I had actually thought about naming this post “Another Clapped-Out Colonnade”, given this car’s less-than-showroom condition. However, when I gave this car a few more looks, I wanted to present a more sympathetic take on what I had considered for much of my life my least-favorite year, make and model of any GM A-body coupe of this generation. This car is evidence that opinions can change over time. It’s still not my favorite, but its baroque styling has grown on me.
This ’74 Regal variant of the mid-size Century line is one of almost 57,500 coupes produced for the model year, which represented a steep, 37% drop from the 91,500 or so posted for ’73 for this body style. Production of the ’74s started in September ’73, exactly one month before the first oil crisis. Regal coupe production mostly held pat at 56,500 for ’75, then ballooned to over 124,000 units with the handsome ’76 restyle. The clean, purposeful looking ’73s are my favorites of this generation, but I wouldn’t kick the right ’76 or ’77 out of my driveway.
The issue I have with these top-shelf Buick midsizers versus their corporate cousins is that when a Regal would get to this kind of imperfect condition, it seemed to wear its battle scars a little less gracefully than the other A-bodies. Being a Buick, the Regal was ostensibly a near-luxury car, styled and accessorized to present an upscale image. The Chevy Malibu, Pontiac LeMans, and Olds Cutlass (in ascending order) all could look reasonably sporty in certain guises and in their slightly downmarket sheetmetal. I’ve seen worn examples of each of those other three cars which still looked alright. Even the tony Cutlass Supreme could look badass in rough shape with the right wheels, paint, and suspension rake.
The Buick, however, had all of the fussy, old-lady styling cues of concurrent LeSabres and Electra 225s (sweeping, bodyside character lines, sloping rear panel, heavily sculpted hood), and seeing one in beater status was not unlike seeing your grandma in sweatpants and a tank-top with a bunch of exposed tattoos you somehow never knew about. Still, there’s something endearing about this particular car, one which could have been straight from my high school parking lot in the early 1990’s. It’s also like the car you would expect your favorite waitress at the 24-hour diner you had frequented for years to have driven since she bought it when it was four years old.
So where’s the sympathy I initially spoke of? To bring this back to my original premise, I’ve softened to these floridly-styled Buick A-bodies for several reasons, including their relative rarity. Compared to the Colonnades from Chevy, Pontiac, and Olds, I just never see any Buicks – at shows or on the street. (Spotting the same ’75 Buick Century Free Spirit Indy pace car replica at Back To The Bricks in 2010 and 2011 was the first and only such car I’ve ever laid eyes on in the metal.) Another reason I like this car is because when looking at it, there’s no way on earth barring severe cataracts that I’d ever confuse it for anything but a Buick. It is, proudly, what it is.
To my eyes, the complexity of this Regal’s styling isn’t too far removed from that of a same-year Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which has similarly flowing lines and an even stronger identity. But from certain angles and referencing the title shot, it’s easy to see what allure these Regal coupes might have had with Buick customers in the 1970’s. In theory, it would distill the luxury of the LeSabre into a smaller, less-inefficient package in a sculptured shape that was still easily recognizable as a Buick. I hope this particular car has more than a few years left to roam the streets of the Vehicle City.
Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014.