While there he saw a 1955 Buick Roadmaster that captured his attention.
“That’s when I fell in love with the style,” Hulfish says.
For the next couple of years, Hulfish half-heartedly searched for a 1955 Buick. He was surprised to find a 1955 Buick Special two-door hardtop for sale only a couple of miles from his home.
The Buick Special had three ventiports in both front fenders, which was exactly the car he had been hunting. Hulfish became the owner after taking a wallowing test-drive down the George Washington parkway.
After several months deciding what to do with his acquisition, Hulfish went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register his Buick. That is when he was informed that his license to drive had expired. He renewed his license that very day and after passing the written test he took the driving test seated behind the three-spoke, shoulder-wide steering wheel. Parallel parking in a big car with no power steering was challenging. Hulfish determined that his well-worn Buick was in need of a restoration.
In 2005 he took his car to a shop where the exterior was stripped. Fortunately, the naked car showed no damage to the exposed metal and only a few places with surface rust. “Not too much new metal was welded in,” he says.
When the time came for repainting Hulfish selected an authentic 1955 Buick color combination of Dover White on the top, as well as below the chrome side trim. The center part of the Buick, including the trunk and hood, got coated with Belfast Green Metallic.
All of the trim pieces, including the massive bumpers, were replated. When the Buick came back to Hulfish proclaims, “It looked elegant.”
With the exterior refurbished, Hulfish turned his attention to the interior. The steel dashboard was resprayed to match the exterior and the upholstery was replaced with a period-correct design. “I’m not a purist,” Hulfish says.
When the renewed 17-foot, 2.7-inch-long Buick came rolling home on its 122-inch wheelbase Hulfish says, “I was impressed by the get up and go of the car.”
Research indicates that 55 years ago the 3,720-pound Buick had a base price of $2,332. The six-passenger car has a 264-cubic-inch V-8 engine that develops 188 horsepower. “It zips right along,” he says.
Although the speedometer can register speeds up to 130 mph, Hulfish reports that since he has owned the car it has never gone faster than 80 mph. Concentration is required when driving the Buick because the shift pattern of the variable-pitch Dynaflow transmission is from the left: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.
Little things on the big Buick most impress its owner. A backup light is incorporated in the design of each taillight. Below the backup light is a small red reflector. Although the car is not air conditioned, the wing vent windows can be adjusted to create a comfort zone inside the car.
“The windows are great,” Hulfish says. “The windows are down pretty much all the time,” Hulfish says. He observes the lines of the car are enhanced with the windows down. “In the winter I just crank up the heater.”
The owner likes the way the ignition key can be removed with the engine running when he might want to unlock the trunk. When open the expanse of the trunk is amazing and made more useful by having the spare tire installed vertically on the right side. The starter button is activated by pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor.
Hulfish is impressed by the commanding blast from the horn. “Buick made really good horns,” he says and he enjoys sharing that sound with other motorists and pedestrians.
A total of 155,818 cars like his were manufactured and Hulfish says the most pleasurable part of owning his Buick is seeing the joy his car brings to others. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters