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Buick an Aussie bygone beauty

the 1929 Buick Roadster was built in Australia.

But, what you probably don't know, is that in the very early days of motoring in Australia, Buicks were produced in this country, exclusively for Australians.

John Gerdtz's 1929 Buick Roadster Model 24 is one such car. He is not only a big fan of the brand but of the car in general.

There are many people in motoring who know so much about a brand they could easily document it all in a book. And rather than just talking about it, Gerdtz decided to do that.

Along with a fellow Buick enthusiast, Eric North, he has written Buick: The Australian Story which is soon to be published.

Gerdtz has owned four Buicks during his collecting years. He bought his first in 1968 at the age of 32. He's now down to two models and, as a fan of the vintage ones in particular, he loves his roadster. It's a love based not only on its stunning looks but its history.

“This particular body was never built by Buick in America but was built by Holden Motor Body Builders out here,” he says.

“I have been chasing the history of it and there are 13 confirmed still existing in various stages of restoration but there are only five on the road.”

As far as they have been able to tell, there were only 186 of these models ever made and Gerdtz has been able to track down an image of the roadster bodies coming off the production line at the plant in Woodville, Adelaide, in 1929, showing a much different time.

While General Motors didn't own Holden until 1931, the Holden Motor Body Builders was the only company to be making the cars in Australia for the old US car company.

Gerdtz, who bought his model 25 years ago, says he was attracted to its smaller size and his love of the brand. The car had belonged to a friend who started restoring it but decided he wanted a later model instead.

So Gerdtz added it to his collection thinking he could work on it once he retired.

There was a lot of work to be done and Gerdtz completed a full restoration over 12 years.

“My friend had done some, but not a great deal,” he says. “I did a huge amount on it."

“Some things you can't do yourself but whatever I could do, I did. With that sort of thing you never write down how much you spend or else you feel too guilty.”

Nowadays, it doesn't get driven a great deal, as he also owns a 1978 Electra Park Avenue Coupe, the top of the range. This newer model is easier to drive on the long distance rallies, he says.

But just because he doesn't drive it a great deal, certainly doesn't mean he will give up his 4.0-litre, six cylinder Roadster anytime soon.

“It's a vintage car and quite a comfortable car, you go everywhere in top gear,” he says. “It's not overly fast, 80-90km/h is top speed. And it's bright red so it does attract attention.”

Gerdtz says the car isn't worth a lot of money, but is reluctant to put a price on it as it has been 16 years since he sold a similar one.

“You could buy a reasonable mid-range new car for what you'd get for this sort of thing.”

Gerdtz's passion for Buicks began as a child.

His mate's father had one.

“I like early cars, vintage and veteran cars, they've been my passion all my years,” he says.

As one of the founding members of the Buick Club of Australia, Gerdtz says he has been very involved with the Buick movement.

He says his family have always been involved with vintage cars and one of his beloved Buicks was used for the weddings of his two daughters.

In their time, he says the Buicks were like the Mercedes of the day; an affordable up-market car. They were the vehicles the premiers and prime ministers travelled in and at pound stg. 445 in the 1920s, they weren't cheap. Gerdtz says you could buy two Chevs for the price of a Buick.

Buick production in Australia stopped when the early Holdens began to be produced, with General Motors adopting the policy that Australia would only be Holdens.

And when they stopped producing right-hand-drive models in the US in 1953, it became harder to get the cars here, as they had to be converted to be driven in this country. So, while the presence of Buick slowly dwindled in Australia, as Gerdtz shows, it's definitely not dead.



1929 Buick Roadster Model 24

Price when new: pound stg. 445, about $900

Value now: about $20,000-$30,000

Verdict: There aren't many Buick Roadsters left, but this car, made in Australia for Australians, is a real gem.