I had learned one particular habit as a young kid growing up between my two brothers in the early 1980s that I still find hard to control, even almost forty years later. Left to my own devices, I tend to “inhale” my food. Our family wasn’t poor and we had plenty to eat, but often, the rationale was that whoever “cleaned” their plate(s) first would earn access to a second helping. My two brothers still also eat very quickly, and today, they are both, let’s say, of a healthy, American heft. As for me, I pay the price for my fitness with more exercise and regimented eating than I care to disclose here, but we all have our priorities, and I treat my body much like I would my own hypothetical classic car. I’ll be “on the dyno” (doing cardio) soon enough.
In the unlikely event that two or all three of us would finish our plates first, and if there were limited “seconds” to go around, my older brother would sometimes beat us other two in the race toward claiming what was left. When my younger brother and I would ask our elder just why he alone was exclusively and automatically entitled to the remnants, he would simply and flatly state, “I have seniority,” right before chomping a big bite out of the last piece of pizza or pork chop. (Mom and Dad let all of this happen, likely in preparing us all for the “real world”, though sometimes they’d intervene.)
Granted, there is almost a decade between the oldest and youngest Dennis brothers, and bigger kids obviously need more food, but encounters like these seemed then, to me, among the biggest injustices within the borders of Genesee County, Michigan. “Seniority” – how I grew to loathe that word. By the time my older brother was out of the house and it was just us two other guys around, my younger brother wasn’t having any of it when I would attempt such shenanigans when it came to leveraging my older “age” (three whole years) for some advantage. (My little bro never backed down, even then, and he’s a effective attorney and client advocate today.)
Around this same time in the early ’80s, I was thoroughly confused when the heretofore 1981 Buick Century four-door reappeared with minor exterior changes as the ’82 Regal. In my mind, the Regal had always seemed like an upper(-esque) scale car, and very little seemed to have been done to differentiate the ’82 Regal sedan from the ’81 Century. Adding to my confusion, the handsome, new ’82 Century (probably my favorite-looking of the FWD A-Body quartet) looked light-years more modern and attractive than the old-school G-Body sedan, and appeared (at least in sedan form) no less luxurious.
I just didn’t understand. How did the older, stale sedan with which we were all already familiar get the “better” name than the newer, modern, (presumably) more efficient car? Then, I paid closer attention to the coupe versions of both cars, and it all sort of started to make sense. Aesthetically, the new A-Body Century sedan was to the G-Body Regal sedan what the slick Regal coupe was to the ungainly two-door Century – and this was at a time when coupes were still selling in decent volume. This might also help explain the following sales numbers for ’82: For the Regal, 136,200 coupes and 74,400 sedans; and for the Century, 19,700 two-doors versus 83,300 four-doors. (For ’82, the Regal line also contained Buick’s midsize wagon, which sold an additional 14,700 units.)
Pricing was also baffling, I’ve come to learn. Initially, the base prices of various models of the new Century were higher than those of the corresponding Regals, by about 2-3% across the board. This was reversed for ’83, with the Regal, again, being (marginally) the more expensive car. The Regal sedan’s “seniority” over the Century ran out after ’84, with the older car’s discontinuation for ’85, while its Oldsmobile Cutlass four-door cousin continued in production through ’87. Even without factoring in the Regal-exclusive wagon, combined sales of the two- and four-door ’82 Regal bested those of the all-new Century by a ratio of almost 2:1.
The base price shell-game was also happening over at Pontiac, with the new ’82 6000 carrying an entry-level price tag higher than that of the newly-midsized “Bonneville G”, with the latter name having been previously attached to Pontiac’s largest sedan offering. There was similar news from Lansing in Cutlass Ciera / Supreme / Supreme Brougham / Calais-land, and it was the same story at Chevrolet with the Malibu Classic and new Celebrity.
I suppose the thing I most associate with this generation of Regal sedan is an episode of near-asphyxiation in the back seat of one, at the mercy of a flatulent driver and rear windows that wouldn’t (by unforgivable GM design) roll down, which was something I didn’t realize at the time. I thought the rear window controls were in the front of the cabin, and being around age eleven or twelve, I was reluctant to ask the driver to crack the windows back there, because it was he who was funking up the inside of the car. (You remember what it was like to speak to an adult when you were a kid!)
I don’t know about my younger brother, the future-lawyer (who was also a rear-seat passenger on that trip), but I thought I was going to die. The thirty-or-so minute drive from Frankenmuth, Michigan back home to Flint with those dear family friends (may they both rest in peace) seemed interminable, but as you can see (and read), I did live to tell about it.
Perhaps it was “seconds” at dinner that night partaken of by our driver, our dearly departed family friend, that had helped lead to those dire consequences for us other passengers that night. I will say, though, that it was nice that the American car-buying public was treated to a second-helping of the G-Body (née A-Body) RWD Buick midsize sedan once the initial “Aeroback” styling had been amended much to many people’s liking. It was a shame about those rear windows, though.
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
If you’d like to be reminded of what the two-door A-body Century of the mid-’80s looks like, click here.