Custom Cruise Friday
Remembering fond memories of the past through the lens that is the windshield of a car is a common, if not welcome, theme of the Custom Cruise Friday series hosted by Don Wheaton. This week’s car is a 1954 Buick Special two-door hardtop owned by Art Wells, father of Don Wheaton photographer Dan Wells. In addition to being a great car that fits within the framework of this blog series, this car also represents an intersection with the history of the city of Edmonton and the Don Wheaton family.
Art Wells was only 25 when he purchased the 1954 Buick Special. According to Dan, it would have been fairly rare for such a young man to own a vehicle of this prestigious status at the time. Art Wells worked for a long time as a traveling sales representative covering the areas of northern Alberta as well as into the Northwest Territories. Undoubtedly, having a quality automobile would be very important to covering such great distances.
Baby’s first ride
Even though Art Wells passed away in 1991, Dan affectionately recalls taking trips with his family to their cabin in the summer in the car. His future as an avid automotive enthusiast was quickly on display in the form of precociousness.
This car is also very special to Dan because it would have been the car his parents drove him home from the hospital in after his birth.
The 1954 Buick Special stands out in automotive history for a few reasons. First, it was among the original Buick models to have the Fireball V-8 under the hood. Also, the Buick Special featured the Buick sweep spear chrome molding which ran nearly the entire length of the car. 1954 was Buick’s first year for the “panoramic” wrap-around windshield.
Edmonton’s automotive history
Art Wells purchased the Buick Special from South Park Motors. At the time, South Park Motors was successfully operated by a man named Hugh McColl. Art Wells’ purchase was a few years before the historic South Park on Whyte sign was erected. Dan explains that when this quintessential Edmonton landmark was built, there were very few tall building in Edmonton; and it could be seen when approaching the city from east or west for several miles.
South Park Motors was acquired by the eponymous Don Wheaton company founder, Donald H. Wheaton, in 1994 and ran as a satellite from the original Wheaton dealership location just a block down Whyte Avenue. This was the time when Don Wheaton became a full-line General Motors operation in Edmonton between the two stores. The South Park property was eventually shuttered in 2009 after Oldsmobile and Pontiac ceased production and Buick, GMC and Cadillac were brought over under the Don Wheaton name, making it the only full-line General Motors dealer in northern Alberta. Obviously, the sign remains in place and will likely continue to do so for a long time.
If you have an interesting automotive story or a project you are working on, contact Don Wheaton Brand Manager, Melina Kawecki, by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a description of the vehicle as well as some photos.