The Buick Club of America celebrated its 50th anniversary at the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage in Allentown, Pennsylvania, July 27-30, 2016
ALLENTOWN, Penn. – In bright sunshine, a gathering of more than 600 historic Buick automobiles dating from 1903 to the present made a spectacular sight as the Buick Club of America celebrated its 50th anniversary at the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage in Allentown, Pennsylvania over the weekend of July 27-30.
Having traveled from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, and bringing cars from all over the USA, Buick Club members were rewarded with rare access to the NB Center, founded by Italian automobile collector Mr Nicola Bulgari. Only recently completed on a site that features a restored drive-in movie theater, the NB Center is not normally open to the public, although its impressive lodge building, undulating lawns and extensive road network make it a perfect venue for prestigious events.
The NB Center’s main attraction is a fabulous collection of 150 pre-and post-war American automobiles, not least a comprehensive selection of Buicks displayed in chronological order from 1923 to 1996. Visitors are naturally drawn to star cars such as the 1940 Super Estate Wagon that Bette Davis drove in the classic movie Now Voyager, or the 1930 GMC Yellow Cab that featured as Ernie’s Taxi in It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet no less fascinating are remarkable, unrestored survivors such as a 1940 Super Convertible Coupe with just 26,000 miles on the clock, or a 5,400-mile 1941 Series 40 Special that was put into storage after its owner lost his life serving in WW2. There are extreme rarities too, Buicks from lean years such as 1933 and 1942, when production figures were counted in hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands.
Buick may be Nicola Bulgari’s favourite marque – he has been a Buick Club of America member for more than 50 years – but the NB Center features many other brands besides, particularly from the GM stable; founded on deep knowledge as well as lifelong passion, the collection includes machines as varied as a V16-engined Marmon Victoria Coupe and a Nash-Healey roadster. What’s more the Buick Club meeting permitted a rare glimpse into the Center’s preservation, restoration and fabrication work. All the cars in the collection are maintained in running order; the majority have been beautifully restored on-site by a highly skilled team of engineers and craftspeople, led by the Flickinger brothers – curator Keith and general manager Kris – and visitors enjoyed the opportunity to tour the superbly-equipped NB Center workshops handling everything from engines and transmissions to bodywork and upholstery.
Such work is not confined to Allentown. Another 100 cars – including a collection of ex-Vatican limousines – are cared for by the NB Center in Italy, an operation that is unique outside the USA in its dedication to the restoration and preservation of American automotive history; the mission even extends to the production of fine 1:43 scale miniatures of rare and unusual automobiles, hand-built by Brooklin Models in England.
Of course the maintenance of a great automotive heritage requires more than physical preservation and restoration work. It also depends on the education and inspiration of future generations, and to that end the Buick Club celebrations witnessed the grand opening of the new headquarters of the Historic Vehicle Association, adjacent to the NB Center, where HVA President Mark Gessler unveiled a display of exceptional machines including a 1959 Scaglietti-bodied Corvette, a 1910 Buick Bug Indianapolis racer and three important Buick concept cars, the groundbreaking 1938 Y-Job, the 2015 Avenir and the 2016 Avista.
Indeed the Buick concepts provided a show-stopping highlight of the weekend as Nicola Bulgari and former GM Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn led a thrilling parade around the NB Center grounds in the Y-Job, followed noisily by the Bug and rather more serenely by the Avenir and Avista.
“We were deeply honored to host the Buick Club of America’s 50th Anniversary meeting,” said Nicola Bulgari. “My own passion for Buicks started during my childhood in Rome. For me they symbolized a perfect combination of technological achievement and understated elegance – luxury without pretension. My first vintage Buick was purchased in 1961 and in the years that followed we began to preserve a collection of Buicks to the highest standards. It was that goal which originally brought us to Allentown. Over the last 20 years, in association with the Flickinger brothers and their talented colleagues, and their counterparts in Italy, we have preserved scores of American automobiles and built a home for the collection and the advancement of automobile education. We are especially delighted to see the opening of the National Laboratory of the Historic Vehicle Association, where automotive history may be documented and preserved in association with the US Department of the Interior and the Library of Congress. We look forward to working closely with the HVA – and with the America on Wheels museum in Allentown – to promote the understanding and appreciation of America’s precious automotive heritage, particularly among the young, for generations to come.”
For more information about the NB Center for American Automotive Heritage, please contact one of the following:
In the USA: Gary Gartner – email [email protected]
In Europe: Giorgio Laudisa – email [email protected]