Sam Barris' 1950 Buick

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Once completed, it was hard to believe that Sam had built his beauty from a total wreck.
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Photo by George Barris. Photo courtesy by Brad Masterson.
Photo from the Barry Mazza collection
Sam-barris-1950-buick3.jpg
Sam's Buick as it appeared in Rod & Custom February 1954. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
The headlights were frenched using 1953 Buick headlight rings, changing the appearance of the front fenders considerably. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
1953 Pontiac station wagon taillights were frenched, neatly positioned in the 4 inch extended fenders. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
The side trims were 1951 Lincoln units, reversed and turned over to duplicate the lines of the rear fenders. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
The antique white and maroon upholstery was fabricated by Carson Top Shop. The maroon was mohair, and the white was leatherette. The carpet was a white shag rug. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
Sam's Sedanette next to F. U. Godfellow's 1910 Buick. Photo courtesy of Rod & Custom.
A photo of the Buick taken in the autumn of 1974. This is how it looked like when Robert Bartel of Port Jefferson Station, New York owned it. Photo courtesy of Robert Bartel.
Photo courtesy of Robert Bartel.
The upholstery by Carson Top Shop was still there, and you can see hints of the once nice and shiny Golden Maroon Bronze. Photo courtesy of Robert Bartel.
The old custom in front of Robert's Gulf station. Photo courtesy of Robert Bartel.
A closeup of the picture. Photo courtesy of Robert Bartel.
Robert installed a 1970 Buick engine in the Buick. In this photo the front clip is currently removed.
Robert advertised Sam's old Buick for sale in Hot Rod Magazine May 1976. The asking price was 1200 USD. Photo courtesy of Bill Bulick.
Robert eventually sold the Buick, and it ended up on a riverbank in Tanton, Massachusetts. Chris Canier found the car sitting there, and knew immediately what kind of treasure he had found.
This photo of the restored version of Sam's Buick was published in Hot Rod May 1983. Photo courtesy of Hot Rod Magazine.
Jim Walker of Dayton, Ohio bought the Buick from Chris and restored it back to its former glory.
Sam-barris-1950-buick-8.jpg
Sam-barris-1950-buick-9.jpg
Sam's old Buick as it sat at Manns Restoration in February of 2017. Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Wayne and Bernie working on the Buick at Manns Restoration. Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
The Buick as it sat March 5, 2017. Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
The restoration of the Buick was completed late March 2017. Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.
Photo courtesy of Manns Restoration.


1950 Buick Sedanette owned and restyled by Sam Barris. Built in his spare time, it took 22 months of hard work for Sam to turn his Buick into a full fledged custom. After a garage fire, only a shell full of ashes remained of the Buick. The car was then sold to a wrecking yard so it could be dismantled for parts. Sam found the Buick at the wrecking yard in 1951 and decided to bring it to the Barris shop in Lynwood. Sam had to pay $650 US for the burned out remains.[1]


After removing the body trim outside and inside, Sam decided to chop the top on the Buick. He chopped the flowing roof in the rear by sectioning the body and by reducing the height of the deck lid. By doing this, Sam was able to retain the original body lines and use the original rear window. Up front, the top was chopped three and a half inches. The rear of the car and roof were sectioned five inches from a point below the rear quarter windows to the rear body panel, with the better part of this cut being done through the deck lid. After the cut, the windshield was slanted back to meet the front edge of the lowered top. The center of the top was dropped straight down, and the rear of the top was moved forward. To give the top and body sides a smoother look, Sam removed the drip-rails. Sam formed a similar rail inside the door opening to prevent water from leaking in the doors.[1]


The seams between the rear fenders and the body were molded smooth. Sam shaved the door handles and installed solenoids with the outer actuating buttons being concealed in the lower door trim molding. The original side trim was replaced with chrome from a 1951 Lincoln. The Lincoln trim was both reversed and turned over. Up front headlight rims from a 1953 Buick were frenched to the fenders. The stock grille was replaced by a 1953 Oldsmobile grille bar mounted below the stock Buick grille frame. The grille tips contained air scoops that direct air to the car's interior. The front bumper was a reworked 1951 Buick bumper. For a clean look, Sam also nosed the hood and filled the portholes.[1]


For a longer look, the rear fenders were extended four inches. Taillights from a 1953 Pontiac station wagon were frenched into the rear fenders. The rear fenders were completed with the addition of a strip of metal along their lower edge to give the car the appearance of being lower than it actually was. The deck lid was pancaked and a release solenoid installed with the actuating button located on the dashboard. Rear bumper came from a 1951 Cadillac.[1]


Once the bodywork had been completed Sam painted the car in a Golden Maroon Bronze color. The paint job required the use of many gallons of color and necessitated several color-sanding and rubbing operations.[1]


The car's interior was upholsterd in maroon mohair with inset buttons and pleated white leatherette by Carson Top Shop. White shag rugs were used as carpet. The headliner was done in bright maroon mohair with occasional white beading marking the supporting bows. The same maroon mohair was also used on the lower portion of the door and quarter panels, on the seat cushions and a portion of the seat backs. The mohair was studded with deeply inset white buttons. Upper part of the panels and seats were pleated with white leatherette.[1]


Sam lowered the car just over 3 inches to give it a proper stance. It was dressed up featuring 1953 Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps, hand made fender skirts and dual Appleton spotlights. Studebaker vent-door diamonds were attached to the hubcap centers. Sam kept the original straight-eight engine that sat in the car when he bought it from the wrecking yard.[1]


The build was completed in 1953, [2] and Sam admitted that he never would do another car for himself requiring as much job as the Buick did. He used the car as his daily driver for some months, before he in 1954 decided to sell it in order to afford an eye-surgery for his son John Barris. John had eye-cancer, and this was an expensive operation, so Sam had to let the car go in order to cover the medical bills.[3]


In July of 1960, Robert A. Radcliffe spotted Sam's old Buick on a used car lot on Sunrise Highway in upstate New York. The owner wanted $600 for the car, but as Rob only had $400, was going into the Navy in 2 weeks, and already had three other cars, he passed the deal. Rob got to sit in the car, and he remembers it being perfect besides missing a couple of buttons on the seat. According to the lot owner, famous Jazz singer Billy Eckstein had sold the car to the lot.[4]


After this, nobody knew where the famous Sam Barris Buick was, until 1969 when Robert Bartel of 12 Colgate Street, Port Jefferson Station, New York, spotted the car. Robert owned a gas station, and one day while being at work, he saw the Buick being towed in the back of a barn across his gas station. He asked the owner if he wanted to sell it, but the grumpy owner got mad and told him to get off his property. The guy sold it to a junky in town. In 1974 Robert tracked the junky down, and was able to purchase the car. He was planning to restore it, but time and money did not allow it. He installed a 1970 Buick engine and transmission, but there it stopped. He sent a letter to George Barris, asking for information about the car. He was asking for information about the grille, taillights, side trim, and color.[5]


Robert sold the car in the mid seventies. It swapped hands a couple of times before it eventually ended up on a riverbank in Tanton, Massachusetts. Chris Canier found the car sitting there, and knew immediately what kind of treasure he had found. Chris sold the car to Jim Walker of Dayton, Ohio. Jim had Dave Oakes restore it for him, and a low-mileage 1950 Buick Sedanette had to be sacrificed in order to get the car back to its former glory. After a while, Jim sold the car to kustom car enthusiast and Barris collector Kurt McCormick.


Restored by Manns Restoration

Kurt displayed the car on several shows, and it was exhibited at the Darryl Starbird museum for a while. When Kurt got the car back in 2012, he hired Manns Restoration to do a full restoration job on the car. The restoration of the car was completed in March of 2017.


Magazine Features and Appearances

Rod & Custom February 1954
Trend Book 133 Custom Cars 1957 Annual
Hot Rod May 1983
Wheels Magazine May 1989


References





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