Thursday, December 1, 2016

1956 Buick Centurion Dream Car

I think the 1956 General Motors Motorama car-show-plus-entertainment extravaganza was the last of the interesting ones.  Decline was already happening, as evidenced in the mix of concept or dream cars (as they were called back then).  My favorite of that batch is the Buick Centurion; the GM web site discusses it here.

The Centurion is a mix of the practical and styling studio dream car show-off fluff.  Some features hint at future production, others are simply jazzy.  All the while, the car has styling cues that clearly identify it as a Buick.


Buick identification is in the form of the Sweep Spear chromed strip on the side that also serves as a paint tone divider.  The car seats four, unlike many Motorama cars, giving it a practical feeling.  The fender treatment between the extreme front and rear is one that easily could appear on a near-future 1950s production car.  The windshield is doubly wrapped-around.  This will be seen on some late '50s production cars, but not in such an extreme manner towards the roof.  A nice touch is the C-pillar's rake that complements the rake of the A-pillar -- a nice, logical symmetry seen here and there when panoramic windshields were in vogue.

An impractical styling fetish that has yet to die of natural causes is the transparent roof.  I feel very sorry for that poor model at the wheel being subjected to the Miami sun and the greenhouse effect caused by the roof.  True, the windows are rolled down, but that gal surely earned her modeling fee that day.  The pickle fork front treatment seen in plan view here makes for an interesting composition, but is impractical for real-world parking conditions.  Even so, from this camera angle, the Centurion has strong, clean lines without any serious disruptions: a fine show car.

The Centurion's rear is more problematical.  The wing-like rear fenders combined with the boat-tail-cum-jet-fighter trunk is nothing but dream car flash, devoid of practicality.

A glimpse of the interior showing the rear-view TV screen.  That feature is common today thanks to miniaturizing technology, but was too bulky and costly for production use in 1956.

Here is a 1957 Buick Roadmaster four-door hardtop.  Its Sweep Spear and the A- and C-pillar angles are carried over from the Centurion (that was designed when the general form of this Buick was pretty well established).  So to some degree, the Centurion was intended to get potential buyers used to coming styling attractions.

And this is a 1960 Mercury Montclair (a cleaned-up 1959 Mercury Park Lane) also featuring complementary A- and C-pillars.  It has a compound-curve windshield, but not nearly so extreme as the Centurion's.  For 1961, Mercury dropped panoramic windshields, as did Buick that same model year.

1 comment:

emjayay said...

A tamed version of the Centurion fins showed up on the 1959-60 Buicks, and the taillight clusters on various years of Cadillacs. A whole lot of ideas from GM 50's concept cars showed up in some form a few years later.

The Petersen museum in LA has the sort of similar resurrected Chevy style one- the bright light green inside and out one.