Article Categories Automotive Classic-Cars

Big Bad Buicks - Are You A 3 Or 4 Holer?


By: Ted Shavers


It all started in 1949, postwar creativity gave birth to the Buick fender portholes or ventiports. The combination of "fighter plane exhaust stacks", along with a "bombsight" hood ornament (rocket through ring) introduced in 1946, simulated a driver's very own fighter plane. A true tribute to the men and women of the armed forces.

Chief Buick stylist Ned Nickles, took it a step further...he installed a flashing light within each hole, each synchronized with a specific spark plug simulating the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter plane. You can imagine the affect as his Buick, a 4 Holer, "took flight".

Interesting note here; a 1955 issue of Hot Rod Magazine included a JC Whitney ad for Buick porthole aftermarket lights. I have a remnant of one of the lenses in a 4 Holer panel.

Although the light feature did not make Buick production, the 3 and 4 Holers, or Ventiports, became synonymous with Buick in 1949. They were non functional as vents but became very important in a different way...Lower cost models were equipped with three portholes, while higher cost models came with four. Often, people would denote their cars as "Four-Holers" or "Three-Holers" to assert the car's class. When the number of portholes was standardized across the entire model line, buyers of the higher cost models complained bitterly that they felt shortchanged. Is that just like us or what?! Probably lead to some "heated" exchanges.

Talking "heat", do you remember the "Highway Patrol" TV series introduced in 1955? Broderick Crawford was Dan Matthews, the California Lawman that growled "10-4" from that now famous 1955 Buick Century (it was a 4 Holer by the way!) His car was one of 270 Buicks especially designed for the California Highway Patrol, powered by a 322 CID beast pounding 236 HP (Big deal then) down the highway in search of the bad guys. And get this, it won top speed that year at a dyno'ed 108 mph before tearing the tread of the new state-of-the-art tubeless tires.

All that history said, Buick has reintroduced the "Ventiports" on the 2011 LaCrosse and Enclave models, along the inner hood ridges. The 2011 Lucerne keeps them on the fender and...they're 4 Holers!!!

So, R U a 3 or 4 Holer? Which ever it is, enjoy the ride!

Similar Articles