return to articles The Buick Bugle, Vol. 32. No. 7. November 1997.

The Broderick Crawford 1955 Buick Special

By Gary Goltz, BCA #30962, Upland, CA

Everyday after school back in 1961, I could hardly wait until 5:30 pm. Glued to my family's old black and white portable TV, I waited to hear that familiar refrain, "da, da-da-daaa". Across the screen were the words "Broderick Crawford, starring in, Highway Patrol". At a time when President Kennedy was telling us to prepare to use our fallout shelters, it was a comforting feeling to see Broderick Crawford, show up just in time save the day! He was a real hero, enforcing law and order, while serving as judge and jury too. There were no lawyers, bondsmen, or even Miranda rights. The good guys always won and the bad guys got just what they deserved.

And then there was that car, a Buick with portholes on the side, spotlights, highway patrol shields on the doors, and a large antenna on the trunk. There were lots of other cars used on the show, but I always loved the 1955 Buicks the best. Since the early 60's, every time I would see a 1955 Buick, it would cause me to stop and strain my neck in order to get a better look.

In 1993, I started the tedious task of collecting episodes Highway Patrol on video tape. Now that I have accumulated almost all of them, the only thing left to do with my obsession was to actually buy a 1955 Buick and drive it on the highways of California. Then in June of 1995, while reading a copy of Old Car Trader at a nearby car wash, I located one, a model 46R at a Sacramento dealership.

The 1955 Buick Special model 46R (style 4437) was among the most popular Buick ever made - 155,818 were built. Each weighed 3,720lbs and were priced to sell at $2,332.00. The cars came in both two and three tone paint and were powered by the small V8, 188 horsepower engine with a variable pitch dynaflow transmission.

In speaking with the son of the car's original owner, I learned it was purchased new in November 1954 by his father, a logger in Montana. After driving it for six years, he put the car in a garage where it remained until 1992. Over the next few years, the car was sold several times, finally making its way to an antique auto auction in Las Vegas. Here it was bought by the Sacramento dealership that placed the ad in Old Car Trader.

When I first saw the Buick it had been re-painted in it's original colors. The speedometer read around 54,000 miles. The car had a good overall appearance with no evidence of major body work. I paid the dealership $6,500.00 for the car and they had it shipped to my house in Upland.

Upon delivery of the car, I noticed the transmission was slipping, so I took it to Valley Transmission near my home in Upland. Galo Diaz De Tuesta, the owner, is a veteran mechanic and considered among the most qualified people to work on the dynaflow. He had recently re-built the transmission in Dustin Hoffman's 1948 Buick (the car used in the movie Rainman). As suspected my Buick's transmission required a complete overhaul.

1955 Buick Model Century 66R
(converted from Special 46R)
Next I met Les Randolph, owner of Brockton Automotive in near by Riverside. Les was into restoring cars and owned several Buicks. His favorite, was his genuine 1955 Buick Century model 68 CHP car. Needless to say, when I saw that car I was in awe! At first Les and I discussed some form of trade, but we decided to re-do my car instead. Les felt my Buick could be made to look like a rather realistic highway patrol car. It should be noted, that originally I was not in favor of adding extra portholes or changing the Special nameplate to a Century. I wanted to protect my Buick's integrity as a Special. Besides as a boy, I always thought the 1955 Buick's used on Highway Patrol were Specials. However, I changed my mind at the end of 1999, after Stan Stokes painted Welcome to LA featuring my Buick as a Century pulling over a 1954 Buick Skylark convertible with downtown Los Angeles in the background.

My Buick was then turned over to Tim Marshall, a professional restorer who also resides in Riverside. Tim took great pains to make sure my Buick was done to closely match the real one he had restored with Les. Nine coats of paint (midnight blue with extra black tint) were applied to the car and then it was color sanded. All chrome was re-finished. The interior was restored in the same material and patterns used in the real CHP cars. The spotlights were ordered from the Unity Manufacturing Company in Chicago. This was the actual firm that made them back in the 50's. A police scanner, old style CB radio, and CD player were discretely mounted under the dash and a functioning old time siren was installed under the hood.

When the car was just about completed, we decided to have the TV show logo painted on the doors, as well as 21-50, Broderick Crawford's call sign, painted on the hood and trunk.

As a finishing touch, "Broderick Crawford Special" was neatly painted on the glove box. Richard McPeak in Riverside did a superb job duplicating the logo from the pictures I supplied him of Broderick Crawford standing by his car on the set of Highway Patrol.

With a total of over $35,000.00 now invested in my car it was ready to be driven and displayed. In April 1996, my car won "Best of Show" at the Inland Empire Buick Club's Annual Event. The following month, my Buick was featured at an open house for CHP office in El Cajon. As I drove home wearing my Broderick Crawford fedora and playing the Highway Patrol TV theme through the car's CD unit, a new CHP Mustang pulled up along side of me. The officer turned on his light bar and gave me big thumbs up! Holding the wheel of my trusty Buick it gave me a good feeling to know, the spirit of Broderick Crawford rides again - 10-4!