Having a Roadmaster parked in your driveway was a status symbol in post-war America. This was Buick's top model, and had automatic transmission; a year later the finned era began. The 1951 Buicks arrived with frontal styling updates that mimicked the cleaner looking 1949 grilles. While retaining the bombsight parking lights of the 1950 model, the grille bars no longer flowed over the bumper, rather having 25 vertical bars between the upper grille bar and the bumper.
Added to the bumper were traditional style bumper guards placed between the parking lights. The original plans called for the parking lights to sit atop the fenders, and in fact the first issue of sales brochures show them on all models, including the cover car. However, it is not believed any were produced with this feature. Other styling changes were minor this year. Special Deluxe models now used the one-piece windshield, as on the Super and Roadmaster, while the base Special retained its two-piece windshield design. Series script identification for all lines was moved to the trunk lid. The Roadmaster added a chrome rocker panel molding and dropped the Roadmaster Deluxe line. Features of the one-year-only Roadmaster Deluxe line were added as standard equipment, or now offered as optional equipment. More power was added to the Special line by way of last year's Super engine, and more models were added.
The Special finally received a Riviera 2-Door Hardtop and brought a convertible back into the fold. But along the way, the 4-Door Jetback Sedan was lost, as the popularity of the fastback was quickly losing favor. While the styling was generally sportier, it was viewed by the buying public as a throwback to the 1930s and 1940s, when the fastback style was the latest in aerodynamic styling and automotive progress. The 1950s were for sporty hardtops and convertibles, and new luxury amenities.
Sales for Buick slipped quite a bit in 1951 for several reasons. Overall industry sales were down about 13 percent from the prior year, in part because of material shortages caused by the outbreak of the Korean War. Also, after so many years of booming postwar growth, the economy was beginning to cool off, and prices were rising, which slowed purchases of big-ticket items, and mid-range to upper end automobiles in particular. A final factor was a slightly shortened model year selling period for Buick due to the extended run of 1950 models caused by the early introduction of the Special.
An interesting side note: plans for the 1951 Buick originally included adding a Series 44 Custom Special. Essentially, this line would have placed the Special's powertrain in a Super body and trim. Three models were planned-2-Door Jetback Sedan (Model 46D), 2-Door Riviera Hardtop (Model 46R) and 4-Door Tourback Sedan (Model 42). Although these cars are shown in early sales literature, none are known to have been produced. It would be interesting to know the thought process in wanting to build the Custom Special, as this is the exact opposite of what Buick had done in the past, and would soon do again, in 1954, with the Century line-that is, placing the larger Super engine in the smaller Special body.