1957 Buick Caballero
1957 Buick Caballero
364 cubic inch Nailhead V8
David Corney & Justine Alexander
Three years ago when Whanganui couple David Corney and Justine Alexander put the word out that they’d like to import a mid-1950s Buick Caballero station wagon, they didn’t expect to be able to locate one right away.
“There were only about 10,000 of them built in 1957 and 4500 in 1958 before Buick stopped building them, so these days they are as scarce as hen’s teeth,” explains Justine.
“But the guy who was on the lookout for us, found one right away. It was in a farmer’s barn in California, and was part of an estate sale. We couldn’t believe our luck.”
The 1957 model was in totally original condition too, complete with red and white paintwork, two-tone red and white vinyl upholstery, 364 cubic inch nailhead V8 and variable pitch Dynaflow automatic.
All this meant that when the Caballero arrived in New Zealand there was little David and Justine needed to do, apart from changing the vehicle’s wire-spoked wheels to mags because the original wheels were not suited to kiwi road conditions, and lowering the big estate slightly in the interests of better ride and handling.
The couple also gave the big Buick a bit more character by installing a vintage 1960 Atlas Woods surfboard on a roof rack, and choosing the personalised plate SUFING. They’ve loved the car ever since, but they’ve never actually used it to go surfing – the board’s there for effect only.
The Caballero was Buick’s most expensive station wagon of the time, and was arguably the most stylish, featuring several of the now-famous Buick design elements, including Ventiports just above the front fenders that mimic the nose of a fighter plane of the day, and the so-called Sweep Spear, a stainless steel strip that runs right down the vehicle’s flanks and separates the two-tone paintwork’s colours.
Unfortunately for Buick, a combination of low sales and high construction costs meant the Caballero was built for only two years before being dropped – and the Caballero name (which roughly translates to the Spanish word for Gentleman) has never been used again.
But that is all good news for enthusiasts such as David and Justine, because the vehicle’s rarity adds to its value and appeal. “It’s a lovely car to drive,” says Justine. “You sit behind a great big white steering wheel and cruise. It was a bit of a handful before David lowered it, but now it is great. It’s interesting doing a U-turn in it though,” she added, referring to the vehicle’s 3.1 metre wheelbase.