It had been a normal Tuesday at the office as I rode my northbound Red Line train back to my neighborhood from the Loop. The trains are rarely filled to the same capacity as before the pandemic, with the exception being during Cubs baseball night games. This was not one of those days. I was able to get a seat with at least a little space between the individuals sitting to my left and my right. Maybe ten years ago, I would have been solving a Sudoku puzzle in pen on the printed Red Eye entertainment newspaper. These days, I’m often focused on my smartphone while also being on the lookout for nonsense in my peripheral vision. The Red Line hadn’t quite emerged from the subway to the elevated tracks starting at Fullerton before I heard loud talking over the tunes coming through my earbuds.
Out of instinct, I looked around my train car to see if a situation was escalating, or if there was a panhandler making her way down the aisle. It turned out to be a woman who appeared to be in her sixties squawking increasingly louder into her phone, with the volume in her voice rising to a crescendo with each dramatic inflection. She didn’t sound angry, but merely excited with the telling of what sounded like so many mundane details of her life. In fact, she seemed to act as though “Doris”, or whoever she was talking to, could see all of her hand gestures and grand expressions. This wasn’t a video call, as far as I could tell. This woman didn’t look around at any other riders (perhaps she had forgotten she wasn’t alone), but simply kept talking and letting everyone else in the train car know her and Doris’s business seemingly without a care. Her phone conversation finally ended when I was maybe fifteen minutes from home.
Standing up from my seat after the train departed the station before mine to put on my backpack and shoulder my camera strap, I felt someone’s eyes on me and turned to see this woman staring right at me. I was not the only other passenger in the train car, but I was the sole recipient of her attention for some reason, with her ’70s-style, overplucked, tadpole eyebrows slightly furrowed in an expression that wasn’t pleasant. Was she giving me nonverbal communication that I had better not try to take her picture? Did she find something interesting about my appearance, or did I remind her of someone? Was she trying to make me uncomfortable for wearing a face mask on the train, which is now optional? Or, was she so tired after being downtown that she found herself inadvertently focusing on me without knowing she was doing it?
I’m not a confrontational person, so even if this woman was trying to intimidate or engage with me for some reason, it was an utter waste of her energy, but it did make me think about a childhood lesson learned that it’s not polite to stare at people. Anyway, had I not stood up on the train to stand by the doors when I did, I would have completely missed seeing the very top of our featured Colonnade in a parking lot shared by local outposts of two well-known, nationwide drug store and exercise club chains.
“Oh, goody!”, I thought as the train car doors opened. I made up my mind to wind my way through a couple of city blocks to get to this car, though with that woman’s sour, staring face with those unflattering eyebrows still burned into the retinas of my mind. From the train station platform, I was able to see that it was an example of Buick’s version of the Colonnade. I grew up in the GM manufacturing town of Flint, Michigan, where these A-bodies were a dime-a-dozen. I had even owned a ’76 Chevelle Malibu Classic for a while. I didn’t know which exact Buick midsizer was going to be waiting for me, but when I rounded the corner to the parking lot, I smiled as I recognized those jutting headlights bulging out of the leading edges of heavily-sculpted, pontoon fenders. This car seemed to be focusing straight ahead like that woman who had been boring her unwanted gaze seemingly right into me just minutes before.
The front end, with its woven biscuit-textured grille and round turning lights said “Century”, but when I walked around to the side of the car, the opera windows and artfully vee’d backlight said “Regal”. Curiously, the taillamps were also those of a Century, which was also the nameplate on the front fender. Was this car some sort of shop class special? As it turns out, I had forgotten all about the Century Luxus, which was like a Regal-lite that cost about $200 (about $1,200 / adjusted for 2022) less than one. The Luxus coupe got the Regal’s more formal roofline, but retained the same basic dimensions with the base “Century 350” and Gran Sport. Both the GS and the Luxus were in their final year for 1974.
The ’74 Century factory brochure shows the differentiators of the Regal to be its unique frontal styling which featured a vertically-slatted grille and taillamp pattern, rectangular turn signals up front, about 2.5 inches in added overall length, and interior appointments that were generally nicer than in the lesser cars. All models were V8 powered, coming standard with a 350 with 150-horsepower with the two-barrel carburetor and 175-hp with the 4-bbl., and a couple of 455’s available with 175 or 210 hp (2- and 4-bbl.), with a third “Stage 1” 245-horse 455 reserved for the high-performance Gran Sport.
The base price of the Luxus coupe, at around $4,100, was $300 (7.3%) more than the entry-level Century 350, and about $200 (4.8%) less than the Regal, so it sat comfortably in the middle of the range. More importantly, it was successful, with the Luxus coupe being the second-most popular of Buick’s intermediates for ’74 with almost 45,000 units sold, behind the Regal coupe’s 57,500 figure. Total sales of the entire Century line that year were about 191,000, which represented a sharp drop from the nearly 300,000 sold for ’73. I thought it was particularly telling that this Luxus was parked next to a Lexus, which appeared to be a 2002 – ’04 ES 300. Both of these cars, built roughly three decades apart, would have appealed to those in the the same basic demographic who wanted something nicer than just a Chevrolet or a Toyota.
Of the different versions of a given GM corporate platform, I’m usually going to try to root for the home team, which in my case was Buick as I originate from Flint, where this marque was headquartered for close to a century. However, back in 2015 I had written about how a ’74 Regal I had seen back home seemed to give off grandma vibes based on its styling and the condition of that particular example. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with being any age, to my eyes, this Century resembles a sixty-something year old woman with something to prove.
Looking at it directly from the front, the sculptural lines of its hood even seem to mimic the overly-arched eyebrows that were in vogue in the ’70s and ’80s when I was growing up. The absence of the chrome headlamp surrounds on this particular car seem to make the headlights appear to bug out even more than they normally would on a factory-stock example… like the eyes of that loud, unpleasant woman on the train. Maybe this is how associations are formed, but I’m not going to give it too much more thought. In the meantime, I’m also going to work on trying to become less sensitive to RBF: Resting Buick Face.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
The answer seems obvious. She was thinking, “Look at him with his stupid face mask. Bet he has a bra on his Buick, too!”
It did occur to me when I was including pictures of my ’88 Mustang in previous CC posts that its partial bra thing did make it look like it was wearing a face mask.
RBF – Resting Buick Face! Love it!
+1 Ha ha!
She may have wondered why you didn’t put your camera in your backpack. Or she was intrigued by the mystery of the man who had his face covered and she wanted to see more. Or she was not in line when manners were given out. It’s hard to say.
Yesterday a coworker asked me what I would pick if any manufacturer could reproduce a new copy of a past product, the reproduction being intended for me. I gave him an answer but said that could change in ten minutes. I countered a better question might be to have me decide by decade. For the 1970s, my momentary answer was a Buick Century or Regal coupe of this generation. For whatever reason, I’ve really been liking these, arched eyebrows or no.
This was a delightful find, in a good color and with the definitive wheels for any Buick.
Totally hard to say what she might have been thinking! Choosing not to engage was the best option and the thing that allowed me to let it go after thinking about it.
As far as appreciating the color brown on cars, this shade (whether a factory color or a respray) was appealing… on this car. If I had to answer your question (good topic for a QOTD – not sure if it has already been asked), I’m not sure what car of the ’70s I’d want back. I’ll have to think about that one for a while.
It still happens – someone finds a car that was all around me when I was young but that I didn’t pay much attention to. Then that person tells me something about it that I had never noticed. Until today, I would have said that the Regal and the Century Luxus were the same thing, only with one trimmed a little nicer.
I had no idea that they were different lengths or that the front ends or taillights were significantly different. But then I was never close with anyone who owned one. All of my Colonnade experience was in Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles.
I always found these the most attractive of the Colonnade higher-end formal roof coupes. I am trying to remember why my mother did not exhibit interest in a Buick when she was shopping in 1974. I am sure she looked, but it was late in the model year and perhaps their supply of sedans was low.
Two other thoughts: 1) Luxus was a great trim name and 2) RBF (as applied to Buicks) is something I will never forget.
Luxus is the German word for Luxury.
Would that be, word-for-word, “Deluxe” in vintage Detroit-speak?
And Latin before that!
Apparently someone at GM really liked the idea of a Luxus trim level as it was used by Opel on Manta coupes sold in the U.S. from 73-75(?). The Opel Luxus was differentiated from a ” normal ” coupe by being available in 3 colors (silver, navy blue, and dark purple…tho not all three at the same time) and with crushed velour look cloth seats of dark blue or dark purple. The few that I have seen had automatic transmissions tho I believe you could get a manual as standard.
I thought that maybe the Luxus trim level was used on those Mantas since Opel was paired with Buick in the States. That would make sense to me. I didn’t know the word was German in origin. Learn something new at CC every day, it seems!
To my eyes this generation Buick intermediate coupe was always more elegant and upscale appearing than the shared basic body Chevy or Pontiac.
Absolutely, if one wanted a more luxurious appearance. I personally preferred the Olds styling. The Colonnades were undoubtedly one of the last examples of a platform achieving strong styling distinction between GM divisions.
Except for the greenhouses being all the same.
The GM10 models introduced in ’88 and ’90 were much more differentiated than these, style-wise, but also smaller and more boring.
And that’s why I said ‘one of the last examples’… in plural form. I left it open to individual interpretation. Not nitpicking.
The greenhouse made it a challenge for you to distinguish between the four division’s otherwise very distinct styling themes?
Thank you for another fun entry at CC. I reluctantly admit to some hesitation to submit based upon the quality of the majority of the writing i see here. In the meantime i will post this link to a Car and Track video on the “73 GS . First came across C and T over 20 years ago on ?speed tv? at a hotel. I had never THAT version of a GS nor even heard of C and T. Too bad about the bad dubbing ..look up the Jag E type test for the worst example. But the driving clips show a car that appears be pretty capable.being thrown around….compare that to so many others just GRINDING off the front tires. (A.ford.LTD example comes to mind) please enjoy.
Please don’t hesitate, just give it a shot. Virtually nobody here started out as a professional writer although some have ended up being able to parlay their writings here into a professional gig, and it seriously improves your writing over time as well as opening the door to some very good friendships, both virtual as well as actual real life if you were so inclined.
Just write something, check the facts you state, check the spelling and capitalization without stressing too much about it, and submit. It’ll be read and perhaps very slightly edited for clarity and correctness.
It’s easiest to start with something you know, thus the ever-popular COAL series gives many an obvious starting point that then often expands into all kinds of other stuff that often the writers themselves never would have imagined themselves tackling. But it can be anything. Just contact Paul to get started.
Jim, what a nice reply, thank you! I will take your kind words under advisement. You paraphrase what I have heard before:”write about what you know”, and am reminded of another great piece of advice I got: “don’t be afraid of a sh**** first draft”. And what do you know, in the process of keying this in a reasonable theme/angle is forming for my first car , a 4 dr ’72 Saab 99: “the learning ground?” or “lessons learned”?. To be continued….PS that GS in Car and Track is cool, but its a 73 Grand Am for me!
I will echo Jim. The bulk of my writing experience prior to CC was a few eloquently worded emails at work that got me what I wanted. On a whim, I contacted Paul; that was over ten years ago.
You also don’t have to have something overly technical, either. You’ve no doubt noticed a few tongue-in-cheek articles here over time, which are just as fun and enjoyable as anything else.
Axlehop, seriously, you should consider it. I am far from a gearhead, and I get great pleasure out of putting together these essays, most of the time from a personal perspective. I really hope you move forward. I took some convincing by Paul years ago to give it a shot, but I’m so glad I did. I’m no Csaba Csere, but I love and stand by the essays I’ve written here.
These vids are hilarious… like the cars are auditioning for car-chase movies & TV.
I always thought the Colonnade coupes were most attactive with the big triangular quarter windows they were clearly meant to have, and the early Buick version in particular (like the Gran Sport in the brochure trim.
The triangular windows seem to make the most sense on the 1973 – ’75 Buick Colonnades, with their shape rhyming with that of the pontoon fenders.
With that said, I still love their application in the ’73 Chevelles probably the most.
When I see one of these now-rare birds in the wild I’m always surprised by how much smaller they are then I remember. Lower, longer and wider than today’s SUVs but not the huge, wallowing boats they appear to be in print ads (or in my memories). Also, Buick had the prettiest face of the mid-sized GM cars during this era, IMO.
I guess the designer guy who designed the Monte Carlo swoop came by one day and did a swoop for this car. It’s almost like this is trying to be a mini Riviera.
These were OK cars, I but I liked the Malibu more. I think I didn’t get why GM needed a colonnade out of each BOPC division at the time, perhaps two would have been enough. In any event, these were not high on my awareness scale, there must have been half a million of them on the road at the time. Possibly I thought Buick more of a bigger car company, Le Sabre, Roadmaster, etc. Don’t even get me started about the Apollo.
Would there have been chrome trim around the colonnade quarter window? It seems missing on this one.
These are excellent shots. I have Chicago on my list as one of my favourite places to visit, and I always enjoy your photos. Thanks for posting these, no thanks to the crazy subway rider.
I’m betting that chrome trim was removed along with a vinyl roof with a repaint at some point. Seeing one if these without a vinyl roof back in the day, at least in the south, was almost unheard of.
Thank you, Moparlee. I also think the chrome trim was removed at some point, maybe for a repaint at some point. I really couldn’t tell if there looked to have been a vinyl roof at one point, as the roof looked free of lumps and bodywork.
I also was unable to confirm in my research whether a vinyl roof was standard on the Luxus. While no slicktop Luxus models werein the brochure, in my internet research, I found a few. Thus, I left that theory out of my essay.
Unlike in 1973 thru 1977, there is NOTHING worth enticing me into a Buick new car showroom today.
How very sad.
it looks like a Buick Monte Carlo
the Monte Carlo was hot hot hot
the Buick was not not not
sales pretty much tell the story
as do reviews
Unnerving experience, that thankfully led to you finding this Buick, Joe.
Interesting, because of the ‘baroque’ formal styling on the early Colonnade versions of the Olds Cutlass and Buick Century/Regal, their exterior colours are consistently limited to various muted shades of gold/brown/green/pale blue, etc. Reflective of their styling, and popular colours conveying luxury at the time. I find the colour (repaint?) on this one, too drab. Thankfully, rescued (some) by the lack of a vinyl top. And the timeless road wheels, of course.
As a kid at the time, I really liked when GM removed the deep side sculpting on the Buicks and Olds Cutlass for ’76. Thought it made them look much cleaner, and more modern. And allowed them a brighter paint palette!
Your close cropping of the last image is retrospective. This was a popular photo edit in many car magazines during the 1950s. Showing a car’s ‘face’ isolated on a white background. Often, some of the least flattering views they could choose!
Exactly! The trend extended well beyond the 1950s for more limited-budget publications – like this 1975 Consumer Guide magazine, with a Malibu image that’s strikingly similar to Joe’s Century shot here:
It was a very popular magazine design trend from the 50s, less so onward into the 70s, when it was already well dated and passe. Equally as unflattering, when it was often done popularly with people’s faces.
Wonder if the automaker’s marketing departments didn’t ask magazine art directors to move away from this style of photo editing. It was very popular. It was also perhaps one of the worst ways to convey bloated Detroit iron. Many foreign cars looked unattractive with this editing technique as well. Cars with homely noses, like the Renault 8 and 10 for example, would not be served well by these style of photos.
Renault 8 Gordini.
On a related topic. Reading car magazines in the 1970s, you could also easily spot writers who clearly started their trade in the 1960s/50s, by the vocabulary they continued to use. When I saw wording like, ‘This is a new foreign job by Ford… ‘, I’d cringe. And often wondered if they genuinely accepted modern cars, foreign cars, and the downsizing trend happening then.
Daniel, I think yours is a great observation about the color palette a available on the upper scale Colonnades being limited to more reserved, muted shades. For example, I can’t imagine a ’73 Century being offered in the same, very bright, lime green shade offered on so many GM cars for ’76, including the ’76 Centurys and Regals.
As far as the cutout image, I felt it was necessary to remove the background to bring attention to the face-like expression of this Buick! I think that in terms of that, I succeeded, even if it’s not the car’s most attractive aspect. 🙂
I think you’re on to something about the Buick’s stare. I’ve noticed that people with eyes set wide apart tend to be distinctive looking, and sometimes appear to have a curious-looking gaze.
These Colonnades with round headlights also have their eyes (lights) set wide apart, and just seem to invite a double-take. Maybe that was the point of this design originally, but to me, these cars definitely seem to have an eccentric type of stare to them. Not creepy, though, like the woman on your train, but just different. I don’t get the same feeling, though with the quad-headlight versions.
Thinking about it, I have seen some very attractive people with eyes that are set wider apart. I think the direct, straight-ahead shot of this car emphasizes the width between the heights and exaggerates it a bit.
Sorry to hear about the sour stare from the woman on the train. Some people just have an RBF (excellent description, btw), while others have a face that readily telegraphs their thoughts. I totally understand the impulse not to engage, especially when there is so much “nonsense” out there putting people on edge, but sometimes cracking an innocuous smile at them is a safe way to let someone know you can see what is going through their mind.
Despite their many faults, I have always liked the Colonnades. It may be that I reached peak teenage car consciousness when these were new, but they always symbolized to me some of the best attributes of American cars, including style, spaciousness (in the front seat, anyway), and power. My favorites vary by model year, with a slight edge given to the Buick coupes. I had totally forgotten about the Century Luxus coupe, which a neighbor of ours drove back in the day, with a white vinyl top over root beer brown. Until today, I would not have known there were significant differences from the Regal beyond interior trim.
Thanks, William. It wasn’t the worst thing, but the experience was still fresh enough in my mind when I wrote this three weeks ago that it permeated the flavor of this essay. I had to laugh a few times as I was proofreading it again last night.
A white top on a root beer brown example sounds like a very appealing combo for one of these. I am a fan of the Colonnades and feel like they’re still due to come into the appreciation they deserve.
The mysteries of sussing out the motivations and intentions of disturbed people staring at you on public transportation. I think it’s something that all of us (including the disturbed people, I suspect) have engaged in at one time or another. I’m headed for a lengthy ride on the CTA tomorrow…I’ll keep my eye out for Doris’ friend.
As to the car, a high school friend’s dad had one of these. But despite the fact that we all took turns driving quantities of friends in our parents’ cars, we seldom rode in it as it was a 2 door and therefore wasn’t terribly conducive to piling a bunch of guys into it for a night on the town. Somehow, the ’74 Dart seemed better for that.
Excellent post Joe!
Thanks, Jeff! I’m trying to remember instances of taking people in my own ’76 Colonnade coupe (Chevy Malibu Classic), and whether it seemed cumbersome to tilt the passenger’s side bench seat forward. Regardless, and assuming your Dart was a four-door, it would have been easier just to take a four-door places than bothering to move the seat for ingress / egress. Would have taken at least part of the fun out of calling “shotgun”.
People can be weird, Joseph. These days there seem to be more weird people around that there used to be. Maybe they were never taught how to behave in public. Some are just obnoxious. To use a cricketing phrase, “Let it go through to the keeper”. 🙂
In my public transport days I’d always have my nose in a book or a magazine (cars, naturally!) so nobody would try and interact with me. Occasionally there’d be a drunk or druggie ranting on at the other end of the tram, or a couple of women talking loudly (not being sexist; men never seemed to, they were probably driving), In those pre-mobile-phone days people would be more inclined to invade my space with their newspaper, as they tried to hold it open enough to read without elbowing me, or tried folding it – in which case I had the crackling of the paper in my ears and the smell of fresh newsprint wafting past.
That Buick’s front end is – rather unpleasant. I quite like the rest of the styling (except for the size, but that’s me), but somehow the separate headlights (only two on a Buick!) and grille seems retrograde, a bit forties, unfinished even, a halfway house between the integrated lights and grille of the sixties and the full-brougham retro-grille treatment going on elsewhere. Big Buicks had a nicer frontal treatment.
Oh, there’s plenty of “spreading” present on trains, even with the advent and popularity of cell phones. The difference now after the start of the pandemic is that it’s just a little less pronounced. I’m talking about spreading not only in terms of physical space, but also aural invasion – people playing music, talking loudly, etc.
With all that said, I am still so very thankful for Chicago’s public transit system, the CTA. It is comprehensive, mostly reliable, and clean enough for me to get where I need to go. I haven’t owned a car since 2003, which has enabled me to save money I otherwise would have spent on a car and repairing and insuring it for other things.
As far as the Buick’s styling, the front end is probably the weakest link, but I like the drama in all of the compound curves and shapes. It’s all just so ’70s-GM.
Thank you for a great walk down memory lane. I had a 74 Luxus my senior year of college and a couple of subsequent years until I traded for a new 78 Firebird Formula.
The Luxus was a beautiful and comfortable car. Mine had bucket seats with a wide console and tee-handle type floor shifter. Tan vinyl interior in a brown car with a beige vinyl top.
That car had class.
“Class” is the perfect word to describe this basic car and your specific example. With that color scheme, it sounds a bit to me like German chocolate cake on wheels – in the best way.
Buick’s have long been known for their traditional Buick grille, but before they had that grille, Buick had the stunning styling of their 1941 lineup with those wide spaced single headlights. To the 50 year old car shopper in 1973, this car was evocative of a Buick from their youth, in a modern way. Before 1941, headlights were set inboard to varying degrees, but in 1941 Buick and Cadillac pushed them out to the edges. The wider look would become a thing in later years. That sweeping front fender just completed the look.
Thank you for this. I think I do remember having read about the styling inspiration for these coming from earlier, “legacy” Buick models. This helps explain the context of what Buick was going for here.
Not the best way to remember them, but….
My 1976 Buick Century 350 V8 coupe. ‘Bought it new in the autumn of ’75. A nice comfy car that gave me 189,000 miles of trouble-free driving for the most part. I let it go after it was hit by a truck. Here it is, posed next to some bungalows in Point Pleasant, NJ.
My parents had a 74 Century Luxus coupe, pale yellow with a brown vinyl roof, a saddle color soft touch vinyl interior that mimicked leather pretty well. I always thought the styling was great, the interior was nice, and the ride smooth. But it sucked gas at an alarming rate, even though it had the base 350 2 barrel. It was also slow compared to my 69 Montego 302. Another problem it had, like all GM midsized of the 70s, was build quality and rust. It had a bad weld seam between the trunk and back window the was raised instead of dipped that started rusting within a few months, the dealers solution was a little brush on touch up paint. Dad kept that car for a long time, he always did, cars in our family went through a cycle of… first the new car was mom’s and family vacation car, then with another new car irhe old one became dad’s work car, which never got too much attention, then it went to one of us kids… the Buick never made it that far being rear ended by a teenager in a 67 Fury. But before that happened, I remember trying to be nice, offering to wash it for Dad one day. As I went to scrub the bottom of the rear bumper, the chrome torn like paper… there was no metal left underneath!
UPDATE: Our subject car now has a nice makeover in bright silver.