The 1960 Buick
Production Oddities
You are no doubt familiar with the phrase "Body by Fisher". Buick proudly advertised this feature, but what they didn't tell you was that their station wagon bodies actually were not made by Fisher.... at least not completely.
Originally Casino Cream, this beautiful 3-seat LeSabre wagon was once on display in the exclusive Mitchell-Bentley Station Wagon Museum. It has since been repurchased by the family that restored it.
Unlike the higher volume Chevrolet and Pontiac wagons, the low volume 1960 Buick wagon bodies (and Oldsmobile, too) were produced by the Ionia Manufacturing Company of Owosso Michigan. Ionia was an independent company that made bodies and trim for the auto industry, and was part of the large Mitchell-Bentley Corporation. In addition to producing Buick wagon bodies from 1946 through 1964, they made a variety of other bodies or vehicle modifications. Just a few examples from this time period include Oldsmobile wagon bodies (1957-64), Lincoln Continental Mk II bodies (1956-57); and the semi-custom Packard Caribbean.

Open the door on a 1960 Buick wagon and you will see that in place of a "Body by Fisher" tag on the sill plate, there is a "Ionia Body" tag (see photo above). Similarly, the cowl tag states "Mitchell-Bentley Corp" instead of "Body by Fisher" (see website section on body tag decoding).

A knowledgeable enthusiast that is intimately familiar with 1959-60 GM wagons has provided me detailed information on the differences between Ionia and Fisher bodies. This individual has performed extensive body-off restorations on both Buick and Chevrolet wagons from 1959 and 1960, and is likely the foremost expert anywhere on this subject. Below are his comments regarding the 1960 Buick station wagon bodies.
"Fisher provided a partially assembled cowl assembly that consisted of firewall, plenum, windshield pillars, floors (front & rear), door pillars, doors, and roof. The rear quarters were shipped loose, and were from a LeSabre/Invicta 4dr sedan.

"Ionia-supplied components included rear cargo deck, seats, quarter inners, rear quarter floors, spare tire bin, tailgate. To the Fisher roof, Ionia added a 4" extension that was later covered with a "cap" molding (either chrome or non-chrome, depending on trim level).

"The rear side glass and tailgate glass were unique to the Buick and were gently bowed, or curved. (If you buy one of these, make sure the glass is good, as it is a bear to find replacements!) The Buick-specific tailgate glass frame was made of polished stainless steel rather than the more typical chromed steel.
"Quality is poor and typical of low-volume hand-finished body construction. Examples include poor gas welds, sloppy lead joints, bad panel fits, even worse windshield and quarter glass fits, water leaks, and more. Normal mass production Fisher assembly quality was far better and much more consistent than that from Ionia."
LEFT: 1956 Buick station wagon bodies at Ionia factory.
This tired Invicta wagon is useful to show the wide bright roof moldings that were optional on LeSabres. (Contrast this with black car above.) The forward mounted luggage rack is correct and was a $99 option. Sharp eyes will note that this Invicta is the very rare 3-seat model. Only 1,605 were built, making it the rarest 1960 Buick model.
3rd Seat is New Feature
In 1959, Buick offered a "buddy" seat for the cargo area of the station wagon. It was really just a simple thin seat that bolted to the load floor, and was barely suitable for for small children.

In 1960, a true 3rd seat option was made available on LeSabre and Invicta wagons for the first time. These three-seat versions received unique model numbers (4445 & 4645), and a standard power tailgate window. The power tailgate window was optional on 2-seat wagons.
The roof extension panel can be seen well in this photo. Here, it does not use a bright molding to cover it.
Here is a view of the 3rd seat on a 1960 Buick station wagon. This particular car is a LeSabre, and exhibits the all-vinyl ("Cordaveen") seating that is identical to that found on LeSabre convertibles.

Note the spare tire location. This is in stark contrast to a 1960 Chevrolet wagon, which mounted the tire under the car, like a pickup truck. By mounting the spare in this location, the Buick wagon was able to use the standard passenger car fuel tank and fuel filler location (behind license plate).
COPYRIGHT 2005 by Gregory L. Cockerill. All text contained herein, including interviews/recollections of other parties, is my original work and is owned by me. This also applies to all images of my white 1960 LeSabre convertible. As such, the aforementioned material may not be used without express written permission. Other images presented herein are either from the public domain or used with permission of the owner(s).