Big Bad Buicks – Are You a 3 or 4 Holer?

It all started in 1949, post-war creativity giving rise to Buick’s fender portholes or ventiports. The combination of “fighter plane exhaust stacks”, along with a “bomb sight” (rocket through ring) hood ornament introduced in 1946, simulated the driver’s own fighter plane. A true tribute to the men and women of the armed forces.

Buick’s chief stylist, Ned Nickles, went a step further…installing a flashing light inside each orifice, each timed to a specific spark plug that simulated the flames of a fighter jet’s exhaust stack. He can imagine the effect when his Buick, a 4 Holer, “took flight.”

Interesting note here; a 1955 issue of Hot Rod Magazine featured a JC Whitney ad for Buick bullseye aftermarket lights. I have a remnant of one of the lenses in a 4 holer panel.

Although the light feature didn’t get Buick built, the 3 and 4 Holers, or Ventiports, became synonymous with Buick in 1949. They weren’t functional as vents, but they became very important in a different way… The models lower-cost models were equipped with three portholes, while higher-cost models came with four. Often people would denote their cars as “Four Holes” or “Three Holes” to assert the class of the car. When the number of portholes was standardized across the model line, buyers of higher-cost models complained bitterly that they felt ripped off. Is this like us or what? It will probably lead to some “heated” exchanges.

Speaking of “heat”, do you remember the television series “Highway Patrol” presented in 1955? Broderick Crawford was Dan Matthews, the California lawman who grunted “10-4” out of that now famous 1955 Buick Century (it was a 4 Holer, by the way!) His car was one of 270 Buicks specially designed for the California Highway Patrol, for a 322 CID beast pounding 236 HP (big deal then) down the highway looking for bad guys. And get this, he won the top speed that year at 108 mph before breaking the tread of the new state-of-the-art tubeless tires.

All told by history, Buick has reintroduced “Ventiports” on the 2011 LaCrosse and Enclave models, along the inner hood ridges. The 2011 Lucerne keeps them on the fender and…that’s 4 Holers!!!

So does RU have 3 or 4 holes? Whichever it is, enjoy the ride!

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