The 1956 Buick Special Riviera was purchased in late fall 1956 by my father and mother in Greensboro, North Carolina. They traded in a 1950 Studebaker for the car. During the weekdays, the Buick was driven by my father to and from his job as a buyer for Sears, Roebuck & Company in Greensboro. It was used for all of the family vacations from 1956 to 1966. Those vacations included trips to the North Carolina coast and mountains; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Huntsville, Ala., to visit relatives. It served as the family’s primary source of transportation until 1966 when a second car, a Buick LeSabre, was purchased for the family’s use.
That Buick was my father’s pride and joy; he kept it in top condition. Most Saturdays, if the weather was favorable, my brother, sister and I were enlisted to scrub it down from top to bottom--inside and out. To own a Buick in the 1950s was a true status symbol for many, and my father was proud of the fact that he could afford one --even if it didn’t have air conditioning! He was equally proud of the power steering and the Dynaflow drive.
When I turned 16, I got my driver’s license and began driving the Buick. When I was in the 10th or 11th grade, for some insane reason my father allowed me to take the Buick to Earl Scheib Paint Co. and have the car painted a horrible bright shade of red for $29.95. I remember that the paint job was so cheap that you could still see the black and white paint under the red.
My brother, sister and I continued to drive the Buick into the early 1970s. In 1973, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. By that time I was in college and had my own car--as did my brother and sister. My mother also had her own more modern car to drive. For about a year, the Buick sat in the driveway unattended. By that point, the car had really become a member of the family. We could not bear the thought of selling it. So, I drove it out to my grandparents’ farm and parked it in a shed beside a tobacco barn. There it sat with its 1975 North Carolina tags until about three years ago.
As fate sometimes intervenes in life, I was introduced to Marvin Oliver, who manages the Body Shop at Green Ford in Greensboro. I learned that restoring automobiles on the side is his passion, and he agreed to take on the project. He took with him two friends and a Bobcat to get the Buick. We forgot how big and heavy those cars were; when they put the forks under the Buick and started to lift it, it flipped the Bobcat over the car. They eventually managed to get it onto the truck. Marvin took the car to his workshop in Oak Ridge, N.C., where he has lovingly restored the car over the past three years.
Last Saturday I went out to the workshop to see Marvin’s progress. For the first time since 1975, I sat down in the car and put my hands on the steering wheel. It was a very emotional experience. Time, just for a few minutes, stood still.
I have worked at Hagerty for over 2 years and have been a part of the Outbound team for about 6 months. Until starting my career at Hagerty I had forgotten how much my family was involved in and loved restoring old cars. My grandfather was an original member of the Fly Wheels club in Ohio. We still have a gorgeous red 1929 Model A pickup that he restored. My car dream would be to someday find his baby which was a 1948 Plymouth Coupe that he fully restored himself and met my grandmother in. I am a huge sports nut and enjoy outdoor activities in the TC area.