As we’ve arrived at another edition of Thanksgiving in this, the Most Awesome Current Year, let’s celebrate with a very American Rare Ride. Today’s big boat was the pinnacle of the Buick brand in 1980. Full of acres of ruched velour and wood-look trim, the Park Avenue took Electra to new heights before the fancy name ever became an independent model.
Come along and enjoy American Luxury, even if it’s not an Oldsmobile.
Buick’s Electra nameplate debuted for 1959, a year of change at Buick: The brand renamed all its models that year. At the time, Buick offered only three cars, all full-size. The Special became the LeSabre, the Century morphed into Invicta, the Super of ’58 vanished, and the range-topping Roadmaster was split, into the slightly lesser Electra, and the pinnacle Electra 225. The 225 moniker signified that version’s additional length over standard Electra, which in its first generation spanned over 225 inches.
For the next 30-plus years, Electra was Buick’s largest and most expensive sedan. Initially offered in two-and four-door guises, and pillared, hardtop, four- and six-window sedans, body styles were pared down over time like all large domestic offerings. The Electra’s Park Avenue trim appeared for 1975 as an option on the Limited. By that time the 225 was the base model, trumped by the Limited, which was supplemented by the luxury appearance package Park Avenue. The trim hierarchy continued onto the fifth generation Electra, which appeared as a downsized C-body for the 1977 model year (short 11 inches). Buick’s flagship was offered in coupe, sedan, and wagon variants; hardtops were gone for good.
A year after introduction, the Park Avenue name graduated from a mere appearance package on the Limited to a freestanding trim. For 1978 upgrades specific to Park Avenue were limited to the grille and tail lamps, but 1979 upgraded the trim further: A more vertical front end treatment appeared, as well as different tail lamps with an integrated Buick crest and additional trim. 1979’s over-the-top treatment was a big ask though, and for 1980 Park Avenue reverted mostly to the ’77 look, apart from a grille with vertical slats. Breaking from a tradition that dated to the model’s introduction in 1959, the 225 trim disappeared from Electra in 1980. Just as well, as the car was shortened a couple more inches that year, down to 220.9 from its original 222.1. More edits in ’80 saw the disappearance of the signature VentiPorts from the fender. A concession to Park Avenue’s upscale customers, faux VentiPorts appeared that year in the fender trim, as dents in the metal highlighted by black stickers.
Engine offerings varied by year, as emissions regulations quickly strangled out the big block. Offerings ranged from the smallest 4.1-liter Buick V6 through the Oldsmobile 403 (6.6L). Depending on trim, the transmission was either a three- or four-speed automatic.
1984 was the end of the rear-drive B-body Electra seen here, as in ’85 another serious downsizing at GM accompanied a swap to front-drive power trains. In 1991, Buick changed up its full-size lineup once more and offered two cars instead of one. The Electra which used the Park Avenue name as a trim replaced by the newly created Park Avenue. The front-drive C-body played second fiddle to the new flagship of the brand, the rear-drive B-body Roadmaster. You probably know the story after that point.
Today’s silver over luxurious burgundy Rare Ride was auctioned in 2018. Well equipped with air conditioning, 8 track player, and the 350 Chevrolet V8, it sold for an unspecified sum. As a closing observation, I think the wrap-around tail lamp treatment and simple horizontal lines of the Electra make the Buick the best looking of any C-body of this era.