Story and photos by Brian Earnest
In some ways, the pre-World War II Buicks of the 1920s and ‘30s are the best of both worlds. They are great-looking cars with classy designs and look right at home in any crowd. A 1920s Buick could park next to a full Classic Packard or Cadillac from the same era and certainly look like it belongs.
On the other hand, Buicks have always been nice “everyman’s” cars. They have never been priced or marketed as luxury machines, and that was true back to the 1920s and before. That’s good news for fans of early Buicks, because even cars like Gene Wendt’s pristine 1925 Master Six sport touring car remain affordable and obtainable. When it comes to bang for your buck in the pre-war market, Wendt knows you can’t do much better than a nicely preserved Buick.
“I was probably about 8 years old and when you are young sometimes impressions sink pretty deep,” says Wendt, a resident of Plymouth, Minn. “The first antique car I ever saw, other than in a book, was a 1924 Buick touring car, which is almost the same car. A neighbor had it and I admired that car. I said, ‘Some day, we’re going to have one of those.’
“This car was purchased this past winter down in Texas. The little bit of history that I know about it is that when it was new in 1925 it was a California fire chief’s car, and the siren is still with the car. From there it went to Texas, where it was restored a number of years ago, and it was in a collection. We found it in Texas and had it shipped up to Minnesota. It’s part of another collection, but it’s my personal favorite.”
Wendt’s touring car shouts “class” from head to toe. Niceties like chrome bumpers, wind wings, sun visor, tip-out windshield and a Moto-Meter are combined with easy-flowing lines that give the car an heir of style and grace. A beautiful factory-correct pale green paint job with black and orange pinstriping.
“There are certain things that I like, like the shape of the radiator shell,” Wendt notes. “Buick got in trouble with Packard because Packard claimed that Buick copied their design for the radiator shell, but the lines of the car, the slant of the windshield, the overall design of the car — to me it’s a very beautiful car representing the ‘20s.”
Buick never sold enough cars to challenge Ford or Chevrolet for the top two sales spots among car builders of the ‘20s, but its formula of producing stylish cars powered by four- and six-cylinder engines kept it solidly in the top 5 or 6 up through the mid-1930s. The 1925 model year wasn’t particularly noteworthy for any innovations or memorable additions to the Buick lineup, but it was the year the Master Six was officially born. Buick adopted a new series designations for 1925 and Standard Six models replaced the 24-Four's as the lower-priced Buicks. A new six-cylinder engine powered the nine models of this series, all of which were higher-priced than their predecessors. A longer, 114.3-inch wheelbase was used.
The new Master Six series offered seven models on a 120-inch wheelbase chassis. All were powered by the 255-cid six. They included a coach; roadster; enclosed roadster; four-door touring; four-door enclosed touring; four-door sedan and four-door enclosed seven-passenger touring.
The Master Six series also offered additional models on a big 128-inch wheelbase chassis. They were also powered by the larger 255-cid six. This lineup included a limousine; town car; and country club coupe. Wendt’s sport touring car is one of 2,774 built for the model year and carried a base price of $1,800, making it the second-cheapest full-size 128-inch model, behind only the sport roadster.
Among the main changes on the 1925 on Buick assembly lines were vacuum-operated windshield wipers, which replaced the hand-powered versions, and balloon tires, which were available for the first time. Model year production totaled 192,100, which put Buick sixth behind Ford, Chevrolet, Hudson/Essex, Willys-Overland and Dodge.
Wendt says he was only interested in a touring car when he began sniffing around for a car last year. The car he found had been nicely restored sometime in the past 20 years or so, and it was just what he was after. “It had to be a touring car," he said. "It is painted the original colors, called Sage Green. When it was restored they did it the way it was built.
“It was probably done in the ‘90s and whoever did do it and whoever has owned it since then has taken very good car of it, and we will continue that practice.
“They only made 2,774 of these and it was the regular five-passenger touring, but on an extended wheelbase, 128 inches, and what that did, the body stayed the same, but they extended the back to have the luggage rack and the trunk… Wind wings, Moto-Meter, the bumpers were an accessory — you paid extra for the bumpers. They had side curtains that you could use. The top folds. It’s got dual spares, because tires weren’t too good in those days. It’s got leather upholstery. The steering wheel is wood. It has all the instrument and gauges. No idiot lights — it’s all gauges. The cigarette lighter is on a reel, where you pull it out on a cord. And it has a foot rest in the back and a rack in the back for your blanket!”
Wendt has multiple choices when it comes to cars suitable for a joy ride on a sunny day, but the ’25 Buick often gets preferential treatment. He says it’s simply too much fun to drive to leave at home. This past summer, he showed the car off at the Iola Car Show and Buick Nationals, both in Wisconsin, but he’s just has happy rolling around the back roads with his wife Judy near his Minnesota home.
“We love to take it out,” he says. “She loves to ride in it. I’m as careful as you can be. You try not to take it out if the weather is threatening, and I’m always watching the sky… It’s all manual steering, but the way they geared them it isn’t bad. When the car is moving, it’s not hard to steer. It’s got mechanical brakes, and a lot of people are hesitant about mechanical brakes. But if you have them set up right, they are better than hydraulic. The brochures and materials that they printed about the car said it was capable of speeds up to 70 mph, back in 1925. I don’t think I’ll ever do that [laughs], but it cruises comfortably at 45 or 50.”
Wendt hopes that each time he takes the ’25 out, he can win over a few fans of pre-war cars for the future. As far as he is concerned, the more people he can get to pay attention to the car and admire it, the better.
“It’s nice to see the older cars being taken out and driven,” he says. “The younger people need to get interested in these. There needs to be a turnover where the next generation has an interest in them. It’s a shame to have them just parked in garages collecting dust.”
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