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Flybrian

Random Car Showcase: Edition III

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Flybrian's Random Car Showcase Presents...
The 1956 Buick Centurion
Through boredom and...well, just boredom, I bring you the second in likely many little 'diaries' of a completely random car.
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1956 Buick Centurion


Of all General Motors divisions, Buick was arguably the most prolific builder of concept cars. Perhaps it was the motiff of classic American style and attainability that destined the middle-luxury marque to be the showcase for some of the most beautiful automobiles never to be produced. Beginning with the very first dream car - the 1938 Y-Job - Buick took center stage at GM's famed Motorama and gave us all something to fantasize about.

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Arguably the peak of these fascinating design exercises came was reached at the 1956 Motorama when Buick unveiled its dream car du jour, the Centurion. Though its far-flung exterior styling instantly dates the Centurion, it is far from old fashioned. Consider this car as the pinnacle of jet age styling. Extremely low-mounted headlamps are deeply inset and encircled by faux turbine vanes and the whole assembly is dramatically swept to form the beginning of a trademark Buick Sweapspear. The large grille mimics jet intakes, perhaps that of the F-100 Super Sabre which entered service two years prior. The hood opens forward to reveal a V-8 engine.

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Alongside the Centurion's body - or, shall we say, fuselage - runs a thin chrome accent ridge that gracefully sweeps downwards and quickly up again, kicking over the rear tire and forming part of a complex flat fin design. Three chrome sashes ahead of the rear wheelwell decorate the fender. Large chrome turbine wheels wrapped in thinner-than-period whitewalls are pushed out laterally moreso than usual on cars of this era and fill in the wheelwells nicely.

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Move to the rear to appreciate the Centurion's designwork even more. The chrome Sweapspear ridge wraps around a flat, thick, angular fin design, terminating in a chrome tailcone. The effect is graceful with virtually no 'hard' edges or corners. Above the tailcone sits a rearview closed-circuit tv camera. Exhaust outlets are vertically paired with taillamps in dual jetlike pods. Even the license plate mount isn't obtrusive.

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Inside, the innovation continues. You'll first notice the Centurion's cockpit is surrounded by a thin-framed glass bubble canopy, giving driver and passengers 360-degrees of nearly unobstructed vision. However, despite this incredible field of view, the Centurion features a dash-mounted television screen fed from a patented CCTV camera mentioned above, perhaps one of the first instances of television inside even a concept car. A revolving speedometer sat ahead of the steering wheel while a gear selector dial rested in the wheel hub. The cantilevered steering column ran down the center of the car, giving the driver more legroom. Doors opened with the touch of a button and automatically moved and swiveled the front seats to provide easy entry. However, being a 2+2 coupe, access to the rear was easily granted with the touch a button on the front seats that automatically moved them up and folded to allow entry.

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Like most dream cars - especially of that era - its high-tech features and design never made it into production. However, many details eventually did. The rearview camera was revisited in many concept cars to come and is now a rather common feature in higher-end automobiles. Elements of the Centurion's exterior styling also came to life in future Buicks. The three chrome fender sashes debuted on the 1957 Roadmaster and were multipled to fifteen in a different configuration for the '58 Roadmaster Riviera. The 'catseye' headlamps and angular rear fins resurfaced in 1959 on the new Buick lineup. Even the nameplate found its way to the showrooms with the short-lived 1971-73 Centurion line.

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But in truth, nothing can duplicate the original Centurion. It was a product of its time and unique among them in being both wild and somehow tasteful simultaneously. The complex curves and facetless body panel integration is something manufacturers still strive for now. Yet even in achieving that quality, the heart and soul of what makes dream cars like the Centurion so fondly remembed can never be realized again. They made us dream and lust and fantasize without constraints or limitations. And for that, they will always be cherished.

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Today, the 1956 Centurion resides in a private collection.
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MMMM, der Börger would love to have that car. The weird thing is, when I saw the interior, I had flashbacks to my grandfather's 1961 black Chevy Impala's red interior. It looked very similar to this Buick's interior. My grandfather had that Impala until the mid 80's.

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Oh I love that roof treatment. The delicate chrome pillars at dashing angles, all that glass (or plexiglass?), it really lends an air of lightness to the car.
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Oooo...I do like that!!

Cort:33swm."Mr Monte Carlo.Mr Road Trip".pig valve.pacemaker

WRMNshowcase.lego.HO.model.MCs.RT.CHD = http://www.chevyasylum.com/cort

"The more things change the more they stay the same" ... Kenny Chesney ... 'Summertime'

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