The Buick Limited was an automobile built by the Buick Motor Division of General Motors, Flint, Michigan (USA) between 1936 and 1942 and during model year 1958. Since 1959 Buick has used the "Limited" name to denote those models which featured a high level of trim and standard options in its various model ranges.
Buick Series 90 Limited
The origins of the Limited name date to 1936 when Buick added names to its entire model lineup to celebrate the engineering improvements and design advancements over their 1935 models. Buick had released a new line of cars that were technically superior to their predecessors by offering such features as all-steel passenger compartment tops (GM's Turret Top design), improved front suspension, improved hydraulic safety-breaking system, alloy engine pistons and an improved engine cooling system. Buick's Series 40 was named the Special, the Series 60 was named the Century, the Series 80 was named the Roadmaster, and the Series 90 — Buick's largest and most luxurious vehicle — was named the Limited. The engine was a 320CID 120 hp (89 kW) I8.
Limiteds were the most expensive Buicks in production, riding on the company's longest wheelbase of 138 in (3,505 mm), and the best appointed cars that Buick built. The name Limited was truly appropriate to the cars themselves which were limited to touring sedans and limousines; its sales too were the smallest of Buick's entire model range:
- 1936, 4,086
- 1937, 3,697
- 1938, 1,491
- 1939, 1,451
- 1940, 1,739
- 1941, 3,006
- 1942, 636 (abbreviated model year September 1941 to January 1942)
In 1938, the wheelbase was stretched to 140 inches (3,556 mm), and the Limited, along with Roadmaster, lost its wooden structural members for steel, making them the last Buick passenger cars to rely upon a wood components.
In 1939 Buick products underwent a substantial redesign; however, the Limited's "limited" production merited it to continue using its 1938 body.
Behind the scenes, Cadillac executives lobbied to get the Limited out of production because it infringed on their market. While it was priced in the lower end of its Fleetwood series price point, the Limited almost equaled Cadillac's factory built Imperial Sedan (Limousine), which cost almost four times as much as the Buick, in its appointments. Buick executives fired back that Limited production averaged only 1,561 vehicles per year for model years 1938 through 1940, a drop in the bucket compared to Cadillac's production of its senior cars.
Production of the Limited continued until the eve of World War II. Following World War II, Buick dropped its extended wheelbase models, and dropped the Limited nameplate.
The Buick Limited series was revived in 1958 as the ultimate Buick for the model year. In a model year where General Motors's answer to Chrysler's "Forward Look" was to update its 1957 Buicks and Oldsmobiles by slathering them in excessive amounts of chrome, the 1958 Buicks received the ultimate treatment.
Each Buick Special, Century and Roadmaster received a Fashion-Aire Dynastar grille, cast of 160 chrome squares, each, according to Buick PR pieces, "shaped in a design to maximize the amount of reflective light". Buick also added quad headlights and three emblems bearing a stylized "V", one a medallion on the hood and the other two as gun-sight fender-toppers. The Buick sweep-spear side trim, a styling hallmark since 1949, was joined by broad chrome panels attached to the rear quarter panels. Tail lights were housed in massive chrome housings; each trunk lid received a chrome grip in the center. Wheelbase was 127.5" and 227.5"long.
In comparison to the junior models in the Buick lineup, the Limited was slightly more restrained. Each Limited traded its chromed side panel trim for a body color-keyed insert decorated with fifteen slanted hash marks (three groups of five). The Limited also received its own rear tail treatment that traded the heavy chrome tail light housings for a wraparound tail light lens broken up by four chrome bands. Rear bumper "Dagmars" housed "Dual Jet" back-up lights. Power brakes were standard.
Available only as a four-door hardtop, two-door hardtop coupe or convertible, the Limited rode Buick's 127.5" wheelbase, with its body stretched 227.1", just shy of nineteen feet in length. Inside, buyers were treated to high quality fabrics in sedans and coupes, full leather in convertibles.
However Buick sold only 7,438 Limiteds, due in part to their price. The Limited's four-door hardtop sedan started at a base price of $5,112, which was $221 higher than Cadillac's extended deck Series 62 four-door hardtop sedan ($4,891) of which Cadillac sold 13,335 units.
For the 1959 model year, Buick renamed its entire lineup, with the Electra 225 taking the place of the Roadmaster and the Electra the place of the Super. Based on price class and sales numbers, there was no replacement for the Limited.
1965 and beyond
The Limited name was used again in 1965 as a trim option on the Electra 225 Custom model and other models. Between 1974-1978, Buick added the "Limited" name to its top trim Electra 225, which was previously known as the Electra 225 Custom. The cars were not badged as Electra 225's, but instead wore "Limited" scripts. However, these cars were Electra 225's, and in a break from tradition, the "Limited" trim level could be optioned with either the Park Avenue or Park Avenue DeLuxe options package, each even more well-equipped than the Limited model alone.
Buick continued to use the designation of "Limited" on its various models to denote the highest trim level in a model range until 2006.