Nailhead V8: 1956 Buick Special

The Special was often the entry-level Buick and built on a variety of platforms over the years. The name first appeared in 1936 and disappeared for good after 1996. The Special was the best-selling line of Buicks in 1956, including the seller’s 4-door sedan that looks to have been barn-bound for decades. If you were to dig through the years of dirt and grime, you might find a silver paint job somewhere. Houston, Texas is where the car has been hiding out and it’s available here on eBay where the bidding sits at $3,075. If there was a reserve, it’s already been met.

The Buick Special received an overdue post-war restyle in 1949 and — between then and 1954 — a couple of different engines were used in the Special. The first being the 248 cubic inch-eight that had been employed since 1937, and then the larger “Fireball” straight-eight in 1951. Beginning with 1954, the Special received an all-new body and chassis and was equipped with the more powerful 322 cubic inch “Nailhead” engine. As the company’s first pushrod V8, the motor got its name from the small valve covers mounted on top of the heads. Under those valve covers, the vertically mounted valves created an almost-hemispherical combustion chamber. After a very successful 1955 sales year, the Special was little changed for 1956 and sales declined. But Buick managed to produce 67,000 Special 4-door sedans out of 334,000 total Specials and of 572,000 units of overall Buick production. A shout out goes to Hometown Buick for production history.

The seller doesn’t provide us with any history on this 1956 Buick Special, which is a shame because I’ll bet there are volumes to be told. It is said to come with the rare air conditioning option, but there are no photos that show it. The car is said to sit on original tube tires which will not hold air after all these years. The odometer reads under 30,000 miles, so that’s plausible. But why was the car parked in the barn and left and when? Perhaps it has something to do with the title, which is not listed as clean. Instead, the eBay category of “Rebuilt, Rebuildable & Reconstructed” was checked. The photos supplied don’t show any damage that would have resulted from an accident, so the car is something of a mystery. But some rust may be trying to get started along the trim under the rear window.

Those famous three Buick Ventiports are present in the photos as they were used on all Specials from 1949-57. The more senior Buicks used four Ventiports. The body looks quite straight and rust-free and perhaps a decent shine could be coaxed out of the paint and the acres of chrome. But I’m usually the optimist. The interior doesn’t look too promising as the seats, headliner and floor covering all need help and there may be at least one broken window because of the use of a sheet to cover the driver’s side.

A 1956 Buick Special could fetch as much as $33,000 according to Hagerty, if in Concours condition. So, let’s set our heights a little lower. Good condition is about half that, so what would it take to bring this car back to middle-of-the road. If the engine can be made to run, is there a cosmetic sleeper lurking under all that dirt and dust?

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Comments

  1. Dean

    Love the Special but I’m not ready to believe the 30,000 miles yet. It just seems like the brake and throttle peddle pads are a little too thin on the right side edges. Yet still a beauty for restoration!

    Like 1
  2. Jim in FL Member

    1) Hmmm, why is the speedo stuck at 70mph?
    2) Overall condition would suggest 130k miles
    3) Seller needs to (at least) make this car a “roller” for any serious buyer to consider.

    Like 2
  3. Ralph P.

    The speedometer appears stuck. Perhaps the cable broke and car was parked because repair was too expensive at that time?

    Like 1
    • Solosolo ken tilly UK Member

      If that’s the only reason that it was parked then it should be a great buy if the bidding doesn’t go much higher.

    • Jim in FL Member

      Ralph, from what I know about speedos:
      If the cable broke, the magnet inside the drum would quit spinning and the drum should return to 0mph.
      I suspect corrosion in the speedo head which could either a) cause the drum(what indicates the speed) to interfere with the spinning magnet (that connects to the cable)…or b) to not allow the drum to rotate smoothly. Just my guesses!

      Like 1
  4. Phil B

    In the 60’s, my dad gave me a 57 Century that had the same speedo. On the highway, as soon as I hit 60, it would zoom to the right all the way to the end. It appears they are very reliable speedos.

  5. Phil B

    Aren’t.

  6. Bob Mck Member

    This car is going 75 MPH in Park. She must fly in Drive.

    Like 1
  7. James Petropulos

    I had a ’56 convertible in ’67 while stationed at a Nike msl site outside of Pgh. PA. Late one warm July night I flew down the PA turnpike from Sharon, PA and since nobody was around I decided to see if it really could do a 120mph… It could…. so I slowed it back to 65 mph, just encase there was a highway patrol unit out there, and also I thought maybe I might blow the engine. Car had a black top, Two tone body white over black under the chrome strip along the sides.

    Like 2
  8. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Gimmicks, gimmicks, gimmicks. My ’61 Buick Invicta had the slide bar speedometer. Which is cool. It also had a mirror display.
    Love my Buicks.

  9. Vince H

    The 54 Special had a 264 not a 322

  10. Leonardo

    MY DAD had a 1949 Super…. He used to wipe our feet before entering the car. ( 4 door) I. can remember the hood opened sideways and normal.. He worked for Wonder Bread in Detroit.. One day he came home on the bus . and told us all to go with him back to downtown Detroit..because he locked himself out of the car with the engine running… When we got there is was purring like a kitten.. So smooth was the straight 8 that moment was embedded in my mine . Im 76 now. L.

  11. Phlathead Phil

    Looks like a neat project. I wonder if the back seat could talk?

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