In 1952, soon after acquiring a license to drive, young Fotos was the recipient of a two-month loan of a 1947 Buick Roadmaster convertible. His cousin instructed Fotos to use it as if it were his own.
“This made a deep impression on me,” Fotos says after returning the car to his cousin. “I always thought it would be nice to have that car as a mature adult.”
More than half a century passed when Fotos saw a 1947 Buick advertised for sale at an antique automobile museum in Chicago. Fotos and his wife, Anne, flew to Chicago to inspect the car similar to the one of his youth. The Buick was attractive and seemed to be in excellent condition. When he took it for a test drive however, Fotos says, “I didn’t feel the excitement I thought I would feel when I drove it.” Perhaps Thomas Wolfe was correct.
Returning to the car museum, the disappointed Fotos strolled through the rows of other antique vehicles that were for sale. That is when a sparkling Seminole Red 1956 four-hole Buick Roadmaster convertible with white sidewall tires, 84-spoke chrome wheels and a Continental Kit captured his attention.
Against his better judgment, Fotos continued on the tour to see the other available cars.
“I always wanted a red convertible,” Fotos says. He was determined that this one was not going to get away. He took action by offering the salesman a substantial amount of cash above what the asking price had been. A few minutes later the salesman returned to inform Fotos that the purchaser of the Buick had relented and the Buick was his. “I was elated,” Fotos recalls.
Fotos and his wife flew home to Riverdale, Md., where his automobile insurance agent informed him that the Buick had to be housed in a structural garage. Fotos promptly called the Chicago museum to ask them to hold the Buick until the new garage was constructed.
When the Buick finally arrived it had a new garage to park in, befitting such a car loaded with charm.
Fotos says the black convertible top was frayed so he replaced it with a white one. While the automatic transmission was being overhauled the Buick was outfitted with new or rebuilt parts including: hoses, heater, brakes, springs, mufflers, carburetor, steering box and shock absorbers.
The gasoline tank was removed and flushed to provide a clean supply of high-octane fuel to the four-barrel carburetor. Likewise, the radiator was flushed.
Since those improvements were done Fotos says, “The car runs, stops and turns like brand new. I would trust it to go anywhere.” He claims only about 8 miles per gallon, but emphasizes that is 8 “stylish” miles per gallon.
The big 4,395-pound 1956 Buick rolls on a lengthy 127-inch wheelbase and beneath the long engine hood is a 322-cubic-inch V-8 engine churning out a powerful 255 horsepower.
“I love the way this thing sounds,” Fotos says, “with the rumble out of the dual exhausts.”
Fotos has to be alert whenever he settles behind the three-spoke steering wheel because the shift pattern in 1956 was from the left: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.
“If I’m ever depressed,” Fotos says, “all I need to do is drive around the block in this car. Whistles and compliments always cheer me up.” — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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