The skies were grey and the roads were slick. Storms had lashed Brisbane before easing into a mere drizzle and the endless concrete and bitumen of Gympie Road looked dreary and monochromatic under the pallid sky. Then, a flash of colour! In a sea of whites, blacks and greys, a grand, lime green car appeared.
Classic American cars are relatively rare in Australia but for the ubiquitous first-generation Mustang. Those that do reside here are typically garage queens, wheeled out only for car shows. Judging by the condition of this 1971 Buick Electra 225, I dare say it was one of them.
Because I have so little exposure to classic American cars on a regular basis, this Electra was a surprise to behold and take in. For one, it didn’t seem quite as long as I thought it would. Perhaps it’s the relatively low height compared to most modern vehicles but the Electra’s length didn’t crystallize in my mind until I saw how long the trunk was.
Speaking of length and height, the Electra is a foot and a half longer than a new Buick Enclave. That Enclave, however, has three comfortable rows of seating. This Electra? Well, the trunk is without peer but the rear of the cabin, plush as it is, just doesn’t have the stretch-out room I’d expect from a vehicle of these dimensions. The car is all hood and trunk. That relatively low roofline, too, makes ingress and egress just a touch less graceful. I can understand why today’s full-size crossovers are so popular.
It’s purely academic to compare an Electra to an Enclave, however. No Enclave can be had with lime green paint and matching upholstery, nor can one option Buick’s current flagship with a 455 cubic-inch V8.
This car is rich with enticing details. Everywhere I looked there was something to get my attention. At the rear, there’s the Electra crest surrounding the keyhole for the trunk.
The gorgeous bladed fenders, like a femme fatale, look beautiful but deadly. Note the original dealer badge from Fred Hughes Buick in Abilene, Texas. This Electra is a southern belle.
That seems only appropriate considering the Electra was named after Texan socialite Electra Waggoner Biggs. Then GM President, Harlow Curtice, was her brother-in-law. That was quite a flattering tribute, especially because the Electra name lasted all the way until 1990 (and, frankly, is overdue to be dusted off on an electric Buick). The socialite also had a town named after her, the Waggoners being a prominent family in West Texas. The famous Waggoner Ranch, as well as the town of Electra, are about a 2-3 hour drive from Abilene where this Buick was purchased.
Fred Hughes ran his titular Buick dealership for decades, briefly stepping away from the reins to serve a single term as mayor of Abilene. He much preferred selling Buicks to politics and chose not to run again or run for a seat in congress. A staunch fiscal conservative, he argued how wasteful it was to spend so much money on a two-year term in the House.
I describe this Electra as being “lime green” but I don’t believe it’s the Lime Mist available on select ’71. That color was restricted to the Skylark and its derivatives. More than likely it’s Willowmist Green or even Cornet Gold if I’m suffering from a slight bout of color blindness.
One thing is for sure: under the long hood of this beauty is a 455 cubic-inch V8 with a four-barrel carb and a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission. That was the only powertrain available in the ’71 Electra.
Speaking of the hood, these have to be the most elegantly integrated Ventiports Buick ever designed. I also love the feature line that starts at the hood and ends at the taillights. Though I adore the ’69-70 Electra, its feature line was situated much lower and gave that car a more slab-sided look. Despite being 0.3 inches longer, the ’71 looks lower and sleeker.
The wheel covers are simple and elegant. I’d take these over any of the wire wheel covers of this era.
Inside, there’s a very driver-oriented dashboard. The Mercury Marquis and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight were more distinctive inside but the Electra’s interior is more restrained and elegant.
Electras came in four variants for ’71: regular hardtop coupe and hardtop sedan and Custom hardtop coupe and hardtop sedan. The overwhelming favorite with buyers was the Custom sedan with 72,954 produced, more than the rest combined. That pattern remained true for the rest of this generation, the toniest sedan always outselling the rest of the line.
The only issue I ever had with the ‘71’s styling was the rather understated frontend.
I’ve changed my mind, however. Seeing it in the metal and noticing that subtly protruding snout has made me a fan.
I’m also a fan of later years of this generation. The Electra survived the 5-MPH bumpers and regular facelifts better than the Grosse Point Gothic Ninety-Eight or the bloated Caprice.
It’s listed for $AUD35,000 at a consignment dealership. Typically, their stock consists of late-model sedans and crossovers but occasionally they’ll have a classic for sale like this MG B or a Dodge Challenger I’ve featured previously. This Electra was imported by its third owner in 2016. In total, it has just 81,191 miles and apparently the upholstery is all original.
I wonder if the floor mats are original too.
I don’t begrudge modern cars for being taller and rounder, or for generally lacking big V8 engines. I am, however, saddened that you can’t buy a lime green car with an emerald green interior. You can still get colorful cars – just recently, Buick would sell you a brown LaCrosse with a purple interior – but automakers have limited the variety and buyers seem more than happy to stick with Resale Silver.
Though this generation of C-Body may have seen some cost-cutting, it has to be commended for looking so elegant. This is a 225-inch long sedan with lime green paint that looks elegant and understated and even, relatively-speaking, sleek. It’s a fitting upscale chariot, whether you’re a city mayor or an oil heiress.