Buick, Roadmaster, and Dynaflow.
If you could answer the question, 'What kind of car do you drive?' with those three words in the North America of 1948, you'd likely be feeling more than a little pleased with yourself.
The Buick name ranked just under much-vaunted Cadillac in prestige terms in General Motors' product hierarchy.
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Roadmaster was the top-of-the-line Buick, aptly named, as few other vehicles could match its sheer physical presence, plentiful straight-eight power and sofa-cushion coil spring ride. "The ride that's wrapped in velvet," one period advertisement proclaimed, boasting about the "Vibra-Shielded" suspension.
And Dynaflow was the just-introduced and slickest shift-free transmission trickery the industry was offering; it was to take driving into a new age of ease and simplicity.
Another ad touted Buicks as being "Engineered great for '48," although they were still essentially updated pre-war designs. A limited number of Roadmasters were made available to special order late in the build year, however, with the new Dynaflow transmission.
Buicks were to be engineered even "greater" for 1949, when the division's first new post-war design arrived sporting what were to become brand trademarks, the Ventiports, better known as portholes or humorously as mouseholes.
Over the next few years, these redesigned models and the popular Dynaflow transmission option - which more than 80 per cent of buyers were soon opting for - led to one of the brand's strongest sales periods.
The Dynaflow-equipped example owned by Wayne Hergert, 61, who lives near Alton, Ont., is what car buffs term a "survivor" as it's never been restored.
The big black and chrome-laden sedan, which spent its early life in the U.S., has managed to make it through more than six decades with its mechanical components intact, along with most of its original interior appointments and paintwork.
Hergert, who's spent considerable time crawling around in and under it, says he's "very impressed with its condition. It's been babied and likely never seen a winter."
A licensed mechanic, Hergert has employed his skills in refurbishing its mechanical systems. Everything that wasn't working when he bought it is now and some minor missing parts have been replaced.
But the paintwork applied 62 years ago has only needed touching up over some spots where it had worn thin and the chrome appears original. Inside, only the worn carpeting has been replaced. "I've just spiffied it up," says Hergert.
The overhead-valve, 320-cubic-inch, straight-eight is a massive cast-iron lump Hergert says looks like it should be a diesel, but actually still "runs like a clock" while making its 150 hp.
The Roadmaster is an impressive automobile in its own right, but its transmission makes it particularly interesting - developing a device that would eliminate the need for drivers to shift gears had been something of an auto industry holy grail from early times.
General Motors' Hydramatic, first offered in the 1939 Oldsmobile (and soon after in Cadillacs), is considered the first successful fully automatic transmission. It was based on four planetary gear sets, which were engaged automatically, with drive taken up by a fluid coupling rather than a traditional friction clutch.
But Hergert says it apparently wasn't smooth enough in operation to suit Buick, and it opted to pioneer a torque-converter style unit employed originally in the Second World War Hellcat tank destroyer.
The Dynaflow had two gears and wasn't really an automatic as the driver had to select low (provided by a planetary gear set and usable up to 60 km/h) manually if it was required and then shift into drive. But the Dynaflow's torque-converter (unlike the Hydramatic's fluid drive system) multiplied engine torque allowing the driver to simply select drive, engaging the direct high gear. By multiplying engine output, the torque-converter allowed the car to move off and then maintained the amount of torque needed to sustain cruising speeds.
The Dynaflow met Buick's requirements for smooth operation, but it wasn't initially a very efficient way to transfer power and the price was a reputation for lethargic performance, which lead to its being dubbed the "Dyna-slush."
While it doesn't deliver exactly neck-snapping acceleration, Hergert says, it's easy enough to live with. "It delivers a very smooth get-away and acceleration is really not too bad." Later modifications improved its performance and it was used up until 1964.
Making the new transmission available on the 1948 models allowed Buick to gain a bit of advanced publicity, which it helped by adorning Roadmasters so equipped with Dynaflow badges - on the front fenders behind the wheels and on the trunk lid and the steering wheel - instead of a badge reading Buick Eight.
"They were obviously very proud of their new tranny," says Hergert, who's pretty proud himself of owning a car that helped pioneer a technology that six decades later has become all but universal in the cars we drive.
And he says the car also lives up to its reputation for offering a plush ride, thanks to the coil springs all round, something even Cadillac couldn't boast at the time. "Nothing rode better, and that's a fact," he says
Since purchasing the Roadmaster, Hergert has taken it to Buick's 100th anniversary in Flint, Mich., in 2003, where he says his was apparently the only Dynaflow-equipped '48 in attendance, attesting to its rarity. And it also put in an appearance at the 100th anniversary of the Canadian McLaughlin Buick in 2008.
Mostly, however, it shares summer drive time with his other two collector cars. He's the long-time owner of a 1952 Chev sedan tricked out with period go-fast goodies including a truck version of the venerable "Stovebolt" six and a "lake pipes" exhaust system that can be run wide open, heavy duty suspension, a windscreen visor and fender skirts. And a 1966 Pontiac Grand Parisienne with a 427-cubic-inch V-8 that he purchased almost new after it served as a dealer demo.
But unlike its garage-mates, the Roadmaster is occasionally called on for special duties. "It's done a dozen weddings and a funeral," says Hergert.
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