Custom built in 1949 by Buick on a modified 1949 Roadmaster chassis for King Ranch owner Richard Kleberg.
Rifles are handily located on both sides.
It even made the cover of Popular Science.
If that’s a 1949 model, well, looks like the Buick swallowed a 1949 Jeepster!
I suppose if you owned the King Ranch (or anything else that valuable) you can order anything you want.
Reminds me of the custom GM (Buick?) station wagons John Wayne used to order with raised roofs to clear his ten-gallon hats! Certainly nothing wrong with that!
Live long and prosper!
CC-effect, sort of, Only yesterday I was ruminating on how many “King Ranch” F-150s I see around. It seems to be the edition/option package of choice for folks who want to gussy up what I guess otherwise would be the plain old gigantic pickup truck.
It’s the “Eddie Bauer” edition for the modern age.
Eddie Bauer and King Ranch packages/trims coexisted for many years, though to my knowledge they were never available on the same models. For over a decade now, King Ranch has also been supplanted as the top trim on F-150s by Platinum (formerly the Lincoln Mark LT) and Limited above that.
Driving around the dusty dirt roads on a ranch, that car would not stay clean for long.
I suspect there were folks at the King Ranch who washed off the dirt regularly. Believe it or not, Richard Kleberg, Sr. did use this Buick quite a bit – the picture below was apparently taken in 1954 in Corpus Christi. The saddle seat was no longer there, instead replaced with another game holder.
Evidently, Kleberg drove it about 5,000 mi. per year, mostly on the ranch. He passed away in 1955, and I don’t know if it got much use afterwards.
The chassis might be ’49 Roadmaster, but the body is mostly ’49 Special or any ’48.
Are those gunsights over the parking lights?
The item over the passenger-side parking light is a saddle — with seat belt. I suppose the idea was that the driver would drive the car slowly while another hunter was perched on the saddle (easier to maneuver a rifle there, rather than sitting in the car itself).
The item over the driver’s side parking light is a tie-down for any game that the hunters shoot. Sure beats tossing it into the back seat!
That appendage on the right front fender, as depicted on the Popular Science cover, gives new meaning to “riding shotgun.” 😉
That’s a _LOT_ of firepower .
I like it but then I’m a utility vehicle sort of guy .
I wonder if it came with a Dynasquish slushbox tranny ? .
About 1979 a customer drove into my shop with a Ferrari 275 long nose, and he asked me if we could repair the badly corroded doors on the car [that’s another story for the future]. During the time his car spent in the shop, I got to know the owner of the Ferrari, and he invited me to visit his home to see another car. It was a pre-production example of an Olds Toronado, with a serial number containing only multiple letters “X”. When pressed on how he got the car, he said he had been a designer at GM and was instrumental in the overall Toronado design.
How does all the above relate to this Buick:
[I’ve wracked my brain to remember the Ferrari owner’s name, but I simply can’t do so. I can remember where his unusual home is located, but not his name. Anyway, he said one of his first jobs was at the Buick design center, where he was told to work on a special car for a member of Congress and a rancher in Texas. Apparently this guy had a lot of pull with GM. My take on that is the “pull” this Texan had was political power and plenty of money, and as I remember the owner of the King Ranch back then had both. He wanted a big Buick 4 door open car with folding windshield, front PTO driven winch, sidemount tires, and high ground clearance.
Until I read this posting, I had long forgotten about that visit to see the Toronado and being told about the custom Buick. While I have no proof this is the car my customer mentioned 40+ years ago, I seriously doubt there were 2 similar vehicles created by Buick for wealthy Texans. But the one thing he mentioned was the front mounted winch.
I did some quick online research and discovered that this King Ranch Buick does indeed have a big PTO powered winch hidden behind all that front chrome. I found a photo and now understand the reason those front 1950 style chrome “teeth” don’t go all the way down like production parts, it’s because the rollers for the winch are located there. I’ve included a photo from the January 1950 Popular Science article.
I think it’s probably safe to say this is the only factory created Buick to have a PTO driven front winch.
Great story! Kleberg most have had A LOT of pull with GM, since apparently Buick designers worked on this car for several months. I bet few GM executives were treated to some nice hunting trips down at the King Ranch after that!
Either Mr. Kleberg had a lot of influence at GM, or he threw so much moolah at them [or both] that they essentially designed and created a 95% totally different car. And it’s not like they used the car as a show vehicle first, then donated or sold it to Mr. K. It was quietly delivered to the ranch for his private ownership.
My initial research indicates panels like the entire hood assembly were pressed out of aluminum instead of steel, and not a single body panel went unmodified. And it’s said this car had a PTO operated winch up front. How do you add a PTO to a Dynaflow automatic transmission? They shortened the wheelbase on the beefed-up Roadmaster frame, but created even more length at the back end for added storage space. Even the axle shafts and steering parts were strengthened. And then there’s the extended power folding top assembly, that’s not an off-the-shelf item!
The taillight assemblies and slightly tunneled headlight rings would not be seen on production GM cars for another year or more, and it’s soooo rare that GM stylists would be willing to let styling clues like those taillights and headlight rings escape the studio. I guess they figured very few people would see the vehicle for a few years at least!
The more ya look, the more difference is apparent!
That’s what I find so enthralling about this car.
At first glance, it just seems like a bizarrely customized one-off. But there’s tons of details in here. Some are amusing (like the rear-seat bar), some are practical (tinted windshield, extra-large fuel tank), and some are fascinating (like the winch, or a special power steering system to enable the car to drive more easily through sand).
There’s got to be many more interesting stories about this car’s features, and the account about how it came to be.
Is that the Marlboro Man?
So we’re talking about a modern day luxury SUV, right?
Yeah – they look silly too.
Some recent photos here at Hagerty, and we’re told it was christened the “El Kineño”—which of course brings to mind “El Camino”:
Too bad the lowered beltline didn’t catch on, but I guess they couldn’t find room for side windows. Maybe this gave them the impetus to make cutdown doors of the ’53 Skylark.
Rifles would not have been used to hunt quail. Shotguns are used. The holsters could carry rifles but there would be no reason to do so.
Cool ride! Thank you all for your histories of this vehicle.
I confused. That is the weird 1950 grille?
Yes, this is a modified 1950 Buick grill. The “teeth” have been modified. The bottom section of each tooth has been removed, the lower area replaced with a pair of winch cable rollers, with the winch cable exiting between them. See the left side of this photo:
They forgot to put a set of these on the hood.
Was this the inspiration for the Mohs SafariKar?
Fascinating that Buick had a connection to one of the mega-ranches of Texas that predates the Electra, whose namesake was a sculptor, socialite, and heiress to the 500,000 acre Waggoner Ranch (which the Waggoner descendants recently sold to Rams owner Stan Kroenke after decades of infighting). Of the two, I’d say the Electra was the more successful, stylistically speaking.
The 1980s interpretation of the same concept:
I guess the question could be asked of why a modified Chevy Suburban or truck couldn’t have been modified instead. Or a Jeepster? I suppose that the answer is that if you’re that rich you just get whatever you want. It seems a little heavy on the firepower. On the cover picture those six rifles just aren’t enough, the passenger has to carry a rifle with him. I guess that they were worried that the quail might shoot back!
One word — “Gawd….”
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