1946 Buick Model 59 Super Estate Wagon.
Buick was poised and ready when WWII ended and manufacturers could get back to producing cars. There was a lot of pent-up demand from returning soldiers who wanted cars and drivers on the home front who'd made their old flivvers last as long as they could. Because the 1942 Buicks had been completely redesigned, the look of the car was still pretty fresh. The cars were marketed as modern and "the best Buicks yet".
In 1939, famed designer Harley Earl created a "Y-job" show car for Buick, claimed as the industry's first concept car. A sleek two-seater sports car, it was lower and longer than cars of the day and sported a wide, low, vertical-bar grille (a prototype for ones Buick still uses today) and small, thirteen-inch tires. Its hood ornament was a modernistic machine gun sight. There were electric doors and windows, hidden power headlamps, recessed tail lamps, flush door handles, wraparound bumpers, and a power-operated convertible top. Many of its design elements were adapted for use in the redesigned 1942 Buicks.
Since Buick was re-launching its '42 design in 1946, it had tooling ready to go, as did Fisher which supplied the bodies. In the waning days of the war, the War Production Board, a U.S. Government agency that supervised war production, authorized Buick to fire up its engine assembly lines, enabling Buick to produce five hundred new engines.
During the War, General Motors had been responsible for manufacturing guns, tanks, ammunition, aircraft engines, trucks, ambulances, amphibious vehicles, armored vehicles, etc. Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., its CEO, thought big about restarting peacetime production. He created a $500 million program to convert military production lines to civilian ones and to ensure that plants were renovated and/or expanded, as necessary. Harlow H. Curtice, Buick's president, certainly wasn't asleep at the switch. He asked for the lion's share of the program money—and got it. New, modern Buick factories sprang up in Flint, Michigan, providing more than a million square feet of space in which to work.
Buick managers understood, too, about getting the word out that they were primed and ready to go. Victory in Europe came on May 8, 1945. Soon thereafter Buick was advertising, one ad shining a spotlight on a 1942 yellow convertible with red interior. In a black and white background, tanks rolled through the l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris and around Rome's coliseum. There were planes in the air and ships at sea. Beneath the car text read, "This is the 1942 Buick which sets the high standards to be surpassed in new models being made ready. . . . No, the fighting isn't over. Nor is Buick's war work finished. But Victory in Europe is releasing many fighting men to come home. . . . We aim to make those Buicks that all returning warriors have dreamed about—cars that from go-treadle to stop light will fit the stirring pattern of the lively, exciting, forward-moving new world so many millions have fought for."
1945 Buick War Ad.
A well-publicized June event that year helped keep Buick in the public eye, too. Detroit held a Golden Jubilee parade in celebration of fifty years of the American automotive industry. The Buick float had a greatly enlarged version of its bombsight hood ornament with the front of a '46 Buick coming through it. The car was eye-appealing, modernistic, and, most importantly, available. The float's text was this: "When better automobiles are built Buick will build them."
Buick's float in Detroit's 1946 Golden Jubilee Parade.
In preparing for civilian marketing, the company had managed to keep its network of dealers through the slim war years when all they could do was sell used cars, parts and service. That network, mindful of the debt the nation owed its veterans, was no doubt proud to advertise to them with ads presenting a Buick marque with bodies "trim as a fighting plane". These were the "new" Buicks, the best yet and proof "that we [could] have Victory—and even better things than we had before." Buick also offered special driving controls to veterans at no charge, thereby making cars available to those who'd lost limbs.