I came across a Buick Rainier at a local “buy here, pay here” lot and was going to write about its position as “A (re)Badge Too Far,” but then I ran into this 1941 Buick at the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich, NY.
Yes, you can say the two vehicles are like grandfather and grandson, but the Rainier is also a symbol of the General’s senescent cluelessness, as it is indeed an Oldsmobile Bravada with a new front clip attached after Ransom Old’s children were given their termination notices. I can imagine a memo going around wondering what to do as the tooling for the Bravada had not been paid off yet. The answer, as usual, was to stick a different grill on it. No one would notice, after all.
It also shows how much GM’s brand hierarchy had slipped in to irrelevancy, as during the 1941 Buick’s time, no would have ever dared to commit such blasphemy, unless it was destined for Canada or some other un-American place.
And despite this being a fairly recent classic, it looks to have been handed down at least once, and I imagine it is now looking for its third owner, as I spotted this on what appears to be a third tier lot. No one even bothered to remove the dealer sticker from nearby Gloversville, possibly in hopes of selling would-be buyers on the fact that it is a local car.
Part of this is the market has moved on, making up for the insanity of the SUV-boom with newer options that seek to emulate the looks of a SUV without the disadvantages of a truck-based car. I’ve noticed that most of the GMT-360 siblings have vanished from the road, except for the one Saab 9-7 I’ve seen around Albany that is well on its way to starring in a Sir Mix-a-lot video. This, despite the ‘go in the snow’ image that most SUV’s were hawked with and which continues to resonate with Upstate New York drivers. Maybe that’s why the only new car dealership I saw in Norwich sells Subarus.
It also symbolizes one of the problems Buick faced and still does: how do you get new buyers into showrooms without alienating those who insist on landau roofs and gold badges? After all, my 86-year old mother’s last car (her driving days are over) was a Buick Century. Ford ignored Mercury until it really died a natural death, and Chrysler seemed to be headed the same way until the 300C appeared. Buick’s fate may still be in the balance, but at least they seem to be headed in the right direction. I thought about getting an Encore, but balked at getting that much in debt. But if you really, really want an Enclave with the woody look, I’m sure the guys who put the landau roof on Gramp’s Le Sabre have just the thing for you.
” how do you get new buyers into showrooms without alienating those who insist on landau roofs and gold badges? ”
Buick sold over one million cars last year. I don’t think they’re having problems selling them without landau roofs and gold badges and since 800,000 of those cars were sold in China, I don’t think Buick gives a damn what North Americans like
The new face of Buick
And of course we don’t get the new Holden-based Park Avenue version 🙁
Yes, I know the Chevy SS is more or less the same car, but I’d rather have something more elegant and less boy-racerish. I really don’t care for the SS’s double grille either–reminds me of a double chin.
Pic of a ’14 Park Avenue from autoweek.com:
Well, they need the Chebbies for fleet duties.
I wondered about selling the SS, too. It seems like they are doing the G8 2.0. A Park Avenue would be give them something to differentiae Buick for Cadillac. But that’s why I’m an armchair CEO! 🙂
Ah…so you’ve been to China. Indeed Buicks (made in a Chinese joint venture in which GM gave all its technology in exchange for the right to sell there) are the Car To Have for many aspiring up-and-comers of the Sino persuasion. Those very 1950-ish chrome grilles appeal to the Chinese, for whom today feels like the 50’s did in USA—-Then the war was finally over, and America’s economy was humming. Most Americans had more money in their pockets than ever before—and they wanted to display their wealth in the form of a gleaming new car with a grille that said “Look at Me”! Many Chinese are feeling the same way today, and want to express their sentiments in the same manner. Buick design will now feature those prominent beeks for the forseeable future…despite that most American’s have little interest in such a low-brow adornment.
I always liked it when used cars have the original dealer sticker still on. Tells you a little bit about the history. My only complaint is new dealer tags are often tacky and often don’t have the city of the dealership. Dealers should take pride in their town!
A lot of the locationless dealer stickers and badges are from chains with multiple locations, this way they can just buy one design and use it at all their stores.
“I’ve noticed that most of the GMT-360 siblings have vanished from the road”
Wow, not where I live. I can spot a couple on almost any two mile errand. I liked these, I drove a two row rental Trailblazer in 2006 and it hauled five of us around comfortably for a week.
I too see them everywhere, especially the Trailblazer and Rainer. There’s still a lot of Rendezvous (GMT250) as well
My uncle still has a black cherry ’05 Trailblazer he bought new. Loaded with tan leather and all the gadgets, it has 130K on it now and runs like a champ. They have two other cars (and he recently got a Fusion Hybrid as a company car) but he just can’t let go of it due to its versatility. It’s their only vehicle that will hold his drum set!
Same here. I even saw a rare GMC Envoy XUV (with the goofy roll-down back roof) in the parking lot of Harbor Freight a couple days ago.
I’ve noticed them more after I wrote the article. There’s even another Rainer that’s been crossing my path.
To be fair, your part of the country dissolves cars faster than any other region I’ve been to.
Dont see them here at all, Buick disappeared from GMs lineup in the 50s people still import used examples but the lasting impression is still of straight 8s and the odd nailhead that showed up specially ordered, plenty of 30s examples locally before they bent the engine in half like a cheap and nasty Ford.
I don’t recall ever hearing a Ford flathead described that way–thanks for the giggle! (Note: Internal combustion music emanating from a straight-8 is completely flaccid compared to the climax-inspiring Ford Flatty.)
.. and I spent most of the SUV boom in SoCal (‘Dude, he’s so whacked, he drives a trailblazer!) There is lot more regional variety in car sales than what most folks would guess. SoCal (at least the IE ) used to be full of Armadas and Titans, both of which cannot be found elsewhere.
I see a surprising number of Armadas around where i am (Baltimore). Maybe I just notice them more because I drive a Pathfinder, but there always seem to be more than I would expect, especially since my local Nissan dealer never seems to keep more than one or two on the lot.
During my brief car sales career, there was a Rainier in black cherry on the lot. It sat there for months. In fact, it may have still been there six months later when I departed. Granted, it was a Ford dealer, but still?
I checked it out and sat in it several times and it was in nice shape. Clearly a super-premium Trailblazer, but not bad. Not really a Buick, though. The Enclave is much nicer.
I do like the current Buicks, however. I went to the regional new car show in Davenport and they had a bronze LaCrosse with saddle tan leather, and it was really sharp. So is the Regal. Also, a friend’s wife recently got a cherry red Encore and she loves it. They also have a Saturn Sky and late-model Tahoe, and they are far from the Golden Girls Buick buyers of the recent past.
But I still want one of those China-only Park Avenues!
(In Crocodile Dundee voice)
“Rainier? That’s not a Buick Estate. THAT’S a Buick Estate!”
Unit-body pseudo-SUVs are almost completely invisible to my eyes. When I hear “Rainier,” I think of a beer and a mountain, in that order. They mostly seem to just be ordinary passenger cars with a raised-up center of gravity, which somehow makes people feel “safe.” I personally prefer the ability to go around a corner at a reasonable speed! I won’t be trading in my little econobox on one of these any time soon. Please, someone explain the popularity of these things to me. It can’t be a rational choice. Some modern-day Don Draper somewhere deserves a medal or perhaps eternal perdition for making these things so popular. Did I mention that I don’t like CUVs? What does that stand for, anyway? Completely Useless Vehicle?
Wait a sec… I was thinking of the Buick Rendezvous. Oh well, it’s a good rant. I think I’ll leave it as it is.
Oh, BTW, speaking of impractical vehicles, I love the red woody. (Who wants to drive around in something that has finely-crafted furniture on the outside? Not practical.)
I’ve got an outtake on a somewhat different red woody wagon scheduled for next week, which is a fun coincidence.
If I thought about it I could probably ask you the same questions about your “little econobox”, but I doubt your answers would change my opinion. So, I guess to each his own and that’s probably why they make so many different cars and trucks. One size does not fit all
SUVs and to a slightly lesser extent, CUVs place you in the Brahma class. The econo-box people are truly the untouchables and get their just deserts when they collide with you.
Nice rant indeed!
They mostly seem to just be ordinary passenger cars with a raised-up center of gravity, which somehow makes people feel “safe.”
I hear that “I don’t feel safe in anything smaller than my Explorer” routine all the time. My transaltion of that is “I don’t feel superior to everyone else in anything smaller”. My former boss asked me “don’t you feel powerful in a big car?”. My reply was something along the lines of “I don’t have the issue other guys do of trying to compensate of a physical deficiency.”
I tried the SUV thing. Had a Ford Taurus X for a bit over 2 years. It was great on the freeway, where there is lots of room, and there were a few times I fully exploited that car’s cargo capacity. Trying to use that monster as a daily driver here in the burbs was a nightmare. I’m really happy to be back in a reasonable size car, currently a Jetta wagon.
A Taurus X was a “monster” and a “nightmare” to drive in the suburbs? Why must you economy guys exagerrate so much? I’ve had no such issues with our Grand Caravan which is about the same size. Neither has my wife, even in urban areas.
In Europe or Asia you would have a point. But our American infrastructure is well-suited to such vehicles.
Why must you economy guys exagerrate so much?
Not an exaggeration. The garage at my condo is in a cramped parking lot. To get the T-Rex in I had to swing as far as I could to the other side of the lot and execute a near full steering lock turn at the right moment to get it in. If I didn’t time things just right, I had to saw the car back and forth to move it sideways to line up with the door.
I’ve had no such issues with our Grand Caravan
My Aunt had a 94 Grand Voyager. When she moved into an apartment, it was impossible to turn sharp enough to get it into the garage in one move. She had to maneuver back and forth to get it lined up. She downsized to an 09 Forester, which simplified things greatly.
My other Aunt has a handicap converson Town and Country. Her handicapped husband passed away, and she’s ready to get rid of the van and get into something smaller, like the Rabbit they had as a second car in the 80s, because the van is so awkward.
It doesn’t surprise me that the Taurus X is developing a record for problems with the power steering, given the maneuvering needed to move it around in cramped areas. The steering on mine was starting to act up at only 41,000 miles.
I gave that SUV a fair trial for two years. There are things about it that I really liked. For instance it was at exactly the right height for the drive up mailbox at the post office and the drive up window at Wendy’s. But the daily ordeal of just trying to get in and out of my own garage, expecially with snow piled up everywhere, outweighed the favorable aspects of the car.
Well, that would seem to be an issue with specific garage setups. As I said, US infrastructure is generally well-suited for large vehicles. I have owned quite a few of them, some larger than the Grand Caravan, and I haven’t had any real trouble maneuvering them where I need over the past 22 years. Some minor annoyances, yes, but nothing to the point of making a car the size of a Jetta or Forester attractive to this 6’3″ father of 3.
I have also owned a number of small vehicles and did not find them comfortable or practical for my use. I hope to never own one again, at least not as a daily driver.
As for feeling safer, a larger vehicle with the same crash test ratings as a smaller vehicle will be a safer vehicle. The laws of physics dictate this. A taller vehicle is easier to see out of and usually has a more comfortable seating position. Plus all wheel drive is a very nice feature to have in areas like where I live in Minnesota. My point is that there are plenty of practical reasons CUVs are popular. You did admit you liked some aspects of the Taurus X, so I’m not sure why you implied that everyone who drives one does so becuase of a superiority complex or some sort of physical shortcoming. Ironic I suppose.
You did admit you liked some aspects of the Taurus X, so I’m not sure why you implied that everyone who drives one does so becuase of a superiority complex or some sort of physical shortcoming. Ironic I suppose.
The things I liked about the T-Rex were, almost exclusively, regardless of it’s size. It was the top of the line and the nicest car I ever had. Automatic climate control, while the only other car I had in the last 30 years with air was an Escort, and manual air at that. In the other 5 cars “air” ment cranking down the window. Whenever I picked the T-Rex up after service, the seat, pedals and mirrors were always maladjusted. One poke of the memory button and everything wiggled it’s way back to where I wanted it.
The only thing that was size dependant was the ride height, because, as you said, mail boxes and fast food windows are now sized for SUVs, and the better visibility is because half of the other cars on the road are SUVs and I could see over their hoods in the T-Rex, while a Jetta or Civic leaves me sitting blind in a steel canyon.
As I really did not need that big of a car, there was no reason not to move to something smaller. Many of the SUV drivers I have known don’t need that big of a car either. Their rides are always nearly empty. But they give me the line about “feeling safe”, or, like my boss, tell me how “powerful” he feels in an SUV. That smells like an ego trip to me.
And I really liked the styling of the T-Rex. If I could have had the same styling and same features in a car 10% smaller, I would have been all over it. As it is, the Jetta is as close as I could come, almost exactly 10% smaller in length, width and height.
I also hate CUVs as they have destroyed the SUV market for people who actually use SUVs for more utilitarian purposes than hauling groceries. But that said, here are some Car and Driver roadholding test results:
Toyota Prius V: .75g
Buick Enclave: .76g
GMT-360s will become the new common vehicle of South Central Los Angeles when more of the Villager/Quest twins and Astro/Safari twins wear out.
Buick is one of my favorite brands. Certainly my favorite American brand. And to most, that sounds weird from a 22 year old aspiring airline pilot. Not a cool car for such a cool job. But back in the day, the Roadmaster and the Riviera were just about the coolest things on the road! Buick had a style all its own, and were truly something to aspire to. But for so long now, they have just been another rebadge of mediocre product. The Rainier being an excellent example of that. I’d say it’s one of the better GMT360 offerings, but nothing much differentiates it from the others.
Even in the darkest days of GM, Buick offered the best cars out of all the GM brands (as relative as that may be… lol) but it’s nice to see them getting their groove back. I’m a big fan of European cars, so it’s nice to see them bringing over some of their excellent offerings from Vauxhall. The Encore has been a runaway success, and I think that can continue. There have been rumors of the Adam being brought over and badged as a Buick. That would be a huge gamble, and maybe a bit early. Most people certainly still think of Buicks as cars for octogenarians. However, that car would go a long way in changing that I think.
no, not at all Logan. one of my cali friends is in her forties, works for a Major airline (I think she’s a first officer), and has an Enclave.
I can imagine a memo going around wondering what to do as the tooling for the Bravada had not been paid off yet. The answer, as usual, was to stick a different grill on it. No one would notice, after all.
And not the last time GM pulled that trick. Remember the Saturn VUE? Reborn, with a new grill as the Chevy Captiva Sport, for US fleet sales only, or buy used after it’s been thrashed by rental drivers.
I like to think that somewhere out there, there’s a big box of crayons that the automakers pass around for cars like this. Take one out of the box, scratch out one logo, and using their very best handwriting, write the new name right over top of it haha.
It was likely due to the demand of Buick dealers. SUVs were the cash cows at the time, they had to have something while the next generation (Enclave) was under development. It was a better move than not giving them anything.