1938 Buick Series 40 Special

1938 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Fisher
Chassis #: 43521879L3340099
Sold for $61,600 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
The new Buicks features an all-steel construction, a more rigid I-beam frame, front and rear stabilizer bars, a thermal circuit breaker which eliminated the need for fuses, and an Aerobat carburetor. They operated quietly and very luxurious, thanks to the aluminum rockers, and rubber shims between the body and chassis. The standard torque tubes on the live rear axle gave the car a very comfortable ride and responsive on-road behavior.

The design of the 1938 Buicks were similar to the redesigned 1937s. They had long, swept-back lines, scalloped hubcaps, and a very distinctive grille. High-quality upholstery and trim could be found in the interior, with a state-of-the-art radio in the center of the dashboard.

This Model 46C convertible was designed for open-air driving. Its original owner was Bertha F. Cox of High Point, North Carolina and delivered on December 21st of 1937. The second documented owner was Ray Elkins of Marion who took ownership around 1942. The car would remain in his care for the next 50 years until 1994. It was sold to Ned Pellell who commissioned a restoration which took two years to complete.

The engine was rebuilt and the car was stripped to bare metal. Many of the mechanical systems were rebuilt, including the brakes and electrical wiring. A new clutch was installed. The interior was treated to the same treatment, with the upholstery including the rumble seat being restored. New trim was added and the top was redone by Jenkins and Vaughn.

The car is powered by a Dynaflash 8 and is equipped with factory side mounts and a rumble seat. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. The 248 cubic-inch engine produces 100 horsepower and powers the rear wheels.

In 2007 it was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, California and estimated to sell for $50,000 - $70,000 and offered without reserve. Those estimates proved nearly accurate, as the lot was sold for $61,600 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2010
1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible Phaeton
Chassis #: 13279428
Sold for $77,600 at 2007 The Hilton Head Sports & Classic Car Auction.
This 1938 Buick Model 40C Phaeton was offered for sale at the 2007 Sports and Classic Car Auction presented by The Worldwide Group, in Hilton Head Island, SC where it was estimated to sell for $70,000 - $90,000. It was offered without reserve. It was recently awarded a 'Best in Class' award at several Northeastern Concours and Buick Club events. This is a testament to the vehicles superior restoration and excellent condition. The chrome, trim, engine compartment, undercarriage, and all other aspects of the car are in top form.

This car is finished in formal black with burgundy stripes and a burgundy leather interior. It has a Haartz cloth top that was custom fitted for this car, is finished in black with red piping. There are four doors, split windshield, side-mounted and covered spare, and whitewall tires.

Offering a car without reserve means the car will be sold regardless if it meets the estimated value. In this case, the high bid fell within the estimated value, selling for $77,600 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2007
1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Drop Head Sport Sedan
Designer: Lancefield
Buicks were available in four distinct model lines for 1938: the Series 40 Special, the Series 60 Century, the Series 80 Roadmaster, and the Series 90 Limited. Some Buick collectors and aficionados consider them to be among the most handsome Buicks of all-time.

This 1938 Buick 44 Special Drop-Head right-hand-drive was delivered to the Singer sewing machine company in London. There it was re-bodied by the Lancefield Company in London. It was used in England for many years and was later retired (in 1939) to their Texas ranch and eventually put in storage for 25 years. Subsequently, it went to the Milhous Collection in 1980. At the time, the car was in good original condition having covered only 22,000 miles. In 2003, it was sold at auction to its current owners.

The car is all original, with only 24,000 miles. It has a three position disappearing top, picnic tables, and Art Deco coach work. It has an all-aluminum body with a straight eight 248 cubic inch engine.

The aluminum body can be fully open, fully closed, or open just over the front seat. British craftsmanship can be seen in the beautiful woodwork and rear writing trays. The body features extensive pin striped fluting on the fenders and body along with a canvas top that collapses into a well under a self-concealing tonneau cover, much like that of a modern convertible. The three-position convertible top can be used fully-opened or closed as well as in the de ville position. The interior features woodwork and rear writing trays.

The owner has successfully driven the car in many tours. In 2003, it was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in the preservation class. It is currently in fully restored condition.

1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Special Opera Coupe
Chassis #: 33307949
Sold for $33,000 at 2007 Vintage Motor Car Auction at Meadow Brook Hall.
This 1938 Buick Special Series 40 Special Opera Coupe was offered for sale at the 2007 RM Auctions held at Meadow Brook. It is powered by a 248 cubic-inch engine that produces 107 horsepower which is sent to the rear wheels with the help from the three-speed manual gearbox. There are hydraulic drum brakes on all four wheels and the elegant two-door coupe body sits on a 122-inch wheelbase. This aerodynamically crafted vehicle is finished in Botticelli Blue Metallic paint and is an original factory color. It has been treated to a comprehensive restoration and was offered without reserve and estimated to sell for $40,000 - $50,000 at auction.

It is equipped with two fold down jump seats, dual side mounted spares with hard covers, radio, clock, twin driving lights, windshield wipers, and red steel wheels with chrome covers and rings wrapped in whitewall tires.

For 1938 Buick offered a broad line of vehicles including the Special, Century, Limited, and Roadmaster. This wide range of vehicles catered to many buyers' requests that ranged from engine size, price, bodystyle, and type of vehicle. Even during the market stagnation of the 1930s, Buick was able to sell 170,000 examples of their vehicles in 1938, and earned an overall fourth place within the American automobile industry in sales.

This Special Opera Coupe did find a new owner at auction with a winning bid of $33,000 including buyers premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2010
1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Fisher
Chassis #: 13272028
Engine # 2878284
Sold for $66,000 at 2010 Gooding and Company - Scottsdale Auction.
Sold for $59,400 at 2010 Gooding and Company : The Amelia Island Auction.
Sold for $57,750 at 2012 Gooding and Company - The Scottsdale Auction.
The current owner purchased this 46C Special in late 1997 and gave it a comprehensive and professional restoration in September of 1999. The work took ten months and cost approximately $65,000. After the work, the car was sparingly driven and serviced as needed.

The engine is a 248 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine with dual downdraft carburetors and offering 107 horsepower. There is a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. In the front is an independent suspension with a semi-floating rear axle and coil springs.

In 2010, it was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company Auction held in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was estimated to sell for $60,000 - $80,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the lot was sold for the sum of $66,000, inclusive of buyer's premium.

It returned to auction in 2010, at Gooding & Company's sale held in Amelia Island, Florida. The car was estimated to sell for $60,000 - $80,000 and offered without reserve. The high bid of $54,000 (prior to buyer's premium), was enough to secure new ownership.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2010
1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible Phaeton
Buick offered two industry 'firsts' for 1938; coil springs at the rear and it's Automatic Safety Transmission, which was a step in the development of the automatic transmission.

Four series were offered by Buick for 1938; the Series 40 (Special), 60 (Century), 80 (Roadmaster) and 90 (Limited). The lower-price series 40 was, by far, the biggest seller and offered eight different body styles.

The 1938 Buick Special was powered by a 248 cubic-inch inline eight-cylinder motor that developed 107 horsepower. The bodies were installed on a 122-inch wheelbase chassis.

1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Convertible Phaeton
Chassis #: 13290457
Sold for $60,500 at 2014 RM Auctions - Automobiles of Arizona.
This Buick Special Phaeton is one of 776 Style 38-4449 Phaetons built in the Series 40 Special lineup. It is equipped with the $80 semi-automatic Safety Transmission, which was arguably 'The General's' first attempt at obsoleting manual shift. Only six so-equipped examples survive, this being the only phaeton among them.

This Phaeton was used for many years by a family in Lake Forest, Illinois as a summer vehicle. After its duties were complete, it was put into storage where it lay for 3 decades, until being disinterred around 1999. At that time, it was an untouched original, aside from a repaint in black.

The car was purchased by a Texan who commissioned a professional restoration. John Sobers of Stone Ranch Motors in Colorado was chosen for his expertise with the rare semi-automatic transmission. To date, they have rebuilt four out of the six transmissions from the surviving cars.

After the owner fell into ill health, Sobers acquired the car and worked on the project over the next dozen years. The car was finished in the correct original shade of Code 518 Titian Maroon, while the interior was re-upholstered by Sun Valley Classics, using correct, antique-grain Red leather with Maroon piping.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2014
1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special 1938 Buick Series 40 Special Sport Sedan
By the late 1930s, Buick's role in the General Motors prestige hierarchy was solidly established at number three, trailing Cadillac and LaSalle, but ranking ahead of Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. It had come to be known as 'the doctor's car,' an enviable nickname that reflected Buick's essence: not quite ostentatious, definitely a cut above common, and dead solid reliable - a critical factor in an era when house calls were still part of a physician's routine.

However, it's unlikely that Buicks such as this 40-Series four-door convertible saw much service with doctors. There were eight body styles in the 40 Special inventory, plus a bare chassis version for coachbuilders. All were propelled by Buick's familiar in-line eight: 248 cubic-inches in the Specials, rated for a modest 107 horsepower - not much in the Phaeton, the heavyweight of the lineup at 3,705 pounds.

This car was acquired by the current owner in 2006, ending 25 years in storage. The car was restored in 2010 by Doug Saybold's Buick shops in Elyria, Ohio. Of the 141,301 Buick Specials produced for the 1938 model year, 946 were four-door convertibles. How many have survived is unknown, but this example is just one of four registered with the Buick Club of America.

Buick introduced the Series 40 in 1930 as a replacement for the Series 116. The Series 40 rode on a 118-inch wheelbase and powered by a 258 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine which produced 80 horsepower. Braking was through mechanical drums found on all four corners. The suspension was comprised of semi-elliptic springs and Lovejoy hydraulic shock absorbers. During its first year, there were six bodystyles to select from, including a Sedan, Sport Roadster, Business Coupe and Special Coupe in two-door configuration. A Phaeton and Sedan version were offered with four doors, with the four-door sedan with seating for five being the most popular bodystyle on the Series 40. Pricing was rather competitive, starting at $1260 and continuing through $1300. The Phaeton had seating for four or five, and had the lowest sales in the Series 40, total just under 1000 examples.

The name 'Series 40' remained dormant for a few years, making its re-appearance in 1934. They were again Buicks entry-level vehicle, though much had changed in these few short years. The Series 40 lightweight vehicles powered by an eight-cylinder engine that measured 233 cubic-inches and produced nearly 100 horsepower.

The name 'Series 40' would stick with Buick until 1959, when a new series naming scheme was introduced. During this time, the Series 40 would be powered by eight-cylinder engines which grew in size in power throughout the years.

For 1934, the Series 40 rested on a 117-inch wheelbase and had an entry price of a mere $795. The top-of-the-line Series 40 would set the buyer back $925. The four-door Club sedan continued to be the most popular of the Series 40, selling nearly 11,000 examples in 1934. Five body styles were available, including a two-door Touring Sedan, Sport Coupe, and Convertible Coupe.

For 1935, little changed. A few extra colors were added and the trim was revised slightly. Mechanical problems from the 1934 Series 40 were resolved, such as clutch and timing chain issues. A new bodystyle was added, the Convertible Coupe.

Changes occurred both visually and mechanical for 1936. The car now rested on an enlarged, 118-inch wheelbase. Over 77,000 examples of the four-door sedan were sold, which was a drastic improvement over the prior years sales figures. Much of the vehicles aesthetics received attention. The windshields and roof lines became more rounded. The spare tire was mounted discretely in the trunk for some body styles, and mounted on the left-hand side of the vehicle for others.

Sales continued to be strong throughout the 1930s for the Series 40. The car grew even larger in 1937, now sitting on a 122-inch wheelbase. The engine now measured 248 cubic-inches and produced 100 horsepower. Production continued until the onset of World War II, when the American automobile producers switched to aid in the production of war-time materials.

When production resumed in 1946, the Series 40 was the only model in Buick's lineup to utilize the prewar Fisher B-body styles of the postwar era. There were two body styles available, both resting on a 121 inch wheelbase and had seating for six. The four-door version cost $1,580 while the two-door version was priced at $1520. These were Buick entry-level vehicles, just as they had been in prior to World War II. Sales were slow, with around 3000 examples produced from the combined sales of the two- and four-door version. The 248 cubic-inch engine was rated at around 110 horsepower.

Major changes did not occur on the Series 40 until 1950, when the cars were given changes to their styling. The styling was modern and memorable, with the grille being one of the more distinguishable features on the car. Three vent-ports were now located on the side of the engine bay. The public approved of these changes, and sales were strong, reaching over 200,000 for the Series 40 and Series 40D. The Series 40D was a Special Deluxe model that had the same styling and size as the Series 40, but added improvements to the interior, addition trim and molding, and 'Special' on the front fenders.

In 1954 the Series 40 was given a new body that was lower and wider than it previously had. The front had a new grille design which many termed as the 'electric shaver' design. The front and rear windows were curved and there was enough glass throughout the drivers and passengers view to provide a nearly 360-degree view. Mounted under the hood was a new 264 cubic-inch V8 engine which produced over 140 horsepower. The vehicles outfitted with the Dynaflow gearbox had even more power. A new steering linkage and suspension gave the vehicle a smooth ride, complimenting the cars appearance.

By 1956, the Series 40 was given visual changes to its grille, ornamentation, and headlights. New bumpers were added to the front and rear of the vehicle. On the inside, the instrumentation was the same as other Buick models, a trend that had not been seen on Buicks since the pre-War era. Improvements to the engine meant an increase in horsepower, now rated at over 220 for the Dynaflow version. Sales were strong with the 2-door Riviera Hardtop being the most popular, with over 113,000 units sold in 1956. The price ranged from $2410 through $2775. The most expensive Series 40 was the six-person Estate Wagon which saw over 13,700 units being purchased.

There were many changes in 1957 to the Series 40, including a new grill insert, the 'B U I C K' name on the front of the car, chrome wings in the rear, along with a slew of other changes. In the back was a single exhaust pipe, with dual exhausts being offered for an additional cost. The three portholes on the side signified 'Super' while other models received four. Horsepower for the Dynaflow version had now reached 250 with 380 foot-pounds of torque. Sales continued to be strong, though they dipped a little from the prior year.

For 1958 the Buick Series 40 were given dual headlights in the front and an exorbitant amount of chrome. There was a circular ornament with a 'V', symbolizing V8, placed on the front and in the center of the hood. Dual horizontal moldings ran along each side of the vehicle, from front to back. Sales were strong, but they were still on the decline.

For 1959, Buick introduced their Series 4400 as a replacement for the Series 40. The Series 4400 was a very wide car with modern style indicative of the era.

The Series had served Buick for many years, as their entry level vehicle. The V8 engine found under the hood (except for the initial years) were more than adequate to carry the large and elegant bodies. Offered in a variety of bodystyles, the cars were versatile and accommodating to many individuals wishes and needs.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2007

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