The Battle Buick – Memories of a 1976 Buick Electra 225
By J. Smith
No pictures remain of this car, which entered a junkyard in the summer of 1991. I managed to take the hood ornament before it departed, a victim of delinquent hot-rodding and Wesson-quality motor oil. I only drove it regularly for a brief period-from June through November 1990. But this colossal piece of Flint-built American steel has haunted my memory and even dreams for nearly two decades.
In June of 1990, I was desperate for a car. I had gone through two Citations in record time. The first one I sold. The second one, a short-term loaner from my dad suffered transmission failure-the circumstances of which deserve a story in their own right. Gas was cheap, at about 95 cents a gallon, and I wanted something fast. Or at least with a stomping V8 engine.
A few months earlier, in March, I had test-driven a 1967 Dodge Monaco with a 383. The asking price was $1,500. The body was a bit rusty and the Buck Rogers interior mightily impressed my 16 year-old brain. Being accustomed to the glacial acceleration of a Citation, the tires squealed every time I touched the gas pedal. When I drove it out on a country road, it accelerated smoothly and effortlessly. By the time I looked down at the speedometer, it soberly informed me that I was going 80 MPH. I was hooked.
I put the Citation for sale. A few weeks later, I had $800 in hand. Unfortunately, my Monaco dreams were put on hold-the seller would only go down a few hundred dollars. Weeks passed. I saved and saved my earnings from the Feldpausch bottle room. No dice. The Monaco sold to another smitten teen. Then, it was back to Citation city, at least until the tranny received visitation from the X-body gremlins.
So, in June of 1990, I saw an ad in the Lansing State Journal for a 1976 Buick Electra 225. Asking price: $500. I begged my mom to drive me to look at the car. We drove to a subdivision on the west side of Lansing. Out front was the longest car I’d ever seen. The hood alone was probably as long as our sofa. It had the usual rust that 1970s iron had after 14 Michigan winters, but nothing too bad. Four-door hardtop. Light blue metallic with blue interior. The couple selling it, who seemed old but were probably only in their 40s-hey, I was 17-said they loved the car, it was reliable but that they wanted something newer. It had 140,000 miles on it. After a brief test drive that never went above 25 MPH, I offered $400. They accepted.
I didn’t notice the worn tires or the rear air shocks whose bags had long ago perforated. Nor did I notice the indifferent handling and the fact that it took dozens of effortless cranks of the feather-light power steering to turn a corner. Or that it wallowed like an ocean liner when it finally made its way around a bend.
But, of course, you never notice the flaws when you are in love. Freckles, moles, laugh lines-during the initial infatuation, they simply don’t exist. And I was most certainly in love with that Buick.
The 455, choked by the power-sapping emissions apparatuses of the era and further flattened by belated efforts to improve fuel economy in a 4,800 pound (dry weight) full-frame Detroit beast nearly 20 feet long, felt like a rocket compared with the Chevy Citations I had previously driven. The tires would still spin at will. And the sweet, sweet sound of the secondary jets of the Rochester four-barrel gulping down air at full throttle was enthralling.
The same evening, I proudly piloted the Buick to a friend’s house. When he opened his door and gazed upon it, his face instantly took the shape of a mystical smile, slightly bewildered, but all the same as if it were expected, as if it were part of a prophesy. “Wow, that thing’s a tank! It’s like a Battle Buick or something.”
Thus christened, we drove off to the nearest 7-Eleven to fill our thin teenage abdomens with Big Gulps, chili dogs and candy bars. At the same time, summer whispered “Adventure!” into our ears, in tune with the rumble of an aging muffler coping with the backflow from a big block waiting to be released.
And so it was. And a summer and fall of automotive abuse followed. But that tale, my friends, is also for another day.
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