Barn Fresh 1957 Buick Century

Some barn find cars are a pig in a poke. Is there a hidden gem under all that dirt and dust? Personally, if I was an owner selling a car like that, I’d like to share all I know with prospective buyers. But many vendors aren’t like that, perhaps figuring that listings on eBay or Craigslist are sold by the word (they’re not!). So let’s be expansive if we can! You can take a look at this Buick here on eBay for $4,250 in Arpin, Wisconsin.

Here’s a case in point, a 1957 Buick Century two-door hardtop. What do we know? Not much. It’s a complete car, with all it’s trim intact. The nailhead V8 runs, but the transmission is out of commission. It needs a complete restoration, the owner says, the result of being stored (inside, fortunately) for many years.

The interior looks fairly serviceable, though the dash vinyl is coming apart. Those may be the original seat covers on the bench, and they look decent enough. There’s some surface rust, including on the floors—which the owner says are not rusted through. “The lower driver’s quarter has Bondo where it was repaired one time”, we learn.

That’s about it. From there, we have to rely on visual evidence. The two-tone light blue and white paint might actually revive, though there are definitely spots that would need to be worked over. There could be good chrome under the “patina”, but it’s hard to say. There’s no visible body damage or serious rust, and unfortunately no undercarriage shots. The V8, missing its air cleaner, appears to have had some attention recently. The bay is not a mess.

So we know it needs a tranny, and let’s assume a complete brake job and new tires, plus carpeting. With that done could it be a nice driver-quality car? Perhaps, but it could also have serious problems we’re not seeing. That’s what “sitting for many years” does.

A little history. This is the second version of the Century, produced between 1954 and 1958. These were big cars, and definitely more extroverted than the Buicks of the early 50s. The Century featured the 322-cubic-inch “Nailhead,” offering fairly sprightly performance in what was intended as an upscale offering (with four “VentiPorts” like the Roadmaster). The Century Riviera was one of the first four-door hardtops. There was a station wagon, too. Broderick Crawford drove ’55 Century (Special sedan bodies with Century trim and powertrain) on the iconic show Highway Patrol.

By the time of the car on offer, the Century V8 had grown to 364 cubic inches. That year the Century Caballero hardtop station wagon was made available. It was expensive, and only 14,642 were built. The model disappeared for 1959.

The advantage of one of these Centurys is that it’s not nearly as common as the 1957 Chevys that line every car show. You wouldn’t see your car coming and going. So is this project worth taking on? It kind of depends on the price. The bidding is over $4,000, with the reserve not met. At some point—fairly soon—it’s going to be in the not-worth-the-money territory. If that reserve comes off, maybe a deal can be had.


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  1. Moparman Member

    Cool three pane rear window adds to the uniqueness of this one. In looking at the expanded pictures in the ad though, shows that there is only wishful thinking involved in bringing back the current paint. That HUGE front bumper looks intact, but the rear one has rotted out, and the tail light surrounds display
    lots of pitting. This one will more than likely have the next owner underwater with restoration costs. GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 15
  2. Jon Lee

    Most of the emblems are missing but there are just three Portholes on the front fenders. This is a Special, not a Century.

    Like 3
    • Bill McCoskey

      Jon Lee,

      You are correct. I’ve owned or worked on Specials, Centurys & Roadmasters. This car is a Special hardtop, not a Century. Not only does it have only 3 portholes on the front fenders, There are other items missing, like the twin chrome trunk lid handles the Century has, they are located at the end of the dual ridges on the trunk lid. Also of note are the holes for the name emblem on the trunk lid. The holes are for the Special emblem, different from the Century emblem. The seats are also very plain, this has the Special series interior as well.

      Like 2
      • greg

        I have a’57 Special and it looks just like this except my dash is all metal, no padding.

  3. Will Fox

    “All trim appears in tact”? I see the “Century” script is missing from the deck lid.

    Like 3
    • General Ed

      . . . and the red, white and blue 1957 “airplane” from the grille. (I remember how pissed Dad was when someone backed into his!) The two chrome star trunk lid emblems and Century designations are also missing. No doubt all will be difficult to find.

      Like 1
    • Anthony D

      Cause it’s a Special…not a Century

      Like 2
  4. LMK Member

    Can’t see this era of Buick without the mention of Highway Patrol…Glad you threw that in …Funny, I just recently watched the whole series on Youtube…I was too young when it was originally aired and never saw it in reruns…

    This car has potential in the right hands…Hope it get’s there…

    Like 7
    • Mountainwoodie

      As a little kid I watched the original run of Highway Patrol along with Rescue 8 and trio of compression engine obsessions writ large on a very small black and white TV. Had Broderick Crawford…enjoyed so many adult beverages…..he might have eventually moved on to something racier like this ’57……..which would have been a better chase car for those miscreants Crawford corralled every episode. :)

      Like 11
      • ADM

        I remember those, as repeats, in the early to mid ’60’s, and luckily I saw Broderick Crawford, in 1973, at a restaurant I worked at, on Cape Cod.

        Like 2
  5. James Martin

    Now if you ask me this car is the true example of a barn find. Not these 40000 dollar fancy cars. Take them to bring a trailer. This is what I would say should be the only kind of cars aloud.

    Like 7
  6. Larry D

    I always say what they don’t tell you about a car is more important than what they do tell you.

    Like 6
  7. LarryS Member

    Love the ’55-57 GM cars – especially the Buicks. The Century would definitely be my pick – big motor in the small(er) body – and love the Riviera styling (I had a ’55 at one time). This car would be just beautiful if restored but it would definitely have to be a work of love. I can’t imagine finding a rear bumper for it would be easy or cheap. Most of the trim, though, is there, and even with the pitting it might polish up and look nice. The made lots of Dynaflos so they shouldn’t be real hard to find but I don’t know whether or not the ones for any particular year are unique or whether ones from multiple years might fit. Looks like someone has attempted to clean up the the engine and bay. Also looks like the engine has been treated to a quick spray paint in the wrong color (more greenish and less bluish would be correct). In any case, good luck to the seller and the purchaser. Would be great to see this one resurrected.

    Like 3
  8. Steve Clinton

    “Eww, this car is old and dirty!”
    “No it’s not. It’s barn fresh!”

    Like 6
  9. Paul D

    Isn’t this a Special? I had a ’57 Century and it had four portholes. That makes this one of 64,425 instead of 17,029. VIN starts 4 for Special, 6 for Century.

    Like 4
  10. losgatos_dale

    The car is more interesting than any of the comments so far in the thread. Including the pig-in-a-poke writeup.

    Like 3
    • LarryS Member

      Hmmm. Most especially this one. What’s the point? If you don’t like the comments don’t read them.

      Like 7
  11. wcshook

    My first car was a base ’57 2 door hardtop, green and white. Mom bought it used, then gave it to me. I remember it being rather quick on take off! A friend of mine came back to college in his new ’73 Mustang. We were going down a two lane bumpy Florida street. I decided to pass him. He thought he would have some fun with me, and sped up. I decided this wasn’t the place to race, and floored it. I left him setting the dust! Later, he asked me what kind of engine I had. I told him a 364 with 2 barrel Stromberg carb. He didn’t mess with again! If my health weren’t so bad, I would love to have another one. Of the GM’s cars, the ’57 Buick is my ultimate favorite.

    Like 5
  12. TimM

    The car isn’t a rust bucket and besides the very desirable bat wing air cleaner missing it seems like it’s all there!! I personally would not mind resorting a car just once that didn’t need a ton of metal work!! The nailhead would have to stay in my opinion cause it looks so good in the bay of this car and really makes the car special!! I would however probably just go with a newer transmission!!

    Like 5
    • Bill Hall

      A newer transmixer is a nice idea but s going require a ton of work & $$$. These Buicks had torque tube drive so you either have to figure a way to adapt something on the front end or replace ALL THE DRIVETRAIN from the motor back. You might also have to do some adapting to the starter. By the time you do all this you can have a rebuilt Dynaflow working just fine and maybe less $$?

      Like 6
  13. MLM

    IMO this is a very desirable car. This and the Pontiacs are my favorite 57 GM brands.The Olds didn’t look to bad either.

    Like 5
  14. Bill Potts

    Nice survivor. But,as I’ve read once the styling compared to Chrysler cars of the period, Plymouth comes to mind. It’s advertising campaign was “suddenly it’s 1960”. GM’s campaign should’ve been “suddenly it’s 1950.

  15. Pete Phillips

    I don’t think it is a Century. Looks like a Special to me, with a 4-barrel carburetor added. Someone has carefully removed all of the exterior identification on the car. Front fenders should have four portholes on a Century in 1957. Dashboard should have engine-turned applique panels, and I think the “Century” chrome script should be on the interior door panels but I could be wrong on that last one. Buyer beware.

    Like 2
  16. Dave Peterson

    With the best theft deterrent system outside a manual transmission – the foot starter.

    • LarryS Member

      Never thought of that, but you’re right. Of course, it didn’t stop me from taking the family ’55 Century for joy rides when I was in my early teens. Funniest part about that is I didn’t find out until a few years ago that my secret rides weren’t. Turns out my neighbors and my Mom’s friends were calling her and telling her when and where they saw me and the Buick where we shouldn’t have been.

  17. Grid Member

    I’m too old now–and too broke–to snag this car for my driveway, but while I still have some of my mind, I remember going to prep school in the mid-50s with Broderick Crawford’s nephew. Once a month the kid would escape, once a month his uncle would ship him back. Never knew how he could afford to shoot all the way across country. I knew if I tried to escape 200 miles south, Pop would ensure it would be years before I sat comfortably again. But it looks like the Buick would be kind to my butt.

    Like 3
  18. Anthony D

    My dad only bought Buicks in the ’50s. He never bought a Special…only Centurys and Supers. He distinguished the Special from the others because of the 3 portals. This car is a Special…as others have already stated.

    • LarryS Member

      That will work only from ’55 onward. From ’49 to ’54 only the Roadmaster had 4 portholes (or, as Buick termed them, “ventiports”). Everything else had 3 except for the ’53 and ’54 Skylark, which had none.

      • Anthony D

        Thanks for that clarification. I think Buick should bring back the portholes to separate themselves from the other look a likes

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