What it is: As before, Buick’s new mid-size Regal will be little more than a European-market Opel Insignia wearing the Buick insignia, er, Tri-Shield. With Cadillac’s rear-drive ATS busy chasing the BMW 3-series, the front- or all-wheeldrive Regal has always seemed more like a low-budget Audi A4. The new Insignia/ Regal looks to move further upscale to pull even closer to the A4.
The ’63 Riviera had been one of Buick’s best sellers, but by the late Sixties it was lagging far behind Ford’s now-luxurious Thunderbird. However, the Riviera easily outsold its stablemate, the radical front-wheel drive Toronado; but for ’71 Buick upped the stakes by unveiling a new Riviera that was a little bit special.
In ’58, so the story goes, GM’s design supremo Bill Mitchell was entranced by a Rolls-Royce he saw hissing past a London hotel. “What we want,” said Mitchell, “is a cross between a Ferrari and a Rolls.” By August 1960, he’d turned his vision into a full-size clay mock-up. One of the world’s most handsome cars, the original ’63 Riviera locked horns with Ford’s T-Bird and was GM’s attempt at a “Great New American Classic Car.”
When your fortunes are flagging, you pour on the chrome. As blubbery barges go, the ’58 Limited has to be one of the gaudiest. Spanning 19 ft (5.78 m) and tipping the scales at two tons, the Limited is empirical proof that 1958 was not Buick’s happiest year.
In 1957, America was gearing up for the Sixties. Little Richard screamed his way to the top with “Lucille” and Elvis had nine hits in a row. Jack Kerouac penned his immortal novel On the Road, inspiring carloads of Americans to seek the adman’s “Promised Land” along Ike’s new interstates. Fins and chrome were applied with a shovel and General Motors spent several hundred million dollars refashioning their Buick model line.
The ’49 Roadmaster took the market’s breath away. With a low silhouette, straight hood, and fastback styling, it was a poem in steel. The first Buick with a truly new postwar look, the ’49 was designed by Ned Nickles using GM’s new C-body. It also boasted two bold new styling motifs: Ventiports and an aggressive 25-tooth “Dollar Grin” grille.
From the earliest years of the car industry, manufacturers had been producing elegant custom coachwork designs for wealthy patrons, but mass-market autos were an entirely different matter — functional, unimaginative wagon bodies were cobbled on to whatever chassis happened to be rolling off the production line and aesthetic appeal was low on the agenda.
At the time they called it the winningest facelift in history’. After a restyling for 1981 improved its aerodynamics so much that it swept the NASCAR Grand National race championships, the Buick Regal was the ‘it’ car of the USA. It reflected well on the perception of Buick’s entire range. Seizing the moment, in 1982 Buick introduced an option package of a limited edition, charcoal and silver grey, red-pinstriped, 4.1 litre V6 engined coupe, dubbed the Buick Regal Grand National. Continue reading “Buick Regal Grand National – 1982”
The hot Buick mid-sized Gran Sport (GS) muscle cars of the 1960s were about to expire in the face of oil shortages and an inexorable trend towards high-performance pony cars, but they didn’t go down without a last, fierce firefight. The 1968 two-door Buick GS 350 was completely restyled and the engine size was slightly increased, creating a handsome car that ran alongside the unchanged GS 400, which acquired a souped-up Stage 1 option for an even better vroom factor.
You could base a social history on the Buick Special Skylark. It was conceived as a conventionally cynical exercise in the idiom of contemporary supermarket salesmanship. The Buick Special had performed reasonably well for the company, which wasn’t quite ready to launch a whole new series of models.
The Riviera was Buick’s answer to the Ford Thunderbird — a ‘personal luxury’ car that gave the Thunderbird its first real competition and became a long-running success story. The ‘Riviera’ tag had first been coined in 1949 to describe a two-door pillarless hardtop.
Back in 1942 when World War II rudely interrupted American car production, the massive Buick Limited models were the most expensive this mid-market company produced, riding sedately on the longest wheelbase and having lavish interiors. The ‘Limited’ designation was appropriate, as these exclusive limousines and touring sedans sold in small numbers.
The ‘Super’ description was no brash boast. In that automobile status league everyone understands, the Buick was a symbol of upper-middle-class prosperity, offering near-Cadillac quality at a thrifty discount. Buicks were big, comfortable and solidly made.
1936 was a good year for Buick, with the entire model range being successfully redesigned by the brilliant Harley J Earl and relaunched with suggestive new names.
This is a respected name in US automotive history, for when Buick revamped its model range in 1936 as America started to emerge from the Great Depression, ‘Roadmaster’ was the title chosen for newcomers designed to replace the company’s former Series 80 model.