The history of the fastback roofline is one of crests and troughs; wildly popular in the 1940s, it was almost instantly deemed unfashionable and unceremoniously dumped in the early 1950s (Bentley Continental notwithstanding). Later, it gained traction in the Ford line with the Galaxie, Falcon, and Mustang, before becoming an functional aerodynamic decision in Ford’s NASCAR campaign of the late 1960s with the Torino and Mercury Cyclone. Oldsmobile stunned just about everybody with its graceful fastback Toronado in 1966, and GM also returned to a fastback roofline on its gorgeous 1970 1/2 Camaro and Firebird. Being a Buick lover of long standing, one of my personal favorite fastbacks is this beautiful 1949 Super Sedanet in what appears to be Gala Green Metallic. It may not have been a trend setter in 1949, but it has certainly aged well.
In 1949, the Buick Roadmaster “Hardtop Convertible” was introduced, the first in a long line of Buick hardtops (my ’53 Special is pictured above for reference) that would quickly bring about the end of the fastback’s decade-long popularity. Soon, the Chevy Bel Air and Styleline would replace the gorgeous Fleetline in the public’s esteem and the fastback would slumber to some extent for, as mentioned above, another decade. These days, however, we can appreciate the fastbacks for what they were rather than be embarrassed that they were temporarily behind the times.
This Super, with its dramatic roofline featured here, is differentiated from the Roadmaster by its three portholes on the fenders (as opposed to four), and its truncated front fenders.
Roadmasters, such as the 1949 Sedanet pictured above, used the longer 320-cubic-inch straight eight as compared to the 248 in the Specials and Supers, hence the need for a longer nose. In 1950, the updated 263 would replace the 248, and would also be the last straight-eight-powered Buick (installed for the last time in the 1953 Special).
From the rear, the Buick looks similar to the 1947 Cadillac, right before Harley Earl and Company added the P-38 style fins, as evidenced by this beautiful ’49 Cadillac.
The 1949 Buick is well-loved among Buick enthusiasts not only for being the first all-new Buick design since 1942, but also for being a one-year-only design that still ranks among Buick’s best from the period. Buick’s “dollar grin” would become caricaturistic in 1950 (although I like them, too) before Buick’s designers restrained themselves somewhat in time for the 1951 models to appear.
Buick also continued using their “grand piano” hood, as seen on this 1950 Super hardtop, which would open from either side until the 1953 models were introduced.
In 1949, Buick heavily advertised its Dynaflow Drive, which soon became the overwhelming transmission choice in all Buicks. I’ve always been a little disappointed that my ’53 was the first model year that didn’t wear Dynaflow callouts, but by then it was nothing special.
The ’49 Super had a traditional Buick instrument panel, with its massive radio and full instrumentation. Even though nobody would call a ’49 Buick a sporting car, the driver had an ammeter, engine temperature and oil pressure gauges, gas gauge, clock, and a massive speedometer located in the center. Even the vent windows opened with a crank rather than with one’s smudgy fingers. Buicks were well-built, luxurious cars with a good reputation in the 1940s and early-’50s. Sure, people called them Dynaslugs and “Bucktoothed Buicks,” but they ranked among GM’s best sellers and hundreds of thousands of car buyers aspired to a Buick every year.
I photographed our featured Super back in 2016 at the Motor Muster show at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. I’m about evenly split between loving the 1949 and the 1953 models, but I’ve been drawn to the smells, sounds, and looks of straight-eight Buicks since I was a little kid wandering Sloan Museum in Flint.
About a year ago, I was tempted by a ’49 Super Sedanet for sale, pictured above, in slightly more patinaed condition than our featured car, but I try not to emulate members of my current fleet too closely. I’m fortunate to get to drive my own straight-eight Buick these days, but I’d also be perfectly satisfied behind the wheel of our featured ’49 (or the one I found for sale). It’s well-worn but solid and usable, and it reminds me (as if I needed reminding) that everyone should experience an old Buick if they like old cars.