For subscribers of the philosophy that bigger is better, I present to you a full-sized Buick passenger car of ample external proportions, this ’82 Electra Park Avenue coupe. This model year was the sixth for GM’s downsized C-Body platform, and the third featuring the refresh that arrived for 1980. Let this soak in for a minute: what we see in these pictures was actually the downsized edition of something that was substantially bigger than this in ’76. Lest anyone mistakenly think I am making a value judgement about this car’s size, allow me to state from the top of this essay that there are often great things to be said for a little extra.
What may appear to be a super-sized (two-door) car in 2021 represented a very big shrink compared to what came before. In comparing the dimensions of the ’76 and ’82 editions of the two-door Buick Electra, our featured car was exactly one full foot shorter (at 221.3″ long) and four inches narrower (at 75.9″) than its forebear, on a wheelbase that was 8.1″ less (at 118.9″). The base coupe’s starting curb weight of 3,747 pounds was over 750 lbs. lighter than its ’76 counterpart.
Following the 1979 oil crisis, the second such event in the span of less than six years, the push for smaller, more efficient vehicles of all types was already well under way by the time this Electra was new. I honestly don’t remember if these Electras ever looked trim or tidy to my eyes compared to other cars of its day. To a young kid growing up in Flint, Michigan, a town where Buick was headquartered and wrote many of the checks, any Buick save a Skylark or Skyhawk seemed like a big car.
According to a license place search, this Electra was built in Flint, and is powered by the optional 140-horsepower 5.0L V8. The base engine was a 4.1L V6 with 125 horses. The two-doors vied with the Estate Wagons, the latter being on the B-body LeSabre’s three inch shorter 115.9″ wheelbase, for the least popularity in the Electra line. Only 8,400 two-doors and 8,200 wagons were produced that year, against 59,600 four-doors, with all non-wagons being offered in Limited and upscale Park Avenue trim levels.
Curiously, this one seems to be wearing the rear bumper of a LeSabre, which had its license plate located between the taillamps. It took me a while to figure out what looked slightly off about the rear appearance of this Electra, as this bumper from the lesser car is a pretty good match. The slight dip in its center and the lack of an indentation for the license plate holder are the giveaways and, thankfully for the owner, not all that obvious at first glance. This car also has the stylized “portholes” on its front fenders and the body side moldings of the Park Avenue, but lacks the rear quarter fender badges identifying it as such. My guess is that this is a Park Avenue (and not a Limited) that had sustained some rear-end damage at some point, and was repaired nicely with parts that were either cost-effective or simply just available.
Not owning a vehicle myself or being familiar with Chicago’s parallel parking laws, I had wondered if the owner of this Electra would have to pay for two spaces. There’s a 2000 or so Ford Expedition that’s usually parked in front of a barber shop a block east of where I took these pictures. That machine looks like a tight fit at the curb, but it is also over a foot shorter in length (at only 204.6″ bumper-to-bumper) than than this ’82 Electra. The difference of 16.7 inches is substantial. The new 2021 Expedition comes a bit closer to this Buick with a length of 210.0 inches, but it’s also capable of hauling up to eight passengers and a bunch of stuff. This two-door Electra could hold six, but they’d undoubtedly be more comfortable in an Expedition, new or old.
I have written before about how I love apples. During the week, an apple is often the last thing I will eat for the day, following dinner. I like them big, juicy, and flavorful, and my semi-recent discovery of the Piñata apple has changed my life. I had just finished the third grade in the spring of 1983 when U.S. funk and soul band Mtume was on the local urban contemporary radio station WDZZ 92.7 FM constantly with their now-signature song, “Juicy Fruit“. You have probably heard its programmed beat sampled many times even if you are only a casual fan of ’90s R&B and hip-hop.
There’s a line in that song where vocalist Tawatha Agee makes reference to “good and plenty”, and that’s the image that this two-door Electra conjures up in my mind. This car’s Red Firemist exterior finish and white vinyl top make it look even more like a succulent apple. This would have been the car for you if you didn’t care about rear seat accessibility with only two doors, or about fuel mileage. A period 1982 Gas Mileage Guide from the EPA rated a 5.0L-equipped Electra as delivering only 16 mph on their test simulation. You would still, however, have all the big car you wanted, all for just yourself.
For those of you who were afraid I was going to compare this big Buick to Good & Plenty licorice candies (are they seriously anyone’s favorite?), I hope you’re relieved. However, just understand that like those rattly, pill-shaped things, this Electra is also not for everyone, but it does have its fans… including me.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
December 2012, June 2015, and September 2015.