GM’s B-Bodies have become to CC what the Panther is to TTAC. Len Peters’ recent ode to them became one of our most popular pieces ever. And I keep running into more, adding to the collection. Here’s a quick look at a Buick Estate Wagon that I ran into the other day; a typical example of the considerable number still of Bs still plying the roads here.
And it has those fine Buick road wheels. How many decades did Buick offer these? Was their first appearance on the ’64 Wildcat?
Buick or Olds Cruiser: that is the eternal question?
The Buick dash has something in its favor.
I’ll let you decide.
I passed an Olds Custom Cruiser on the road the other day, but did not have time to follow it home. I will agree that the Buick dash is superior. However, if you are going to listen to the burble of the Olds 307 through the tailpipe, you should have the right to see a rocket rising from the hood.
The Buick Dash looked a lot better than the Olds Dash to me always. And the Estate Wagons always seemed to be more uniformly luxuriously outfitted than the Olds Custom Cruiser.
I guess the wagons are the only B bodies I have any love for. If GM had made an H-body wagon I probably wouldn’t appreciate them at all. For some reason if I were to go big boaty RWD wagon I still like the Country Squire/Colony Park twins. Their interiors seemed better screwed together than the B bodies toward the end of their lives.
These, IMO, are at their highest and best use right now…as work cars. Automotive appliances all, they were competent without a hint of character. Or, more accurately, they radiated a generic American big-car character; which in their day, was commonplace.
I cannot even place, in my mind, what that generation Olds dash looked like. I have to look twice at the front to see it’s not a Caprice Classic wagon. And as to the comment of the “Olds 307” – didn’t GM go mix-and-match with the engines in those years? The formerly-Olds 307, if offered, was probably offered in all badge manifestations…on another website there’s a comment of a Camaro with a “Chevrolet” 307.
Just my take on it. I neither love these cars nor hate them; it’s good that they’re providing affordable transportation for that segment of buyers that needs or wants it that way.
I had 3 of the sedans (’84 Olds Ninety Eight, ’85 Buick LeSabre and an ’89 Cadillac Brougham) but never a wagon. Each of my cars had the Olds 307. I know that there was a lot of mix and match in those years, but the 307 was unmistakably Oldsmobile, right down to the sound.. The Chevy engine in those years was the 305, but I do not believe that it was used in the Olds/Buick versions much, if at all, and neither was the 350, so far as I know.
The Chevy 307 succeeded the 283 in 1968. It was around for less than a decade IIRC, replaced by the 305. For some reason the 307s were known for having soft cams…as in the steel was soft and the lobes would wear down quickly.
The Olds 307 – a completely different engine – came in my ’89 Caprice Classic wagon with every option except the fake wood trim and AM Stereo. TH200 tranny and 2.93 gears…I quickly grew to hate it as it wouldn’t get out of its own way on Pittsburgh’s hilly parkways – even when left in drive. Overdrive was only for going downhill. It developed an engine malady around 185,000 miles and I sold my wife on the idea of switching the 307 for a 350 TPI/TH700…THAT gave it some character…and 2-4 extra MPG on average.
I’ve posted this story on other CC threads so I won’t tell it again here, except to say that GM did a lot of standing on its head to make that Olds 307 work in the Caprice platform…I compared the wiring diagrams for the 307 and Chevy 305/350 out of the Helm factory shop manual. Extra sensors, relays and the like were needed for the 307 to keep it from bogging down…like a thing to kick up the throttle when turning on the A/C. That told me those engines never belonged in anything larger than a G-body, that it was there at all was a result of the settlement over the Chevy engines in Oldsmobiles back in the 70’s.
The 305s in the early B’s were notorious for loosing cam lobes as were the 350s from that era.
We had two of these wagons both bought new and owned or 4 years and about 60k: a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne (gold, woody sides, tan int) and a 1990 Chevy Caprice (light/medium blue, woody sides, blue int).
The Pontiac had a 305 Chevy and the Chevy had a 307 Olds. Confused my dad when he went to change the spark plugs on the Chevy and they were in the Olds/Mopar location. As I understand, they were mixing and matching a lot of the SB engines at that time.
Side note: The 1990 Chevy with the Olds 307 was carburated, and was the last carburated vehicle for Chevy, and the only in 1990.
Both were completely overbuild and trouble-free. Two fender benders my mom got in (1987 Skylark and a 4 door Citation) caused a total of 20 bucks in damage, as the rubber strip on the bumber had to be replaced in the second accident. Bumpers weren’t even dented, crooked, etc. Those other cars’ sides were completely caved in as part of each accident
I could cope with one of these not too big an ugly is it possible to get a 350/350 combination?Dont really like the easy peel exterior but I guess that comes off, decent amount of room inside I can see why theyre popular.
350/350’s were available depending on the year. Many were early TH200s and 200-4Rs that died a quick death and then swapped for TH350s. GM had serious tranny issues 1977-86, except for the TH350 and 400 which of course are pretty much bulletproof.
From 1987-up, the TH700-R4s the way to go. Earlier 700s are trouble prone. The ’87-newer model is the basis for the modern 4L60-E.
Paul, I am going to have to notify Steph about your improper possessive in regards to my surname…
Haste makes waste…fixed!
I love those wheels. I think I mentioned my cream-puff 1978 LeSabre Custom, which had 42,000 km on it when I bought it in 1985. What a nice car, I drove it for a year myself before I made it into a taxi. It was totaled a year later and I sold the wheels for $500 to a guy with a hopped-up Skylark.
I have always been adept at finding low km cream puffs, like my present daily driver, which had 66,000 km on it when I got it. I am much less adept at having enough sense to keep them.
Wow, that is one serious piece of unobtanium there. For some reason, the 1977-79 Estate Wagons seem to have all but disappeared. I see more clamshells being offered for sale than these. Not that I would kick a 1980’s example out of my garage, but as the 80’s wore on GM did decontent these somewhat, basically taking them all down to LeSabre level trim. For the first several years, though, an Electra Estate was kind of like having a Cadillac with a really big trunk — which the more trucklike clamshell wagons never really were.
When in doubt, Oldsmobile. Can’t go wrong. But, the LeSabre is a nice wagon.
What’s really strange is I was thinking of my old neighbor’s Chevy B Body wagon the other day. She was something of a hoarder, and kept everything in that car. It wasn’t meant to be a lowrider, but she had so much crap in there, the coil springs yelled “Uncle”!
But I can’t help thinking a slammed B Body would be a pretty good looking ride for a cruise night…
This is the B wagon to have, OK not this particular example, I’ll take the short lived proper Buick 350 in my please. All around it looks so much better than the other versions. From the beautiful Buick Rallye wheels to the woodgrain that covers more of the side and doesn’t do that funky bump over the wheel wells.
I’ll be the weirdo and be the one to take a Safari wagon over the Buick or Olds.
Nope you’re not weird. My father’s boss was a big fan of B-body’s as cars for his salesmen (John Deere Lawn and Garden sales) to drive around. He liked their durability, towing capacity, low insurance costs, and having lots of lockable storage for parts delieveries. I have driven/ridden in a wide variety of B-bodys during the “box” era (1977-1990). Hands down my all time favorite is the Pontaic Parisienne wagon. IMHO it’s the best combo of interior/exterior styling and comfort/sportiness.
I had this exact same wagon in blue, and made it a cab. When I quit driving a cab I covered the woodgrain with pink paisley contact paper. Looked wild with the yellow paint job, LOL. It was a great car, though it wasn’t long after til I decided to take a break from big American cars for a bit. Driving one 12 hours a night for 8 years does that. 🙂
The B bodies were, in my opinion, the best large American cars of that era. Although I never owned one – couldn’t afford one – I liked them a lot. I did get to ride in many of them, and for that reason alone, looking back, wish I had gotten one gently used. Too late now.
I had an ’87 “Box” Caprice wagon, a very good car overall–constant exposure to weather and salt caused it to eventually begin rusting, though, and I had to let it go. My current Subaru wagon (6-cylinder Outback) is sort of a continuation of that experience–very solid and comfortable but not flashy. A lot of the B-bodies (particularly Chevys) in the LA area have ended up in the hands of customizers (“tuners” isn’t the word, and they’re not the same faction as the lowrider crowd–these guys favor 22″ rims, etc.), but I’ll occasionally see a nice Caprice with an elderly driver behind the wheel, and wonder if I should follow him/her and ask if the car might be for sale.
(Edit: That should have been 22″ rims…22-footers are a little much)
(Edit: That should have been 22″ rims…22-footers are a little much)
Don’t give those kids any ideas.
A great chuckle over my morning coffee to start my day. Reminds me of this… Nigel gave me a drawing that said 18″ … (coffee shop back of napkin pencil sketch should have been 18′)…
Paul, are there any 1977-79 Bonnevilles around in your neck of the woods? My dad had a 1979 Bonneville sedan, metallic brown with beige top and interior. It made a big impression on me – it was the first car I remember riding in, and for that reason they are my favorite B body. They seem to be much rarer than the Chevy, Olds and Buick. I would love to see a CC on one.
No; only the later Parisienne. I think they sold rather poorly compared to the other B-Bodies, which is why Pontiac dropped them after a couple of years.
Mom had a ’78 Bonneville Brougham (of course) in dark blue with a tan full vinyl top. It was a nice looking car and was reliable until the transmission started slipping. I remember it was very comfortable and had the built-in CB radio that never really worked right.
I did once spot a ’79 Catalina in the flesh. I took a picture (I’ll add it to the Cohort group), and I never saw it again.
Aside from being rare, what I find most interesting about the 77-79 Pontiacs is that they directly shared the Caprice header panel and front sheetmetal…just like the later Parisiennes. The 80-81 nose was unique enough to be the odd one out.
Thanks for posting the pic! My dad’s had the fender skirts and the vinyl roof. Same wheelcovers as the one you posted. It wasn’t actually a Brougham though, just a regular Bonneville. It was a company car, and while he usually drove this one, he occasionally had a ’79 Catalina, silver with red interior. He told me there was also a blue Bonneville he drove sometimes, but I don’t remember that one at all.
My Dad traded in our 1972 Buick Estate Wagon with a 455 for a 1978 Estate Wagon with the optional Olds 403. A measly 185 hp, but a whopping 320lb/ft of torque at 1800 RPM!!
The 78 was a revelation compared to the 72. Quicker, better handling and an unbelievably supple ride.
The car was maroon with red “notch back” vinyl with chrome trim on the outboard portions of the seats. The dash was beautiful. All the gauges had brushed chrome bezels with the highlight being the huge quartz clock over the glove box.
A great car for a newly licensed 17 y.o.
I suppose if a kin person such as an aunt passed along her used wagon to a nephew she gave the lad a “woody.”
And such is the mind-set to be found of a shanty-dwelling Old Coot atop the Ozark Plateau surrounded by a horde of sub-par intellects whose social interactions and life-style is based upon emotionality with nary any evidence of rational reasoning or logical thought processes interfering with their life.
As seen on the Cops TV show… where all-too-often the police act as much as parental figures with “punishment power” to assist in their attempts to, at least temporarily, compel the human herd to behave and act in a civil manner.
And what do you know, I just bought this `88 Caprice Estate:
This marks the fifth B/C/D Body I have owned. I love them all equally.
Whoops. Here it is.
Jordan, that is a sharp wagon, looks like it has been garaged its whole life. What is the story on it? I just saw a navy blue ’87-’90 Caprice wagon without the wood trim in traffic today. It was a little rough though.
It was garaged for most of its life, but was unfortunately used in the past few winters here in Ohio; needless to say, it has some rust. It definitely has some flaws, but it’s a great 10 foot car, so long as it’s not moving! These wire hubcaps love to talk!
if those are single piece headlamps they are out of a 90. that was our exact 90 chevy wagon, down to the wheel covers, which my dad traded for chevy van take offs. he swore her heard those wheel cover spokes rattling/creaking, and was sick of it after the second wagon (86 then 90)
Jake, Chevrolet switched to the composite headlamps in I believe `87.