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Images: Deepanjan Sarkar

In the fuel economy obsessed ‘kitna deti hai’ world of the Indian car buyer, it’s hard to imagine a big displacement engine mated to an automatic transmission. In spite of modern automatics that are nearly as efficient as manual ‘boxes, the imagination game becomes even more difficult when you factor in the frequently rising fuel prices in India.

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Resurrection report of a rare 1949 Buick Super Sedanette

With the context set thus, try and imagine a 4.1-litre straight eight mated to a 2-speed automatic, right here in India. Now that I’ve got your attention and if you’ve retrieved your jaw from the floor, let me tell you the story of a rare-as-tiger-sighting-in-a-wildlife-sanctuary Buick Super Sedanette Dynaflow from circa 1949 that has been brought back to life not too long ago.

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You might find many Buicks in India, but this is a rare one

“The car was a total write-off when it came to me. Its lower half practically didn’t exist,” remembers ace restorer Shrivardhan Kanoria, the man also behind the restoration of the Vauxhall DX14 belonging to the late A.V. Meiyappan. Shrivardhan, or SVK as he is known to friends and members of the Eastern India Motoring Group (EIMG) that he founded, freely admits that he wasn’t particularly keen to take this project up at the beginning. “My dear friend Rajiv Ghosh got the owner of this vehicle in touch with me around three years ago, but I simply didn’t know where to begin…this car was in such a bad shape.”

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Super pretty dashboard has been rebuilt from scratch

Fortunately for the owner, SVK isn’t a man to shy away from a challenge, even when he’s reluctant at the onset. The fact that this two-door 1949 Buick Super Sedanette Dynaflow is probably the only one of its kind in the country may have something to do with his decision to work on the car, but we can only guess about it. Whatever the reasons, the fact is, SVK agreed and the car—or rather, remnants of the car—arrived at his workshop.

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Eight cylinders with a cumulative displacement of 4.1-litres

“Mechanically, the car was all there. The parts were all there. Cosmetically, it didn’t have anything at all. The car didn’t even have its own floorboards,” says SVK, of the strange contradiction that he had been given to work with. Step one was to strip it down completely and document it. Deep and detailed research was needed. With each scrap of information adding one more pixel towards forming a complete picture, work started on rebuilding the chassis of the car. In due course the chassis was redone and sandblasted. “We had to fabricate a lot of the things that we needed for the rebuild.” All the weather stripping, seat frames and even the curved glasses had to be fabricated. In the meantime the suspension, brakes and steering of this left hand drive example were done up.

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Coupe though it is, the rear passengers are not entirely an afterthought

Although mechanically everything existed, the powertrain had completely seized and a lot of the original mechanicals couldn’t be used since they were beyond repair. So all bushes, bands and the clutch plate had to be fabricated as well. Certain bits of the car being somewhat unique further added to the challenge. For instance, the car featured independent rear suspension.

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Love that split windshield...and this is the prettiest colour I have seen on a classic

The 4.1-litre 8-cylinder inline engine featured hydraulic self-adjusting tappets, whereas cars of this period generally had non-hydraulic tappets. The sheer number of valves didn’t make things any easier since a full complement of 16 valves and 16 lifters had to be redone. The sealed 2-speed automatic transmission was also a challenge to work on, especially after having been the victim of decades of neglect. “The oil inside was like thick grease.”

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As left hand drive as an all-American car ought to be

The resurrection, which included a full reset of the car’s body work, upholstery, wiring, mechanicals and underpinnings, took a full three years with work having started in 2019 (work was completed in 2022). Given the approximate two-year pandemic-induced series of nationwide lockdowns, this is a fabulous timeline. It was particularly satisfying too and SVK rates himself as an eight on ten on the satisfaction scale. After all, what could be more enthusing than bringing back to life a rare piece of automotive history. “I don’t know of another car like this in India. It may be the only 1949 Super Sedanette in the country.”

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Restorer's notes include specific mention of the challenges of restoring a 2-speed auto

Aninda Sardar

Aninda Sardar

Sentimental about cars and bikes, judgemental about most things and mental too, says the missus. Where nutty professor meets mad hatter. Got this figured? Then you’ve got me.


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