Before becoming a trademark of automobile luxury and innovative engineering, Buick was rather fond of plumbing inventions. Born in Arbroath, Scotland, David Dunbar Buick experienced a second-coming to life in his mid 30's when he became particularly interested in gasoline engines. He soon discarded his plumbing-related activities and, by the 1900's, he had already built an impressive number of engines for farming and boating usage. Buick's passion for motors led him to establishing his own company, called Auto-Vim and Power Co.
However, this choice of name lacked the powerful resonance of its founder's name, which was quick to replace it by 1903 - when the company pinned a brand new name tag to its chest: the Buick Manufacturing Co. During the same year, the company's heads went for further simplifying the name by dropping the 'Manufacturing' from the label.
Once corporate identity and appearance issues were satisfactory solved, Buick started focusing on car-engine development. The emphasis Buick put on his work would soon pay back, the genesis of the overhead valve engine having brought the company a generous amount of acclaim.
This was mostly thanks to the positioning of the valves, which allowed Buick engines to be fitted into tighter spaces while granting drivers easy access to maintenance - unlike the majority of the car engines at the time (which sported angle-mounted valves). Although Buick and his top engineering duo, Eugene Richard and Walter L. Marr, were successful in avoiding some major engine-building related intricacies, the brand entered a stage of slow-sales paradox.
Such were the financial difficulties encountered that, by September 1903, David Buick and his financial backer Benjamin Briscoe Jr. sold the firm to a wagon-making group in Flint, Michigan, 60 miles from Detroit (the former headquarters of the Buick factory). Luckily, the Buick plant was moved entirely to Flint, which allowed David Buick, who had been kept as manager, to further focus on his work.
Despite the 1904 construction of the first Flint Buick, the Model B, the by now one-year old Flint-Buick merger was inches away from hitting against the bulk of a metaphorical harassing Mr. Financial Trouble. And it did. The impact left the company with no other alternative than to seek help.
James H. Whiting, manager of the Flint Wagon Works, approached William C. “Billy” Durant, Flint-carriage king and future GM boss, on the company's status. Durant's nose for business as well as his uncanny intuition and promotional skills would later drag Buick from the pits of tar it had fallen into, straight to flashy auto-show glamour, inked front page wows and racing domination.
Although Durant was not a big automobile fan, he immediately recognized the sales-potential of the Buicks. It was the torque and rugged suspension of the cars Buick had built so far that convinced Durant that he had struck gold.
Thanks to the easiness and sturdiness Buicks proved in hill climbing and muddy terrain, Durant ordered a staggering 1000 units before the company had reached the 40 threshold. Though a series of production increase oriented moves, such as the construction of a new Flint-based plant and a partnership with Charles Stewart Mott (axle supplier and future GM head), Durant saved Buick from near extinction.
Durant didn't settle for just ensuring the success of the Buick brand and went farther to conquer racing grounds as well. His team, formed of Louis Chevrolet and Wild Bob Burman (among others), snatched a total of 500 trophies only between 1908 and 1910. The reason to why Buick had so much success was that by 1908 it had become the country's leading automobile producer with 8,820 cars produced. As if this wasn't enough, the new model 10 had topped all the other company's sales, with 4,002 units produced. The success registered by the Buick name grew enough to provide Durant with the grounds for spawning a large holding company. Thus, General Motors was born.
When the 20's came, Buick was numbly bathing in refreshing popularity as it had become the top choice car brand for world leaders. In breaks between garnering acclaim, Buick was busy crossing finish lines and popping champagnes from the height of first-place racing podiums across the world.
In fact, Buick had virtually conquered the world, with automobiles having taken part in major expeditions and crossings, such as the Lowel Thomas-led first motorized trip into Afghanistan, 1923.
However, the end of the 20's brought along not-so-great news, as the Great Depression swept the country, destroying lots of companies in the process. Buick was able to withstand the fund-consuming Depression, having displayed a range of fully rejuvenated models sporting performance Dynaflow automatic transmissions, aircraft inspired portholes, or Ventiports, and renewed style elements such as flashy vertical grilles and meticulously executed finishing touches.
With its growth uninterrupted, Buick continued to hold its position as the all-leading American car producer throughout the 90's with an emphasis on sedans. The Y2K year inoculated a fresh take on the car with Buick extending its activity in developing new convertible and crossover concepts. The reshaping process undergone by Buick has left the company focusing on a new range of automobiles, currently flaunting the three premium LaCrosse, Lucerne and Enclave models.