For much of its existence, General Motors' Buick was next-to-the-top make, slotted just below Cadillac in the firm's hierarchy of brands. Even so, it wasn't until the 1942 model year that Buick stylists under the leadership of GM's legendary Harley Earl established styling themes that have been carried over to the present -- though sometimes they were abandoned, only to be revived.
I wrote about putting some of these themes on a really small car here, and here I wrote about how Buick broke away from its signature grille theme (but later returned to it).
Buick's collection of styling details was strong during its heyday. From 1942 through most of the 1950s, Buicks were easily recognizable to most people and not just car buffs. Was there a model year where Buick themes were at their purest, where the cars might be considered archetypical Buicks?
That is a matter of judgment. Mine is that the 1952 Buicks were the most Buick-like. Let's take a look the senior models, the Supers and Roadmasters, that had a different body than lower-priced Buick Specials (click on images to enlarge).
My reasoning for choosing 1952 as the archetypical year for Buick styling is as follows. 1950 Buicks featured large grille teeth that draped over the front bumper, a one-year-only affair that I wrote about here. 1951 Buicks were very similar to '52s, but Roadmasters had a swath of chrome aft of the Sweepspear that wasn't part of the theme: the 1952 version was more pure. For 1953, Buick raised the central part of the front bumper, thereby diminishing the grille. Also, headlights were grouped with turn indicator lights in the manner of the XP-300 show car. This was continued for 1954, then dropped, so it can't count as being part of a long-lasting theme. So 1952 is is.