1959 Buick Radio Options

Radios were optional on all models of the 1959 Buick with three options available.  Buyers had a choice of Sonomatic Push Button radio, Wonder Bar radio with foot switch, and the Transistor Portable radio.  All 3 radios featured manual and push button tuning.  Other options include rear speaker and power antenna.

As can be seen from the photo, this car was ordered with the Wonder Bar Radio, Power Antenna and Rear Speaker.  The below photo (taken before the restoration) shows the radio and switches for the power antenna (left of the courtesy light) and rear speaker (right of the courtesy light).  A close look will reveal the “Wonder Bar” located just above the radio dial.  Pressing the wonderbar engaged a signal seeking circuit which activated a small electric motor that moved the pointer to the next AM signal detected.  The radio also featured a sensitivity dial beneath the volume knob that allowed the user to vary the strength of the signal needed to stop at any particular station.  The Wonder Bar radio also included a special foot switch located on the toe board to the left of the brake pedal.  Depressing this switch allowed the user to engage the signal seeking circuit to change radio stations (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

Below are descriptions of the different radio options from the 1959 Buick Facts Book (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

It was not possible to order both the Wonder Bar and the Transistor Portable together.  Whereas the Wonder Bar radio used vacuum tube electronics located directly in the dash mounted radio, the transistor electronics for both the dash mounted radio and the portable radio were housed in the Transistor Portable radio located in the glove box.  Although the dash mounted radio for the Transistor Portable option looked identical to the Sonomatic, and it played through the car speakers, in reality the dash unit was a dummy with it’s volume and station controls remotely controlling the electronics from the portable.  This means that the dash radio could not operate without the portable being plugged into its correct location in the glove box.  While the Sonomatic and the Wonder Bar radios would take a few seconds for the tubes to warm up before playing,  both the dash mounted unit and the portable unit for the Transistor Portable option would begin playing instantly because there were no tubes, just the transistors in the portable unit.

Below is a 1959 advertisement for the Transistor Portable radios that were installed in Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac vehicles in 1959 (Click on Picture to Enlarge).

3 Responses to “1959 Buick Radio Options”

  1. Ronald Stephens says:

    Hello Tom:

    Any chance that you can let me know what issue of the Saturday Evening Post from 1959 that has the color ad for the Delco Transportable radio line that you pictured in this section on the 1959 Buick Radio Options Section? I am trying to collect these rare radios that were offered as an option in 1958 and 1959 on Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Being able to find a copy of the Saturday Evening Post with this ad would be fantastic!! Any help you can provide me with would be appreciated. I will check back under this section to see if you have posted a reply. Thanks!!!

  2. 1fine59 says:


    I’m sorry I don’t know which issue the ad came from, I found the ad on eBay and it didn’t indicate the issue.

    On another note, it is my understanding that the portable radios were 1959 options only.

    ~ Tom

  3. Steve Heil says:

    What a beautiful car and a great read for the night. I was hoping that the car was the pace.

    I had a 59 Olds, but always wanted a Buick.


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