Classics from the halcyon days of modern motoring

October 07, 2017

Charlie Pellegrino with a 1951 Buick Special Straight 8. Photo Luke Hemer.

Charlie Pellegrino with a a rare 1929 Buick Roadster. Photo Luke Hemer.

MORE than 100 Buick vehicles — including the only high powered 1970 Buick muscle car known to exist in Australia — will gather in Echuca-Moama from Sunday for a special week-long celebration of the American motoring giant.

Buick Car Club of Australia vice-president Peter Leon said the club scoured Victoria for the perfect spot to host its 50th anniversary and the twin towns won the race.

‘‘We looked at Lakes Entrance, Halls Gap and Echuca,’’ Mr Leon said.

‘‘I go to the blues festival in Echuca every year and thoroughly enjoy it.

‘‘No other country centre has the tourism ability to house such a large number of cars and people in one location.

‘‘Halls Gap and Lakes Entrance couldn’t do it.

‘‘We could’ve gone to the bigger centres like Geelong or Ballarat but they’re not of the same ilk as Echuca.’’

Formed on March 1, 1967 in Oakleigh with a board of 12, the Buick Car Club of Australia aims to encourage interest in Buick automobiles of any year, assist members with the restoration and maintenance of their Buicks and create an environment whereby members and their families can share their enthusiasm socially.

Mr Leon said Buick was one of the great names in automotive history.

Founded in 1903, Buick was the leading US car manufacturer in 1908, 1950 and 1989 and considered the number two flagship of General Motors (Cadillac holds the number one spot).

Buicks have been in Australia since the early 1900s and were built by GMH post World War II before Holdens took over.

A popular choice of many over the years, Buick can lay claim to the title of the fastest muscle car of all time (according to Motor Trend magazine, November 1984) — the 1970 Gran Sport GSX Stage 1.

Buick Car Club of Australia president Colin Rowland said Buick had largely resisted the urge to join the ‘muscle car’ marketing battle prior to the 1970s as it wished to preserve its reputation for luxury.

‘‘By 1970 many of Buicks core rivals had made major sales gains through promotion of their elite muscle car offerings,’’ Mr Rowland said.

‘‘Because Buick was going to produce a muscle car so late in the race, it had to be special — they would only get one shot at this.

‘‘The result was the 1970 GSX Stage 1. Sporting the largest performance engine fitted to any car in the classic muscle car era, it produced a record breaking torque figure of 510lb/ft — a record held for more than 30 years.’’

The GSX Stage 1 would come with more standard features than any other car in its class.

Also attending the event will be Echuca’s Charlie Pellegrino, who has a 1929 Buick Roadster and a 1951 Buick Special Straight Eight in his collection.

Another Echuca resident Harry Castles owns a similar 1929 Buick Roadster which is housed in the Shepparton Motor Museum.

A visit to the museum will be part of the club’s 50th birthday party.

The celebrations will run from October 8-14 and includes a show ‘n’ shine on Aquatic Reserve on Friday, October 13 from noon.

More than 200 people from as far as Alice Springs and Queensland are expected in town for the event with the bulk staying at the Moama on Murray resort.

And why the fascination for Buicks?

As Mr Pellegrino says, Buicks are ‘‘just very,very well built cars’’.

‘‘Buick’s motto says it all: ‘When better cars are built, Buick will build them’,’’ Mr Pellegrino said.

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