I came across a Buick Rainier at a local “buy here, pay here” lot and was going to write about its position as “A (re)Badge Too Far,” but then I ran into this 1941 Buick at the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich, NY.
Yes, you can say the two vehicles are like grandfather and grandson, but the Rainier is also a symbol of the General’s senescent cluelessness, as it is indeed an Oldsmobile Bravada with a new front clip attached after Ransom Old’s children were given their termination notices. I can imagine a memo going around wondering what to do as the tooling for the Bravada had not been paid off yet. The answer, as usual, was to stick a different grill on it. No one would notice, after all.
It also shows how much GM’s brand hierarchy had slipped in to irrelevancy, as during the 1941 Buick’s time, no would have ever dared to commit such blasphemy, unless it was destined for Canada or some other un-American place.
And despite this being a fairly recent classic, it looks to have been handed down at least once, and I imagine it is now looking for its third owner, as I spotted this on what appears to be a third tier lot. No one even bothered to remove the dealer sticker from nearby Gloversville, possibly in hopes of selling would-be buyers on the fact that it is a local car.
Part of this is the market has moved on, making up for the insanity of the SUV-boom with newer options that seek to emulate the looks of a SUV without the disadvantages of a truck-based car. I’ve noticed that most of the GMT-360 siblings have vanished from the road, except for the one Saab 9-7 I’ve seen around Albany that is well on its way to starring in a Sir Mix-a-lot video. This, despite the ‘go in the snow’ image that most SUV’s were hawked with and which continues to resonate with Upstate New York drivers. Maybe that’s why the only new car dealership I saw in Norwich sells Subarus.
It also symbolizes one of the problems Buick faced and still does: how do you get new buyers into showrooms without alienating those who insist on landau roofs and gold badges? After all, my 86-year old mother’s last car (her driving days are over) was a Buick Century. Ford ignored Mercury until it really died a natural death, and Chrysler seemed to be headed the same way until the 300C appeared. Buick’s fate may still be in the balance, but at least they seem to be headed in the right direction. I thought about getting an Encore, but balked at getting that much in debt. But if you really, really want an Enclave with the woody look, I’m sure the guys who put the landau roof on Gramp’s Le Sabre have just the thing for you.