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The Buick Automobile 1899-1903 & The Buick Manufacturing Company

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The Buick Auto-Vim and Power Co.
Detroit, Michigan

The Buick Manufacturing Company
Detroit, Michigan

The Buick Motor Car Company
Detroit, Michigan

The Buick was an American Automobile first built by David Dunbar Buick in Detroit, MI.

David Buick emigrated to America with his parents in 1856 at the age of two. When he was 15 he went to work making plumbing fixtures at the Alexander Manufacturing Company in Detroit, MI, rising to become foreman. Also during this time David Buick worked as an apprentice machinist at James Flower & Brothers in Detroit. This was the same firm where Henry Ford would apprentice.

William Sherwood and David Buick acquired the Alexander Manufacturing Company in 1882. By 1889 Buick had invented several items such as valves, lawn sprinklers, water closets and bathtubs. The most famous was a process for bonding enamel to cast iron making the porcelain kitchen sink and bathroom fixtures possible including the toilet. Buick was cantankerous, as well as a dreamer and interests were not really business, he loved to tinker. After amassing a fortune in plumbing business, David Buick the dreamer began playing around with gasoline powered engines then automobiles. He finally sold his half of the plumbing business to Sherwood for $100,000.

In 1899 at the age of 45 David D. Buick founded the Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company. Walter L. Marr, an engineer, began working with David Buick on an OHV engine then an American Automobile called the Buick. The two men were both fiery and hot tempered. Marr quit or was fired two or three times over the next couple of years. Another engineer, Eugene C. Richard joined Buick and the three men developed the OHV engine shown below.

Buick 6.6 Horsepower Water Cooled Engine
Early 1900s Buick 6.6 Horsepower Water Cooled Engine

This engine was offered for sale by The Buick Motor Co. that was located at 416 Howard Street Detroit, Michigan. This was the engine that David Buick had so much interest in producing for the American Automobile market. It was a single cylinder water cooled engine rated at 6.6 horsepower. The bore was 5 inches and it had a 6 inch stroke. The over head valves were two inches in diameter, the crankshaft was 1 1/2 inch, 21 inch flywheel and weights 273 pounds.

This overhead valve engine was an important development. The Buick engine had a more compact combustion chamber and a faster fuel burn rate. It was efficient and because it so efficient it developed more horsepower than other engines it size. Eventually the entire industry would make use of its principle. The Buick engine developed a reputation for power and performance which helped the Buick Motor Company survive the early years.

1901 Buick Two Passenger Runabout
1901 Buick Two Passenger Runabout

The first experimental Buick automobile was built in Detroit between 1898 and 1901. Unfortunately, Buick had no financial sense what so ever and was constantly strapped for money. Buick sold Marr the original car for $225.00 in 1901. David Buick, Walter Marr and Eugene Richard built the first Buick. In 1901 Buick reorganized The Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company into The Buick Manufacturing Company. He tinkered a lot from 1899 to 1903, but did not produce any Buick automobiles commercially.

David Buick was soon deeply in debt to Benjamin and Frank Briscoe, whose sheet metal firm was his major components supplier. In 1903 The Buick Manufacturing Company was reorganized by Benjamin Briscoe into The Buick Motor Car Company. David Buick stayed on for several years there after. The Buick Motor Car Co. passed through the Briscoe brothers to James M. Whiting, a Flint, MI carriage and wagon manufacturer. Whiting moved the Buick plant to Flint, MI but was unable to get the floundering Company off the ground and only six Buicks were sold in 1903.

In 1904 only 16 Buick's were sold and James Whiting was under pressure from his investers to find someone to put Buick in the black. The company's principal asset was the patent on the valve in head engine developed by Buick, Marr and Richard. After testing a new two cylinder engine and the Buick automobile, William C. Durant, founder of General Motors, agreed to undertake the management of The Buick Motor Company. He assumed his new duties on November 1, 1904.

1903 Buick Two Passenger Roadster
1903 Buick Two Passenger Roadster

In the image above Chief engineer Walter L. Marr, left, and Thomas Buick, son of founder David Dunbar Buick, with the first Flint built Buick automobile after a promotional Flint-Detroit round trip. This 1903 Buick was equipped with a two cylinder overhead valve engine.

For additional information on the Buick Automobile!
1904-1909 Buick   1910-1919 Buick   1920-1929 Buick   1930-1939 Buick

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