Rick Fishman is an art deco bon vivant, antique dealer, musician, preservationist, historian, designer and entrepreneur. He is the owner of Art Deco Collection in San Francisco.
I grew up in Detroit, and we were always focused on American cars – especially the big luxury models. I have two older brothers, and when we each turned 16 we got our first rides. Mine was a Corvair Monza, but my dad always had Buicks – he especially loved the Electra 225. My desire to own a vintage 1930s car began when I met Laurie Gordon (who is now my wife) and went with her to the Art Deco Society of California’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon. It’s an amazing 1920s and ’30s themed picnic, dance and car show held every year at Dunsmuir Mansion in Oakland. That first year I arrived in a borrowed 1938 Buick, and the sight of 75 cars spread over the lawn by the mansion really began my quest for my own “dream car.” My 1936 Buick convertible isn’t my first vintage auto, but it truly is the one I have always wanted. I started with a cream colored ’41 Buick coupe, and later a burgundy ’38 Buick sedan. They were both great cars, but I always wanted the more glamorous, free-spirit feeling of a convertible. That’s what seems to embody the essence of the era to me. And the era of the 1930s means more to me than most people because I have really developed a lifestyle around that period of time with an apartment that is decorated in Art Deco style. In fact, my antique store on Market Street is called Art Deco Collection and I play guitar in the Martini Brothers Band, a group that specializes in the great music of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Mr. Rick’s Martini Club is a group that puts on 1930s styled swing dance/supper club events. So, yes, I’ve got the tunes, the clothes, the hats, the books and movies that all go with the era. The vintage Buick is sort of the ultimate symbol of the romance of the time. The Internet now plays a huge role in making vintage car ownership possible and viable. The good news is that you can find virtually any car part that you need for repairs or improvements online – and most often within a day! The old complaint mechanics give you about “not being able to get parts” simply isn’t true anymore, because there are whole businesses set up to sell new parts, salvaged old parts or the favorite find: the “NOS” (new old stock) pieces that are original, but for some reason were never used.
The Internet can be a great place to search for your “dream car,” too. When I found a beautiful blue 1936 convertible I thought, “This is it!” It looked so good in pictures, but pictures never show you the rust underneath the paint. When it arrived from the East Coast I realized that it was going to need an awful lot of bodywork to bring it to the point that would make me happy. So I took a deep breath and plunged in for what was about two years of total frame-off bodywork, new upholstery, engine repairs and paint. As long as I was doing the metal work, I decided to go for a color scheme that would be really dramatic. I picked an original color from a Buick brochure printed in 1936. It’s called “Francis Cream” – a soft yellow – and then went with a bold dark-red leather interior with a custom black-and-red top. I started collecting “eye candy” like fender skirts, chrome insignias, silvered headlamps and even the “safety star” on the back bumper. Driving my Buick makes me feel like I’m in a classic movie, but what I enjoy most is seeing the reaction of people who view the car at an event, in a parade, driving along the road, stopped at a corner or when it is parked. There is no end to the honking, the waving, the thumbs-up and the smiles. Everyone it seems wants to take a picture, ask a question or just reminisce. It seems to lift their spirits just to see this gorgeous machine from the golden age of autos.