Cohort Classic: 1962 Buick Electra 225 – Got Leg Room? Got Class?

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 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.