Bluff’s Buick: A History of the Iconic Car at Cow Canyon Trading Post

Bluff Buick

It’s one of the iconic images of the ultimate Southwest road trip; the 1949 Buick Super parked in front of Cow Canyon Trading Post in Bluff, Utah.  American Road magazine recently featured the Buick on the cover of an edition dedicated to the land and legends of the timeless Southwest. “I love the form and the shape of it,” explained Liza Doran, owner of Cow Canyon Trading Post. “I found the Buick on the road to Mesa Verde and brought it to Bluff twenty years ago."
Bluff buick cow canyon trading post

Photo: Ryan Logan / Flickr

The 1949 Buick now sits in front of the Cow Canyon Trading Post which was also built around 1949 by the first sheriff of San Juan County, Rusty Musselman. Liza and her late husband purchased the property, began restoration and opened Cow Canyon Trading Post in 1986, and Cow Canyon Restaurant in 1987. After Liza’s twenty-five year restoration, the compound now consists of a charming trading post brimming with unique Native American pieces, and a sleek art gallery featuring modern works from local artists. Known as the Bluff Buick, the car proudly sports the wear and tear of past decades.  The car’s original Detroit paint color has now weathered to a lovely patina. “It looks like rock,” Liza declared. Liza explained that the Buick contains several features relating to World War II. “The hood ornament is in the shape of a sight from a World War II bomber. The round side Ventiports are symbolic as well.” In 1948, a Buick styling executive modified his own car with side Ventiports which flashed on and off to simulate flames from the exhaust of a fighter plane. Buick was delighted with the concept and ordered non-flashing Ventiports be installed on all 1949 Buicks.
Bluff cow canyon trading post buick car

The Bluff Buick as featured on American Road Magazine

When Liza ran her restaurant, she didn’t use to-go boxes. Customers received a take away dinner on a regular plate along with instructions to return empty plates to Liza’s car if the restaurant wasn’t open. Thinking that customers understood the deposit point was her Honda, she never checked the Buick. One day while cleaning around the Buick, however, she noted a stack of dutifully returned plates inside the Buick. Photographs of the Bluff Buick have been featured in several magazines and guidebooks.  Google “Bluff Buick” and you will see numerous images of the car. A photosharing page has been set up on Flickr for photos of the Buick. While working on a project at Cow Canyon, a local tradesman counted fifty-five cars that stopped to photograph the Buick in a single day. “If I had put a coffee can out for donations, I would have had an engine by now,” joked Liza. Gazing fondly at the Buick, Liza smiled and stated, “It’s romantic.  It evokes people on the road.  And, people love old cars.”

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