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Find Reviews by Make:The Truth About Cars | Down On The Junkyard | Toyota By Murilee Martin on December 16, 2011

The other day, I got a text message with a photo of a junked vintage Detroit wagon from Alex Vendler, creator of the CBR1000-powered Geo Metro Gnome and the upcoming Hayabusa-powered Toyota Starlet. Alex is a Hollywood cinematographer in his day job, so I figured he should be able to shoot some decent junkyard photos. “Shoot more!” I demanded. And he did.Southern California self-service yards get quite a few ancient beaters with zero rust, like this Buick.I love the old car radios with the CONELRAD stations marked. My ’69 Toyota Corona‘s factory radio had CONELRAD symbols, six years after CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System.If I’m not mistaken, this is the aluminum 215 engine that eventually became the Rover V8. The Buick version is quite rare in junkyards, unlike its Rover descendents.It’s always nice to get the work of a professional camera guy when you need junkyard photographs, even when he is forced to use an iPhone instead of a real camera. Thanks, Alex!

>Posted in Down On The Junkyard, ToyotaTagged as1960s, 1963, 1963 Buick, Buick, California, Down On The Junkyard, junkyard, Junkyard Find, Los Angeles, station wagon, wagon"Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco""A Barracuda, Speedy Monzales, and a Luxurious W126 Benz: BS Inspections of the Heaps In The Heart Of Texas 24 Hours of LeMons" Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

82 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1963 Buick Wagon...”

  • SykeDecember 16th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    That key went away with the ’65’s. I seem to remember a big advertising campaign against auto theft around that time. The ads were primarily concerned with teen-age joyriding. Guess chop shops didn’t exist when I was a kid.

    GM was always big on ‘keyless’ ignition. My ’37 Buick Special had a setup where there was a large ignition toggle switch on the right hand side of the steering column when it met the dash. You flipped up the switch and stepped on the accelerator to engage the starter. Security was provided by a key switch in the setup that, when locked, pulled the toggle switch in demobilizing it – and locking the steering column.

    Guess they had more auto theft in 1937 than in 1964. Or so they thought.

    By the way, those anti-theft ads were government sponsored. Public service announcements, as they were called back then.

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  • skorDecember 16th, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Back in the day GM did a lot of technically innovative things. Did the public really care? If the above car’s engine had been made out of compressed dog crap with a trans held together with J-B Weld, it probably would not have sold any worse than it did. The suits at GM ultimately came to the same conclusion, and a negative feedback cycle was born. Sometimes I think that the US auto makers and the typical US consumer deserve each other.

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  • Murilee MartinDecember 16th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    This was around the time that GM realized (thanks to John DeLorean and cronies) that you could throw a big engine and some gingerbread at a midsize coupe, triple the marketing budget, and print money. Lesson learned: the car doesn’t matter. I always see 1964 as the beginning of the end for GM, the point at which the company went from top innovator to hypnotized-by-marketing-schmucks scamster.

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  • dejal1December 16th, 2011 at 10:05 am

    The thing had Halogen headlights in it. So, it was still on the road in 1983.

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  • Mark MacInnisDecember 16th, 2011 at 10:36 am

    A former GF was a town-and-country-girl(hint…that doesn’t mean she owned a mini-van…it means her parents were well-enough-off to own a home in the city, and a farm in the country.) Her parents’ farm had a section which became a dumping ground for all of her 8 brothers’ former cars.

    One of these was a 1963 Oldsmobile version of this same wagon, an F-85. Back in the day, I truly wanted to haul that wagon (the body was nearly pristine, and I was intrigued by the aluminum engine) to a shop and restore it and turn it into an awesome party wagon…the trim size of the car and its awesome early-60’s Olds lines were just way too cool.

    Alas, I was a self-matriculating college student (that means I was working and paying for it myself)so, I had to choose between working on my passions (at the time, cars, cannabis and this particular young lady….she was the youngest of 13, born on, and named, Christmas Eve…and was the most exquisite…well, that’s not a part of this story….) and working on my education.

    Tempus has fugited, as it has a habit of doing. I suspect Christie still lives near the area. I heard she’s married with 3 kids….I kinda suspect the farm has either been sold or developed, so that F-85 was long ago turned into a Camry or a bridge girder. Lost opportunities….

    Please don’t ever stop shooting and posting these pictures. For those of us who have always loved cars, been excited by cars, lived our lives through cars, these images…no matter how decrepit or timeworn the cars appear to be….these images evoke in our hearts and minds not only the grand machines themselves…they evoke memories of where we were and whom we were with when these cars were important to us. Thanks.

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  • docrockDecember 16th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    If I send you a couple of bucks, will you continue your story . . . sounds better than my life so far.

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  • Mark MacInnisDecember 16th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    BTW…on the first shot of the rear lift-gate….the backlight has chrome pillars in it. Were these functional? Did they divide the glass so that the center section could roll down? Did the corner windows open like vent windows? Anyone know or remember?

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  • David HolzmanDecember 16th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    These are really great photos. THanks Alex!

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  • GS650GDecember 16th, 2011 at 11:05 am

    That 215 V-8 is a favorite swap on Volkswagons from what I’ve been told. I’m very surprised to see it still there.

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  • fred schumacherDecember 16th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    My first car was a 1961 Olds F-85 with the aluminum block V-8 and two-speed automatic. This was in 1968, and the car was so rusty the only things holding it together were bumper stickers. Yes, they don’t build cars like they used to. Now they last a long time.

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  • VanillaDudeDecember 16th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    This was a family vehicle. It was designed for men who knew how to make babies and married to women who knew how to take care of them. By this year, often American families had two vehicles, but only one single income. Suburbia was florishing and booming and only urban eggheads decried what they knew was the end of their dreams of containing Americans within cities and controlling them through mass transit, government policies and uniformity. Civil rights were being fought for, the GI generation was calling the shots, and there was a Look magazine model family living in the White House, promising humanity that we will reach the moon by the end of the decade.

    This Buick was made for people who saw a bright future for their children and for the United States. These fathers often worked a productive shift making something in a manufacturing plant. They were often paid by the hour in a union shop. Many of them were veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War. Half of them smoked cigarettes. They believed they were personally responsible for their family’s budget. They fought for their country so had no doubts as to the importance of containing Communism around the globe.

    This vehicle was designed to meet their needs for a slightly upscale family wagon. Buick was a popular choice for men striving for social recognition. Back in 1963, married couples believed that conception and birth was a natural, healthy, normal part of their lives. This wagon was designed to accommodate a robust family with more than a few children. And a dog.

    Life wasn’t easier then. It just looked easier in hindsight. A generation that didn’t run to Oprah to expose family issues, or Maury Povich to expose family embarrassments, knew the importance of a public presentation of normalcy. Uncle Gary, living with his good friend Mike, and who like wearing make-up occassionally, knew to keep his private matters private, and no one talked about how hard daddy spanked when you pissed him off.

    This vehicle was made for a generation of buyers who believed in the societal roles placed upon them, and appreciated the dependability of those roles because they knew what happened in the world when those roles unraveled during depression and wars. They knew that life was easier pushing a shopping cart through Safeway with six toddlers, than it was trying to find out what happened to your six toddlers after they were sent to Auschwitz. This vehicle was made for a generation of buyers who didn’t whine about personal fulfillment, because they didn’t expect their life to be perfect.

    By the end of this year, Kennedy was dead and a generation of school children began wondering why the color of your skin determined if you can get served at the corner Walgreens. Instead of accepting the social roles placed upon them and finding comfort in those roles, the next generation wanted self determination. A generation enriched in suburbia felt comfortable tearing down the social institutions unaware of what the walls were holding back.

    This old hulk of a wagon makes one think.

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  • dejal1December 16th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    And the head of the “model family living in the White House” almost started WW3 in Cuba, got us deeper involved in a “police action” in S.E. Asia.

    Must have been the drugs he was taking for all the back pain he had.

    Didn’t stop him from doing Marilyn Monroe though.

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  • Ronnie SchreiberDecember 16th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    VanillaDude, anytime you want, I’ll give you a byline at Cars In Depth. Great stuff.

    They knew that life was easier pushing a shopping cart through Safeway with six toddlers, than it was trying to find out what happened to your six toddlers after they were sent to Auschwitz.

    In 1963, I was probably at the Jewish Community Center on Meyers and Curtis in Detroit at least once or twice a week. I liked to swim, so I usually ended up getting a locker. The locker room attendant was a friendly older guy named Fritz. It was warm and humid near the pool so Fritz always wore his sleeves rolled up. It was hard not to notice the Hollerith number tattooed on his left forearm as he handed you your key and towel.

    That was less than 20 years after the camps and their few survivors were liberated.

    How Fritz and other survivors got on with their lives and didn’t just sink into despair I’ll never understand.

    My parents’ good friends, the Reeds, were both survivors, their two kids close friends to me and my siblings. Etta passed away not long ago at the age of 93 or so. When Emil died some years back, though our families were close enough that I was 7 before I realized that Uncle Emil and Aunt Etta weren’t really my aunt and uncle, that was the first time I found out that this was his second family, his first wife and baby having been killed by the Nazis.

    Some of the folks pushing those shopping carts and driving those American station wagons personally knew only too well how good their lives were then and how bad things can get.

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  • Rockford BrodieDecember 16th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    While I agree that this post is well written, I just cannot agree with it’s message. I’m sure life in the early 60’s was great…if you were straight, white, Christian, and preferably male. As someone who is only half of those things, the idea of living in an era where it was shameful to be different sounds just plain awful.

    As an aside, I don’t think you meant to imply that the Civil Rights movement was ultimately a negative thing, but that’s how it comes across IMO.

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  • fred schumacherDecember 17th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Early post-WWII America was an aberration in world history. Because America was left undamaged by the war, half the world’s remaining manufacturing capability was contained within the U.S. This was an unsustainable percentage over the long run. Unions were strong, taxation of wealth was confiscatory, government invested heavily in infrastructure and education, and the middle class grew by leaps and bounds.

    Wages were high in relationship to fixed living costs, especially housing, thus allowing for single-earner families and stay-at-home moms, something not generally possible in the 19th century, when every family member had to work to support life at a subsistence level. Of my classmates in the early 60s, only one had a mother working full time. His was also the only single-child family we knew of. We felt sorry for him.

    I recently came across my second grade class photo, taken in 1956. All the kids are scrubbed and clean, but wearing work (play) clothes, nothing fancy. All are children or grandchildren of immigrants, either from Europe or the Deep South. Half the children are black. Most of our fathers worked for Sharon Steel, which had 7,000 employees. The other big employer was the Westinghouse transformer plant, which had 2,000.

    I cut the grass for several of Sharon Steel’s upper management. We didn’t call it lawn care in those days. These men lived comfortably but not extravagantly, knew all the workers on the shop floor, and were dedicated members of the local community. They ran the most modern steel mill in America at the time, most of whose production went into Big Three cars, like this 1963 Buick.

    Sharon Steel was taken over by the first of the big-time white collar thieves, Victor Posner, who transferred the wealth Sharon Steel had created into his own pockets. My father was a craneman loading the trucks that were sent to Posner’s private warehouse 12 miles down I-80, where the steel he bought cheaply from Sharon Steel was stored for later resale at higher price.

    Today, what is left of what once was Sharon Steel employs one-tenth the number of workers it once had and at half the salary. And we’re back to families needing two incomes to make it.

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  • VanillaDudeDecember 19th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I’m VanillaDude and I tried to respectfully represent a generation of Americans who tried their best to be responsible and give their children and grandchildren a better country. Frankly, we are discovering today that leaving behind a better country isn’t to be taken for granted. Kudos to them, right?

    I’m trying to do what I can to offset what I see as a generational prejudice against earlier generations. We are not better than they were. What passes as normal beliefs within each generation is often derided with insults by the next as though we are all decendants of fools, barbarians and idiots.

    This Buick was bought without 60 month financing, but had a 60 day warranty. That was life. Compared to what they experienced, it was a great deal.

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  • VariantDecember 16th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Probably a silly question, but this has been bugging me for a while.

    What’s the deal with all of these cars balanced up on wheels? Are they stable like that? Because they certainly look precarious

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  • ktm_525December 16th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Wheels are welded. Stable and cheap. You need to get to a self serve lot ASAP.

    VD that was very well written. I had no idea that a big ol wagon represented so much.

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  • Jim SutherlandDecember 16th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I go to a ton of car shows every year and I have yet to see one of these wagons pull into a show. Vintage station wagons in general are headed in the same direction as the passenger pigeon and I hope that one of your readers decides to save this one, despite the logistics of missing pieces for an unloved body style from the past.

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  • Alex VendlerDecember 16th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for posting up those pics Phil. I had fun taking them and now will add a decent camera to my boneyard specific tool bag.

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  • dave-the-raveDecember 16th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    BTW, I surmise from the added paint marking on the rear panel that this vehicle has been certified a GM “OK” used car and is, in fact, for sale.

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  • Joe ChiaramonteDecember 16th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    When my grandfather bought his big new Impala in 1972, my next oldest sister and I inherited his 1963 Olds F-85 4-door to run around in. With a strong engine and 3-speed auto in an Accord-sized option-less car, it was quite the sleeper vehicle, teeny hub caps and all. Same baby crap brown as this Buick.

    My sister rear-ended another car a few months later and totalled it. I have not yet forgiven her. I then had to drive Mom’s Vega. Double-ouch.

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  • "scarey"December 16th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Yup. Vanilla is deep. My Dad had a ’63 Impala wagon. It hauled Mom and 4 kids and our luggage on 12 hour drives to the Ozarks. And him and 3 fishing buddies and gear up for Northern and Walleye fishing in Canada. Took us to Florida. I still love wagons (and have one).

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  • willbodineDecember 16th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Great post. Back in GM’s glory days, they could do things like major restyles on these B-O-P A-bodies for only a single model year. The Buick refresh was, to my eyes, the least successful. The 63 Special is pretty ugly, especially compared to the nice looking 62. It was also a very adventurous episode for GM engineering: the IRS-transaxle “rope-drive” Tempest, the aluminum V8 Special and the turbo charged F-85. The General turned them from “luxury compacts” (61-63) to intermediates in 64. The 64s were larger, and a lot more conventional. Needless to add, they sold like hotcakes.

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  • "scarey"December 16th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    In the 70s, I had a ’63 Tempest Le Mans 326c.i. 3-speed manual (on floor) with bucket seats. Forerunner to the GTO. It was QUICK. I kept breaking the 1″ solid drive shafts. (Is that what you meant by ‘rope-drive’ ?) But I was a poor student, (two meanings there) and when the timing chain (or belt) broke, I sold it rather than fixing it.

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  • obbopDecember 16th, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    “certified a GM “OK” used car”

    Routines vary from yard to yard but I will guess that with the yard in California there is a god chance that the “OK” designates that fluids (gas, coolant, etc.) have been drained and that the battery has been removed and any other in-place procedures required by the yard have been met.

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  • Dave M.December 16th, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    And the head of the “model family living in the White House” almost started WW3 in Cuba,

    Cuba was a situation he inherited. Thankfully the other guy blinked.

    got us deeper involved in a “police action” in S.E. Asia.

    Again, the advisor scenario he inherited, Johnson led the buildup.

    Must have been the drugs he was taking for all the back pain he had.

    Having broken my back 31 years ago, constant pain ins’t pretty. I’d love a Monroe-like therapy.

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  • dvp carsDecember 17th, 2011 at 12:17 am

    ……’s kind of homely looking, but this Special is actually a pretty rare car, in fact I don’t remember ever seeing one, even in the day. Doesn’t matter much, though…..far too many doors to give it collector value, but I love that 215. IMHO the only wagons worth serious restoration costs are Caballeros, Fiestas, Nomads (Pontiac had a version, but can’t remember the model name), and any Ford with real lumber panelling. Seen any Vista Cruisers, Murilee?

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  • MadHungarianDecember 17th, 2011 at 2:40 am

    When I was in high school (mid 70’s) a friend’s brother acquired the Olds F-85 version of this wagon for the specific purpose of pulling the engine to stuff it into an MGB. He then junked the rest of the wagon. It was in great condition. I steered the engineless car when he pushed it out to the street to be picked up by the tow truck. I almost cried. He never did finish the damned MGB project either.

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  • acuraandyDecember 17th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I dig the VIN tag. And those had FOUR bolt hubs? Call it the early Accord of the nuclear age…:)

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