Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Secrets of the Buick Bible

There are almost fifty years worth of history in this worn ledger. It was used to keep track of the Buick Company Owned cars in service, which means that every time the Los Angeles Zone put a company owned vehicle on the road, it is recorded in this book. Most of the entries were made by Phil Vogel, Buick's longtime Company Car Coordiantor. Phil called the notebook his "Buick Bible", and never let it out of his sight.

Inside the front page were telephone numbers for everyone at the Buick Zone office- even the IBM computer room. When this log was began in 1962, the Zone was located in the Miracle Mile on Wilshire. Phil was based nearby at Gunther-Langer Buick. All the company cars were shipped there. After they were used, they would be sold through local dealers. Reynolds Buick handled many such sales.

Each car was logged by model, color, trim, key numbers, license number, delivery date and driver. A glance above shows some of the drivers that Buick provided cars for. Jack Entratter owned the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Dick Van Dyke you've probably already heard of.

Here's where we start to unravel last week's mystery of the celebrities in the 1967 Buick interiors- company car entries for Robert Lansing and Charleton Heston. Lansing was given an Electra convertible, Heston a Riviera. Both cars were hard plated as opposed to sporting Manufacturers plates.

And here it starts to add up. Cliff Robertson and Van Heflin both got Sportwagons. Fess Parker got a Riviera and David Janssen must have looked great in an Electra Convertible.

Bill Bixby and Lloyd Bridges were both furnished with new Rivieras. And now we understand- every celebrity that appeared in the brochure sitting inside a new Buick was given a brand new Buick. By today's standards, it was a pretty inexpensive way to obtain endorsements. But I'd love to see who approved the budget.

There are more fascinating entries in the Buick Bible. Who was furnished with the most Buick courtesy vehicles? None other than Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Electra Limiteds for himself, and Sportwagons when he owned the Cal-Neva Resort, all on Manufacturer plates. Mr. Sinatra and Buick were close friends in the sixties.

The entries end in June, 1998, when Phil Vogel was hospitalized for surgery. He had a stroke shortly after and died. The Buick Bible was returned to Buick by his family and has been preserved for history. It's a treasure of information and an interesting insight into how the automobile business was conducted in Tinseltown in an era gone by.

(Originally posted on the Reynolds Buick GMC Blog)

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