William Garrett caught this ’62 Buick Electra 225 four door hardtop in Stanford, CA. It’s a car I’ve never written up before, so let’s what it says to me: It’s just not really all that classy-looking, for a top end senior C-Body GM sedan. But it has its compensations, right?
The Electra had three inches more wheelbase and six inches longer overall than the LeSabre and Invicta, sharing the longer rear doors and roof structure with Cadillac and the Olds 98. You’d assume that even if it didn’t exude gobs of class, it would at least result in more rear seat legroom in all the four doors. I always did. Turns out that’s not always the case; it’s never too late to learn something new about GM’s body sharing programs.
I know; rear seat legroom isn’t exactly the thing most writers would focus on, but then this is CC, and looking at the brochure, I happened to notice that in the interior dimension specs, the rear seat leg room for the 4-door hardtop was three inches less than the 4-door sedan and Riviera sedan (six window hardtop). What gives? A typo, I assumed. But I found the same specs at aautomobilecatalog.com. Typos happen; seeing is believing.
Thanks to Google Images, I was able to dig up some rear seat shots of both. Sure enough; the hardtop’s rear seat (left) clearly sits a few inches further forward. Why?
The only obvious reason is that the forward-sloping C-pillar would make entry too awkward if not actually painful from hitting one’s head if the seat was in the same position as the six-window sedans, with their vertical C-Pillar. I didn’t have the time to verify, but I have to assume that’s the case for the Cadillacs and Olds 98s as well. There was a price to be paid for that very fashionable Lincoln-esque broad C-pillar, which was new on the C-Bodies in 1962.
The new hardtop sedan replaced the one-year only “flying wing” roof on the 1961 Electra (non 225) four-door hardtop. That one’s rear seat still had the generous 44″ of rear seat leg room, despite the somewhat-less forward-canted C-Pillar. Presumably GM had some rigid specs about these sorts of things.
Having resolved that mystery, are there any more that this big Buick sedan might suggest are still unsolved? Well, not so much a mystery, but an observation. This ’62 six-window sedan just looks a bit prosaic, along with the rest of the big ’62 big Buicks. It doesn’t exactly scream “top-line luxury sedan”. More like a LeSabre with an old-fashioned six window roof.
It occurred to me: that greenhouse is all-too similar to the one on the little Special. Which makes it look only less special. One wonders why the B-O-P 1961 senior compacts had that roof style; it looks a bit less than state of the art for an all new sedan in 1961.
The first Corvair prototypes, like this one badged “Holden” in disguise, did have a six window greenhouse, but back in 1957, that was still fairly contemporary, although it does date back to the 1951 Cadillac.
This Corvair clay from April 1957 also has it, along with Carl Renner’s “flying wing” roof. I’ve not seen this combination before.
These two further Corvair design studies from late 1957 both have versions of the 6-window roof. Obviously, the final Corvair dropped that look, fortunately, but it seems that it was kept for the B-O-P compacts, which Olds gets the credit for the primary design work.
I’ve never been too impressed with the styling of these; pretty fussy compared to the very clean Corvair.
GM kept the 6-window roof going all the way through 1964, and the considerable Lincoln-inspired slab-sided styling refresh they got in 1963 (1964 shown) made the Electra look significantly more upscale than our featured ’62.
Actually, more than just “significantly more”. Vastly more. Infinitely more. As I look at these two, I’m impressed at just how effective the ’63 restyle was, given that the underlying body was very much the same. The influence of the ’61 Continental was huge.
This vertical ribbing is a classic Harley Earl vestige; he might as well have signed it. He loved this kind of tacked on stuff. And yes, he was still in charge when the ’61-’62 models were being done. Or maybe one of his acolytes put it on after he left as a bit of a tribute to him. or just out of habit.
The timing of Earl’s leaving just before the arrival of the game-changing ’61 Continental was fortuitous. He could barely cope with the near-revolution of the ’59s in response to the ’57 Chryslers. This is ’62 Buick is truly the end of an era, the mile stone marker—or grave stone—for the tail end of his influence.
Those front legroom numbers looked generous to me, so I dug out my ’63 Buick brochure. Why is legroom so terrible on the ’63 full-size Buicks, especially compared to the ’62? I can verify that my Riviera doesn’t have as much as I’d like.
Regardless, you are right in saying that the ’63 looks far more expensive. I’ve really grown to like the ’63 Electra, especially the “four-window?” variety, although I will say that the ’62 Wildcat is pretty sharp.
As a kid I was pretty excited when my copy of Motor Trend arrived with a piece on the 62 Wildcat. Sharp it is. I loved the fake convertible top lines and wanted a coupe in grey metallic with the black vinyl top and a red interior. Perfect with the new narrow whitewalls. And a name as exciting as Thunderbird!
Yeah, this is a good looking car!
Funny how long these images stick in your brain. I thought of this cover as soon as I saw the Electra pic this morning.
Some very nice 4 door pillarless hardtops here! And how refreshing is it, to see these 4 door cars when the world has been focused on the more common 2 door models for far too long.
I particularly like six window 1961 to 1964 Buick Electra’s in 6 window 4 door hardtops. That photo of the black 1964 Buick Electra 225 6 window 4 door pillarless hardtop, for me represents a clear highlight in post Second World War GM design.
The four window 1963 and 1964 Buick Electras with their solid ‘C’ pillars lack the stunning formal style that six window version have.
Great cars, all of them, particularly in 4 door hardtop form!
The basic styling of the Y-bodies was apparently mostly Oldsmobile, after Buick had lobbied hard for the longer wheelbase. Pontiac was a latecomer and was in the tightest position in terms of tooling budget, so they sort of had to follow Oldsmobile’s lead, although they did a nice job of integrating the split grille nose (which they then dropped for ’62, unwisely, I think).
That’s what I remembered too. I found those two images at a Shannon’s article about the Olds and Buick Corvair protoypes,and the article claimed Pontiac dead the lead. Which doesn’t make sense for a several reasons, most of all because the styling has an Olds vibe to it.
Pleased to see Shannons get a mention. They have a thriving club, and we have a SE Queensland catch up a couple of times a year.
And the Retroautos articles are always worth reading.
Not sure about leg room, but was not to weigh in on Buick styling. Growing up in 50s was (and continue to be )a fan of excess chrome and formal looking upscale vehicles. Harleys 58 Buicks and Cadillacs (especially 60 Special) were at their peak. Subsequent Buick restyle particularly 61 and 62,were definitely Not impressive. That 61 strange
Flying Wing roof was a joke. The 63 Buicks were a step in the right direction to upscale look. Among my favorites were 68and 78 225s. NO interest in any compacts. The Formal wide C pillar definitely gives any car an upscale limo like look. Too bad Buick, like most others, has turned to SUVS. Can’t see ANY upscale image there 😕
I have always liked the look of GM’s six window sedans. Very limousine, formal, and elegant looking. However, I think that the 1965 (and 1966) Chrysler “Town Sedans” exude these qualities even more so. The rear backlight is more vertical for an even more formal look, and the green house is taller – resembling the Mercedes 600 six window sedans to some extent.
I love the flying roof! I hope the reduced leg room was at least made up for in trunk room.
Isn’t the roof on the 4 window hardtops the same as the 2 door hardtops? If so that may account for the lesser legroom. GM was experimenting with mixing and matching roofs at the time. Such as the ’63 and ’64 Cadillac coupes using the B body 4 door hardtop roof.
I think the 6 window reflects continuity from the ’58–’59 C body roof more than Y body or Corvair influence. If anything I suspect the ’58 C body influenced them all.
The ’63 B/C-body reskin with its’ expensive straightening of the attractive (but quickly dated in its’ time) curved A-pillar was used to varying effect between divisions. Pontiac knocked it out of the park, Buick and Olds put much more effort in distinguishing their C-bodies from their B-bodies to the latter’s detriment, Cadillac reverted to the 1958-59 face for better or worse – more distinctive but more dated, a proto-Brougham – and each year’s Chevy was plainer than the last until the ’64 Impala looked like the box a ’61 Impala came in.
IMO the Pontiac is the handsomest of the ’61 compacts, but in retrospect they should have been spared the rigors of the annual style change and given only cleaning-up of applied details like the Corvair was.
…reminds me, somethin’ fierce, of the Colonnade 4-doors’ greenhouse.
Movie starlet Jayne Mansfield died in a 66 Buick Electra so I always think of that with this car.
Surprisingly that car still exists and is owned by Scott Michaels who is a friend of someone I know. He does very good, respectful videos about victims of tragedies. In this instance IMHO the car should be destroyed out of respect for the families involved.
I have always wondered how many non-celebrities died that way. Something should have been done to address the issue of rear-end collisions with large trucks before it actually was.
The Y-bodies were also considerably cleaned up for 1963, losing the busy, pleated sides for that one year before being replaced by the midsize 1964s. All the GM car lines underwent a major restyling that year, witness the new clean look of Cadillac and Pontiac (the Grand Prix being the best example). Chevrolet, not so much…
I had never noticed or known about the rear seat placement in the two body styles. GM really loved that “six-window” greenhouse. It went away on the 1948-49 bodies, but was back with a vengeance starting with the 1952 C body, then the 1955-57 A body sedan. As you note, it was back on the Y body sedans and back again a decade later on the Colonnades.
What is funny is how Chrysler tried it for the first time in years, just as GM abandoned it.
I was confused for a while because I thought this WAS a six-window sedan. Now I see that though the thick C-pillar is “there”, it’s there as a window, but not canted forward as in the other examples. Makes one think, if I understand it correctly, that perhaps Buick could have gotten away with more rear seat room than the others? I don’t know. The second shot, the hardtop interior on the left doesn’t have windows that look like the featured car, the interior on the right looks more so, except the pillars are thick.
Anyhow, I like this car, it looks understated but elegant, maybe a little more prosaic though than a prospective Buick owner might like. The 1963’s do look a lot more impressive, and the later Elwood Engel Chryslers were even better.
Nice picture of an interesting and beautiful car!
My dad discovered that sedan/hardtop legroom difference when car shopping in ’68. I remember him saying the Electra pillared sedan he bought had more rear legroom than a Sedan de Ville, despite its 3.5″ shorter wheelbase, but I’m not sure now which de Ville version he meant. The difference continued in the C bodies through ’70, but was there one in the B’s?
I wonder if Cadillac complained about that ’63 Electra’s taillights, making them go full horizontal in ’65.
I think that the simpler ’62 models were part of the transition away from the more extreme ’61 style. That double projectile front end of the ’61, was it a left over from the Airborne Buick theme of the late 1950’s? Don’t get me wrong, I’d take that green over white Electra over a ’62 or ’63. GM was moving gradually to a cleaner design, but they were careful to retain some similarity between the model years to keep the resale values up.
It’s interesting that GM would produce different types of roof treatments during the same model years. I think that the six window might also have had a slightly taller roof than the hardtop, besides the increased legroom. This would be important if you regularly carried adult passengers, especially elderly ones. It sure makes it easier to get Granny in there. I know that many families have older relatives living with them and it’s an important consideration when selecting a new vehicle.
Never knew about the rear seat legroom difference. Now I can understand why so many sedans were sold. That ’64 in the ad is sublime. For me, ’64 is the peak year for GM mid-century style, before the heavier handed 65’s across Buick, Pontiac and Olds.
I do like those compact. “Buick Special’s”!! My favorite of that shared body variations is the “Pontiac Tempest” though!
I think the 61 Electra 225 wore the 6 window design better than the 62, but I love all four years 61-64. My parents had a 61 for several years so I’m admittedly biased – I loved that “deuce and a quarter” so much that I found one to restore and enjoy driving it (and looking at it) even today!
Here’s a pic of my 61…
As a just graduated high school Senior way back in the dark ages of 1972, when men were men and cars were interesting, and kids could afford them, I had a ’61 Buick airport limousine that had the back seats replaced with a platform for a sleeping bag. I slept in it many weeks on a switchback in a mountain town in Colorado when I was between cabins and apartments as I pounded nails during the day. It was purple. LOL. Had a grey vinyl interior. Sold it to a guy in Rifle Colorado when I left town.
Always liked the profile of the ’61’s and it looked pretty food in the extended form.
If you ever drove one of the six-window sedans, you would love it. The 360-degree visibility and interior brightness are pure joy. No backup camera needed on those cars!
If you look closely at the six window “Corvair” clays, you will note they are badged “La Salle II.” They appear to be an attempt to adapt the badging and styling cues from the front engined four-door La Salle II concept car (which is kinda Corvair sized) to the Corvair platform. In fact, there are photos of those clays from different angles that show the front-engined La Salle II concept was in the room, off to the one side. I’ve read all I can find and haven’t seen any clear story on what the plans were for this design. Was it going to be just another concept car, to serve as an update on the LaSalle II concept but with the new platform? Or was someone seriously proposing a high-end Corvair based car for production? An Ur-Cimarron?
I like the 1970s versions the best. Much improved cooling air conditioning
Harley Earl retired from GM in 1958 or 1959 and was succeeded by Bill Mitchell as head of GM styling. Earl had nothing to do with the 1961 GM products. This was all Mitchell.
That’s a not uncommon assumption but not borne out by the facts. Earl retired on his 65th birthday, November 22, 1958. By that time, the styling of the 1961 models would very definitely have been well along. That’s only some 18 months before they rolled off the assembly lines. GM’s styling lead time was significantly longer than that.
That and the fact that they exhibit lots of Earl touches, like the skegs on the ’61 Cadillac; those are straight off his beloved Firebird turbine cars. The ’62s were mild refreshes of the ’61s.
Holy moly, Woodie Man, that Buick limo isn’t just purple, it’s a… it’s a three-holer! WTH?