DETROIT – The Buick Blackhawk is not just
any customized car – it's designed to emphasize Buick's
heritage of distinctive design and outstanding power
for the specialized audiences that attend custom/hot
"This is a very special show car," said
Michael E. Doble, Buick's special vehicles manager:
"It has classic styling combined with contemporary
proportions. If you're talking about customized cars,
the Blackhawk is the ultimate expression of Buick."
Retractable convertible with styling from the
The Blackhawk is basically a 2-plus-2 convertible
with a retractable top, and a body that looks like
it came out of the late 1930s or '40s – because it
did. Its face is a classic 1939 Buick grille, which
has a pattern of fine vertical bars, and its major
sheet metal combines the sleek bodies of 1941 and
1948 Buick Roadmasters.
All of this except the grille has been modified,
and the final appearance – featuring black cherry
paint, doors without handles and hidden headlamps
– is of a streamlined yet retro head-turner that looks
like it was created specifically for the Woodward
A show car for a special audience
In a sense it was. Doble has been in charge of creating
Buick show and concept cars as well as some specialty
production models for the last 15 years. Mostly, his
Buick concepts have been built to headline major auto
shows at Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
But the Blackhawk was created to fill a different
need – one he perceived when he attended custom and
hot rod shows and caught the enthusiasm of their crowds.
"The folks who attend those shows are very excited
and knowledgeable about cars," he said. "We
felt we needed a custom Buick for that audience, but
not a hot rod. Hot rods tend to have simple bodies,
exposed engines, large rear wheels and lots of chrome.
But when you build a custom, it's like you're redesigning
"The Blackhawk is a highly altered car, picking
up design cues from Buick's heritage. It will be a
great showpiece for a lot of events as we head toward
Buick's centennial in 2003."
To Buick General Manager Roger W. Adams, the Blackhawk
creates "a very interesting statement for Buick
to make as we approach our centennial. Buicks have
always had a strong element of power and distinctive
style – and this is a good time to remind folks of
He said Buick leaders have long promoted the marque's
upscale image and such key Buick attributes as comfort,
convenience, safety and security. But in the last
couple of years there has been new emphasis on more
One example is the 1999 concept Cielo, a " no-compromise"
convertible with roof rails and retractable top. Another
is the 2000 concept LaCrosse, described as a "drop-dead
gorgeous" flagship sedan, which packages styling
cues from Buick's past (such as vertical-bar grille,
portholes and side sculpture from the '50s) in a refreshing
way. LaCrosse, incidentally, can also reveal a pickup-type
rear cargo area on a single voice command. Still another
example is Rendezvous, a production Buick SUV for
the 2002 model year that Adams says is more versatile
than any other vehicle in its class.
The Blackhawk, while not intended for major auto
shows, adds to that new trend with a more aggressive
take on styling heritage and power. And, Doble said,
the Blackhawk is "no trailer queen." It's
meant to be driven, maybe even from custom show to
custom show across the country.
Blackhawk power: 463-hp V-8; 0-60 in under 5 seconds
The Blackhawk's performance goal is 0-60 miles per
hour in under 5 seconds. Its powertrain is a 1970-vintage
455-cubic-inch Buick GS Stage III V-8 engine, heavily
detailed and mated to the latest electronically controlled
four-speed automatic transmission. The naturally aspirated,
overhead valve, fuel-injected engine generates 463
horsepower at 4600 rpm and 510 lb-ft of torque at
While Doble had the idea of creating a great Buick
custom car with heritage overtones, he did not create
the Blackhawk. He took his ideas to five companies
and they came back with a number of creative concepts,
all of which were well received by Doble. Finally
he chose one of four concepts submitted by Steven
D. Pasteiner, a former Buick designer who owns a design
and prototype company, Advanced Automobile Technologies,
in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Pasteiner had done major design work on a number
of Buick concepts over the years – such as Questor,
Sceptre, Park Avenue Essence, Signia and XP2000, all
well-known names to students of industry dream cars.
He had also designed such production Buicks as GS
models of the late 1960s and Regals from the 1970s
until he left General Motors Design to create his
own company in 1989.
Designer: "This is the ultimate Buick custom
Pasteiner's enthusiasm for the Blackhawk matches
"This is the ultimate Buick custom car,"
Pasteiner said. "We used the 1939 grille because
it is one of the most significant in Buick history.
Those vertical bars are hints of the grilles that
became Buick icons in the '40s and early '50s. The
grille sets the tone for the Blackhawk. But we also
liked the 'torpedo' body from the top-of-the-line
Buicks of the 1940s."
Said Doble: "We wanted the best from Buick history,
but also we wanted to create a contemporary design.
For example, the Blackhawk has a split windshield,
which is right for that era – yet the windshield glass
is curved, a more modern feature. Even the side glass
Many of the Blackhawk's major components are hand
made, such as the frame, the unique carbon-fiber top
and the retractable system that lowers the top into
the trunk (leaving a small luggage area).
Other features include a fully independent suspension,
remote keyless entry (so you can open the doors, which
don't have exterior handles) and dual exhaust with
three-inch pipes. The Blackhawk is equipped with 18-inch
five-spoke alloy wheels (a style similar to those
on uplevel Rivieras, Wildcats and Skylarks of '65)
with high speed, Z-rated tires -- P295/35R18 on the
front and P295/45R18 on the rear.
As an accent complementing the exterior design, a
slightly different shade of dark cherry is used to
create a "sweepspear" along the sides of
the body. The sweepspear is a decoration that first
showed up on some '49 Roadmasters and later became
a shape sculpted into the sides of '50s Buicks. It's
basically a horizontal line that sweeps in a downward
curve along the doors toward the base of the leading
edge of the rear fender, then kicks up over the rear
wheel openings. It's a look that reappeared in the
1999 Cielo and 2000 LaCrosse concepts, both Doble
Emphasizes industry first for Buick: Lighted turn
While the Blackhawk looks to be from somewhere in
time, it's hard to pin down where. Borrowed from the
same 1939 Buick that donated the grille, a lighted
logo device in the middle of the trunk exterior incorporates
turn signals – a reminder that this particular '39
Buick feature was the industry's first production
turn signal. Borrowed from contemporary technology,
the Blackhawk is equipped with Global Positioning
System navigation tied to a liquid crystal display
And borrowed from a 1996 Buick Riviera – one of the
most luxurious of all Buicks -- is the heavily modified
Blackhawk interior. That includes buff color leather
for the door trim and seats, plus design of the instrument
panel and center console (though the wood-rimmed steering
wheel is unique). The custom car was created in the
spring of 2000.
Even the name is borrowed. Buick introduced a subcompact
Skyhawk for 1975 and the hawk symbol became an icon
for the entire Buick line through the 1980s.
"I've worked on a lot of great concepts for
Buick, but this is No. 1 for me," said Doble,
on the eve of his retirement after 35 years with GM.
"We'll drive it – and I emphasize drive it –
to custom and hot rod shows. In this car, we'll be
displaying design elements that gave Buick its character.
And the message will be: 'Buick is proud of its design
and power heritage. And that we're creating a new
look based on that heritage.' "
two-door 2+2 convertible with retractable hard
||Steel body with carbon-fiber
||1970 Buick GS Stage
III V-8, overhead-valve, naturally aspirated,
||455 cu. in.
||463 @ 4600 rpm
||510 lb-ft @4200 rpm
480LE four-speed automatic
four wheel discs
||18-inch five-spoke alloy/high-speed
Z-rated P295/35R18 (front), P295/45R18 (rear)
||3,600 lbs. (estimated)
Source: Buick Motor Division
copyright © all rights reserved