Art Covington, 59, owner of Covington Buick Inc. in Silver Spring, died of cardiac-respiratory arrest Tuesday at the Chevy Chase Nursing and Convalsecent Center in Silver Spring. He had lived at the center since suffering a brain disorder about a year ago.

A local automobile dealer for more than 30 years, Mr. Covington began his career with the old Covington Motor Co. in Rockville, a firm founded by his father in 1922. Before establishing Covington Buick in 1961, he had operated automobile franchises for Packards, Studebakers and Edsels.

Mr. Covington was a former member of the board of directors of the Washington Automobile Trade Association. He lived in Potomac and was a member of the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

He was born in Baltimore and attended John Hopkins University there and Washington College in Chestertown, Md.

During World War II, Mr. Covington was a B-17 bomber pilot in the Army Air Forces. After being shot down by German fighter planes over occupied France, he parachuted to safety and was sheltered by the French underground in Saint-Lo and Cherbourg. He later escaped to England with the help of French underground. Twenty years later he received a hero's welcome and the Cherbourg Medal of Honor when he returned to Saint-Lo and Cherbourg to pay his respects to the people who had helped save his life.

Mr. Covington also was host to the mayor of Saint-Lo when he visited the United States following the war. He also helped raise funds to rebuild the city.

Survivors include his wife, Norma B., of Potomac; a son, Barry, of Travilah, Md.; a daughter, Bonnie Cochran of Los Alamos, N.M.; a sister, Nancy Seaward of Sarasota, Fla., and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.