(first posted 5/25/2012) One of my favorite cars that shows up to a number of local shows is this very sinister 1964 Deuce and a Quarter. And shortly we’ll get to why I’ll always associate the 1964 Deuce with a murder mystery. But first… a brief history.
Since the 1930s there had always been a Buick that was just a Cadillac by another name. Sure it may not have had the same advancements as Cadillac, but often enough it was nearly as expensive. With one concession: They were normally more conservatively styled (if not equally/more imposing) than an equivalent Cadillac. The perfect way for someone in a more subtle profession to subtly announce the size of their wealth.
But discretion was being rapidly thrown out the window as the 1950s (and Harley Earl’s design career) wound down. If ever there was a year a Cadillac ever felt bashful and demure, it would have been 1958. 227 inches long, slathered in Chrome and $220 more expensive than a base Cadillac, the 1958 Limited seems like a clandestine evening of drinking and doodling by Harley Earl and Liberace.
Not to shrink away in a ball of conservatism, Buick 1) Sold all the jewelry save the grille and 2) decided a re-branding was in order. Now the Greek Goddess of General Motors, the Electra, in regular and 225 guise dashed in to the end of the decade with flamboyant splendor that really could not be topped. And that left that niggling issue of isolating Buick’s traditional base of buyers. You know… the conservative.
So less and less daring Electra and every other Buick became as the Sixties marched along. At least in all the focus diverting from flamboyant looks meant that focus on that traditional Buick opulence was back. The low point in styling though had to be 1962 with its rather mishmash approach to styling.
Elegant, sophisticated and ready for Madison and Park Avenue (wink) at perhaps the universal peak of General Motors styling, it’s almost like night and day between the 1962 and 1963 models. So hard to believe underneath it all, they were just a few refinements away from each other.
It’s understandable why after that styling zenith, Buick didn’t see fit to really move the Goddess atop the line up away from those classic looks. The 1964 is different in a few minor details, but again, pretty much the same car save the roll out of the all new “Super Turbine 400” Turbo Hydramatic. Gone for good was the neverending slow surge of Dynaflow, and in its place was apparently surprising economy, as I hear here and there over the internet that 1964 Deuce and A Quarters can surpass 16mpg in highway driving.
And just about every Electra 225 all the way to the 1977 downsizing kept the same basic proportions. And even the downsized one kept the Crisply pointed rear quarter panels. It became the black suit, or “little black dress” land barge of choice for at least 2 generations of American car shoppers.
But the 1964 model did play a sinister role, if not in style, on screen with a quartet of veteran Hollywood Battleaxes fighting in one of the greatest Psycho Biddy movies of all time as possibly the most sinister rental car of all time. Fitting for the fact that the Deuce and a Quarter I see most often is this deviant dark 1964 Coupe.
Robert Aldrich’s follow up to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? traded the derelict old black Lincoln Continental owed by insane Baby Jane Hudson for something with a roomy Body By Fisher trunk.
Cousin Miriam (initially played by Joan Crawford, but due to “illness,” replaced by Olivia De Havilland) swept into the Louisiana bayou to plot on her cousin’s fortunes in a 6 Window Electra 225. What better car to sneak under the radar and do all types of malfeasance than the most regal of all land barges?
Anyone who has seen the movie knows that, ironically, it’s the light colored Deuce and a Quarter that does all the dirty work, and the black Electra that takes a “victorious” Cousin Charlotte away from her plantation at the end of the movie. And for a pretty Buick product placement heavy movie, there’s a 1964 Special Sedan innocently snooping around for some facts. These three Buicks deserve to be included in the pantheon of “acting cars.”
Many a nefarious deed is done in the movie that leads to a climatic 20 minutes, a good chunk of them spent behind a two tone wheel dialed by Cousin Miriam’s well manicured hands. Camp aficionados like myself can’t help but slip for a moment and think of getting paid to slap legendary actress Bette Davis in the front seat of a Buick.
So the stroll down memory lane whenever I see this troublemaking tri-shield temptress named Electra is a bit more intense than it would be for most other land barges thanks to Turner Classic Movies.
Underneath it all, I guess every Deuce and a Quarter has a little trouble maker in its DNA.
“camp aficionados like myself can’t help but slip for a moment and think of getting paid to slap legendary actress Bette Davis in the front seat of a Buick.” Pure gold.
The movie was Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and the closing scene was quite memorable, co-starring the ’64 Buick, the Louisiana bayou, and a triumphantly be-smirked Bette Davis.
We had a ’64 Buick LeSabre wagon in the family that did yeomans work and lasted an incredible, for the era, 120,000 miles before she gave up the ghost. I was about 15 when we finally disposed of the beast, my last memory of it attached to a tow truck like a beached whale. What great steering on that car though, and an indestructable trans.
Yes there is something about a “duce and a quarter” that says: “I’m up to no good.” My favorites are the 1965 to 1970 models and then the downsized post 1977 models. I like the styling of the 1971 to 76 land bardges but for actual driving experience in those years, give me a Chrysler with the 440.
I love the pinstripe work on the one from the car show. When I was a kid my Dad and I would frequent car shows and one of the cars I often saw was a gentleman with a Lincoln Mark VIII LSC, black with a black leather interior. It had recieved a very artful pistripe job and on the trunk next to the logo was a small “pin up” of a topless woman popping out of a top hat. She was wearing bunny ears and next to the cheese cake it said: “That old black magic that you weave so well…” Even though it was one of the newest cars you would see at the shows, it was one of my favorites.
Yes there is something about a “deuce and a quarter” that says: “I’m up to no good.”
My parents were avid players of contract bridge. Once — and only once — they played with another couple from the neighborhood who owned a navy blue 225 that would’ve been a ’64 or ’65, that I walked past on my way to school.
The husband of that couple had recently been tried and acquitted in court for some fairly serious white-collar crime — embezzlement or similar — while his accomplices all received paid vacations in the stoney lonesome. The barry place. The stripey hole. The judge had let the Electra owner walk free because the judge said he “couldn’t believe he was smart enough to have been part of this crime.”
I remember my meticulously law-abiding, criminal-hating Dad’s reaction to this verdict: “I don’t know which would be worse — being found guilty, or having a judge tell you that you’re too stupid to be guilty.”
I’m guessing the 225 owner was just playing dumb for the judge. If this guy could hold his own at contract bridge with my parents he can’t have been entirely devoid of smarts.
…Which would mean this slippery character was “up to no good” not once but twice: first for the embezzlement itself; and then a second time for cleverly hiding his cleverness from the court.
The first air conditioned car I can recall riding in was a 1966 Electra 225 owned by some family friends. Windows up, cold breezes with a slightly musty smell, this was what luxury felt like. These were very handsome cars.
You are right that these became more conservative and less special as the 1960s wore on. Still, even the 1969-70 models were very attractive cars.
I had forgotten all about Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and the co-starring Buick, but remembered it at once when you brought it up. A very cool car (even if it did not come with air 🙂 )
Relative had a 62 deuce and a quarter – four door hardtop. I think it looked great. Slow as Christmas with the bad transmission though.
Here is a sad bit of Electra history – the 1966 Electra that Jayne Mansfield died in. Terrible wreck.
I love the modified hood logo on that next to the last picture. Haven’t seen that one done before.
Heh, was stopped at a traffic light a while back and noticed the Chevy ahead of me, wearing 22″ rims, had the rear deck nameplate modified to read “PIMPALA”. Wish I’d have had my camera.
One of my all-time favorite superfluous styling touches is the extra fake porthole on the 225, to better differentiate it from the lowly LeSabres driven by the rabble. Of course that’s just jealosy talking; while our family had a smattering of Buicks (ranging from a ’50 fastback through a ’64 Riv, ’65 Wildcat, ’73 LeSabre and ’77 Regal), none were Electras. So we never quite Arrived.
“the 1958 Limited seems like a clandestine evening of drinking and doodling by Harley Earl and Liberace.”
Speaking of Hollywood and death related themes, the ’66 Model 225 also figures prominently in the grisly demise of Jayne Mansfield on a lonely bayou highway in June of 1967.
We had a 1970! My favorite car of all time!
Though always a Buick fan, I never owned one. My favorite road trip was in June 1964 from PA to Tampa, FL in a hunter green 63 Electra 225 4 door hardtop. Owned by a brother-in-law, we made the trip in one long drive with 3 drivers for a job interview he had. I have never again ever experienced a car that rode and drove so much like a jet plane. The car was just incredibly fast and smooth. We made the trip mostly on Route 301 and my mind’s vision of the sixties always reverts to the sights and scenes of that trip.
Did he get the job?
As I recall, he was offered the job but decided not to take it. My buddy who went along as the third driver ended up buying a 62 Electra later on when he was in the Navy. Apparently we were both impressed with the Buick on that trip.
I ended up moving to Florida in 2001 for employment and warm weather. The picture of my 07 Volvo V70 in previous reply appears because I was trying to figure out how to install it next to my name.
Which of the following words/phrases/names do not belong with the others?
Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Buick Electra, clandestine, Jayne Mansfield, Super Turbine 400, the mental image of a two-tone steering wheel being dialed by Cousin Miriam’s manicured hands, Liberace or plantation?
The answer: None of them.
Great article. BTW, I usually prefer hardtops to sedans, but the 6-window pillared style on these Buicks is much more attractive.
I will add to that: Sir Mix-A-Lot, with his immortal “My Hooptie,” a romantic paean to a disreputable 1969 Electra 225 that no one will cop to owning, with mismatched tires and only three wheelcovers.
I listen to this track every time I think things are getting too serious.
Thanks, Laurence; best piece on the 225 ever. The Harley Earl/Liberace line is gold.
1964 was the year I spent way too much time at the Buick dealership, poring over the beautiful brochure in the comfort of a Riviera or Electra. So the ’64 Electra is really seared in my mind, and I’m thankful that it was that particular year. A gem indeed, but I never could quite decide between the four window and the six window: a great childhood dilemma, and still unresolved.
I just realized I’m a DeVille somewhere in my photos away from doing all 3 C-Body cars of 1964. Hmmm. So many ideas, the need to pace oneself.
I’m partial to the 6 window hardtops for the Electra 225, because it seems appropriately more willowy and elegant, I think the 4 window hardtop lines worked better on the Ninety-Eight (with it’s slightly more sporting detailing).
I usually came to the same conclusion, but still wavered occasionally.
Why not buy both?
Those tail lights look awfully familiar.
Loved how the ads imposed the the social status of the customers. They almost say “non professionals need not apply”. Buick ads just seem so boring to me now.
I just observed the FU CK on the hood. How disappointing and unnecessary.
And fix that lower front bumper for gosh sakes!
Agreed — that is tasteless…far worse than the Sentra ‘SEXE’ models I used to see.
Well spotted. Now you’ve got me tempted to to the same to my Skylark.
+2. How unnecessary. It just screams “I’m a self-satisfied moron who just happens to own a great car”.
Other than the Riviera, I never really focused on the early and mid ’60s Buicks. I didn’t realize the 1963 adn later Electras were so great looking. GM really had it together then. I also love the ads. A cousin of my father had a big collection of National Geographics, and when I was a kid in the 70s, I used to pour through the ones from the ’60s just to look at the car ads.
My parents had a 1971 Electra, navy blue with white top and navy cloth interior, but I remember really loving the Opel GT that was in the same showroom!
Great article. After about 1962, the four-door hardtop versions of the Electra, Ninety-Eight and DeVille look better than the two-door hardtops.
Having grown up within 20 minutes or so of where “Charlotte” was filmed (Houmas House in Burnside), whenever I watch this movie I’m always on the lookout to see if one of the local Buick dealers (possibly Miller or Daigle?) stuck a badge on the trunk lid of these product placement cars.
Years later, I watched the movie again and realized that I actually once knew the guy who played the deputy who leads Bette Davis away at the end of the film. Had I known that, I probably would’ve bugged him to death with questions about working with all of those screen legends…and get the REAL story behind why Joan Crawford dropped out after working less than a week on this production (some say the humidity didn’t agree with her)…
I read somewhere that she and Miss Davis started feuding again, Miss Davis won, and Miss Crawford left the picture. I also read that when Cousin Miriam arrives in a taxi at the beginning of the film, that it’s actually Joan Crawford in the backseat. She can barely be seen, so they kept it. Who knows if any of this is true. Sounds good, though.
If any of you don’t know about it already, IMCDb.org is an unbelievably detailed site about anything with wheels that appears in movies or television.
I think it was that Bette and Agnes Moorehead gave her a really hard time, and when Joan really realized Bette got the scene chewing part (Charlotte being equally as flamboyant as Baby Jane) and would play it to the back row of the theater, she dropped out after 4 days saying she was “ill.” Apparently Aldrich was suspicious and had Crawford trailed by a Private Eye to make sure she was “ill.”
When De Havilland joined the cast, they celebrated with a big bucket of Coca Cola, there’s a photo of it somewhere….
Your version sounds much more plausible. Waiting for your next piece.
Another sterling piece of writing and photography Laurence, thank you! Your first shot captures my favorite aspect of this car, the blade shape is striking and unique.
I’ve never seen “Hush, Hush” because my parents took me to see “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” in the theater when I was too young. So repulsive, it so freaked out my innocent little brain, I couldn’t stand to see Joan Crawford or Bette Davis in anything after that. Only in adulthood did I see Bette Davis in her thirties, and appreciated how sharp, powerful and attractive she could be. I still can’t stand Joan Crawford.
Wikipedia covers Joan Crawford dropping out of “Hush, Hush” pretty thoroughly, bjcpdx and Laurence are both right: “Reputedly, Crawford was still incensed by Davis’ attitude on Baby Jane and did not want to be upstaged again, as Davis’ nomination for Best Actress convinced her she had been. Because Crawford had told others that she was feigning illness to get out of the movie entirely, Aldrich was in an even worse position…”
Yes indeed, IMCDb.org is an incredible place to see cars. Here’s the page for this film, and the Buick Special “acting car” Laurence mentioned. Isn’t there an Oscar for “best performance by an automobile”?
Never owned a Buick. However, loved Bette Davis in the Baby Jane and Hush movies. Great actress as an old lady. I never really thought she was all that attractive when she was young. I can think of several she was in. Marked Woman, The Petrified Forest, and Of Human Bondage. Bogart was in the first two, and Leslie Howard in the last two. Fortunately, Bogart shoots Howard at the end of The Petrified Forest. It made the movie watchable.
However, I was on vacation in Miami in 1985 when I had to sit through Of Human Bondage at a relative’s house. What torture. I think I would have shot Leslie Howard had I the chance.
Love all the early ’60s “C” bodies, but my most desirable from that era would have to be a ’65 Olds 98 Luxury Sedan. A bargain Fleetwood, in my opinion. Yes – I am a big fan of Deuce-And-A-Quaters!
Great writeup Lawrence of cars that are seldom seen here.
Great Article! Electra is one of my most missed car names. So much more elegant and desirous than the Alpha numeric soup of most manufacturers and more so than the names Lucerne, Lacrosse and even Park Avenue.
My Grandparents had a 64 Lesabre Sedan they bought used from a neighbor around 1968 when Pennsylvania Inspection condemned their 57 Chevy 210 Delrey Coupe for rust. It was probably owned originally by Mennonites since it was basic looking on the exterior missing all the chrome options for that model except for the thin strip on the rear quarter panel and deluxe wheel covers, but had all the options for comfort. Factory Air, Power Windows, Seats, Brakes and Steering. The fanciest car that was in the family up to that time. I remember riding in it on an unusually hot Pennsylvania summers day since the house or my Dad’s car did not have AC. Grandpap was so proud of that car. He told me once that he had always wanted a Buick and finally got one, unfortunately he could not drive anymore due to a bad heart. He went on to say he had the opportunity to get a Buick in 1928 but decided to get married instead, maybe I should have gotten the Buick!
When I saw the clue I instantly remembered the dash on Grandpap’s Buick with the Glovebox button to the left of the door.
Oh the memories. Thanks!
A buddy of mine had a downsized ’78 Electra 225 medium blue coupe with a 350. Still love that car. I remember one time when he turned the heat on there was this mysterious rattle for a few seconds and then the plastic duct work under the dash landed on our feet. I remember driving back from Wisconsin Dells in the middle of B.F.E. when all of the sudden the warning lights and various buzzers started going off at random intervals. The alternator had crapped out. By the time we made it home when a buzzer would go off it sounded more like a cow was expiring in the back seat. Of course now the Electra was renamed the “Cattle Cruiser”. Of course the best was backing out of a parking space one morning when all of the sudden the back end “hopped” and we bounced in our seats. “What the HELL was that?” We got out and found out that we had just ran over our own bumper which had fallen off. Good times! How I miss that car!
It’s funny that the ’78 was so bad. My family had a ’77 Estate Wagon and it was one of the best cars we ever owned. Hardly anything ever broke.
Great write up – I haven’t seen the movies, but I remember all the 225 ads from the front pages of the 1960/70s National Geographic magazines. I chopped them all out (carefully) and have a clearfile folder full of them all – great for a bit of 1960s-American reminiscing!
Electra is one of my all-time favorite nameplates — from the ’61 I wanted to buy in high school in the 80s (loaded, 6-window, pinkish beige) to the ’70 the family at our church had (gold with the Limited brocade interior which I loved) to the powder blue ’78 Park Avenue that replaced it with incredibly plush velour interior. They’re all great “church parking lot” cars. That’s what I call them anyway!
The “Electra 225” nameplate suffered the same kind of downward mobility in the 70’s as the Bel Air name over at Chevy, which began life as the halo model and ended it as the fleet special before disappearing entirely. Buick literature for 1974 (and for a couple of years before that) lists three distinct Electra trim levels — Electra 225, Electra Custom and Electra Limited. Things got even worse in 1975-76, when the Park Avenue name was introduced, starting out as a trim option for the Limited and soon becoming a model in its own right, sitting above any plain ordinary Electra in the Buick hierarchy.
From 1992 to ’96 I had the privilege of enjoying a ’74 Electra Limited (seen below) as my daily driver. It’s at the top of my personal list of cars I would really like to have again.
Another great writeup, Laurence. These were such elegant cars, and that Electra name just oozed luxury and conservative affluence. I went to my high school senior prom in my girlfriend’s father’s ’62 six-window 225, all done up in my tux and her in an evening gown, chauffered like a couple of potentates, and riding in the wide-as-the-Mississippi rear seat, feeling like a million bucks. Truth be known, I was more interested in the trappings of the car than going to the prom. Wonderful cars, miss them.
I’ve told this story in one of the other forums, but it seems even more appropriate here. When my family lived in Baltimore (1963-1967) we had a friend that had, I’m pretty sure, a 1964 Electra 225 convertible, white with black top, red interior and important to us, air conditioning. It was a beautiful car.
We used to think that the car was the height of opulence being both a convertible and having AC.
He used to take us on rides in the hot humid Baltimore summer nights. We used to go to a place, if I recall in the north-west part of the city, that served ice cream and shakes. The restaurant had a Lionel train that ran through the kitchen and along the counter. It would bring you your order and stop in front of you. I don’t remember the name (heck, I was 6 at the time), but I’ll always remember the place.
Hamburger Junction, Joppa Rd not far from Belair Rd iirc.. been 60 yrs since I was there!
My first experience with a ’64 Electra was at my cousin Carl’s wedding. As a 6 year-old I can still remember the bride rolling up to the church in her father’s (a Dr. of course) brand new sky-blue ’64 225 hardtop. It was love at first site.
I harangued my dad for another 5 years until he traded our ’61 Galaxie for a rootbeer brown ’69 Electra. I LOVED that car. This is that car that I learned how to drive (among other things) in. I can still hear the 430’s growl and the whistling sound when the extra 2 barrels kicked in at 75 mph. He later traded for a new ’75 Electra in sort of a pea green with blue corduroy velvet interior and opera windows. Yuck. It did look good pulling up to the disco though.
I grew up in an urban area where old men driving Electra 225’s was a common sight.
Back when Sir Mix A Lot was a no hit wonder he put out a video titled “my hooptie”. A ’69 Buick Electra 225. (In the video it my be a ’70) The car is the star of the vid and it had to have been shot back in the ’80’s. The gas station scene with the police shows a sign stating $0.99 a gallon.
Being pulled over by the cops for “driving while black” near the end seems even more poignant now than it did in the ’80s. I can attest that driving a beater got me pulled over several times just for looking suspicious – surely if I can’t afford a better car I’m probably uninsured (illegal in my state) or something. Once I was carrying a TV someone gave me and they thought I must have stolen it.
One of my favorite 64 Electra movie scenes is in the movie “Dazed & Confused”, where the sophomore kids are being chased by the seniors.
I too happen to have a 64 2dr Electra.
Back when GM knew how to set a styling theme and stick to it – of course, they did have a lot more free sheet metal to play with. Growing up in a steel town outside of Pittsburgh, my next door neighbors had a ’65 4-door hardtop in gold, which kind of fought the conservative lines, and my Great Aunt across the street had a black over white ’70 2 door. I like the point about how, once they lost the late ’50s excess, the Electras really offered a more conservative take than Cadillac – may be why they were so popular around Pittsburgh.
My other vivid Electra memory takes me back to a Saturday night in December of ’76. We’d moved to an upscale suburb, and there was a two lane county road behind our house, with a steep berm of the back of our yard up to the road. A smaller road intersected it, and you could see the lights of cars coming up to the intersection highlighting the trees at night. My parents had just come back from the symphony in town, and we were all sitting in the kitchen, when we noticed a pair of lights that seemed awfully low and just sitting there. Opening the family room curtains, we saw a blood-covered girl walking dazedly towards our house. We opened the door and she cried that her two friends were in the car that had just crashed into our back yard. My dad ran to the back and found the other girls were out of a totaled ’76 Electra 4dr, which was lying at an angle on the berm, having taken out a small tree along the way. My dad put his U.S. Army medics training to work and soon realized they were all fine except for superficial cuts – and damn lucky.
They were drunk, heading back to a family business Christmas party, when the ‘deuce veered off the road onto the gravel shoulder on the opposite side from our house. As soon as the rear wheels bit back on the asphalt, the car launched into a roll across the road, as was vertical when it went through the old style wire and post guardrails and the rear of the hardtop struck a very large tree. The rear of the roof was pinned to the rear seat, but thankfully all three of the girls were sharing the split-bench up front.
We were picking bits of tempered glass out of the lawn back there for years afterward…
The top line 1958 Buick Limited’s and Olds 98s
were both called Wurlitzers, they both had everything but the kitchen sink mounted on the exteriors. 100s of holes stamped & drilled for road salt to penetrate.
So less and less daring Electra and every other Buick became as the Sixties marched along.
Surely you weren’t thinking of the big honkin’ Wildcat fastbacks from the latter half of the 1960s. Or the Rivieras aNd the midsize Special/Skylark/GS
Polarizing to be sure, but those Wildcat fastbacks are some of my favorite Buicks.
Neighbors had a “68 Lesabre” ; blue, looked like this “W/C”. They had a garage so the car stayed quite nice.
I always found it interesting that Buick went to vertical tail lights for 1 year in 1964 before returning to the horizontal style that began with the 1961’s and continued until its discontinuation in 1990. And as someone mentioned above, the movie “Dazed & Confused” comes to mind with the ’64 Electra. Great cars.
Nice cars ~ I miss ’em .
Way back in the early ’80s, someone in my apartment complex had a lovely 1970 Electra 225 sedan for sale–it might even have been the Limited trim. I admired it then, and sometimes wish I had pursued it, just to be able to have for a while what was a really luxurious car of its time.
IMHO, 1963 and 1964 are the best years for the Buick Electra 225 in terms of styling.
I think, as with Cadillac, that is when the 1961 Continental influence struck General Motors. Designs are done two or more years ahead. The 1963 Pontiac Gran Prix is another example. Then over the years the Continental went baroque and eventually became a big nothing. A real squandering of the original 1940 and the Mark II and 1961 heritage. The new one gets halfway back there.
I remember watching “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” on a black and white tv when I was a kid in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It gave me nightmares for months.
The Electra 225, in its best years, was kind of like the girl that you might have not noticed because of her more pretentious sister, the Cadillac, but after you regained your senses you knew that the real prize was the less pretentious little sister.
Whenever I see a 225 or an article about them, I think of my late friend’s ’66, a twin to this one:
He had it a couple of years before he wrecked it in 1970. He was known for driving a “bit fast”. He had just turned 18 and was going to a construction site. His father was a contractor and he was going there to do something before school. It was about 7am. He was approaching an intersection, Detroit and South St, if you know Toledo, heading west, and the other driver ran the red and my friend was hauling ass. The impact knocked the 225 into a huge tree that had previously, and would in the future, claim several lives and many cars. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected. If he had been wearing it, he would have died because the engine was where he had been sitting, I saw pics of the 225 after the wreck and the only thing that allowed you to tell it was a 225 was the back end of the car, about the only intact part of it left. His parents were told he would have a “short lifespan”, probably less than 10 years, but he lived another 42 years and died at 60, just worn out. He never let being a paraplegic get in his way. He did all kinds of stuff that made people say, “How the hell did he do that?”
He was kind of famous for his amazingly huge cellphone bills in the early days of cell phones and for his Rottweilers that often rode shotgun with him. He died the same day one of my two dogs died. That week was just horrible, and 2012 was just a shitty year in general for me.
One of my best friends through school always drove Buicks from age 15. Coming home from college at age 18 in his ’60 Invicta convertible, he fell asleep and floored the gas when he fell asleep. He hit the concrete bridge abutment at an estimated 120 mph. The Buick was totaled, but so was the end of the bridge. Alan had his seat belt on, and was lucky, the engine occupied the passenger side. He had a 3 inch cut on his forehead and was fine. When the ’64 Comet Caliente came out he loved the styling. He bought a turquoise 2 door hardtop, fully loaded. A couple of months later coming back from school he hit loose gravel on a corner where another accident happened. He couldn’t get it under control, it flipped onto it’s roof and then slid into a tree upside down (the roof had collapsed when it flipped) and after the tree impact the front and rear bumpers were touching. He lived, doctors said he’d never walk again. He switched back to Buicks-Electra’s, and also had incredible faith in God. 12 years later he started walking again, and he’s still driving his Electra.
The 1964 Buick Electra and 1964 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight are to me among the more influential American cars of all time. While not revolutionary, these cars seemed to gel a conservative, gimmick free (unless you think fender skirts are a gimmick) look that just about every large high-line American car adopted for at least a while over the next 15 years. Detachable fender skirts were an important part of that look.
While very handsome and dignified, but I don’t know if such a formal style can make a comeback. The 1980-1984 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight was the last car to pull it off successfully. Revivals by the 1989 Cadillac Sixty-Special and the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood came across hopelessly dated or cartoonish depending on who was looking at them.
What an American Luxury Car used to be…………
Could not agree with you more, Dave B. I would also add the ’64 Cadillac, especially the Fleetwood 60 Special. I nearly bought a 225 6-window 4-door several years ago, at an auction, but reason prevailed, even though the faded aqua-over-aqua beauty kept drawing me in. It was basically a used car and I would have had no where to keep it. Someone here in Vancouver (BC) is lucky enough to own (or did) a pristine black ’64 225 coupe. I’ve seen it twice. It is stunning.
While the ’64 Cadillac is a beautiful car, I didn’t include it as influential for the next 15 years due to its prominent pointy tail fins. They were arguably a styling gimmick, and had become quite dated by ’64. The ’65 Cadillac adopted a look very much in keeping with the look originated by the senior Buick and Olds in ’64.
Some will argue that the ’64 Buick and Olds have “fins,” but many would call these are “fender blades,” a term and look that lasted a looonng time on higher end American cars. The Chrysler 300 revived them a few years ago, fairly successfully in book.
I included the Cadillac because the ’64 is the most understated and IMO, most elegant of the ’61-’64 generation. It bears traces of the ’59 in the front while pointing towards the future (1965) with the cleaner, less chiseled bodysides. That it was also the last Cadillac with fins makes it, in my mind, a desirable and tasteful classic. Still, there is no denying that the ’64 Electra 225 is, if you’ll pardon the pun, truly a regal beauty in a class of its own.
I prefer the 1964 Oldsmobile over the Buick.
” I prefer the 1964 Oldsmobile over the Buick. ”
Hence GM’s Sloan Ladder ~ a car for every purse and purpose .
As always, loved the writing and pictures – and the movie references. It has been a while since I’ve seen “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte”…might be a great choice to queue up on Halloween.
Thinking about this some more, I do agree the Electra (and increasingly the 98) served as the conservative foil to the DeVille through the 60s and 70s. But like the DeVille, they all got a little bit looser around the turn of the decade – a bit less formality, the sculpting was more extreme, the interiors more gimicky (and lower quality) and overall, a growing feeling of excess.
Which is what was happening in the culture at the same time, so not surprising at that.
I don’t know how I missed this post but heres my Electra in various states over the years
The roots of the Electra 225 styling ethic can be found in Misterl’s discovery that an extended deck appended to the standard line was good for a healthy mark-up in price and higher per unit profits with moderate tooling investment. First with the ’48-’49 60 Special, continuing with all subsequent iterations of that premium Cadillac, then extended to the O-B Body ’52 Olds 98 and successors, even the A-Body ’54 Pontiac Star Chiefs and successor Bonneville. Buick just jumped on the long fanny bandwagon and made the best of it. They were a great alternative for conservative buyers who just couldn’t let themselves have or be seen in a Cadillac.
Had a coworker in the mid, late “90’s”. Her husband bought a “77 Electra 225” coupe.
It was a fun ride.
Yellow, tan half-top, tan interior.
Was in “fairly good condition”, considering it was nearing twenty years of age.
There may little difference in inches, but in photos, the ’64 Cadillac sure looks significantly larger than the Electra and 98.
In metric form (57 & 62) Daimler did it with the Maybach but has any manufacturer other than Buick used body-length as a model name?
A ’64 Electra 225. Damn. I actually had one of them. Long long story about how I came into it, I’ll not bore you with except a cousin talked me into it for a specific purpose, fully legal I assure you. This was back in ’72 and I was extremely VW Bug oriented, so an Electra 225 was the antithesis of what I was interested in, vehicular wise. Blown engine, we can fix it my cousin told me. Except we couldn’t. Rebuilt another one, and it spun a rod bearing a hundred miles in. 3rd engine, junkyard, 93K, which was easily the equivalent of 200K in today’s cars, and it ran great. Amazingly so. Oil consumption dropped dramatically under my brief ownership, apparently a couple of changes with even cheap oil worked wonders.
Driving it. That thing was fast. As far as I know, a stock 4 BBL 401, but it sure seemed fast to me. Ok, my reference wasn’t exactly muscle cars, but still. Stoplight GP and the only loss was to a 911S. Got 15MPG on the highway at 85 and 12 in town (suburbs, mixed) if I drove like a little old man with an egg under the go pedal. I mean I really babied it to get 12. About killed me. The tranny had an odd quirk, the THD 400, it would start in first, but never downshift to first. Turn a corner at 10 MPH, towing a heavy trailer, up a steep onramp to a steep freeway grade and it stayed in 2nd the whole way. I’m not sure I didn’t do permanent damage to the tranny on that one. It didn’t actually handle too badly. Not exactly tossable, but if I set it into a curve it would hold it quite well. It also had a very HD trailer hitch, so possibly a trailer package? Who knows, long ago and my automotive knowledge was less than minimal.
Styling. To me, so so. I didn’t like the vestigial fins and the way dirt settled in the dished area, front and back IIRC, not that I spent a lot of time washing it and it hadn’t a clue what a garage was. Had to fix the power windows, the main wire broke between the drivers door master and the body. A/C worked most of the time and would run you out of there when it did work, 90’s GM products could have taken some lessons from it. The 6 way power bench seat was uncomfortable no matter where it was set. From the back it looked a lot like a Cadillac to me, the rear window and roofline. I’ve heard it was built on the same assembly line as Caddys, but that seems unlikely as much brand independence as there was at the time.
A car for the ages, no. An interesting sidebar, yes. There were a lot worse cars out there in that era that were far plainer, far, far slower, but got no better if not worse MPG. My Mom’s ’63 Galaxie 500 with a 289 and Ford-O-Matic for one, it could only manage 10 in town, but was absolute dog slow. I mean I think I could have pushed it to 10 MPH faster than it accelerated. Ok, slight exaggeration, but it sure seemed like it.
Always found it interesting that the ’64 Electra went with vertical tail lights for one year after starting the horizontal trend in ’61, and continuing it from ’65 onward. Did Buick change back because the Olds 98 went to vertical tail lights in ’63 and stayed that through its existence?
Such a storied name. While I think Electra is a great name without any additions, the Buick Electra 225 and Lockheed L-188 Electra nameplates disagree. They’re history now. Harley Davidson Electra Glide continues to carry the torch though.