the minds of those of us lucky enough to watch them drive the streets of our cities.
The 1957 Buick was offered in four series:
The Series 40 Special was available in seven body styles, a convertible, two- and four-door Rivieras, an Estate Wagon, a Riviera Estate Wagon and two- and-four-door sedans.
The Series 50 Super offered two- and four-door Rivieras and a convertible.
The Series 60 Century lineup comprised a convertible, two- and four-door Rivieras and the Caballero Estate Wagon.
Buyers of the Roadmaster Series 70 could choose among two- and four-door Rivieras and a convertible. It was joined by a Series 75 later that year.
Specials and Centuries shared a 122″ wheelbase, while a 127.5″ wheelbase underpinned Supers and Series 70 and 75 Roadmasters.
Under the hood sat a four-barrel “Nailhead” V-8, whose 300 hp launched the car from 0 to 60 in 10.6 seconds, and was good for a top speed of 120 miles per hour–impressive performance for such a big sedan. In order to achieve it, GM had boosted the engine’s displacement from 322 to 364 cubic inches, and fitted larger intake valves and a higher-performance fan. Obviously, fuel economy wasn’t a big worry at a time when a gallon of gas went for 20 cents. Nevertheless, a nagging conscientiousness seemed to be creeping in; in a press conference, GM Vice President and Buick general manager Ed Ragsdale quipped, “Well, we must keep the gas companies happy.” Imagine what today’s press could do with that statement!
The 1957 Buicks offered not just redesigned bodies and engine improvements, but also a new hybrid chassis. In order to achieve a lower body line, side beams were placed between the front and rear wheels. That allowed the floor pan to be placed under the beams, a design GM engineers referred to as “step-down” (where have I heard that?). In addition, the cars featured a new ball-and-socket front suspension designed to minimize nose dives when the brakes were applied.
Unlike the technically advanced front setup, the rear suspension used a tried-and-true semi-floating axle with coil springs and a radial anti-sway bar.
Buick also stuck with a torque tube, since its engineers held that its superior absorption characteristics improved handling. The Twin-Turbine Variable Pitch Dynaflow transmission received some engineering tweaks aimed at improving shifting and acceleration.
The top-drawer Roadmaster 75 came loaded with everything but air conditioning, which was its only option. Its standard features included six-way power seats, power windows, power steering, WonderBar radio, broadcloth-and-leather seats, deep-pile carpet and a chromed dashboard. While its price was a mere $300 less than a Cadillac Series 62’s, the 75 was nonetheless much better-equipped.
There were obvious similarities among the senior 1957 Buicks and Cadillacs like the one pictured above. The Super Riviera four-door, Roadmaster Riviera and Roadmaster 75 all shared roof lines and rear-door treatments with Cadillac’s Sedan deVille, Fleetwood Sixty Special and Series 62 hardtop. As Buick’s ultimate expression of luxury and elegance in 1957, the Roadmaster 75 was as close as you could come to a Cadillac without buying a Cadillac. But for a Chihuahua, Mexico, teacher? Well, not so much.
(The author is the Business Editor of El Diario de Chihuahua, where this article originally appeared. A special thanks to CC Copy Editor Tony LaHood)
Buicks had traditionally been pretty solidly built, but quality had slumped during the mid-50s sales boom and 1957 was generally considered the nadir. The styling didn’t go over well at the time, either, particularly the divided rear window (also used on contemporary Oldsmobiles) — I think it was perceived as dated. Seen in isolation or years later, it doesn’t look so bad.
A minor clarification about the Dynaflow: In Drive, it didn’t shift in the conventional sense. Reduction came from the torque converter, which had a stator with variable-pitch blades (a feature later used on some 1964-67 TH400s and two-speed Super Turbine automatics) and two output turbines, each providing a different reduction ratio. It was essentially a continuously variable transmission. There was also a Low position with a fixed ratio, but that gear wasn’t engaged at all in Drive and in Low, the transmission would not shift by itself. Most of the magazine tests that found 0-60 in less than 11 seconds were accomplished by holding the transmission in Low (which with some axle ratios could be held to just over 60 mph). Starting in Drive added around two seconds to that figure.
I always felt that the ’57 Buick and Oldsmobile, along with the ’56 Chrysler and DeSoto, were the styling peaks of that decade. And how quickly things went downhill in the looks department afterwards. And of course, they didn’t sell as well as they should have. They weren’t flashy enough to the customer’s eyes back then, although with the passage of time they maintained their appearance very well. Much better, in fact, than the majority of their competition.
Weren’t the 1955 models the worst, given that production was so rushed that it pushed Buick’s factories to their limits? Supposedly some engines were being hand-built on carts off the assembly line to keep up with the demand!
Buick production fell from 750,000 in 1955 (a record that wouldn’t be beaten until 1973, if I recall correctly) to about 450,000 in 1957, so at least the division had more time to build the 1957s properly.
Whether the ’57s were actually worse than the ’55s is debatable, but they were perceived as being worse. The new body may not have helped in that respect.
No regarding your summation of the dynaflow in low gear. That was true only up to and through 1956. In 57 that feature was enhanced through the carb linkage and the secondaries. The ratio changed in the real axle (higher) as well that year.
My parents’ first car when they got married was a 1 year old 1957 Buick. They owned it for about a year before ditching it in favor of a pair of cars – a Karmann Ghia and an English Ford Anglia. I think my 23 year old father (one year out of college) may have picked it out in a misguided attempt to act like a real adult.
Neither of them ever really talked about it, other than my mother recalling that it swilled fuel like nothing else she ever owned. I don’t think that either of them really liked it. Until about 6 years ago when Mom got a new Lacrosse, it was the only Buick either of them ever had.
Stylistically, I believe that this Buick was showing Harley Earl’s age. The car was every inch a traditional Buick, but the entire industry was going a different direction. The Chrysler Forward Look is the most familiar example, but the 1957 Mercury was also a much more modern approach to styling – angular and slim lines in place of the Buick’s bulbous curves.
A very nice piece, Juan. Your teacher, the elegant Miss Chabela with a Roadmaster was in stark contrast to my own – Miss Butler, a stern, bony old woman with no discernible sense of humor who drove a strippo 61 Plymouth.
Ironically, the body of the 1957 Buick was all-new (as was the body of that year’s Oldsmobile and Cadillac).
With the 1957 Chevrolet and Pontiac, GM could at least say that the body was in the final year of its cycle, and that is why those marques lagged behind the competition. Buick didn’t have that excuse.
The interesting part is that things would get worse for Buick on the styling front for 1958.
Thank you, jp, that statement is a true homage to her well doings when teaching a bunch of brats and naughty boys and girls, who never spoiled ther attitude and looks!
Zackman, wouldn’t you want a Century Caballero Estate? It’s a pillarless hardtop!
The pillar less ’57-’60 GM hardtop wagons remain some of my favorites.
There’s a nearly perfect orchid metallic ’58 Buick out there somewhere with a top of the line matching orchid interior. It sold at auction a few years ago, and I’ve never forgotten that car.
Mi papa´ compro´ un 1957 Roadmaster 75 usado para mi mama´ en 1963. Estaba en perfecto conditiones y solamente costo $500 dolares. Era muy lujoso.
¡Por supuesto! Of course it was luxurious! In 1967 the family car still was the old 1955 Coupé de Ville, and I think this car, although a Cadillac, wasn’t as elegant and well designed as the Roadmaster.
This would have been a tough year for Buick regardless of what GM did. Both Ford and Chrysler launched hugely expensive forays into the premium-priced field, and Buick was their prime target. GM had traditionally been the design leader in this field, so Chrysler’s Forward Look really shook things up. Then there was the Mercury, which sported a more modern design than Buick or Oldsmobile.
What’s up with the Massachusetts license plate in the fifth picture? It looks like the license plate may be drawn onto a photo?
Mass. plates when this car was new in the ’50s didn’t look anything like that. It bears a resemblance to the green-on-white plates that were first issued in the late ’70s, were the standard plate for most of the ’80s, and were eventually phased out in favor of the current “Spirit of America” plates (but didn’t completely cease being issued until the late ’90s, and are still valid today, as discussed in another recent thread). The green-on-white plates didn’t come along until 20 years after this Buick was new, though, and several details about the plate’s appearance are wrong (the green-on-whites had no front plate; the state name was at the top of the plate, not the bottom; the typeface is wrong; the green-on-whites never used an A12-345 numbering scheme — they were either all-numeric or 123-ABC).
Our ’58 Plymouth had the white on maroon MASS plates. So did my ’57 Chevy. The photo was taken in 1965.
Between the early 1920s and late 1960s Massachusetts plates were always a dark color with white lettering. They would rotate three or four different colors around — e.g., dark blue, dark green, maroon, black.
A new plate was originally issued each year (the World War II years were an exception; there were no new issues in 1943 or 1944, presumably due to material shortages; new registrants in those years apparently got 1942 plates, but in a different color from the “true” ’42s). Starting in 1947, they went to issuing a new plate every other year. This was initially in odd numbered years, but new plates were issued in back-to-back years in 1963 and 1964 due to major quality issues with the ’63 plates. They then went to an even-numbered year cycle, but only issued one more dark-colored dated plate (1966) before going to very different-looking undated plates in 1968.
On all regular passenger issues through the last of the dark-colored dated plates in 1966, the state name was always abbreviated “MASS”; it was never spelled out.
Until 1935, the full year was written out on the plate (“1935”). Starting in 1936, only the last two digits of the year appeared (“36”). This continued through the last of the dark-colored dated plates in 1966.
From the mid 1920s on, they typically alternated between having “MASS” first followed by the year, or the year first followed by “MASS”, although there were a few cases where two consecutive issues were the same. Before World War II, the date and state abbreviation was usually on the bottom of the plate, but there were a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s when it was on the top. After World War II, they took to alternating between top and bottom for a while, but all issues from 1957 on had it on the top of the plate. From 1947 through the end of the dark-colored dated plates, the year and state abbreviation was inside a white box that might be described as a rectangle with rounded corners.
For the 1957 issue, there were noticeable changes in the typeface used for the registration number as well as the typeface used for the year and state abbrevation. The typeface used for the registration number on Massachusetts license plates today is still similar to what was introduced in 1957. The typeface for the year and state abbreviation introduced in 1957 would continue to the end of the dated issues in 1966.
In 1968, Massachusetts went to undated issues that were intended to be used for several years. The first three issues were all very similar except for color. All were reflective white plates with colored lettering, and the state name written out in full (“MASSACHUSETTS”). The first issue, which appeared in 1968, had blue lettering. This was followed by a red version in 1974 and a green version in 1977. The state name was on top on the blues, then on the bottom on the reds, then on top again on the greens. The typeface used for the state name is the same across all three issues. It is my impression that when the red plates came out, the blue plates were all retired pretty quickly, within a year or two. By contrast, red plates remained in use for several years after the green plates were introduced. There was some overlap between the two in new issues for a while after the greens came out, and even after new plates went all green (by ’79 or so) I don’t think existing reds were removed from circulation until around 1983 or 1984.
The current “Spirit of America” issue first appeared in 1987. For some reason, it was initially used for non-passenger plates only. All passenger plates until about 1993 continued to be green-on-whites. This was followed by a lengthy phase-in period where which one you got depended on which registry branch you went to, what month it was (since the expiration months are coded into the plate number), and which box they happened to pull down from the shelf that day, with the Spirit of Americas gradually becoming dominant.
The green-on whites were finally completely exhausted around 1997, and all new plates since then have been Spirit of Americas. The green-on-white plates have never been systematically removed from circulation, however, and many are still on the road today. Over the past few years the RMV seems to making some effort to get them off the road, especially those in actual or alleged poor condition — mine fell victim to this when my car was inspected in 2011 — although enforcement seems to be uneven. (One of my pet peeves is media articles which claim that the green-on-whites have not been issued since 1987, and that all green-on-whites currently on the road are at least that old; this is absolutely NOT true.)
I can only remember a handful of my teachers’ cars, but both those teachers and their cars were memorable (in a positive way). My 3rd grade teacher had a new red ’63 Pontiac hardtop (she was my Miss Chabela); my 5th grade teacher had a ’56 Chevy (4 door, already seemed a little old-fashioned though only 10 years old then); and three of my favorite high school teachers had, respectively, a red Valiant convertible, a blue ’65 Chevy wagon with a 327 and 4 speed, and a green Saab 96 (V4). I remember a lot of my bad teachers, but not their cars ….
A great story, Juan, nicely done. So many reminiscences. Miss Chabela must have been, indeed, a very elegant lady. Even in 1967, the ’57 Roadmaster still had cachet. In spite of the bad rep it seems to have these days, it was to me the pinnacle of this era of Buick design. Just the right touch of old Buick opulence and quiet dignity, with a dash of the oncoming contemporary design elements, the elegant roofline, the jaunty rearward slant of the taillights, the thin elongated ventiports, the elevated thrust of the sweepspear that contributed more “sweep” to its profile. The Roadmaster exuded class, and quietly said “I have arrived,” without actually saying it, whereas the Cadillac screamed it to the rooftops.
My mother’s best friend in the mid- to late 50’s drove the ’57 Super Riviera two-door hardtop. She was a small woman, from the deep South, fun but elegant, too, as I recall. Her husband was an executive with Hanes (the underwear folks), a very professional and elegant man himself, and he drove a 1958 Oldsmobile. They had a son my brother’s age, and we often rode in these cars to school events and Cub Scouts and two-family vacation trips. Being as car-crazy as I was at the age of ten, I was fascinated with the magnificence of these rolling sculptures, inevitably enhanced by the personas of their owners. Great memories.
Interesting side note, many of you may recall, the front grille photo reminded me, it was only in 1956 and 1957 that Buick carried the model year emblazoned on the tri-colored grille emblem.
I have to add, Centurys were 4 holes too. Though I am more of 56 Buick fan, the 57 is very pretty, I even sort of have a thing for the crazy 58’s.
Interesting memories, too, of my elementary school teachers (and one principal), and their 50’s era rides. If only because their images remain so indelibly imbedded in my mind, and their cars completely belied their outward personalities. Mrs. Johnson, the school principal, a very professional woman probably in her mid-50’s, proper, stern, scary, in a sense (you did not want to be called into her office), drove a ’53 Studebaker Starlight hardtop coupe, a very fun and sporty looking car. Miss Smith, the equally hawk-faced, older, stern visaged music teacher, drove a baby-blue ’55 Thunderbird, way too sporty for the stark image she projected. Inner personalities yearning to break out?
My strongest memory of the 57 Buick is of the new one that caught fire and burned near our house when I was growing up. A local lawyer got drunk at the hotel bar and drove his new white Buick Century two-door hardtop off a little bridge, tearing a hole in the gas tank that caused an inferno from which he escaped but that destroyed the Buick. The charred shell was not towed away for a couple of days; as I rode by it on my bicycle it provided a vivid lesson for me for future years.
School teachers and their cars, great topic. My third grade teacher drove the most unusual one in the midwest – a new MG Magnette sedan her late husband had recently purchased at a local imported car dealer owned by Wacky Arnolt. Very handsome car, despite its light green color (not one I favored).
The most unpleasant teacher I ever had – fourth grade – drove a new 59 Chevrolet Biscayne with 283 and Powerglide, blackwalls but full wheel covers.
My sixth grade teacher, a very young guy, had a pristine 53 Cadillac and a new 62 VW bug – all bases covered. He liked cars and motorcycles but had to give up the latter because of a bad crash with severe injuries and a new wife who didn’t want a repeat.
I remember my teachers cars too, I remember Ms Helton, our 2nd grade teacher had a green(what else?)Datsun Honey Bee with the “honeycomb” wheelcovers, once she brought in a National Geographic from when she was a kid, it was from 1925 or so, and she went through all the pages one by one while all the kids stood around her desk looking at the pictures, I always recall the ad for a Hudson with a low 3 digit price and how she explained what things used to cost back then and how different things were way back when, she was a good teacher.
Nice article. I’ve often thought that the 57 Buicks were among the high points of 1950’s style. Still ‘pre-bloat’ sensibly sized, solid in appearance, exuberantly and unselfconsciously stylish without getting into parody, plus those big 15 inch wheels that made it look powerful and athletic.
There was (only) one in the small New Brunswick town I lived in as a child, a white Special, with that almost talismanic ‘1957’ badge on the trunk. I still see it in my mind’s eye. Fascination!
good write, I find it interesting that the 1957 “Roadmaster 75 came loaded with everything but air conditioning, which was its only option. Its standard features included six-way power seats, power windows, power steering, WonderBar radio, broadcloth-and-leather seats, deep-pile carpet and a chromed dashboard”
yet the 1958 Buick Limited had power windows as an option- I haven’t seen one with power windows
That’s a great memory and story Juan, thanks for sharing. Most of my teacher’s cars weren’t that memorable, I can only remember two. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Horner, drove a 75-77 Grananda coupe. She was the classic school-marm type, long skirt, loose blouse, hair in a bun. My mom’s friend had a Granada of similar vintage and I thought them to be old, bedraggled cars.
Now my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Zamler, he had some memorable cars. Most days he drove an ’86 Mercedes 190D. After watching my next door neighbor constantly wrenching on his wife’s diesel bustle-back Seville, I was amazed that there were diesel cars that actually ran every day. On certain special occasions however, he would show up in either a black or red 911. Word on the street was that his wife had a lot of money, but that may have just been a supposition based on the fact that no one could afford all those cars on a teacher’s salary alone.
Just my opinion but I think a 57 Buick is one of the most gorgeous cars ever built.
A beautiful story of childhood. Memories are meant to be shared. Thank you Juan for sharing yours.
Thank you for your comment, Dino
Thanks, Juan. It speaks volumes about the nature of your former teacher that you remember her so vividly, and associate her with her beautiful car. Now for my teachers’ cars. I only have fond memories of two. My ninth-grade teacher, on whom I had a terrible crush, drove a brand-new 1963 turquoise Pontiac Catalina with a white convertible top. When I was 28, I had the opportunity to dance with her at a dental school graduation, and it was a thrill that I still remember. Another teacher, who didn’t even actually have me in her class, was a very dignified lady who drove a sexy new 1965 Olds 88 convertible. As for my connection to the ’57 Roadmaster: my grandfather bought a new black ’57 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special, with the same roofline. In 1958, my Dad bought a new Buick Super 4-door Riviera hardtop. At the time, I preferred both of them to the ’57 Roadmaster. Today, I see the Roadmaster as the best looking of the three cars.
Thank you sir! I do remember her and her car as if it was yesterday. Even my FB page has a 57 Roadmaster in the right place
These Buicks were very beautiful cars. IMHO they out styled the Chev by a mile, although the Chev for that year was a beauty as well.
I found GM to be quite divergent in their styling between divisions in that era, which was a good thing. Very enjoyable read, thanks.
They were, indeed. And so true your comment about styling. Even ten years later they made a difference to such an extent, that a 7 year old boy could tell the difference
Parents bought a ’57 Olds Super 88 in 1968, just like the pictured car, same color but thankfully without the side skirts, which really detract from the looks in my opinion.
It was really a nice car, had new paint and was in really good shape for it’a age, had all 4 mufflers replaced shortly after they bought it. Powerful and smooth riding, it survived being shifted into Low (PRNDLR) going down Mt. Wilson road without damage, despite the drama of the axle hop and tire smoke. We once accidently got into a identical car at the supermarket, mom didn’t notice until it was time to start the car, ours was nearby.
Only had it for a couple of years. Was replaced by a ’62 Monterey S55 which was also a nice, interesting car.
Oldsmobile was also a nice car. One employee at the bank where my father was working had a 57 Lincoln Premier and a 57 Oldsmobile 98. He used one each month. A sight to behold
This convertible shows the skirtless look.
I think “The cars of our teachers” would make a great QOTD
Kindergarten. 1979. Mrs. Klinkenberg. ’76-78 Chevy Nova four-door, not unlike my Aunt Pauline’s but instead of being just yellow (!) with an ugly black vinyl interior, Mrs K’s was the sparkliest light metallic blue I’ve ever seen with a matching plaid interior!
I can only really remember two cars belonging to my teachers, in my defense this was a long time ago. Mr. Clapp, who I had for sixth grade, had a new 1962 Ford. I remember this not so much because the car was special but because of the story that went with it. Public school teachers in Kentucky didn’t make much money then and Mr. Clapp said he had been saving up to buy a new car for six or seven years. He was married and had young children so it was no wonder it took him that long.
The only other one I can remember is Miss Ledford’s new Camaro when I was in high school. She was fresh out of college and the word on the street was that the Camaro was a graduation present from her grandfather. For whatever reason she was still driving the Camaro some eight years later when my middle sister was in her class.
Great trip down Memory Lane again- thank you for sharing.
Teacher’s cars would be interesting, although my contributions would be limited. Eight years of Sister Mary Terrible followed by four years of Franciscan Monks wouldn’t make for much interesting reading. “Poverty, chastity, and obedience” being the watchwords though. Someone didn’t get the memo- our pastor always drove a Black Jaguar 3.8 (wealthy family), and the HS principal rocked a Buick Estate Wagon… new one every year. His brother was in the car biz.
Of the few lay teachers, a new ’68 Cougar and a new ’70 Lincoln Mark III were the only memorable cars. The Lincoln was the outlier- driven by a young Science teacher with obviously more means than a teachers salary would indicate.
I recall in the mid 1950s the teachers’ cars outside we would see during recess. A shop teacher had a turquoise and white 1955 Nomad (I have a 1:18 model of this car). A 1956 two tone Super ? 88 convertible. A 1954 Bel Air sedan which even a year after the car was new, looked ancient. My home room teacher had a black 1956 Chrysler Windsor sedan. A few years later, I recall a teacher won some contest from a cigarette maker and got a new white (black top) 1958 Impala convertible. And a year or so later a rather staid woman teacher had a four door 1960 Plymouth sedan which, while a wild looking finned monster, had, ( I somehow knew), a six cylinder engine.
I’m loving this discussion of school teachers’s cars!
Some of the more memorable examples for whatever reason are these. I was in the 2nd grade when the ’59 models debuted. My teacher, who was a spinster and a wicked old biddy, happened to mention to us that she was buying a new ’59 Chevrolet. I anticipated perhaps a white sport coupe with the crossed-flags on the hood, wide whites with 2-bar spinner caps? But NO. A Biscayne 2-door sedan in silver blue with blackwalls, poverty caps and the hood didn’t even have a “V” under the word Chevrolet! I knew that was not good.
But when I got to high school, things improved with younger teachers and better cars dotting the parking lot. But the one stands out the most is my 10th grade US History teacher who drove a Saddle Tan (gold) Corvette Split Window coupe. I paused to study the beauty of that car every time I was around it. What a magnificent design and like nothing else on the road.
And there was the practice teacher when I was in high school who had a gorgeous black ’59 Plymouth Sport Fury with white top and red/black interior. All the car guys at school made fun of that car. After all, it was a 9-year old model and those ’50s cars were simply not the thing to drive at that time. But I loved his car anyway. I even asked him to show it to me one day and that seemed to make him so proud.
The amazing thing about that car is that this practice teacher became a HUGE Mopar fan, amassing quite a few vintage examples including ’57 and ’61 Chrysler 300s. And I know this because he still lives in our town and I happened to see his house one day many years ago and inside the garage I could see that black ’59 Sport Fury! And he still has that car here some over 50 years later and it still looks new.I