By Barbara Jorgen Nance
Caballero? What is it, you ask? An old classic Western movie? No. A clothing brand or Western hat? No. It’s a Caballero Car! What? Never heard of it? Me either, until my husband Sherwood announced he and his buddy were off to California to pick up a 1957 Caballero wagon. Buick made this car, but only a little over 10,000 1957 Caballeros were manufactured and even fewer in 1958. So, yes, they are rare. I have written past columns on our 1939 Buick and 1949 Buick restorations. My husband is a Buick guy, just like his Dad. I’ll tell you an interesting Jay Leno Buick story at the end of the column. It’s a noteworthy story.
Back to the Caballero. It has those big fins of the heavy cars of that era. The bigger, the better era. If you stood this Caballero up vertically, it could be mistaken for a rocketship. In the beginning, primitive man invented the wheel. Fast forward to the 19th century and early automobiles. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that no invention has had as much impact on everyday life as the automobile. Now, the early cars were quirky, temperamental and lacked the tried and true reliability of the horse-drawn wagon. The early automobiles were propelled by fragile machinery. They broke down, but they could be repaired, rather than shot or converted to glue, the usual fate of broken down horses.
Henry For’s vision for his Model-T was compelling ----The illusion of virtually unlimited personal mobility for everyone! At one point, half the cars on the planet were Model Ts and when production finally ended in 1927, the tally stood at over 15 million cars, a production record that stood for decades. But, also in 1927, the bigger, heavier, luxury cars that could accommodate 4-6 passengers drove onto the showroom floors. The lavish magazine ads of the time painted a new picture of American life on wheels!
I wasn’t too surprised when Sherwood announced he was going west to pick up yet another Buick, a “Caballero.” He had been talking a lot with the president of the Buick Club of California, Steve, who held that position for 17 years. Steve’s Dad Aury is a Buick technical advisor.
Aury told the story of Jay Leno and how he drove his Buick from the East coast to California, to start his comedy career. Leno lived in the Buick as well. It became his special car. So, years later when Jay wanted to restore his special car, he ran into problems finding some important parts. Aury had the parts and said he’d sell them to Leno, if he’d agree to bring the car to their Buick show for two years in a row. Jay Leno has been showing up every year for the Buick Show for over 20 years now! Oh, those boys and their Buicks!