Believe it or not, this is my second post at CC on a J-Body Buick Skyhawk spotted in my neighborhood within the past five years or so, and also my second featuring this particular backdrop. What made this scene so noteworthy when I had snapped this picture was that this small Buick would have been close to thirty years old at that time, as it sported the original nose cone featured on the first, 1982 – ’86 models.
Bearing the Buick tri-shield, this car would have been considered a more premium subcompact, even if it was dynamically inferior to some (most) of its German and Japanese rivals when new. This setting, in front of local fast-food spot Sam’s Chicken & Ribs, got me thinking about the parallels between little joints like Sam’s that dot my neighborhood in abundance, and my recollections of secondhand Skyhawks, themselves.
I’ve just used the word “abundance”, and for a long time ending around fifteen to twenty years ago, many of these Skyhawks were on the road as used cars. They were the third-most popular J-cars when new, after the Chevy Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird, and ahead of the Olds Firenza and Cadillac Cimarron. Sam’s has long been a go-to for me after the occasional night of weekend revelry with friends, and the fries there are just the perfect combination of thick, salty, greasy deliciousness. Having said that, eating (wolfing) those fries is diametrically opposed to my otherwise healthy mindset when it comes to eating, so Sam’s has rarely been my first choice for eating out on weekends, great-tasting though it is.
Along these same lines, I wonder how many car buyers relegated to the secondhand market went onto used car lots chanting to themselves, “I’ve just gotta have a Skyhawk.” I’m sure they were okay as used cars, and their styling had held up nicely even without any noticeable exterior changes even as late as four years in, but outside of the relatively rare T-Type, Sport/Hatch and S/E variants, I imagine most used Skyhawks ended up finding new homes simply because their buyers needed to drive something, and the price was right. Like the fries at Sam’s, used Skyhawks were cheap, abundant, effective, and good enough. One could do much worse, in either example.
The word “price” brings me to my last point. Many of these cars were listed in the classified ads in the Flint Journal newspaper when I was looking for a different used car to replace the ’84 Ford Tempo my parents bequeathed to me (that I didn’t want). I remember many of them being priced very, let’s say, competitively at the time. Workaday examples of most J-Cars seemed to hold their residual value as well as a paper cup holds water after fifteen minutes on a hot day. (Wait… did I just write a Jason Shafer-esque metaphor? I must spend way too much time on CC.)
I suppose that’s part of what makes eating at Sam’s (and at places like Sam’s) such a great proposition: if I’m going to eat greasy, delicious fast food that’s not helping me maintain my fitness goals, at least it’s inexpensive, and so even if my metabolism is cursing at me the next morning, my wallet is thanking me. Sometimes, there’s something to be said for feeling good about going with the most cost-effective option.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, October 27, 2014.