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70 Electra

First Use of Buick Tri-Shield Emblem?

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I've always thought the 1960 model year was the FIRST use of the Buick "tri-shield" emblem.

However, both the newest edition of the Gustin/Dunham book (usually accurate), and the Norbye/Dunn book (full of errors) refer to the tri-shield logo as being introduced for 1959, not 1960. <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

Perhaps they mean 1959 CALENDAR year? <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> That would be misleading, as the standard convention in both books is to refer to features/changes by MODEL year unless otherwise specified.

In any event, if anyone can confirm the emblem/logo existed prior to the 1960 model year vehicles, I'd like to hear about it.

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In a brochure I received from Buick comemorating a "Century of Buick" in a paragraph titled 1959 is says, "Sales slump; Buick drops Roadmaster, Super, Century and Special and introduces LeSabre; Invicta; and Electra. In honor of the three new names the "tri-shield" logo evolves from emblem based on Buick family's Scottish coat of arms." However, I don't recall seeing a "tri-shield" emblem on any car prior to 1960. <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />

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I'd read somewhere that the tri-shield was first introduced in 1959 representing the Electra, Invicta, and LeSabre. And 59 being the first year for all three of those models, that's when I'd assume the tri-shield came to be. I believe I read that on the official Buick website a while back, but I'm not positive anymore. I do definately remember what the tri-shield represented though. Kinda funny only the LeSabre survives today. The Invicta sure died out quick.

Romy

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Greg, you've raised an interesting question. Like you, I have always believed that the 1960 Buicks were the first to use the Buick tri-shield. Curiously, some of the 1960 accessories -- like the carpet savers and handy mats -- still employed the old style Buick crest.

I recently commented to some friends in the Buick Club, however, that I think that I can see how the tri-shield logo began to develop during the 1959 model year. If you look at some of Buick's '59 promotional literature, you will see that Buick was making a very big deal about its three new series names:

LeSabre: The thriftiest Buick

Invicta: The most spirited Buick

Electra: The most luxurious Buick

The advertising postcards and factory publicity photos often used triplet girls, again emphasizing the THREE new series of Buicks. Some of the sales literature carries a design or pattern comprised of three diamond-shaped outlines, with the names of the new series printed inside.

For my birthday this year, a long-time Buick buddy of mine sent me an incredible gift. The gift was a set of three license plates that were displayed on the new Buicks at the Chicago Auto Show back when the '59 Buicks were new. Each carries the name of one of Buick's three new series, along with the series tag line (thriftiest, spirited, luxurious). To the left of the series name are three large diamond patterns -- each in a different color and each representing one of the new Buick series. As I was admiring these, it suddenly occurred to me that what I was looking at were three diamond-shaped shields.

My theory is that someone had the great idea of taking these three shields -- each representing one of Buick's new series -- and incorporating aspects of Buick's traditional shield with the diagonal bar, cross, and animal head. Buick seemed to be grappling for a new logo or emblem with the '59 models, and the tri-shield emblem seemed like a solution to Buick's need.

Any feedback on this theory?

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Looks like three of us were replying to your topic at the same time. All seem to express a similar idea!

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I'm glad to see this is generating a lot of response and interest.

Brian, your theory is interesting and very plausible. Certainly 59 would have been the logical time for a new logo: new styling, new model names, new advertising agency, and desperation after crummy 58 sales. However, so far, all responses seem to support that the actual tri-shield emblem was not used in 59 and that 60 was the first year--as I'd suspected.

The fact that an "official" Buick document about the division's history mentions 1959 as the first year may be a history-revisionist thing, where one "official" document makes an error, and from there all the coffee-table books picked up the error and perpetuated it.

Can the 59 owners and/or literature collectors confirm that NO document on the 59 used the actual tri-shield and that it appears NOWHERE on the car itself? A 60 uses the emblem prominently in advertising, literature, owners manual, and on the car itself. (Although, as pointed out, the floor mats didn't catch on until a year or so later.) Let's get to the bottom of this! <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />

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Greg, I can confirm that the tri-shield logo did not appear anywhere on the 1959 model Buicks. The center of the car's steering wheel carried Buick's traditional crest, as did the center of the regular wheelcovers. Elsewhere, the car used a new winged logo that again carried some elements of the traditional crest. This is best seen on the large trunk lid ornament. The floor mats and grille ornament use the "V" mounted in a circle, that had been used in one form or another on some of the V8-powered Buicks of the 1950's.

My earlier point was only that I could see the origins of the tri-shield design emerging in some of the 1959 literature.

Dave, I will make a scan this weekend of one of those license plates, and will post it here.

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Perhaps related to this issue is the first use of the familiar Oldsmobile rocket emblem, the one that was used with minor updates until it was finally replaced by the aurora emblem. The first use on a CAR was 1965, as far as I know. However I have seen a video of Oldsmobile commercials that contains an episode of the Gary Moore show (anyone remember Derwood Kirby?), where he does a "live" Oldsmobile spot highlighting the 1964 models (which are actually on the stage). Yet on the wall in the background is a huge "65 and later" style rocket emblem.

It seems reasonable to expect that a manufacturer's newly decided upon emblem might crop up in literature and advertising starting the prior year.

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IN 1978 BUICK MADE UP A PROMOTIONAL MIRROR FOR IT'S 75TH ANNIVERSARY. THIS MIRROR SHOWS THE EVOLUTION OF THE BUICK EMBLEM FROM THE BEGINNING. THE TRI-SHIELD IS DATED AS 1960.

I DON'T RECALL IT BEING USED ANY EARLIER AS BADGING ON CARS, IT SEEMS THAT IN THE LATE 50'S THE "VEE" LOGO WAS DOMINANT ON THE CARS, POSSIBBLE A ATTEMPT TO BE MORE "MODERN" AND "WITH THE TIMES".

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In the past I have owned 2 59 buicks. One convertible and one 2 dr hrdtp. I don't recall there being a 'tri-shield' emblem or logo on either one.

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A additional to my earlier post. On the back of my dealer promotional mirror it says "1960 The Tri-Shield emblem which encorporates all the elements and colors of its predecessors, waws adopted in 1960...and is used today(1978) on the LeSabre, Estate Wagon, Century, Skyhawk, and Skylark series.

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Thanks, all. Looks like the consensus is that the first use of the tri-shield emblem (on a car, or in published sales literature) was actually 1960, not 1959. This confirms what I'd always believed.

In a related thread on this forum, Joe Taubitz ("the old guy") quoted from a Buick publication called Buick Service Signals, October 1967. It makes the claim of the tri-shield use in 1959. Since this document predates either the Gustin/Dunham book or the Norbye/Dunn book, it could have been the cause for perpetuating the mis-truth about the first use of the tri-shield.

Buick Service Signals, October 1967: "......The Buick coat of arms remained as the Buick emblem until 1959 when the tri-shield came into being. The three shields include the distinguishing marks of the original BUIK shield, and are each in one of Buick;s colors-red, white and blue.The shields also represents the three lines of cars offered by Buick in 1959--The Electra, the Invicta, and the LeSabre"

I guess we'll never know if that Buick writer's claim was an honest mistake, confusion, or wishful thinking.

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I agree that the tri-shield as we know it first appeared on the cars and in the literature in 1960.

I am posting here as an attachment a picture of one of the license plates from a Buick show car at the 1959 Chicago Auto Show. When I looked at the plate, it struck me that I was probably seeing the rudimentary origins of the tri-shield emblem.

I'll post a separate reply here with an attachment showing some '59 literature with variants of this tri-shield predecessor.

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Here is an attached photo, showing a small '59 features brochure, a '59 match book cover, and part of a '59 contest flyer. Each shows some variant of the three-shield idea, which might have been the beginning of the tri-shield emblem that first appeared on the 1960 models.

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Brian's pics confirm once again that a 59 flat-top is probably the most dramatically styled car General Motors ever built. The copper-brown two-door hardtop brings back memories- Mama's uncle had one, and his son used to like to go flying out of their driveway in reverse, whip it into the paved road, then take his knee and bump the Dynaflow into Low while simultaneously flooring the gas. The Buick took quite a bit of that abuse, but you can guess the u-joints and transmission finally decided they'd had enough.

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Still love the styling of the 59 Buicks. An AWESOME 1 year styling change. A little overdone maybe, but still the single most dramatic automotive styling change in history.

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Dave, good question. I hope that someone has an answer. Over time, the buck's head, the cross, the ornate top, and the checkered pattern in the diagonal bar of each shield have disappeared. This probably reflects someone's decision to make the emblem more modern and stylized, but I was disappointed to see the changes. Nonetheless, I still think the tri-shield emblem looks great forty-three years after it graced the 1960 Buicks.

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Hey guys- good topic.

I concur with Centurion: my '59 Invicta bears no Tri-Shield anywhere- just the old-style crest in the steering wheel center and the aforementioned hood & deck emblems. No Tri-Shield in the 2 sales brochures, the owner's manual or the chassis/body manuals either. Even '59 NOS parts' stickers bear the old crest. The Tri-Shield's first appearance was in '60.

I also agree it's more than likely the graphic emphasis of the 3 diamonds in '59 led to the Tri-Shield of '60. The old crest (and the DynaStar grille) were the only visual carry-overs from '58- wierd that in a completely new car they continued the old symbol.

What I've been wondering is why -when BMD obviously had the Special in the works- that they decided to emphasize 3 models instead of 4. I assume Buick thought it'd make the shield too busy.

Another note: it is INCREDIBLE to me to recently realize that Buick never used ANY logos in their print advertising until the '70s (the exception being 63-64 Rivs, which only used the "R"). What was going on there?? I have ads from the '30s to today and for example: 1973 4-page Apollo ad- no logo other than "GM", same for a 4-page full-line ad for '74-- plenty of room but no Tri-Shield. Seems it was '75 when the hawk first appeared- I was never crazy about that since the Tri-Shield wasn't ALSO used. So don't bother consulting print ads to determine changes in the Tri-Shield! I'll have to dig through my 80s sales brochures and see if I can find anything there.

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After a quick page-thru some of my collection: the Hawk symbol appeared in print ads exclusively from '75-'87. As far as I can tell, the first year the Tri-shield appeared in PRINT advertising was 1988!! It's like Buick almost was ashamed of their logo(s) or something...

As for the 'old/new' Tri-shield, this is all I found:

The 'old' Tri-Shields (with antelope, crosses & checkered diagonals) appear in these spots-

>Clear pic in a '68 GS road test- wheel center.

>'72 owner's manual on inside front cover- graphic.

>both the '78 & '80 shop manual covers- graphic.

The 'new' 'blank' Tri-Shield appears clearly on the front cover of the '84 brochure, with a clear shot of the then-brand-new FWD Electra's grille.

So the 'cleaned-up' emblem apparently appears between '80 and '84. Someone else is going to have to step up on this from here on- my reference for the '80s is sparse.

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Greg, it's possible that the Buick publication in question stated the tri-shield coming out in 1959 was due to the fact that the 1960's were introduced in 1959.

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Thank heavens for the great archival material in the Sloan Museum. Here's a quote from a 4/59 Buick Engineering presentation on the 1960 models, made to their advertising agency McCann-Erickson.....

"The red, white and blue triple-shield grille emblem INTRODUCES A NEW BUICK MOTIF, and will be found in other ornamentation." [capital letter added by me]

I think this nails it as far as 1960 clearly being the first MODEL year of the tri-shield.

Unfortunately, the misinformation about 1959 being the first year continues. A friend just picked up a beautiful brochure from the 2003 Detroit Auto Show that outlines Buick heritage. In it, it refers to 1959 as the first year for the tri-shield.

(Skyking, you may be right. In the initial posting, I suggested maybe the 1959 reference was for CALENDAR year rather than MODEL year. However, this would be misleading, since other references to years in both books consistently refer to model years, not calendar years.)

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Greg, I'm wondering whether you know how those of us who did not attend the Detroit Auto Show can obtain one of those beautiful books on Buick's heritage.

Does anyone know? Perhaps these books will be available in Flint . . .?

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