As They To The Lychgate Draw Near So Waxes Quick The Quiet Fear

Chopping the back off a saloon can lead to unfortunate results.

1979 Buick Century Aeroback

The 1978 A-body cars at GM lost a lot of fat in the downsizing wave of the mid-70s. Half a tonne of car vanished per model. For the Aeroback cars such as this 1979 Century coupe even more metal got sliced off (the same went for the very similar Olds Cutlass Salon). The 1977 Talbot Sunbeam and 1975 AMC Pacer underwent the same sort of radical surgery in the name of making one car out of another. But if you want to Continue reading “As They To The Lychgate Draw Near So Waxes Quick The Quiet Fear”

Three Steps After Sunday

Much like discontinued brands, some rather old models of existing car lines can be hard to place: what is a Buick Wildcat in new money?

This car seems to be a second series, from 1965 to 1970. That still isn’t enough. Hermeneutics comes into the picture here because we want to Continue reading “Three Steps After Sunday”

2018 Buick Regal Saloon

Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon. 

2018 Buick Regal saloon: source

We know this car already. It will be a curiosity in years to come, the Buick made by PSA but designed by GM. Of most immediate interest is that it will be sold as hatchback (is this Buick’s first since the Skyhawk?) and as an estate, the first Buick long-roof since the Roadmaster of 1995. Given that large, agile station wagons have something of a cult appeal (brown, with manual transmission is best) this is a good move. The question is whether the buyers of Volvo, Mercedes and Subaru estates Continue reading “2018 Buick Regal Saloon”

Notes and Curiosities: GM in Britain in the early 80s.

In 1981 GM went to all the trouble required to get type approval for a range of their US-market cars, on the expectation that customers might want to buy them.

1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: source
1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: source

GM picked a small range of cars to lure customers: two Cadillacs, one Buick and three Chevrolets. At the top of the list sat the 6 litre V8 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. The Sedan de Ville d’Elegance cost a little less for a little less length. From Buick´s list of cars, GM chose the Century Limited with a 3.8 litre V6, for just under £10,000.  Upsetting the hierarchy, the Chevrolet Caprice came (as saloon and estate) with a 5.0 V8 and cost more than the Buick, a few hundred pounds. Finally, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the same engine as the Buick but had two fewer doors and cost a shade more. All quite baffling.
Continue reading “Notes and Curiosities: GM in Britain in the early 80s.”

Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera

There might even be one of these cars in the United Kingdom. A GM concessionaire in Manchester provided this brochure by post one day in 1998.

1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover
1995 Buick Riviera brochure front cover

After this iteration, Buick gave up on the personal two-door coupe in 1999, ending a line that had existed since 1963. It began with Bill Mitchell’s hallowed car that supposedly blended the power of a Ferrari with the presence of a Bentley. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – 1995 Buick Riviera”

The French Connection

Calais is more than just a Town in France.

1966 Cadillac Calais: source
1966 Cadillac Calais: source

Very recently I mentioned the Calais cloth in a Buick Electra 225 . That reminded me that a long time ago I thought I would explore the world of GM name references to France. Today I will deal with one town in France. It turns out that GM has quite a thing for Calais, applying the appellation to trim, car lines and whole models. We chart the rise and fall of the Calais name today. Continue reading “The French Connection”

A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden

A recent tour in the country between Gothenburg and Trollhättan, reminded me how much Sweden there is the NE of the US but also how easily American cars sit in the Swedish landscape.

1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe
1962 Buick Electra 225 hardtop coupe

The photo shows a Buick Electra 225 two door, four-window hardtop coupe (the 1961-1964 body). It also shows a 2005-2014 Saab 9-3 estate.  The image captures two enthusiasms of the Swedes: their own cars and the cars of the US. Continue reading “A Picture for Sunday: An American in Sweden”

A Photo for Sunday: 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion Convertible

British cars have more dignity when parked in a mittel European setting. American cars don’t fit into the landcape of the British Isles at all. How do these cars look in Scandinavia?

1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion 445 V8
1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion 445 V8

Here’s a 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion, famous as Buick’s shortest-lived model. Behind it, some Denmark. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1972 or 1973 Buick Centurion Convertible”

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark

This is one for someone with patience, some spanners, some paint and a lot of money for petrol.

1964 Buick Skylark
1964 Buick Skylark

“Tatty” describes this remnant of Detroit’s golden years, a Buick Skylark which descended from the base-model Special as a line of its own in 1964. That´s a recurring theme in GM’s model evolution, how separate lines would emerge from trim variants and sometimes fade back again. It makes these cars somewhat hard to pin down if you are not into the cladistics of the USican automotive zoo. That bifurcation of product lines is something that doesn’t happen so much now. Maybe the Ford Vignale might be a recent example of the type (though Top Gear’s 2016 Car Buyers [sic] Guide does not even deign to Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark”

When the Dust Clears

It’s only with a good bit of hindsight can you see what has really happened. 

1995 Buick LeSabre: cardomain.com
1995 Buick LeSabre: cardomain.com

When I started writing about Opel and Buick my view of the relationship rested on the idea that if Opel could provide some useful platforms to Buick then that would be a good thing. I recently noted that not only are Buicks not wholly designed in America but in future may not be made there. Continue reading “When the Dust Clears”

Whither Buick and Opel?

At the Detroit Auto show Buick showed off the rather handsome Avista concept car which is based on Chevrolet’s Camaro. 

2016 Buick Avista blue front
Buick Avista: automobilemag.com

And at Geneva ’16, Opel is planning to show off a GT inspired by the GT of the 1960s, a car many admired for its pretty styling.

I’ve lumped Buick and Opel together because these days they are interchangeable (for better and for worse). When the Avista was revealed I immediately saw that the Tristar badge could be replaced by an Opel propeller flash if something like the Avista was sold in Europe. This would be a good thing because the Avista would be a Buick first and an Opel second. For too long the traffic has been from Rüsselsheim to Detroit and at this stage Buick is a nameplate lacking its own identity, nice and all as some of those Buickised Opels are.  Continue reading “Whither Buick and Opel?”

Usability? No Thanks, I’m A Motoring Correspondent

Car & Driver, who are usually quite sensible, betrayed a distinct, glaring flash of silliness when they complained about the size of the gear lever in the new Buick Lacrosse.

2017 Buick Lacrosse interior: gmauthority.com
2017 Buick Lacrosse interior: gmauthority.com

This is what C&D wrote about the interior: “Outside is a handsome exterior; inside, the cabin is vastly improved over the old model’s. With a simple, flowing design and much nicer materials, the Buick’s innards are spoiled only by the oversize, BMW-style electronic shift lever. It is the only interior component seemingly still geared toward geriatric users (look at the size of an outgoing LaCrosse‘s dashboard buttons and you’ll know what we’re on about here). Otherwise, the Buick is lighter, sweeter, and we’re looking forward to driving it.

This kind of thing makes me want to Continue reading “Usability? No Thanks, I’m A Motoring Correspondent”

The Coloured Tri-Shield Is Back

This is the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. There’s more to it than a return of colour to its badge.

2017 Buick Lacross: thetruthaboutcars.com
2017 Buick Lacrosse: thetruthaboutcars.com

The Detroit Free Press and Kelley Blue Book have reported the unveiling of the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. As well as echoing aspects of the Buick Avenir concept last year, the 2017 car also allegedly harks back to the 1954 Buick Wildcat concept car. Personally I can’t see any obvious links. Missing from the new car are 130 kilos. The chassis, seats and sound-proofing all felt the engineer’s scalper in the quest to Continue reading “The Coloured Tri-Shield Is Back”

Buick’s Path Towards Being An Import Brand

Who, just a decade ago, would imagine Buick would be sliding down the slope to being a Geo for our times?

Made in China, the Envision by Buick: Motor Trend.com
Made in China, the Envision by Buick: Motor Trend.com

According to Motor Trend and other sources, GM is close to finalising a plan to import the Chinese-made Buick Envision to the US. This would bring to three the number of crossovers the marque is offering in the US. From the side there’s nothing very distinctive about the vehicle and nothing very offensive either. The identity of the car resides with the waterfall grille and the badges.

If you were following our diligently curated Top 50 cars series you might recall the Geo Prizm as one of the candidates. It was an American-made clone of the Toyota Corolla. The rest of the Geo range consisted of re-badged offerings from parts of GM’s far east empire. The brand aimed at making some money from those customers who were probably never going to Continue reading “Buick’s Path Towards Being An Import Brand”

World of Interiors: 1984 Buick Century

Further to recent discussions I thought I would post a small image of the interior of the 1984 Buick Century. This is pretty much the car that cemented my impressions of Buick.

1984 Buick Century interior: kerbsideclassic.com
1984 Buick Century interior: kerbsideclassic.com

There’s a rather good article here if you want to read more.

Buick Risks Its Credibility

Reuters have reported that in future most Buicks sold in the US may be imported.

1997 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. They don´t make them like this anymore: carponents.com
1997 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. They don´t make them like this anymore: carponents.com

Buick sell nearly a million cars a year in  China but only about 230,000 vehicles in the US. The basis of Buick’s credibility in China is that the car represents upper-middle class quality and American values. In the US, Buick appeals or has appealed for similar reasons. Sources close to GM are quoted as saying that in future only the LaCrosse replacement and the Enclave SUV will Continue reading “Buick Risks Its Credibility”

Is This the Next Opel Senator? (Part 2)

Automotive NewsAutoblogInautonewsArchy-news.com  all report that the upcoming Cadillac CT6 could provide the underpinnings for a future large Buick.

2016 Cadillac CT6 - another distinctive Cadillac name. Image: automotivenews.om
2016 Cadillac CT6 – another distinctive Cadillac name. Image: automotivenews.om

This is excellent news for Buick who sell very well in China (outselling Cadillac thirteen to one) and also gives Buick USA a more appropriate flagship than the Enclave (an SUV) or Lacrosse (a saloon). What is more interesting for Europeans is that this news also makes it seem likely that something similar or nearly identical could Continue reading “Is This the Next Opel Senator? (Part 2)”

A photo Series for Sunday: 1982 Buick Skylark Sport

This car falls into the same category as the Mercury Monarch I wrote about a few weeks ago. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a dented working car. It’s a pretty ordinary car too, possibly even more ordinary than the Monarch. It’s a small, front wheel-drive monocoque vehicle from the lower end of the price range. The engine is mounted transversely and the front suspension uses McPherson struts. In concept terms, it’s the same a VW Golf. Or, in image terms, think of it as a Rover 45 saloon with sporting accents. Continue reading “A photo Series for Sunday: 1982 Buick Skylark Sport”

Ah, the Romance of a Picnic

The ongoing replacement of the entire American Buick line-up with Opel vehicles has taken a step onward. At the Chicago motor show, the Cascada has been unveiled wearing the Buick Tri-Shield.

Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.
Whatever you do, don´t drive quickly with that stuff in the back.

Much as I like Opel’s current range, and much as I want Buick to succeed, I am beginning to get a little disturbed by how little effort GM is making to translate Opel into Buick. Further, it is important there is at least one car that is uniquely Buick in the way the Regal, Lacrosse and Verano aren’t.

The Park Avenue is gone and perhaps the Avenir concept is a sign of there being a distinctly N American car in the Buick range. That’s a help but it is not enough. It would be nice to have a Senator for Opel’s range. If this is the case with the Avenir, it must be Buick first and Opel second and not the other way around. At bottom, Buick’s credibility rests on there being a car that truly represents Buick and which is not just a rebodied vehicle from another part of GM’s empire.

The Lacrosse seems distinctive enough but it is a model on the way out. The Regal is too much an Insignia to be anything other than a nice car with a Buick badge. I really like the Cascada and it does feel consistent with the Buick image. In isolation it’s a fine machine. And if it were slotted into a range of cars that was more intrinsically Buick, I’d be less alarmed. As it is, the Buick badge is now one model away from losing its believability.

2016 Buick Cascada
2016 Buick Cascada

Here’s some of the official copy from the Chicago Motor Show: “Harkening back to the glory days of the Buick Roadmaster, Skylark and Le Sabre convertibles, a new droptop model from Buick will be on display for the first time at the Chicago Auto Show, Feb. 14-22, 2015.  For the record, the Cascada is the first open air Buick in the U.S. in 25 years. Designed from the outset as a convertible, the distinctive Cascada has a flowing, sculpted profile, Buick’s signature wing-shape light-emitting diode (LED) daytime running lights. Around back, the LED-lit wing-shaped taillights are bridged by a handsome chrome trim accent.

A comprehensively equipped four-passenger interior feature the instrument panel wrapped with soft-touch material featuring authentic stitching, and heated front seats and steering wheel for added comfort. Performance and an engaging driving experience awaits with the 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that delivers a total of 200-horsepower. That calculates to more than 100-hp per liter. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, as is a rigid body structure, HiPer Strut front suspension and responsive Watts Z-link suspension in the rear.

Dropping the insulated soft top takes only 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, and when the roof is up, it provides superior thermal and acoustic insulation.  Unique rollover protection bars are built-in to deploy behind the rear seats when the possibility of a rollover is detected. Other safety features include lane departure warning, rear park assist, rearview camera and Rainsense windshield wipers. Cascada also offers the latest in infotainment technology. The 2016 Buick Cascada provides 13.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the top up and 9.8 cubic feet with the top down. The rear seatbacks fold down electronically to expand cargo capability for longer items.”

Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save

How Bill Porter turned the sow’s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.

1990 Buick Riviera
1990 Buick Riviera

In 1986 Buick in the US sold a medium-sized two door version of the Somerset, built on the N-body. In the way of GM’s demented renaming strategy, the Somerset tag was once a trim level of the Regal saloon but it escaped to Continue reading “Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save”

Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China
2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to Continue reading “Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”