Curbside Capsule: 1974 Buick Century – Colonnade Still Standing

GM’s Colonnades were possibly the most common cars on U.S. roads in the 1970’s. I was a young kid in the late 70’s and just becoming car conscious, but even I can remember seeing them everywhere. You’d probably not find a large parking lot like this without one. In the 80’s and early 90’s, these were the quintessential decrepit old used car. Cheap, plentiful and reasonably reliable for the low budget auto consumer. Everyone knew they would never be desirable classics like their immediate predecessors. Forty years on, most all of them have succumbed to the rusts of time but for the few survivors which are now garage-kept collector cars despite the naysayers. Not this one!

I don’t remember the last time I saw an honest-to-God curbside (ok, lotside in this case) Colonnade, in the wild and looking like it’s somebody’s regular ride. It’s covered in patina, not wax. It does not look loved, except perhaps in the way that an old saddle or baseball glove is.


The modern vehicles tower over it, but it doesn’t care. When it gets home, it doesn’t look like it will be put in any cushy garage. It’s earned its survivor status the hard way, one hot day and cold night at a time.


The car was parked in front of a dollar store, which may be the last place the owner should be visiting, judging from the interior which could be featured on an episode of Hoarders. The back seat has even more stuff.

I didn’t see the driver, so I am imagining this individual. I speculate the owner is female and in her late 70’s or 80’s. She got the car in 1978, when it was a fairly inexpensive used car. Since her husband died 30 years ago, her frugal tendencies have gotten a bit out of hand. She never gets rid of anything, certainly not her car. They make fancy new ones, but what’s wrong with this one?


I imagine in 1991, the hubcaps were either stolen or a couple fell off. Someone suggested she just get chrome wheels and not worry about the hubcaps. The smallest tires that would fit were more than adequate. Why let those tire salesmen swindle you into buying bigger tires?


Just how old is this car?  There are CEO’s of major companies that weren’t even born when this car was built, in industries that didn’t exist. Color TV’s weren’t universal and VCR’s weren’t even available yet. Starbucks had one store, in the whole country, and Subway had 16. No states had laws limiting smoking indoors. A 74 Buick sitting in a parking lot in 2019 is equivalent to a 1929 Buick sitting in a lot in 1974. Somehow that seems like it would have been even more anachronistic. This car stuck out like a piece of broccoli on a meat lover’s pizza to me, but I didn’t see anybody else giving it a second look.


This car has seen trends, technologies and celebrities come and go for decades and it’s still here. Nothing on this car could be described as being in excellent condition, but for 45 years it has held together and still works as somebody’s primary car. How many of the vehicles surrounding it will be able to achieve that?

photographed May 22, 2019, Houston, TX