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

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

Buick’s chief stylist Ned Nickles took it a step further … he installed a flashing light inside each hole, each timed to a specific spark plug that simulated the flames from the exhaust of a fighter jet. You can imagine the effect when your Buick, a 4 Holer, “took off.”

Interesting note here; A 1955 issue of Hot Rod Magazine featured a JC Whitney advertisement for Buick’s aftermarket porthole lights. I have a remnant of one of the lenses in a 4 hole panel.

Although the light feature did not make the Buick production, the 3 and 4 Holers, or Ventiports, became synonymous with Buick in 1949. They were not functional as vents, but they became very important in a different way … The lower-cost models were equipped with three portholes, while the higher-cost models came with four. Often times, people denote their cars as “Four-Holers” or “Three-Holers” to affirm the class of the car. When the number of portholes was standardized across the model line, buyers of the higher-cost models bitterly complained that they were disappointed. Is that like us or what? It will probably lead to some “heated” exchanges.

Speaking of “heat”, remember the TV series “Highway Patrol” released in 1955? Broderick Crawford was Dan Matthews, the California law enforcement officer who growled “10-4” from the now famous 1955 Buick Century (by the way, it was a 4 Holer!). His car was one of 270 Buicks specially designed for the California Highway Patrol, powered by a 322 CID beast pounding 236 HP (big deal then) down the highway looking for the bad guys. And get this done, it gained top speed that year at a speed of 108 mph before breaking the tread on the new, next-gen tubeless tires.

With all that history has said, Buick has reintroduced “Ventiports” on the 2011 LaCrosse and Enclave models, along the inside edges of the hood. The 2011 Lucerne keeps them on the fender and … it’s 4 Holers!

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

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