CC Capsule: 1985 Buick Regal T-Type – Quite The DusT-Type

I bumped into this faded glory recently and thought I might share. This is the second Buick Regal I’ve caught in this city, but this one is the genuine article, not some rebadged Century wagon. Even in its country of birth, this would be a true CC-worthy encounter.

On the other hand, this poor Buick could have been a lot better, condition-wise. It’s obviously not in current use, its tyres deflated and its body covered in dust. At least it’s protected from the elements, though it’s in danger of being overtaken by greenery. Such a shame for a turbocharged coupé. The taillights do look odd, but that could be a Japan-specific modification.

Buick T-Type advert, 1984


Truth be told, I was not overly aware of the scarcity of the beast I had caught here, half a world away from its Flint (I guess?) birthplace. We’ve had a look at other T-Types of the era – Riviera, Le Sabre, Skyhawk – and the mid-‘80s G-body Regal has been seen in genuine (as well as faux) Grand National trim, but strangely the Regal T-Type has not had its day on CC as of yet.

There’s a whole NASCAR backstory to the turbo Regals that I’m pretty unfamiliar with, but I do realize it means these Buicks are pretty highly sought after in the US. Didn’t expect that particular Regal-mania to extend all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

Buick Regal T-Type advert, 1983


Confusingly, not all T-Types were turbocharged, but the BOF / RWD Regal definitely was. The Regal T-Type and its Grand National derivative were made from MY 1983 to December 1987; Buick typically sold fewer than 5000 of these per year except for the extended 1987 model year, where they topped 20,000 units. That year also saw the even-spicier GNX and Turbo T variants, where the turbo spec could be mated to the Limited trim, so that last year was really the turbo Regal’s brightest. To add another T-based twist, these turbo T-Types could be ordered with a T-roof. T-rrific.

I have no idea when this one was made, but judging from a quick web photo search, the ‘87s had a painted grille, which this one does not have. There may be some way of telling these apart that I’m not aware of, which will undoubtedly be pointed out in the comments section.

The whole point of these cars was to show that high-performance cars didn’t have to have a V8. GM were successful in this endeavour: sequential fuel injection was added in 1984 and several other improvements (computerized ignition, higher turbocharger RPM) pushed the power output past the 200hp bar in 1985. Further tinkering and an intercooler brought the hp up to 235 by ’87, when the non-Turbo cars were still making do with 110hp. The engine’s displacement and aspiration are heavily advertised all over the place, because bragging rights. Initially, the 3.8 litre V6 could propel the T-Type to 60mph in 8 seconds; lighter and more powerful 1987 Grand Nationals / Turbo Ts / GNXs could bring that down to 6 seconds. Not too shabby for the times, and positively hair-raising for the somewhat geriatric Buick marque.

Inside, things are pretty standard for ‘80s GM, quite toned down. The one exception is the floor gearchange, which I guess was not super common, except on T-Types. The ’86 Pontiac 6000 wagon we had also had one, for some unfathomable reason, but it didn’t look as nice as this one, which seems like it came out of a ‘60s muscle car. The gray mouse fur on the doors of this Buick also looks very familiar to me.

It’s a pity that this Buick is not out and about. Hopefully, someone will resuscitate it, hopefully find some decent wheels and tyres for it and give it a deep clean. Finding dirty cars is almost shocking in this country – even more so when it’s a rare exotic like this one.

Plus it would be nice to be able to properly document this Regal. I couldn’t even take a profile shot of this one, not to mention the rear. There must be some sort of amber turn signals at the back, but I was unable to suss out where (the front ones are pretty obvious). Here’s hoping this T-Type gets the makeover it deserves someday.