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Bill Mitchells' 1956 Century X


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Roberta, Joe, Norb -- this is a question for you folks!

We know that a very special, one-off 1956 Buick Century was built for William Mitchell -- Harley Earl's successor as the czar of GM Styling. Roberta, I believe that you've mentioned previously that the car still exists and is under restoration in Michigan.

If any of you know who owns this car and how the owner can be contacted, will you please send me a private message? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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It's been difficult to find much information about this car, but, as I recall, it had a 2-4bbl. carburetor set-up. Here's a photo of the carbs that has been on the Internet for some time. The photo caption says:

1956 Buick Century "X"

Special GM Show Car

2 x 4 BBL Carter WCFB

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While I had been thinking about this car within the last week, I was approached last night by the owner of a '56 Century convertible. This fellow's father had owned the Buick dealership in Ellensburg during the 1950's, and his father had given him a red '54 Skylark when he turned 16. He owned the Skylark for 48 years before selling it last year, because he realized that what he really wanted all along was a '56 Century -- not a '54 Skylark.

At any rate, this fellow had made a number of visits to Flint with his father during the mid-1950's. He mentioned to me that his favorite Buick of all time was the very special '56 Century built for Bill Mitchell. So, here was some further confirmation that such a car was built.

I'm inquiring about the car to learn about the status of its restoration and whether the owner has plans to show the car.

By the way, the owner of the '56 Century I spoke to will display his car in Seattle next year. He says that the car is stunning, and was reputed to be the nicest '56 Century in the country. He shared with me a modification that he's currently making; light bulbs placed in the car's portholes will blink sequentially when the turn signals are actuated.

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  • 3 years later...

Brian, I found this thread today for the first time.

I see you have a photo of the rebuilt engine for the 56X. I am a friend of the current owner and we start restoration of this car in the fall of 2010.

He is presently trying to document the interior of the car and is looking for any photos that show the upholstery panels, the center console, or any information about the interior. There's not much to go on right now.

Any help with photos, articles, etc would be greatly appreciated. We do know that Bill Mitchell was a great fan of the Road America track back during that era and may have taken the car there.

Chuck

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Brian, I found this thread today for the first time.

I see you have a photo of the rebuilt engine for the 56X. I am a friend of the current owner and we start restoration of this car in the fall of 2010.

He is presently trying to document the interior of the car and is looking for any photos that show the upholstery panels, the center console, or any information about the interior. There's not much to go on right now.

Any help with photos, articles, etc would be greatly appreciated. We do know that Bill Mitchell was a great fan of the Road America track back during that era and may have taken the car there.

Chuck

Chuck, I was pleased to see your response to this old topic. I hope you will continue to check back to the site here and provide updates as the restoration progresses. I will share your comments with others who might be able to help furnish information regarding the car's interior.

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Brian, the car in question (pictured) seems to be a Roadmaster, not a Century..

Skyking, the car in the picture would be a Century. 3 things tip that off. 1 the wide chrome rear light bezels. Roadmasters have a skinny maybe 1 " wide taillight bezel. 2, the "C" beltline scoop under the rear window. The Roadmaster and Super does not have that. 2rd is the vent windows. Notice how they are narrower on the bottom than the top? The Roadie would have noticably rectangular vent windows.

The car in the picture appears to have Bucket seats, and a hard boot for the convertible top. Pretty cool. I wonder what the dynaflow would be like with 2 4's. Bet he broke a lot of reverse band struts with that baby.

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John, I wasn't doubting that it wasn't a Century, I know nothing about this car. I was wondering why they made it appear to look like a Roadmaster. That's the first impression I got when I looked at it, especially with the side moulding.......

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  • 9 months later...

Brian, just a quick update to let you know the progress on the Mitchell 1956X Century.

We have disassembled the car and have so far - restored and repainted the frame, installed all new brake lines, painted the suspension components, inventoried all original parts, started cleaning and disassembly on the custom interior components, verified through GM Archives all the original modifications by the Styling Studio to the original production black Century and many other items.

Removing the upholstery panels allowed us to verify the SO number that was on the back of the upholstery panels is the correct SO number for Bill Mitchell;s 1956X. The SO number is also on a tag on the cowl of the car.

We had hoped to develop a website but do not have a webmaster who can do that. Do you have any suggestions how we might get this done?

Chuck

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post-67784-143138450066_thumb.jpg

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Chuck, thanks so much for your update and for the photos. We will be most excited to see the progress on this special car!

I don't have a suggestion for a webmaster for the project, but perhaps others will have some input on that question.

Please continue to keep us posted!

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I don't know how to make a website, but I am working with someone to build a new website for our Chapter using the godaddy.com website. It's not free and I'm sure there are free webhosts out there, but since we are just learning about this, the godaddy site has been a big help and the cost is not outrageous.

Looking forward to watching this car come together.

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Yes, the frame and suspension were red on the original car. The color is documented in the GM Archives as Seminole Red. And that is the color used for this restoration.

We have original GM Archive documentation for all the modifications to this car and are using those as reference for the restoration.

I'll post more photos until we get a web site developed. Thanks to those who have volunteered to help. We are discussing at the moment and will get back to you.

Chuck

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  • 3 weeks later...

You can almost bet that if Bill Mitchell had anything to do with the building of this car, then there would be parts of it that were painted red that otherwise would have probably been black. All one has to do is look at his Silver Arrow I, II, and III to see where he used red paint to compliment the rest of the car.

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  • 1 year later...

Does anyone have the latest on this show car? The Buick Bugle had a story on it in the June 2012 issue. Any recent photos of the restoration? I know of the web site put up by the people restoring the 56x, but the photos do not come up. Attached are the only two photos i have, but they are not recent.

Dave Gelinas

BCA 26773

1938 Buick Special Touring Sedan

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Thank you for the interest in the Bill Mitchell 1956X Buick.

Dave, the crew for the restoration took a summer break and will return to work on the 1956X September 11th. There are not many photos loaded and I will get more photos loaded soon. I had problems loading them correctly - my fault, I'm sure! Just too busy this summer to keep it up.

We have made significant progress and have completed the chassis, the body is near completion and we have reproduced many one-off parts for this car. Some were missing, some we had only one of the originals and some were too far gone to reuse. The interior is proving to be a challenge as Buick changed it to a stock interior arrangment and removed the buckert seats and console before they sold it off.

I will try to load photos for each work session as quickly as I can.

Check out this website https://sites.google.com/site/1956xcentury/home for details of what we have done so far. I'll get more photos posted.

We're still looking for information on the interior - photos, descriptions, etc.

Does anyone have the latest on this show car? The Buick Bugle had a story on it in the June 2012 issue. Any recent photos of the restoration? I know of the web site put up by the people restoring the 56x, but the photos do not come up. Attached are the only two photos i have, but they are not recent.

Dave Gelinas

BCA 26773

1938 Buick Special Touring Sedan

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What a great project and I'm sure the team that is working on it feel very privileged to be able to participate. Look forward to following the process and tried to subscribe to the blog but since I have never participated in bloggin, guess I need to figure that out, first thing being which service to use. duhh

I see mention of photos in all the blog dates listed but no pictures? I assume those are the pictures you speak of needing to ad or am I missing something.

I am seeing so many little deviations from a regular production car in just the one main page picture. I like the location of the Century emblem in the sculpted panel just below the back window. I'll be very interested in following the bucket seat restoration part.

Thanks for sharing, can't wait to see more. Would love to be up there helping.

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Don't know how I missed this thread until now - Bill Mitchell is my personal god, although I didn't know it originally. When I was a teenager, I recognized contemporary muscle cars for what they were - cheap cars with big engines. What I loved was the big cars in which those engines really belonged. My favourites were the '67 Eldorado, '65 Lincoln, '69 Grand Prix (admittedly down-sized), and the '68 Imperial LeBaron, although I cursed Chrysler for not building a 2-door version. Many of my dream cars were styled under the leadership of Bill Mitchell, although few of us outside of Detroit then knew his name or his stature in the design field.

My car club in the 1970's, the Alberta Post-War Car Society, hosted a local summer gathering for several years: Motoring Memories. We got in the habit of inviting prominent people from the old car hobby and some who were active in the auto industry, during the time period which we celebrated. Our guests included Don Peterson (West's dad), Tom Murray (a writer and retired advertising exec for Chevrolet), Ray Doernn (president of the Chrysler 300 Club), Dick Teague (retired styling chief at AMC and Packard), and David Brownell, editor of "Special Interest Autos" magazine.

Two Motoring Memories invitees, whom we weren't able to bring to Edmonton, were Brooks Stevens and Bill Mitchell. Mr. Stevens had planned to come but he'd had a busy spring and summer visiting other car hobby gatherings. His family begged him to stay home and get some rest, so he declined a month or so before the event. Having talked to him on the phone a couple of times, it's one of my life's regrets that I didn't hop on a plane and go visit him instead. Amazing man, who died later that year.

Mr. Mitchell was already in declining health when we approached him about coming to Edmonton. He sent a nice letter of regret and wished us well for our event. He too died later that year. If there's a Bill Mitchell archive collection somewhere, I'd be happy to donate this letter.

This hot rod Century is so typical of the cars he had built for his own use, which also served to stretch the imagination and skills of those who created them. Not all of Mr. Mitchell's toys had a direct influence on later production models and some seem pretty outlandish today. A few were home run hits, though, and I'm so pleased to be looking in on the restoration of this one.

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By the way, the owner of the '56 Century I spoke to will display his car in Seattle next year. He says that the car is stunning, and was reputed to be the nicest '56 Century in the country. He shared with me a modification that he's currently making; light bulbs placed in the car's portholes will blink sequentially when the turn signals are actuated.

Ned Nickles had placed amber lights in the port holes but attached to the distributor so that they would flash with each spark. I seem to recall that he got a kick out of driving inside a tunnel and seeing the flashes of light bounce off the walls.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 1 month later...
UPDATE!

I have been to the 56X web site.

Photos have been posted. The Buick is coming along very well.

These Guy's know what they are doing.

Can't wait to see the finished product.

Thanks for checking out our website. I went through a long learning process uploading photos and data and think I finally have it correct. Photos are loaded from January, 2012 through March 19, 2013 now. I will update weekly for each session through May, 2013. Then we break for the summer and come back in September.

Current plans call for the body to ready for paint at the end of May, 2013. The chassis is complete and ready to be installed under the body. It is gorgeous in Seminole Red as it was originally painted. There are at least a hundred unique things on this car and we are doing our best to identify and make sure they are as original.

We still need photos of the interior to complete the interior design. The car originally had four bucket seats and consoles between the front and rear seats. The driver's seat rotated 90 degrees for entry/exit and the passenger seat rotated 180 degress. There were special foot rests for all four passengers.

I intend to eventually back fill photos from the 2010 and 2011 work sessions as time permits so please keep checking.

Thanks again for following our progress.

Chuck

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  • 6 months later...

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