- - Thursday, July 14, 2011

Even the entry-level 1935 Buick convertible Model 46C had a base price of $925 and that was in the middle of the Great Depression.

Consequently, many young drivers who had just acquired a driver’s license were more interested in more affordable cars like second- and third-hand Model T Fords.

One of those young drivers was Arlo Darby, who spent the 1930s in a continual effort at keeping used cars running.

Time marches on and by 1990 Mr. Darby was living in Potomac. It was at that time that he thought a trip down memory lane was in order and he purchased a 1926 Model T Ford Touring Car.

He joined an antique car club and soon thereafter found himself on a club tour.

That’s when he relearned what he already knew - the Model T Ford had difficulty keeping up with modern traffic.

Mr. Darby resumed his search for an antique car that would satisfy both his wants, a car old enough to look old and one that could keep up with modern traffic. In 1996 he found the answer to both requirements when he saw an ad for a 1935 Buick rumble-seat convertible with dual side mounts. Hidden beneath the long engine hood was a 235-cubic-inch straight eight-cylinder engine that delivers 93 horsepower. Statistics from 1935 reveal that the car could accelerate from 10 mph to 60 mph in only 21 seconds and reached a top speed of 85 mph even though the car had a speedometer showing 100 mph.

He went to see the car located in Pulaski, Va., and at first glance thought, “That’s the car for me.” The handsome body was painted Douglas green and the stylish fenders were painted Raleigh green. The bright yellow pinstriping matched the yellow wheels. Each wheel is dressed with a trim ring.

Mr. Darby learned that the car had been restored in Wisconsin before being sold to the man in Virginia. Mr. Darby quickly became the new owner and made arrangements for the 3,140-pound car to be trucked to his Monrovia home in Maryland.

There wasn’t much difference between the 1934 and 1935 Buicks - the big change would come in 1936. Mr. Darby’s car came equipped with a lock on the glove compartment, an automatic choke and painted headlight housings.

Dressing up the sporty car are six 6.50x16-inch-wide white sidewall tires, each one with a chrome hubcap proclaiming that this car is a Buick. “The fastest that I’ve ever had it is 60,” Mr. Darby says, with a reminder that the car is equipped with mechanical brakes.

A few years after acquiring the car, Mr. Darby noticed the fabric top was faded and slightly frayed and detracted from the appearance. He took his car to an upholstery shop in Pennsylvania where the top was replaced to look like new, complete with a glass rear window in the rear flap. Once unsnapped at the bottom, that flap can be pulled into the cabin and secured to the top of the ceiling to make communication between rumble-seat passengers and cabin occupants more convenient.

With the new top in place, Mr. Darby retrieved his 15-foot, 2-inch-long Buick and loaded it on his trailer. On the trip home he stopped for gasoline and discovered that all of the lug nuts on the right rear wheel of his tow vehicle were loose.

How that happened, he doesn’t know. It was just one more bullet dodged.

The cozy cabin of the Buick, in mottled brown upholstery, is not spacious. The chrome-encased vacuum motors on both windshield wipers rest at the base of the windshield. In front of the passenger is the clock in the glove-compartment door and below that, hanging from the bottom of the dashboard, is a radio. In front of the driver is a three-spoke steering wheel and sprouting from the rubber floor mat is a gear-shift lever to operate the three-speed transmission. Next to that is the hand brake.

At the rear of the car, behind the luggage rack, is the gas cap where the 15-gallon tank can be refilled. Below the bumper, at the end of the exhaust pipe, is a chrome exhaust deflector capped with a red reflector.

Research has shown Mr. Darby that Buick built 933 cars like his in the 1935 model year and according to the antique Buick registry only 15 survive. Whenever he goes cruising in his sporty Buick on its 117-inch wheelbase, he keeps looking for another of the survivors.

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