Bill Fromme’s excellent taste in automobiles hasn’t changed since 1955 when his father took him to see the new models on display at the Baltimore Auto Show.
On display at the Buick exhibit was a red-and-white four-door hardtop Century. ‘When I saw it, I couldn’t believe any car could be that beautiful,’ Mr. Fromme says. ‘The paint scheme took my breath away.’
Whenever the father and son were separated by the crowd, the father knew where to find the son - at - or in - the Buick on display. ‘I must have spent an hour in that car,’ Mr. Fromme says.
After they returned to their Stoneleigh, Md., home, the father was so impressed by his 13-year-old son’s take on the Buick that he ordered an identical car for his family.
The family Buick, with a 322-cubic-inch V-8 engine generating 236 horsepower could, according to Mr. Fromme, accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds. ‘The car was a part of my family for 10 years,’ he says. The latter half of that time Mr. Fromme was away at the U.S. Naval Academy followed by active duty. Life intervened and his interest in the red-and-white Buick waned.
Countless leads proved not to be worth following but Mr. Fromme did chase down likely Buicks in Montreal, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania. ‘They were never what I wanted,’ he explains.
In the summer of 2004, 19 years into the search, Mr. Fromme saw a red-and-white 1955 Buick in Oregon advertised on the Internet. After a few telephone calls, he began to think that this could be the one.
According to Mr. Fromme, the Buick spent most of its early years in Tennessee, driven by an older gentleman for 15 years. It was then returned to the original dealership with 15,000 miles on the odometer. The dealer reportedly gave the man his full purchase price for the car, and put it back on the showroom floor to attract new customers.The dealer’s daughter took the car as part of his estate in 1982. She had the Buick repainted and eventually sold it to a collector in 1990.
Thereafter, the car was sold in turn to several collectors in Georgia, Florida and eventually Oregon.
Mr. Fromme flew to Portland for an eyeball inspection and found a car as breathtaking as the one his father had owned.
Mr. Fromme slid behind the three-spoke steering wheel and pressed the accelerator to the floor to activate the starter. Reluctantly the big V-8 turned over and actually began to idle roughly. ‘It was awful,’ Mr. Fromme says.
‘The owner gave me a few hours to test-drive it,’ Mr. Fromme says. ‘After locating a parts supply and an accommodating gas station operator, I rebuilt the carburetor and the car ran like new,’ he recalls.
When new the 3,900-pound sporty Buick, one of 56,008 such Century models, carried a list price of $2,733, Fluid capacities include:
Since buying his dream car, Mr. Fromme has repacked the wheel bearing and repaired several lighting circuits.
It is equipped with power steering, power brakes, power seats, power antenna and air conditioning.
From the left the Dynaflow transmission gear selector reads: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse. Mr. Fromme acknowledges the positioning of the gears takes a bit of getting used to.
As for now, local car shows are the destination of choice for the 17-foot, 2.6-inch-long Buick whenever it leaves home on its 122-inch wheelbase.
‘The memories in this car are so alive,’ Mr. Fromme says, ‘It’s scary.’
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