In many large, densely-populated cities throughout the world, the streets are full of mini cars, bicycles and motorbikes. It’s hard to find a parking space, after all, and when you do find one you still have to manoeuvre into it. But in New York City, although parking can be a nightmare, many car-owners still drive big cars. Many of those big cars are GM B-Bodies and GM C-Bodies from Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and Oldsmobile (sorry, no Pontiacs). Here are just a few.
This gray Cadillac actually wears New Jersey plates. It seems appropriate: New Jersey is Cadillac Country. It’s hard for me to pin down the exact year of this model but I did make one observation: these are about as big as a car can be, in my opinion, without looking excessive. GM’s 1977 downsized B and C-Bodies really trimmed the extraneous fat and bulk from the 1971-76 full-size models.
Here is a nice 1991-92 Chevrolet Caprice I spotted on the Riverside Drive Viaduct just west of Harlem. These were a controversial design, alternately being called “bulbous”, “bathtub” or “beached whale”. The two-tone treatment on this one is handsome. When did two-tone paint schemes for sedans die out in North America? In Australia, you could still buy, for example, a red-over-gray Holden Calais or Toyota Avalon Grande at the very end of the 1990s.
A lot of the housing projects spearheaded by infamous urban planner Robert Moses feature parking lots. Those residents must be very happy to have been afforded this luxury. I was walking past one of these parking lots in the Lower East Side when I spied a couple of distinctly peaked fenders and large taillights. Ah! A 1980-84 Buick Electra in a pleasant chocolate brown and with Buick rally wheels.
While the 1977-79 Electra arguably had more presence, the revised 1980 model still retained that understated Buick elegance.
But was the 1980 revision perhaps a little too understated? Here’s a 1980-85 Buick LeSabre I spotted in Midtown which doesn’t look dramatically different from the Electra.
The ’77-79 Electra was more imposing than the 1980 and better differentiated from its contemporary LeSabre. Although handsome, these ’80-85 LeSabres look just a tad anonymous. Oldsmobile did a better job of visually distinguishing the Delta 88 from the Ninety-Eight.
Speaking of Oldsmobiles, here is a ’80-84 Ninety-Eight looking a little worse for wear. Perhaps those who lived in NYC long before I did can answer this: was Oldsmobile a particularly popular brand in the metro area? It seems Oldsmobiles outnumber their Buick and Pontiac contemporaries. Then again, it could be the “grandparent effect”: those more likely to keep their cars for longer and take good care of them tend to be elderly, and those elderly people tend to gravitate towards certain brands and models. While the revised Buicks of 1980 were, in my opinion, a backwards step stylistically, I feel the exact opposite about the 1980 Oldsmobiles. They went from being the dumpiest of the B and C-Bodies to being very handsome cars with two very different styles from each other. I’ve spotted a couple of other Ninety-Eights of this era but I’ll save those photos for another occasion.
But of course, it’s New York City and there are still plenty of old Chevrolet Caprices left.
The drab gray paintjob of this just screams unmarked police car but the NYP plates indicate this old Chevy belongs to a member of the press. For an extra $30 annually (and $60 initially), you can get these New York Press plates if you can prove you work for a news organization. Perhaps this drab gray Caprice is owned by an investigative journalist?
Finally, here’s a Caprice wagon sporting some very peculiar patina. These old GM vehicles may be a little harder to park than the multitude of Civics that surround them but it’s nice to see them still being used and appreciated.