You’re looking at the individual sales leader of Buick’s 1977 lineup, the Regal coupe. Buick sold over 845,000 cars that year, which was good for fifth place in the industry. Of that number, over 20% of them were of this singular model and body style. Between the coupe and sedan versions of Buick’s top-tier midsizer, the sales race wasn’t even close: About 174,600 coupes against 18,000 sedans (which had completely different styling), for a total of about 192,600. Combined sales of all midsized Buicks, also including the Century in Special, base, and Custom trim levels, reached 328,200 units. The intermediate was far and away the most popular choice at Buick dealerships in ’77, outselling even the newly right-sized LeSabre, which moved 190,700 units.
I like the color of this example, which looks to be factory Light Blue, paint code 22. It’s entirely possible that this Regal has seen a respray at some point, but the color of its exterior finish looks very much like what was available for purchase when these cars were new. I look at any 1976 or ’77 two-door Buick A-body with great fondness, as I remember them being everywhere when I was growing up in Flint, Michigan. My hometown was synonymous with Buick for decades. Even if the Chevelle / Malibu was the most affordable Colonnade, being a Chevrolet, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass was slightly less expensive (and much more popular), the Buick versions are what I remember seeing around the most.
The entry-level ’77 Cutlass Supreme coupe far outsold the Regal that year by over 68,300 units or close to 40%. That Oldsmobile’s base price was only $43 less than that of the comparable Buick. By this point in the ’70s, though, the Cutlass was to Oldsmobile like a TV spinoff that had almost completely eclipsed the popularity of the original program, like The Bionic Woman to The Six Million Dollar Man. The Regal could be had in plain and Landau flavors, much like one could order an Olds Cutlass Supreme or a Supreme Brougham, in addition to an ostensibly Euro-themed Cutlass Salon. Over 632,700 Cutlasses of all shapes and sizes were sold for ’77, which was almost twice as many midsized Buicks. Cutlasses comprised over half of Oldsmobile’s total ’77 output of 1,135,800 cars in what became the first of six nonconsecutive model years in which Lansing would sell over a million cars.
When I was in elementary school in the mid-1980s, there were only two brands of basic jeans that were acceptably cool: Levi’s and Lee. I remember having a distinct preference for Lee as a brand in the fifth and sixth grades for no specific reasons that I can remember at this writing. Maybe I liked the lettering on the label. There were also some Wranglers in my dresser drawers along with whatever Sears Surplus had on sale, but by the time I got to middle school, I was #TeamLevis all the way.
I honestly don’t know what happened with the popularity of Lees, but I can’t remember seeing them around past a certain point in the ’80s. It was like the cool kids just stopped wearing them, whereas only a few years before, Lee jeans had seemed like a fashion-forward choice. The ’70s Regal was a little like the “Lee jeans” of personal luxury coupes: nice cars with great style and functionality, but ultimately lacking the magic of a brand name like “Cutlass” or “Levi’s”.
It would have been frustrating to Buick dealers at the time if their Regal was seen by some as sort of an off-brand Cutlass. After all, Buick had a history of being known as the second-most prestigious General Motors brand after Cadillac, regardless of the validity of the Sloanian, hierarchical “ladder” by that stage. Buick’s restyled and smooth-sided ’76 midsize coupes even featured rear styling that was very Cadill-esque. As for my own personal preference, I find the original ’73 Century and Regal coupes to be the best-looking of the Buick Colonnades, and really attractive cars in their own right. Maybe it’s because I remember seeing so many of them around as a kid, but I also like the ’76 and ’77 models, with their smooth bodysides and compound taillamp elements, even if I don’t like them quite as much as the ’73s.
The chromed dual exhaust tips on this one were a nice touch and made me think this car has what was probably the 155-horsepower version of the Buick 350 V8 under the hood. I’d guess that the engine has had some modifications, if the custom American Racing rims are any clue. It looks to have been a really nice car at some point in the not-too-distant past, even sporting a telltale round mark on the front fender that indicated it had a car alarm (or a dummy stick-on to make people think it did). These cars rusted like most other cars of that era. I didn’t see any rust on this one, and this is Chicago. The disheartening body damage on the driver’s side still looked fixable, and much more so than if there was rust rot. This Regal still has presence, and I hope to see it on the road again soon as we sit on the cusp of spring.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, February 19, 2023.
Click here for Brendan Saur’s great writeup of a beautiful ’77 Regal Landau.
Brochure photo sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.org.
The svelte, elegant, stylish 1976/77 Regal made the downsized 1978 model rather resemble a steaming pile of automotive offal.
made the downsized 1978 model rather resemble a steaming pile of automotive offal.
I could not agree more. Although I wonder now how automotive offal could be such gutless performers. 🙂
There must have been a lot of people in those days questioning the point of buying a new car, especially with seventies inflation levels jacking up car prices.
Stomping the skinny pedal on a ’78 V6 Regal test drive did indeed feel like stepping into a pile of offal.
I waited for the downshift from third to second gear….waited…waited…then realized that it had already happened.
The ’78 Regal was actually quite nice and tolerably quick with the Chevy 305 4 bbl. Dad almost bought one, but thought he needed a four door. It was the Cutlass Supreme that looked pudgy and frumpy, despite having a similar silhouette. The Aerobacks were a third (turd) and different animal from them.
I’m also a fan of the 1978 – ’80 generation of Regal. I thought they were tastefully done, and for the one-year overlap with the ’78 Riviera, a great alternative for a more sensibly-sized personal luxury coupe.
And those so called ‘piles’ evolved into the Grand National, which are highly collectible today. Taste is subjective.
The 81 restyle helped a ton. Those 77-79s just looked too rinky dink, they kept too many Collonade styling traits and stuffed them into that dorky little body (the Monte Carlo was the worst offender) once they shed those in 81 they all became more attractive cars
I agree on the benefits of the 1981 restyling; also that the ’78 Monte Carlo was the sorriest of the lot (besides the Aerobacks), especially after the bumper rub strips started peeling off.
I would not have thought about it, but I can now see why this car got you started on blue jeans. Denim was really in during the latter 70s, and this color hits it just about right.
The thing that hits me, though, is something different. I love it when conventional wisdom is shown to be wrong. Received wisdom is that in 1977 the brilliant new B body cars from GM suddenly made the old colonnade cars old news and obsolete. This piece shows that at least as far as the situation at Buick dealers, the 5-year-old colonnade cars outsold the new B body LeSabre by more than 1/3. And this couldn’t have been just about value shoppers, because the top-end Regal edged out the LeSabre all on its own.
Now you have me wondering how the LeSabre sales/production of 1977 compared to LeSabre of 1976. I would suspect that the 77 was higher, but it would be extra interesting if I was wrong.
We insurance guys love to ten-key – LeSabre sales for ’76 were around 137,100, so the ’77 figure of 190,700 represented no less than a 39% increase with the downsize.
Yes, I have to agree that to me the 1973 and ’76/’77 Regals were really attractive cars. I like the formal coupes with or without the Landau roofs. Don’t care for the full vinyl roofs that the ’73 models could be optioned with.
I think the one in the brochure photo was the only one built without a landau roof (someone goofed), so this is probably a respray.
It’s not even that I dislike the 1974 – ’75 Regal coupes. It’s just that I like the other ones better. The first iteration (’73, in this case) always tends to be the cleanest. I’m thinking now about why it is I prefer the ’76 and ’77 models over the ’74 and ’75. It may be unquantifiable. It often is. 🙂
One of my roommates had a ‘76 Regal in the same light blue color, except with a darker blue vinyl landau top. This was in the mid 80’s so the car was about 8 years old at the time. It was still in pretty good shape and the Buick 350 ran smoothly. One really cold Ohio morning, his Regal was the only car out of three that would start, so he let me take it to work. I remember that blue velour was super comfortable, especially after the heater finished warming all the way up.
Gotta love those big, solid GM cars of the ’70s. When I had my own Colonnade for a little while in high school, a ’76 Malibu Classic, it started without fail in the Michigan winter and the heater took no time at all to get warmed up.
Team Levi here too. Lees just never fit me right. I think I might have gone through a Wranger phase very early on, but those were decidedly and resoundingly UNcool in Jr. High and High School in the mid/late 70s.
So now you have me thinking about The County Seat…the ubiquitous (at least I think so) mall store in the 70s/80s. I think I went religiously once a year through the 80s, always coming home with one of those plastic shopping bags that clinched at the top with a string. Once they closed, I was at something of a loss as to where to buy jeans. And so I started wearing other things. All things considered, maybe for the better.
I do like those mid-70s Regals too.
I remember Wranglers being the object of derision. I’d have one or two “nice” pairs of jeans, but then Wranglers, or like the one year when my mom found these “Smart Value” jeans at J.C. Penney. The horror. My brother’s hand-me-down bell bottoms – in the ’80s. The funny thing is I wear stuff like that now.
County Seat was great for jeans as a teenager. Going in there was such an ’80s thing, with all that neon and acid-washed. Making me miss the mall!
I, too was a Levi’s guy; in fact, I still have a reversible Levi vest, but not the matching bell bottoms! Unfortunately, the quality of Levi’s went down, while the pricing went up. Alas, my physique ( and my taste in jeans) no longer allows me to wear them. Carhartt is now my brand of choice, but I also still have my levi trucker jacket. Some things will always be with you! 🙂
I’m a Levi’s guy. I maybe had one or two pairs of Lee or Wrangler as a young kid, not to mention store-brand JC Penney or Sears, but I’ve worn only Levi’s for at least 50 years. Never owned a Buick, though. Thanks for yet another good Tuesday morning read.
Thanks, Dman. I’ve got a few pairs of Levi’s in my closet. I’ve never owned a Buick, either, but took driver’s training in early ’90s LeSabres.
The factory that I worked at built the Monte Carlo, Malibu, Century, and Regal. Monte Carlos were really popular around here, but I always thought that these Regals were just a more impressive car. I thought the styling looked more expensive and the interiors were usually much nicer. I thought that this is what the El Dorado should have been at this time. Though GM fixed that for ’79. I hope that blue Regal gets a date at the body shop.
I was also a Levis fan in my youth, now I get my jeans at Walmart!
I also hope it gets fixed soon! Nobody can tell me the ’78 Regal was unattractive. I had spotted this one 12 years ago in Flint at the annual Back To The Bricks car festival. The gentleman behind the wheel was the original owner. I like your description of the styling as looking “expensive”, and I agree.
Cutlass line up was #1 in 1976 only, and not “several years” as some internet folks like to claim. Several years in the top 10, yes. Chevy B body went back to #1 in ’77, ’78, then Chevette in ’79.
Oldsmobile Cutlass line also had the fastback ‘S’ coupes [442 optional], that get overlooked in car history, along with the sedans and wagons. As if all 70’s Cutlasses sold were “only” the Supreme 2 door.
Winter must be lingering a bit too long around here, because the first thing that enters my mind after reading the article and seeing the pictures are those two large dents marring that lovely Buick. Britches be damned, those dents would be gone before Easter….good narrative on the Buick.
Thanks, Dean. Here’s hoping he can get the body work done or do it himself.
I had a 73 Regal Limited with the same interior fabrics as offered in the Electra Limited. Had rich medium brown metallic paint with a burlwood looking gold and brown full vinyl roof. I preferred the earlier classic style with the round headlights. Was equipped with the 350 and auto transmission. A quick way of increasing performance was to turn the air cleaner cover upside down, and in MN it never got hot enough to affect temp of intake. I replaced the carb with a 4 barrel and added dual exhaust. In MN the body only lasted 3 years before it began rotting out wit rust. Still while it lasted, I was cruisen in style.
The rust was very much a problem in Michigan, too. It’s the irony of such expressively styled cars starting to corrode within a few years, keeping their luxury, but disintegrating. Now cars like this when in good shape are so much more interesting to me than other types of cars (i.e. high performance, sports cars, etc.) because so few survived.
Outstanding find, biography, and comparisons Joe. ‘Jeans On’ by David Dundas, a January 1977 #17 Billboard Hot 100 hit, would be a perfect tune for the eight track player in this Regal.
Love it! And even if I wouldn’t necessarily borrow their dance moves, I’d wear what the guys are wearing in this, today.
“I have a tiger in my tank.” 🙂
(the guy in the denim bucket hat kills me!)
Most peculiar crash damage on the driver’s side. It almost looks as though GM design staff intended those ‘humps’ over the wheel arches! (BTW, you’re safe this week Joseph, I don’t have a Regal!)
That crash damage had me doing a double- (maybe triple-) take at the intersection when I saw this car. Like you, I wondered if those “wheel arches” were design details I had simply overlooked in the past. It looks like this car had tried to squeeze though a space that was just a little too narrow, or next to one of those parking poles.
I just heard the scraping metal in my head and shuddered. If I was behind the wheel, I probably would have been depressed for days after that unless I was escaping with my life when it happened.
Yeah, damage to all 3 side panels. Unless the driver knows a very patient and friendly body person, that’s the kind of damage that is likely not to get fixed on a car this age. Ugh.
These were beautiful cars, so was the Pontiac Grand Prix in 1977. They were the last cars of the intermediate size and they all went out with a bang. I will also agree that the new downsized ‘78 models really didn’t take off too well until the’81 redesigned body styles were introduced. Yeah, I can see why the 1977 models sold so well, they were just the right size and still exuded “solid”, intermediate touring class automobiles. Well done article!
Thanks, Robert! It’s interesting to me to hear other perspectives on the Colonnades, because being born in the mid-’70s myself, I was used to seeing only the downsized 1978+ GM midsized cars as new, where the Colonnades seemed like oversized versions of what I had understood from the jump as being the norm.
I have the same recollection about Lee jeans that you do – they (along with Levi’s) were the cool, most popular jeans (although I would later learn that being less expensive than some other brands probably had lots to do with why so many kids wore them). And Lee inexplicably seemed to drop out of sight by the mid-’80s. (There was also a brief period in the late ’70s when neither Levi’s nor Lee were cool, you had to be seen wearing “designer jeans” with labels like Jordache, Sergio Valenti, or Calvin Klein. Each brand had its own unique back pocket stitching design, and everyone knew which one belonged to which brand. Back pocket stitching was to jeans what grilles were to cars).
The 1976 redesign of the Olds and Buick coupes, in addition to updating their looks, seems to have allowed the same door to be used for both brands which wasn’t previously the case.
What’s interesting about those designer jeans of the late ’70s is that they’re super expensive now on eBay for good examples. I found some new-old stock (never worn) of Dee Cee jeans with the pocket stitching at a bargain price and bought two pair. The fit and sizing is much, much different than on modern jeans. And I was amused to find out there was no actual person named “Sergio Valente”! Marketing at its finest.
I think I remember reading that about the door skins being interchangeable between the 1976 – ’77 Regals and Cutlasses. That was just a harbinger of what was to come in the ’80s, but those two cars still had very different and distinct personalities in my mind.
I love the 1976-77 Regal coupe best among all the various Colonnades, although I wouldn’t turn down any of them except maybe a Monte Carlo, which are just too baroque for my tastes. This ice blue color is very period-correct and the absence of a landau top perhaps less so, but really welcomed.
As for Lee versus Levi’s, I was always a Lee guy, as they simply fit me better. Levi’s were more expensive and definitely what the cool kids wore. Woe to those wearing JCPenney Plain Pockets, as they were fooling no one but themselves. Years later, I worked for JCPenney, and some of the old timers were still defensive about the dorky reputation that was attached to Plain Pockets.
Plain Pockets! Yes! That’s what I also had one or two pairs of – under the “SMART VALUE!” banner my mom found at the store at the Genesee Valley Mall. Penney’s also seemed like a more fashion-forward department store, even with their Halston line for women.
I knew JCP had their own cheap brand but couldn’t remember the name. Plain Pockets! Of course! For years Penney’s ran ads mocking brand-name and designer-label jeans that, as I noted earlier, used the stitching designs on the pockets (and the label itself of course) as the main differentiator. Plain Pockets mocked the obsession with wearing the cool brands with the distinctive pocket stitching and said their jeans were just as good, but cheaper – “the difference is the pockets – and the price” which was $9.99/pair, I’m sure the kids at school admired Plain Pockets wearers for their sensible thriftiness in apparel choices.
The other big department-store brand was Sears Toughskins, which lived up to their name in durability and managed to get some street cred because of it. But Sears then brought out a line of fake designer jeans with the same upside-down loop back-pocket stitching that Calvin Klein used, minus the CK label. I wore those and hoped I could fake it well.
…and a Sergio Valenti commercial I only saw once but still remember; catchy advertising jingles are a lost artform. By the way, the ’70s were really like this! 🙂
That commercial is glorious.
Isn’t that “Bob & Emily Hartley’s apt building in the background?
Great observation! You can see it only in the first frame, on the far right.
So many memories from those Colonnade GM coupes!
Just a couple to list here: My mom bought her first upscale car, a ’73 Monte Carlo S in dark blue metallic, after nearly 2 decades of buying basic full-size Chevys. My brother and I helped her special-order the car, and it was our first family car with a/c. But, there were no fancy power windows, locks, or cruise control, and we passed on the vinyl roof as well!
In 1978 when I moved with my wife and infant son to Louisville, KY, there was an older woman in our apartment complex with a silver ’76 or ’77 Regal coupe that she kept in impeccable condition. I remember her telling us that she bought only Exxon premium gas to feed it.
What a great thing, to have been included in the car selection process for your mom’s ’73 Monte. That would be something I would never forget. I’m trying to remember how much involvement my brothers and I would have had with helping our parents pick out any of the family cars… I remember us kids being all-in on our ’85 Renault Encore, which was a great car – no irony, and without qualification.
There’s always gonna be a knock-on or ripple type of effect when a given product is no longer in widespread use. The buggywhip industry withered once automobiles supplanted literal horsepower. The lead industry took it on the chin when unleaded paint and gasoline became the norm. And the once-thriving replacement hinge-pin industry was just never the same when the 2-door Colonnades left the roads.
Now that’s solid…the punchline is worth the wait. 🙂
Right on time as usual, Daniel. I used to wonder why my left arm was slightly stronger than my right when I owned my ’76 Malibu Classic while a teenager, and it was from pulling that door shut.
We had a 77′ Landau as a family car, which became mine to use when I could afford to keep gas in it. I have always thought these were the most beautiful of the Colonnade Coupes, although the CC’s were objectively terrible in so many ways. Rear seat room, terrible, as me and brother could attest after riding in the back seat from the mid-Atlantic to Florida twice. Dad was of that generation that thought 4-door cars uncool, so we didn’t have a sedan until I was in late high school. Not a terrible handler, but not cushy smooth either. We had a wheezy 2-bbl Chevy 305, and the car had rust holes in the rear fenders by the mid-80s even though we didn’t live in the “rust belt.”
I always thought it had Cadillac looks, and I only recently learned why. The excellent YouTube channel “Rare Classic Cars & Automotive History” interviewed a GM stylist who was high up the chain at Buick in the 70’s, but had been at Cadillac in the 60’s. He confirmed they basically used the 67′ Eldorado rear tailight design for the 76/77 Regal. As someone else noted, the Cutlass and Regal shared doors, but also the trunk lid. I also personally think that the squarish front treatment and front fenders has a lot of that “sheer look” design influence from the ’75 Seville. Something else I recently learned about Colonnade Coupes, that Gran Prix and Monte Carlo rode on a longer wheelbase, which is odd considering they were considered the less-premium brands. I was surprised to read in this article that the Regal was such a good seller for ’77. I grew up in a podunky area, but I can’t remember that many Regals of that vintage around, although there were Cutlasses, GP’s and MC’s *everywhere*. Dad adored it though, it was yellow, so kind of unusual. He saw it daily at a Buick dealer on his way to work, and it was bought late in the year. I guess not many people were interested in a yellow Buick with a tan landau top, tan vinyl interior, with crank windows and a Chevy engine.
Bill, thank you for this! I absolutely agree with you that the ’76 and ’77 Regals had that same Bill Mitchell “sheer look” to them, and many cars would have this basic “face” through at least the mid-’80s. I would be curious to have been there when they were new, in order to appreciate how modern the revised clip looked when these were new.
I also appreciate your observations of car buyers of a certain age going with two-doors over four-doors for the style factor. I’d be curious to pinpoint the approximate year when it was clear that the tide had shifted with the general public’s buying preference going to sedans over coupes.
My immigrant fancy grandma (as opposed to the other one, the immigrant peasant grandma) didn’t get her license until she was in her ‘50s, once all the extended family had moved out of the city to the burbs where the buses hardly ran. In’63 she bought a gently used pristine turquoise’58 Buick Special (with air suspension… puke), then a new ‘67 Buick Special, and finally a new ‘77 loaded Regal, dark green with a white padded roof and white leather interior. Every possible option except power windows and a sunroof because she lived in a neighborhood near rivers and if she happened to drive off the bridge she wanted to be able to crank the windows down to escape (seriously). We used to chide her that her wet mink coat would weigh her down like cement shoes, and she would never give that up.
She stopped driving in ‘92, and gave the car to my dad. It got sidelined with some minor or major malady and sat in the yard for about 10 years with my expressed wish to restore it (both she and my dad had passed in the interim), but finances and distance just never meshed for it to happen. I finally contacted someone from the local Buick club and offered it to them and they gladly took it. Here’s to hoping it’s still someplace on the road….
Dave, thanks for sharing this! Your grandmother’s Regal sounds like it was in a beautiful color combo, like spearmint on wheels. Our human phobias are very real. One of my best friends from back in the day would take off his seatbelt while driving over bridges for the same reason your grandma wanted that sunroof. I didn’t judge – I have my own things.
I’m so glad your grandma’s Buick found its way to someone from an actual Buick club who, hopefully, has given it the love and attention we all know it deserves.
We used 1976 models in drivers Ed. V6 engines back then I didn’t know much about cars.but do Remer that I liked it because it was brand new
Also, Rember that annoying break pedal on the passenger side for the teacher.
That passenger’s side brake pedal in driver’s ed was the worst. I was always thinking that if Mr. Holec had to use it, he could get us both killed. We both lived.
this message is for Joseph Dennis, I have owned for 47 years a 1973 GS stage-1 four speed that I think you would love to write about.