1939 Buick Model 41C Sport Phaeton
David Dunbar Buick was a canny Scottish industrialist but an unlikely auto builder. After making his mark with a process for annealing porcelain to steel for bathtubs, he turned to the profit opportunities of the horseless-carriage phenomenon. His first car, appearing in 1903, was a simple little chain-drive runabout with flat twin power. One engine feature - overhead valves - was a rarity then, but has been a hallmark of almost all Buicks since.
In the Flint Michigan of the late-1930's, the company closed out the decade with lower-looking 1939 models mildly facelifted with "waterfall" grilles, "streamboards" (optional concealed running boards), and a sunroof option on some models. Buick abandoned the increasingly unpopular rumble-seat ragtop for '39, but scored a safety innovation with flashing turn signals, installed at the rear as part of the decklid emblem. Also new were column-mount gearshift and refillable shock absorbers.
Offered this year on three different chassis was the convertible sedan, a carry-over from earlier models, and the car pictured is the Special Model 41C Sport Phaeton. A pre-eminent parade car as well as stylish motoring for 5 passengers, it would be only another two years that Buick would offer a four-door convertible in its lineup when finally they introduced the 1942 cars and all that was available was the two-door convertible coupe, a condition that continues to this day. The distinction of an American automaker being the very last to offer a convertible sedan belongs to Lincoln when they finally pulled the plug after bringing some 2,276 examples to market in model year 1967.
But in 1939, Buick built only 830 examples of this particular model shown and introduced them to an America that was attending the New York World's Fair whose exhibits heralded technology to come, including television and super highways. They were selling to an American public that was enjoying Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz on the big screen for the very first time and who had yet to see the country enter WWII. Motoring was a relatively different experience and the convertible sedan afforded owner and passengers an exciting alternative with open space and accessibility in an automobile that was the product of one of the country's most respected names.