Be excited for today's car for two reasons. First, I'm not very up on American classics and so spent more time researching than normal. Second, to understand this car, you must understand the rise of a company named Wells Fargo.
Let's start with the second point. Before Wells Fargo was one of the largest banks in the U.S., it was the brainchild of Henry Wells and William G. Fargo. In 1850, they merged their express delivery company with another to form American Express. (Yes, that one.)
America in the late 1800s was obviously quite different. With gold and oil discoveries in the West—not to mention rapid population expansion across the continent—delivering parcels and money was a lucrative business, and most of it was delivered by stagecoach, riders, or the railway.
Wells and Fargo didn't want to miss the business opportunity a strong West offered, so they started Wells Fargo while still running the reluctant-to-expand-west American Express.
Fast forward through decades of an epic battle for delivery and banking supremacy and you end up with an extremely popular U.S. TV western called Tales of Wells Fargo, starring Dale Robertson.
The show's sponsor? Buick.
Back then, the divisions of General Motors were pretty much free to do what they pleased, and Buick's 1950 Limited model was actually priced to overlap some models of Cadillac's seminal 62.
How? It had the Fashion-Aire Dynastar grille, with 160 chrome squares—almost like putting a flattened disco ball on the front of your car. It had chrome everywhere—chrome was cast into "gun sight" fender toppers, as bulging Dagmar bumpers, as side slats, to top the tail fins, and to outline the brand's signature Sweepspear side trim.
The modern equivalent of a 1958 Buick? I don't know…maybe a Ford King Ranch? Everyday mechanicals in an over-the-top appearance package, with features and a list price to match.
In any case, the 1958 Buick Limited "Wells Fargo" was a publicity vehicle to wow show crowds before being gifted to Tales of Wells Fargo's star, Dale Robertson.
Buick's changes to this particular show car managed to nearly—nearly—subdue the car's styling. Solid walnut rear panels with "Wells Fargo" script! A longhorn steer head over the "V" front emblem! Flipper hubcaps!
Inside, though, things got a little Wild West. Full calfskin seats and carpet, walnut door panels, pearl-handled Colt revolvers…and a transmission tunnel that housed two chrome-plated Winchester rifles.
Obviously, models on the auto show circuit promoted these details with not-suggestive-at-all "modelling." The car was sold twice at auction in the late 1990s but I haven't seen any mention of it since…
Of course, the Wells Fargo Buick Limited was certainly not the first—or last—vehicle made with shooting enthusiasts in mind.
But that's a story for another day.