Monday, January 20, 2014

The Silver Arrow Memos- Part I

This is Part 1.

Go Here for Part 2

And Here for Part 3

First Silver Arrow Memo- July 11, 1962

By Jeff Stork 

No Rivieras are more famous than Bill Mitchell's Silver Arrows. Created ostensibly as show cars but in reality intended for his personal use, the Arrows are a mixture of dream car, rolling laboratory, and ultimate corporate perk. We've spoken before of Mitchell and how it is "Good to be King."

Now in a series of original GM documents, we can watch the evolution of the original Silver Arrow as it evolves into its current form via a series of Styling Staff memoranda that track the progress of each phase of the car's modifications until they arrived at the car which resides today at the Buick Gallery in Flint.  They span a period of time from Summer 1962 until almost 1965.

The memos are really more letters of understanding, on impressively logoed GM Styling Staff letterhead (how cool is that) are written to Mr. W. L. Mitchell and concern the design and construction of one 1963 Buick "E" Riviera Production Car, Special Order # 40210. The early ones are written by E.G. "Bud" Schenk, head of Program Planning. and carbon copied to everyone involved, even if only tangentially.

Schenk was the one responsible for supervising the construction of the car, coordinating all of the activities between the various styling studios and all of the tradesmen, the division staff and above all keeping Bill Mitchell in the loop. The Special Order Number (#40210) was used to keep track of all the expenses incurred on the car for the accounting department. The prototype number was XP-810 and would be how design staff would refer to it. The world would know it as Silver Arrow I.

Silver Arrow I outside the GM Styling Building

This earliest memo is dated July 11, 1962, and outlines the first round of changes to be made to the car. It's obvious that Schenk chose the language very carefully and the memo is worth reading.

"Mr. Mitchell has requested the Buick Exterior to undertake the design and study involved in making new concealed headlamps, radiator grille, and extending of front end sheet metal as an experimental proposal on a 1963 Buick 'E" Riviera Coupe production car. Present plans call for the completion of these changes on the subject  car so that it may be available to be driven on Buick's 1963 Car Announcement Date Thursday, October 4.

In general, the required changes are as follows as of this date-

  1. New Concealed rotating headlamp grilles on the front fenders. Plans are to study the using of 7" diameter seal beam lamps. These units must be operable and applicable to a road car.

  2. Radiator grille to be installed per design as proposed and released by the Buick Exterior Studio.

  3. Revisions to front end sheet metal consisting of extending the hood surface and of possible fromt fender changes.  

  4. Modeling of surface changes will be some in the Exterior Studio and information expedited so that engineering drawings can be released to permit the pre-fabrication of parts and components prior to the arrival of the car.

    It is anticipated that the car will be delivered to Styling in the early part of September."

    E. G. Schenk
    Program Planning

    In a word, wow. Buick Styling studio modeling, engineering drawings being completed, parts to be pre-fabricated prior to the first week of September so that someone very important can drive this special car on Buick's New Car Announcement Day. And as far as who the special someone was, one need look only to whom the memo was addressed - Mr. W. L. Mitchell.

    As I said, it's Good to be King.

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