Robert L. Darling's 1949 Buick

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This photo of Robert's Buick was printed in the official program for the 4th annual Indianapolis Custom Auto Show in 1953.
The Buick as it sat in 1962, parked on a street in Boulder, Colorado. Robert Orr took this photo at age 14. Photo by Robert Orr, courtesy of John Brumder.
The Buick as it looked when John Brumder bought it from Andy Clark in 2000. Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
The Buick as it appeared after John Brumder had restored and street-roded it. The restoration was completed in 2004. Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.
Photo courtesy of John Brumder.

1949 Buick originally owned and restyled by Robert L. Darling of Jeffersonville, Indiana. In 1953 Robert's sport custom was shown at the 4th annual Indianapolis Custom Auto Show. According to the official program from the show, Robert's Buick powered custom featured a body made up of Buick, Chrysler and DeSoto parts.[1]


In 2000 John Brumder of Boulder, Colorado bought the car from Andy Clark of Westminister, Colorado. Andy told John that he had bought the car from a gentleman named Harvey Fullerton. Harvey had told Andy that he had found the car in Europe. Harvey had been in the furniture business, traveling frequently to Europe, buying furniture that he resold in the United States. He apparently found the car on one of those trips, bought it, and brought it back with him to the United States. Harvey drove the Buick around for an undetermined number of years before it was parked outside. It sat outside, unprotected for about 30 years. Twenty years or so outside Harvey's house, and then another ten or so outside Andy's house. John Brumder found the car trough an ad in the local Auto Trader Magazine. John's friend Carl Wells, that ran C. W. Performance, motivated John to buy the old custom. After buying it, Carl managed the restoration of the car, and built it up as a street rod for John. The original straight eight engine and Dyna-flo transmission were replaced with a GM 502 crate engine and Turbo 400 transmission. The stock "C" channel frame rails had been boxed in, end to end with very heavy plate steel. Wade Moon Racing modified the frame to accept modern later model stock car type suspension, disc brakes, a quick-change rear end and power steering. The body panels were all rigidly attached to the frame using steel angle iron bracing. During the build, the bodywork was cleaned up. The original shape and styling features were left untouched, with exception of eliminating some of the original stock chrome strip pieces such as the spears atop the front fenders and the stock front bumper that was replaced by a custom extruded aluminum part. In John's opinion, the old front bumper was too bulky and ugly for the car. A Le Mans-type fuel filer cap, custom wheels, additional modern gauges and a modern heater and air conditioner were added. The rear glass had a code on it that crossed to a 1949 Chevrolet Sedan. Once the bodywork was done, the car was painted in a light metallic blue BMW color. Rich Lowrance of Auto Interiors of Boulder upholstered the restored version of the car for John. The build up was completed in about 2004. From the little paint remaining on the car, it appeared that the car had been painted black after Darling had first restyled it. A medium shade of blue had been sprayed over the black paint, indicating that it could have been painted blue sometime between 1953 and 1962. At a car show John attended with the Buick, Robert Orr recognized it from a photograph he had taken of the car parked on a street in Boulder, Colorado in 1962. Robert was 14 years old when he took the photo. When the photo was taken, the car had side curtains and wire wheels, these were not present when John bought it.[2]


In 2011 John wrote Kustomrama to see if they had any information on his old custom. Not being able to recognize the car, Sondre Kvipt ran a story on the Buick in the Kustomrama Newsletter, looking for more information. Nobody responded to the ad. About a year later, Sondre bought an old program from the 1953 Indianapolis Custom Auto Show on eBay. On page 12 in the program he spotted the Buick. The photo caption adressed Robert L. Darling as the original builder and owner.[3] Sondre immediately notified John, who immediately began to track down Robert L. Darling or his descendants. Unfortunately for John, Robert L. Darling and his sons Robert L. Darling Jr, and Daniel E. Darling had passed away. John found out that the Darling family had run a yacht company in Jeffersonville called Darling Yacht, Inc. He called the company, and left a message on the answering machine. Several hours later, Michelle Darling, the widow of Daniel E. Darling returned the call. She seemed excited to hear that the old Buick was still around. Next mystery to solve now, is to find out if the car was shipped to Europe? And how and where Harvey Fullerton found it?[2]


References

  1. Indianapolis 1953 Custom Auto Show Official Program
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Brumder
  3. Sondre Kvipt


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