18k Genuine Miles: 1955 Buick Special Convertible

Don’t be fooled by its appearance, because this 1955 Buick Special Convertible is a real diamond in the rough. The appearance belies the fact that it has a mere 18,000 genuine miles on its odometer, and that it has not led a hard life. I have to really thank Barn Finder Ikey H for referring this classic through to us. You will find the Buick located in Bangor, Pennsylvania, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. You can park this one in your workshop by parting with $8,500.

I know that there will be readers who will place some big question marks over the Buick, but its history has been quite interesting. The signwriting on both sides provides some clues about the car’s history. From new, it operated as the Pace Car at a horse racing track, and it was there that it has spent its entire active life. It never left the grounds during all of those years, and this explains the low mileage claim. The body and frame are in really solid condition, with some patching of the floors in the front being the only signs of real rust. The rear floors look close to perfect, as does the trunk, while the owner state’s the the Buick’s frame is also good. There is plenty of surface corrosion that has found its way through the Dover White and Carlsbad Black paint, but areas like the lower quarter panels, rockers, along with the lower doors and fenders, all look to be really solid. The frame for the power top is still present, although the top itself is long gone. Surprisingly, all of the external trim and chrome is not only present but apart from the rear bumper, it is all in very good condition.

When you consider the fact that the Buick’s life has been spent charging around a dirt horse racing track with the top down, it should be no real surprise to find that the interior has deteriorated quite badly. It is going to require a complete restoration, and there is going to be a fair old shopping list of parts that will be needed. Chief amongst these will be a complete rear seat because the original would have been removed when the car first started operating as a Pace Car, and it appears that it has been lost along the way. All of the upholstery will need to be replaced, while all painted surfaces will require a refresh. Still, the end result should look pretty slick.

Hiding under the hood is the 264ci “Nailhead” V8 engine, which produces 188hp. As befits the requirements for the Buick’s role as a Pace Car, the transmission is a 2-speed Dynaflow. Power steering is also included to help with maneuvering the Buick on and off the tight confines of the track. Since it ended its Pace Car days, the Buick hasn’t been allowed to completely go to seed. The owner says that the car runs, but he doesn’t indicate how well it drives. The fact that the mileage is so low is a real bonus, and if the car has been properly maintained, the major mechanical components should remain in quite good condition.

This Buick Special Convertible seems to prove that old adage that you should never judge a book by its cover. I mean, it is going to need some work to return it to its former glory, but the car’s condition is better than its appearance might lead us to believe. Once restored, this would be a truly stunning car. The owner also floats the idea of getting the car roadworthy and leaving its external appearance pretty much as it is. Which way would you go?


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  1. normadesmond

    Too bad I can’t upload the photo of my aunt & grandparents standing with the exact same car in the same colors. I recall sliding back & forth on the slippery red leather (and it WAS leather, not vinyl) back seat. It was easy to slip around, I was under 5 years old.

    Like 16
    • Big Drag

      Yeah, except the “exact same car” would have had a blue interior according to the pictures!

  2. David Rhoces

    it’ll need at least 40 g’s to restore ….not worth it !

    Like 7
    • Rodney

      I was looking at the photos and wondering how far one would get with 40K and realized that you HAVE to love doing the work to even pretend that this makes sense financially. It’s hard to even imagine 40 grand making this a decent driver which is a shame because it is such a class car.

      Like 9
  3. Miguel

    I think we can all agree that the numbers on the dash don’t make one bit of difference on this car regarding price.

    Like 18
    • James Studdard

      Is this car still available

  4. Miguel

    Take a look at the dash. That is why I dislike convertibles very much.

    Like 5
  5. sal

    Love the car but way too much work and lots of $$$$$$

    Like 2
  6. Andrew Franks

    I agree with Miguel but if I had the room I’d buy it anyway, and restore it to its former glory. Just eyeballing it I’d be North of $20,000.00, if major surgery is not required, and it would be a blast to drive. Two things: These Buicks had coil springs on all four corners that were very soft, so you waltzed over bumps, no hard landings. The cars also leaned pretty hard in the corners. Radials are required. Maybe I’m wrong but I thought Specials were the last remaining straight 8 engines in 1955 before the whole line went to V-8s.
    I want to say something else. I am a collector, and I am not in the Hobby as an asset class, although I am sensitive in that issue. I am a realist as well, and I know when I’m deliberately spending more than what the car is worth. I do that because I like the car, and I’m not interested in certain publication’s presumptions of authority in the matter.

    Like 31
    • Miguel

      It says in the Craigslist ad that some replacement patches have already been installed.

      That seems odd on a car that just drove around a track, as the ad says this did.

      Like 7
    • Ken Tilly UK Member

      I know the V8 engine came out in 1953 but I don’t know if they also carried on manufacturing the Straight 8. Can anyone confirm?

      Like 3
      • Will Fox

        The straight 8 died when the nailhead OHV V8 came out in `53. Only division to keep the straight 8 was Pontiac, which got their OHV V8 in `55 with Chevy.

        Like 5
    • Dennis Dusenberg

      They were V-8’s in 55. 264 “nailhead”

      Like 1
      • Terry Melvin

        The uplevel Buicks offered the 322 nailhead

  7. Arby

    If the condition doesn’t verify the mileage claims, then mileage is irrelevant.

    Like 14
  8. Moparman Member

    I’m sorry, but my suspension of disbelief has been stretched to the max on this one. I’d believe 118,000 miles, but as no documentation seems to be provided other than a statement by the seller that it “never left the grounds”, I concur w/ Arby!

    Like 9
  9. Rex Kahrs Member

    Hey Arby, is that your real name? My grandfather was Arble, we called him Arb.

  10. Steve J

    By 1955, all Buicks had the nail head V-8. The model year 1955 was the last year that had the brake pedal coming up from the floor. For 1956, they switched to a suspended brake pedal.

    Like 2
  11. Jon from Maine

    I have ridden in a Cadillac that was used for the same purpose on the horse track at a country fair ground in Maine. The trunk lid was removed and a large set of folding wings were installed to spread open. This was for the sulky season and the car circled the track, closed the wings and off the horses went. The car did remain at the track. Someone might wish to see if there are bolt holes in the trunk. It may explain the low mileage. Times have changed but at one time those country horse races were important events and, I surmise, justified the expense, and perhaps, extravagance of a Buick or Cadillac convertible.

    Like 6
    • Joe Btfsplk

      I agree with your observation. As a peek a the rear tires will confirm, the Buick is running SNOW tires for better traction on the dirt horse track. This car seems legit all the way, for what that’s worth.

      Like 4
    • sign guy

      I wonder if the trunk lid was removed and left outside for 54 years? That would account for the rust on it.
      I would sort out the mechanicals and leave the body the way it is. Love the patina and the door graphics.

      Like 6
    • Big Drag

      That would explain why it looks as though the trunk lid has been replaced.

      Like 1
    • Robert L Roberge

      Had a ’65 Electra convert. that was altered in a similar fashion for a horse track, too. It was in similar straights but with low miles, also.

  12. Bob McK Member

    I wonder what it will sell for.

  13. luke arnott Member

    Last year for the Straight 8 was 1953,in the Special.

    Like 4
  14. Larry

    Radio delete ! Kool !

    Like 2
  15. Anav8r

    The patches in the floor may have come from “the halo”. If it was welded to the floor or bolted, either way, there would have been damage to repair when it was removed.

  16. Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

    This is definitely a classic. Inspired by another classic, Jules Verne’s 18,000 miles under the sea…

    Like 2
  17. The one

    Sign Guy and I see eye to eye!!

    Like 1
  18. George mattar

    This car was used in Montague NJ, in far northwest Jersey. I grew up in the late 50s five minutes from Montague. Car is toast. Will take more like $60,000 to restore. Price chroming lately?

    Like 1
    • Pete Phillips

      Who needs to have fancy chrome? You can enjoy a car just the same without flashy chrome plating. Check over the mechanicals, do the body repairs, and drive it! It will probably attract a bigger crowd than all of the perfectly restored ones.

      P.S.: Do I see a 4-barrel carburetor on that engine? That would mean the “power pack” option. Specials normally had only a two-barrel carb.

      Like 3
  19. Marshall

    On the craigslist ad, the seller describes the condition as “good”.

    (Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!)

    Like 2
  20. Duaney

    without documentation, 18 K on the odometer could be 118K, or 218K.

  21. Pete Phillips

    I really don’t see the need for any major body work on this car. The rockers look good, the trunk floor looks good, the fenders and doors look good–when I say “good” I mean not rusted out. Yes, the floor has been patched, but that gets covered by new carpet. After looking at the rest of the photos in the ad listing, I am convinced that it has a Stromberg 4-barrel carburetor on it, which is another plus and almost never seen on a Special. The car looks like it was allowed to sit out in the weather with the top down for a long time, and that destroyed the soft trim and most of the paint inside and out, but it seems to be a very solid car, well worth putting a little bit of $$$ into.
    A few years ago, I did an article on a 1953 Skylark that was the starter car at a horse race track in upstate New York. It had very low miles on it like this one. I believe the story on this car and I think its presentation is genuine and honest.

    Like 2
    • glenn barnett

      Pete. Id really enjoy reading your article on the 53 Skylark! Can you post it here or send me a copy here at glennb49@yahoo.com I own a 53 Skylark and this sounds very interesting!

  22. TimM

    Lots of work to get this car going again!! Doesn’t look molested and all the parts seem to be there!! To much work for me but maybe someone who had one might want this one!!!it will become a labor of love!!! This way they can do some doughnuts on memory lane!!!

  23. glenn barnett

    Yes get it up and running and leave all the great patina as is, maybe new top and interior,

    Like 2
  24. Del

    Quit Horsing Around.

    8 grand for a parts car ?

    Like 1
  25. James Petropulos

    I have to say I was surprised to see this ’55 Buick Special Convertible. I had a ’56 Buick Special Convertible exact same, color: white over black with a black top and white and black leather seats. Also in PA., back in 1967 when I was stationed at a Nike site in Herminie, near PGH. I used to drive it all over PGH. Never worried about how much it cost to fill’er up @ .30 cents a gal. I drove up the PA turnpike to Sharon/Farrell PA. to see my future wife on the weekends, when not on duty at the base. One late night on the PA Turnpike with the top down, heading back to camp, no one else on the road, I decided to see if it could really do 120 mph like the speedometer indicated… It did!! I wound it up and after hitting 120 mph I thought I’d better go back to 65 encase there was a cop out there or blow the motor. In October, before being transferred to Stuttgart Germany, I proposed to my wife in that car in front of her parents house, after a date. That car will always be “Special” to me.

    Like 4
    • sign guy

      Great story. This is part of, why cars mean so much to us.

      Like 1
  26. Terry R Melvin

    Well, if the Camptown races are 5 miles long, this Buick ran all day and ran all night many many times, and the bob tailed nag ate its interior. 18k? Very unlikely. Otherwise the old hoss wouldn’t be missing so many pieces.

    Like 1
  27. eugene C fabbri

    ya my dad had a 56 hard top very good condition gave it to junk yard drove it there my sister have 5 hit a car to big for sisters to drive i wish he would have gave to me rust free 389v8 got a soft spot for these cars little to steep price wise for me but nice car kounting cars should redo this one maybe a hemi mags leather

  28. Bob McK Member

    I am surprised this has not sold…even with all of its issues.

    Like 1
    • Terry Melvin

      They’re not buying the 18k miles schtick

  29. Gary

    “This Buick Special Convertible seems to prove that old adage that you should never judge a book by its cover.” I’m sticking with my initial thoughts on this one, which is to say ‘Really? Because I’m just not seeing it.’ And, this one is an open book, no surprises here. This is kind of like finding that low mileage farm truck – low miles yes; condition of the overall vehicle leads me to question just how much is an original Buick 264ci “Nailhead” with 18,000 miles really worth?

    Like 1

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