A Detailed Look Back At The 1956 Buick Century

Well-designed production vehicles, whether coupes, SUVs, or hardtop MPVs, will always excite their owners and gearheads in general, and the Buy Century was no different. This bold and classic vehicle has been subject to model changes and improvements to maintain its iconic design and stunning specs for decades.

From the sixties to mid-seventies, the pillarless four-door sedan was the trend until 1975, when it became obsolete. Meanwhile, the mid-fifties were the peak of Buick, having secured a third sale spot in the land behind Ford and Chevrolet.

The stunning multipurpose vehicle was a big seller and one of the cheapest ways to get a Buick on your driveway, and it was still brimming with brand equity back then.

Let’s look back on the amazing features and specs of the Buick Century model.

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How The Model Name Century Came About In The Mid-Thirties


Pillarless hardtops, one of the pillars of American automobile design, had a two-door version that first arrived on the 1949 Cadillac Coupe Seville. The two-door hardtops were the trend until the mid-1950s when Buick and Oldsmobile launched the first four-door pillarless hardtops, a very dogged design, until the unveiling of other pillar-less top wagons the following year.

The 1956 Buick model named Century was coined in the mid-thirties during the great depression. Most manufacturers failed to survive the hurdles of the disastrous economic strain.

Harlow H. Curtice, the president of AC Spark Plug, was recruited to revolutionize the company. He further challenged Earl, the GM design chief, “to design a Buick he would like to own.” Earl built the first Buick with speed reaching 100 mph.

Hence, the car needed a good model name. After one of Buick’s top executives returned from a trip to Britain, he explained that the British referred to driving at 100 mph as “doing the century.” The other executives loved it, hence the name.

Meanwhile, to build such an iconic vehicle didn’t come cheap, but the good patronage it received was a much-needed boost. The 1956 Buick Century maintained the number four seller spot behind Plymouth, Chevrolet, and top seller Ford.

With time, the century became popular via great publicity on the TV series “Highway Patrol,” where Broderick Crawford drove a two-door Century sedan during the first season. The Century was introduced in 1936 and survived until 1942, but later returned to Buick in 1954.

It came in a range of four models, including a wagon consisting of the 60 series, exceeding the Special 40 and the Super 50, but below the top dog 70 series Roadmasters.

A 322 Cubic-Inches OHV V-8 Engine Powered The 1956 Buick Century

Engineers fitted the 1956 Buick Century with a 322-cu.in., and an OHV V-8 engine called the “Nailhead” that Harley Earl designed. The car is 60.0 inches in height and has a 72-liter fuel tank at the right-hand side of its engine bay.

It had an engine lubricant oil capacity of 5.7 liters and a battery capacity of 62 Wh. Also, the compression ratio stood at 9.5:1, and the carbureted engine was capable of 255 horsepower.

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The 1956 Buick Century’s Bodywork Mirrored The Space Era Of The ’50s

Harley Earl, the sedan’s designer, built the Riviera trim as Buick’s term for a pillarless coupe while mirroring the space era of car designs. However, a pillarless four-door hardtop joined the party in mid-1955 on the junior Buicks only. By 1956, you could buy a Riviera trim in every Buick model.

The four-door hardtops may have looked amazing, but customer reviews pointed out the doors were misaligned, causing water leaks and wind noise. Moving to the undercarriage, you’ll find a 122-inch wheelbase, standard tires of 7.60-15, and front and rear brakes of 305 mm / 12 in the drum, respectively.

The trunk has a badge that spells out its model year to all prospective buyers and the presence of four ventiports containing small bulbs by the left side of the bonnet. Each bulb produces a blue light that gives the 1956 Century an exotic and high-end look at night.

The Interior Design Of The 1956 Buick Century Was Conventional

The stunning coupe mirrored the four-door hardtops as the lead design until 1957, when Ford and Chrysler fully incorporated them into both of their all-new lineups that year. One of the first but subtle things you notice about the interiors is the hatch hinges that make opening the doors smooth, but once inside the Century, the cabin outlook is even better.

You get a full interior, variable pitch dynaflow, a redline speedometer, an electric clock, a long dashboard with ‘glare-proof’ instrument covers, and better color coordination.

Buick fitted the 1956 Buick Century with 2-way power seats for the driver and passenger, foam rubber seat cushions behind the driver’s seat, and many other features as standard equipment.

Another striking feature that isn’t discussed much is the massive deluxe steering wheel made of three-speed column spokes.

Today, while the 2022 Buick Century might look nothing like its predecessors, it has a modern appeal.