22 hp under hood
The Motor World reported in its discussion of the show: "There is one newcomer which must command the attention of the public, the Buick, already famous for claims of wonderful development of horsepower from a relatively small engine.
Twenty-two guaranteed horsepower from two 4½-by-5 cylinders is equal to, if not in excess of, the best performances by a motor of any kind."
The publication also interviewed the reticent David Buick. It reported: "Mr. Buick
very generally and in a very nice way explains why he is certainly getting more horsepower than engines of similar size."
Upon his return to Flint from New York on Jan. 23, 1905, Buick said, "The Buick car was the sensation in its class."
But David's time in the sun in the Buick organization was growing short.
Before the end of 1905, it became apparent that Durant was beginning to lean more on Marr than on David for mechanical expertise. Late in the year, Durant and his attorney, John J. Carton, needed to list the assets that would justify a boost in Buick's capitalization, from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
Finding himself $60,000 short when he added them up, Carton assigned that amount of value to contracts between Durant and Marr for "the exclusive use by said W.C. Durant of improvements in explosive engine construction, invented by said Walter L. Marr but on account of business reasons not patented.
" Carton's use of Marr's name, rather than David Buick's, made it clear that Marr was now recognized within the company as its mechanical innovator.
There was also no question about who was in charge at Buick.
William Beacraft remembered the situation when he arrived in Flint in late 1903 as Arthur Mason's engine foreman and master mechanic, at a time when the company had only 40 employees: "It was when W.C. Durant took hold that the company was reorganized and took on new life.
In those days we were so busy that I used to sleep in the shop, but we never could keep up with the demand."
Durant eclipses Buick
With Billy Durant in control of Buick Motor Co., the next few years were charged with energy. As Ben Briscoe (a Detroit auto supplier and manufacturer) wrote in 1921, the period after Durant's 1904 takeover was "so fraught with romance that it made the Arabian Nights look commonplace."
As for David Buick, it's ironic he was overshadowed by Durant and virtually becomes lost in the historical record because his name would hardly be remembered at all if Durant hadn't built the company into a giant.
"Never was there such a man (as Durant)," wrote C.B. Glasscock in The Gasoline Age in 1937. "Beside him Henry Ford was a plodding, insignificant, colorless mechanic utterly lacking in romance or drama, without distinction, without charm -- the tortoise beside the hare." Glasscock and others credit Durant for linking the auto industry to Wall Street, bringing in much more money as well as stock promotion.
Take a quick look at his accomplishments of the next few years. Thanks to the financial success of Buick, Durant was in position in early 1908 to pull together a group of auto and supplier firms under one umbrella. Durant first met with Briscoe, Buick's original financial angel and at that time head of the Maxwell-Briscoe Co., over breakfast at the Dresden Hotel in Flint and then at Buick headquarters there, to discuss a consolidation of car companies in the low-priced field.