I’ve driven Indiana’s historic Michigan Road a lot over the last 15 years, as a buddy and I built grassroots support to have it named a historic byway, and now work to drive tourism along this 1830s road that stretches from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. I’ve encountered all manner of old cars on this road over the years, but none as improbable (and with such beautiful patina) as this 1949 Buick Super sedan.
I came upon this well-used Buick in tiny Kirklin, a town of about 800 people 45 minutes north of Indianapolis. This little town’s primary draw is its many antique stores, although a whiskey distillery opened here sometime in the last few years and may become an even bigger attraction. Kirklin was in rough shape when I first visited it many years ago, but townspeople have worked hard to renovate and restore its downtown, including putting in all new sidewalks in 2021. Kirklin has always been one of the pluckiest and quirkiest towns on all 270 miles of the Michigan Road. If a car like this were going to appear anywhere on this byway, it’s not in the least surprising that it is in Kirklin. (Yes, that’s an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser in the background. I’ve photographed it a few times over the years, as it’s always parked right there, and keep meaning to write about it here.)
Buick’s Dynaflow automatic transmission went into the majority of Buicks in these years, yet this Super bears no Dynaflow badges. I didn’t photograph this Super’s interior to confirm. Here’s a photo our own Aaron65 made last year featuring the dashboard of a Dynaflow-equipped 1949 Super sedanette. Read all about it here.
Here’s a magazine ad that features both 1949 Super body styles. The sedan’s roofline is formal yet graceful, while the sedanette’s roofline is purposeful and strong. Both look terrific mated to the same body below the beltline. I think I slightly prefer the sedan’s looks, even though normally I’m a two-door fan all the way.
Buick’s 1948-1950 model lineup confuses me. I briefly wrote about this car on my blog last year, and our own J. P. Cavanaugh tried to untangle it all for me in the comments. He said that the 1949 Buick Super and Roadmaster were a one-year-only car, with the 1950 model being all new. Yet I since learned that Buick continued the old 1941 body in 1949 one last year on its Special model (above). Meanwhile, Olds and Cadillac switched to the new postwar body in 1948, while Buick and Chevrolet waited until 1949. JPC tried to sort it all out in his epic two-part article about the “missing” B body from 1949 and 1950 here and here.
What is clear is what every Buick Super was made of, as the 1949 Buick brochure spells it out. It also specs out the up-line Roadmaster, which sat on a longer wheelbase and had a more powerful straight eight underhood.
This Super bears some sort of insignia on its front doors. Was it perhaps an official car of some kind? And whoever owns this needed to come out and fully close that door, lest it rain later and water get in. Despite its very well used look, this car is complete down to the hood ornament.
As in several states, Indiana now allows antique cars to use year-of-issue license plates. I was glad for this one, as until I researched this car I wasn’t clear on Buick styling over the years. Knowing that this is a ’49 made my research a lot easier. Fore and aft license-plate binnacles are unusually wide for an American car, which makes me wonder if they were so designed for easy export to Europe.
Every 1949 Buick began with this aggressive, toothed grille. I’ll bet a little polishing compound and a buffing pad would shine that right up.
A word about these photographs, since I shot them on film and I know several CC readers are into film photography as well. I used this Pentax ME SE body paired with a 35-70mm f/4 SMC Pentax-A zoom lens that I had just bought and was trying out. I used Fujicolor 200 film, which is my everyday go-to film. The lens is chunky and heavy, and made the small and light ME SE front heavy. This lens is better mated to a full-size Pentax SLR of the era, such as the K1000. But as you can see, it’s sharp enough and avoids barrel distortion, and renders good color on this film.