Motor’s million-dollar smile

6th October 2011'Story about  John Westwood and his 1949 Buick 'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE
6th October 2011'Story about John Westwood and his 1949 Buick 'PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

CARS don’t smile – or that’s what most people would agree – unless they’d met and fallen in love with the American car with the “million dollar grin”.

Vintage car fan John Westwood can certainly vouch for his love affair with the 1949 cream Buick he keeps at his home in Pontefract – a car that spent the 1960s neglected in a field in Colorado.

Mr Westwood, 56, said: “It was a once in a lifetime buy and I had been looking for a car like this more or less all my life.

“It was just sitting in a field in America. Because it didn’t meet its reserve price on Ebay I sent an email to the seller, we arranged a deal and he shipped it over to England. Now it’s working and fully functional it’s worth a considerable amount.

“I’d only ever seen it in a photo before it turned up. Considering it hadn’t turned a wheel since the 60s the restoration went quite smoothly, despite a few niggling problems with the engine.”

After two years of tinkering with the engine and sprucing up the chassis, Mr Westwood entered the car in the Car of the Year competition at the American Auto Club International summer nationals in Northampton in June, where it won a heat and qualified for the Footman James Classic Motor Show at the NEC Birmingham in November.

At the November event it will be in the running for the overall car of the year award.

Mr Westwood said: “At the show in November they will be judging the cars on originality, quality, how the car works and the general maintenance of the vehicle.

“There isn’t a prize for the show, just being entered and being able to exhibit your vehicle is enough.

“I just do it for the love of the car, it’s the car with the million dollar grin. The radiator grill makes it look like it’s smiling and that’s what a million dollar grin would look like.”

Mr Westwood – who also owns a blue 1949 Buick and a yellow 1949 Pontiac – said he had always been interested in cars but his interest in American motors peaked after he watched the 1973 film American Graffiti.

“That’s where my passion for American cars came from.

“The car itself is from a whole different world and it makes me feel like I’m from a different era.

“It was easy learning how to work on the car because you just pick it up as you go along, like most people do.

“I never trained as a mechanic or took a course, it was just something I picked up.”

Mr Westwood will share his penchant for motors with thousands of others at the NEC show where there will be more than 1,250 cars and 250 motorcycles on display.

But the 1949 Buick will be a rare spectacle with small number of the cars still in working order.

Mr Westwood added: “They had made around 4,000 cars like this in 1949 and now I think it is down to around 100 or so. The last two I heard of being sold were sent to Sweden.

“I take mine out for a spin around town every now and then, my car and modern day cars are worlds apart. There is no power steering, and no power brakes but I have installed some electric windows.”

John’s Buick will be on display at the show from November 11 to 13. Visit www.necclassicmotor for more information.