If 1949 was the year that put Buick at the forefront of elegant, modern, postwar design, then 1950 has to be the year that should have seen–if anything–mild facelifts that only improved the new look from Flint. This, in fact, happened to some degree, as is often the case when a complete redesign is a few years into the future. But of all the mechanical advancements and visual updates that appeared, it was the new face of Buick that stole the headlines. Upon introduction, the graceful waterfall grille had morphed into the bucktooth Buick overnight.
In previous incarnations, the vertical grille bars–significantly slimmer, mind–were positioned behind the upper grille bar, or mustache, and the bumper. For 1950, the grille bars, nine individual pieces, began at the upper grille bar in traditional fashion, and then were extended over and around the bumper. No longer just a static design element, the vertical bars inadvertently (perhaps?) doubled as bumper guards, which were mounted via bolts through the bumper and the bumper support bar. On paper, the combination bumper-grille was full of positives: The Buick front office claimed that, in the event of a collision or minor impact, damaged bars could be replaced individually–rather than the whole unit of previous years–thus reducing repair costs. But aside from the love-it-or-hate-it response the grille received from buyers, problems arose.
Each of the nine bars is uniquely different from one another (and as a result, all have different part numbers). Due to the contour of the bumper, bars left of the center vertical cannot be repositioned to the right, and vice versa. Additionally, each bar received a second, single digit number, and they were arranged in a descending, center-out configuration beginning with bar number seven in the center. Except that number six was skipped, zero was a factor and the end bars were numbered eight and nine (odd numbers were on the left side of the vehicle, even on the right).
Rather than being mere lightweight trim, the bars were relatively hefty and cumbersome by comparison. Furthermore, they had to be ordered on an individual basis, and they occupied more stock room shelving than the previous grille assemblies. More than anything, the design proved to be more costly than originally thought. Before model year production had ceased, and with the novelty quickly wearing off among buyers, it became apparent that reverting back to an updated recessed waterfall grille would need to be done for the 1951 models. Buick retained that grille until the 1955 model year.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Matt Litwin.