I saw this Buick Colonnade out of the corner of my eye, and immediately made a U-turn to take a set of pictures. We’ve had a run on Buicks lately, but that’s not intentional- The universe provides us cars as it will, and we take their pictures. This time the universe gave us a really clean example. Even more exciting, it’s the relatively rare four door model instead of the typical ’70’s GM mid-sized coupe.
I’m not super clear on the correct name for this Buick- In the ’75 brochure, the intermediates are all under the “Century” header, and the upscale models are referred to as “Century Regal.” However, the only nameplate on the vehicle is Regal, and I’ve never heard an owner talking about their Century Regal. To keep things simple, I’m just going to call it a Regal.
As a side note, model year 1975 marked the return of the Buick V-6 to Buick intermediates. Checking the records, about 75% of the production used a V-8 (and some sources say all Regals did), making it likely this car packs a 2 bbl or 4 bbl Buick 350.
Buick built this car during my freshman year in high school, and at the time I wouldn’t have given it a second look. Taking a close look today, I’m shocked that GM allowed that huge gap between the base of the B-pillar and the door skins. I understand the pillar is fixed in place, while the doors need to move, but surely that was a better solution than the lateral chasm the builders settled on- It looks like the B-pillar has broken free of the body and is just hovering there.
GM made actual changes to the Colonnades from year to year, allowing us to nail down the year and model even without that big “Regal” badge in the grille. While the ’73, ’74, and ’75 Regals all used round headlamps and similar grilles, this squarer front fascia is unique to 1975. The Regal four door then switched to square headlights in ’76, so this is clearly a ’75.
To see how this four door fit into the hierarchy, let’s review the Colonnade model line. To start with, Chevy and Pontiac used a straightforward approach. The four doors and fastback two doors shared a common name, while the formal coupe had an entirely different name along with unique sheet metal.
Buick and Oldsmobile took a different approach. Oldsmobile hung Cutlass on all cars, but added additional identifiers as you moved up in trim level. The base coupe came as a base or “S” version, while the formal coupe came in Supreme or Salon varieties.
Buick sort of split the difference- They called base cars the Century, and upper trim levels the Regal. However, the formal coupe used both Regal or Century, the only formal roofed coupe using a base model name.
Both Olds and Buick used similar front clips for the standard and formal models, but the higher end cars had slightly more length (all in the clip).
While the driver side of this Regal looks pretty good, the rear shows a bit of age. In typical GM fashion, the Los Angeles UV and ozone have busted up the bumper fill panel. Somewhere along the line, the trunk has also picked up a solid whack, which reshaped the lid and messed up the fit.
The interior looks very good. I believe that fine looking wood trim and pull strap on the door panels also identify this as a Regal, rather than just a base Century.
If you haven’t noticed, back in 1975, interiors were offered in bright and unusual colors. I’m not a huge fan of avocado, but it’s a nice change from black. I’m sure we’ll hear some love for it in the comments.
In 1976, Buick updated the sheet metal on their coupes, and squared off the body lines. The lower volume sedans would carry this (curvier? bolder?) sheet metal through 1977. I mention this because all ’73-’75 models used unique door and fender sheet metal from brand to brand, but the ’77 and ’78 Cutlass and Century/Regal coupes shared the same doors and fenders (loosing that big sweeping character line), an early cost cutting measure and another step towards badge engineering.
Sadly, the passenger’s side is as rough as the rear view. Still, for a 44 year old car, the overall condition is good. However, there’s several weaknesses pulling down it’s desirability and value.
1) It’s a Buick Regal.
2) It’s a four door sedan.
3) It has almost no options (notice the lack of a vinyl top or passenger’s door rear view mirror).
Of course, it could be worse- it’s a sedan, but not a Century V-6!
Every car has a story, and often times the story is etched into the body. Here on the passenger’s side, there’s a series of nicks on the front door, and a different series on the rear door. Speaking as an amateur automotive archaeologist, I believe those marks tell us this car was typically parked on the left side of a garage. Furthermore, over the past 44 years the doors of two different vehicles have left their unique imprints. What I can’t explain is why the door ding trim is missing/beat to hell.
To close out, I’ll show this close up of the left rear fender and discuss a few points on GM quality. As has been said many times, GM assembly and material quality started to slide through the seventies, which this image mostly reinforces. I’ve already mentioned the dissolving fill panels, and I’ll note the failure to center the Regal badge over the marker light. On the other hand, the chrome trim around the marker light has held up very nicely, a small victory for GM.
Still, automotive archaeology is an inexact science, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few observations- feel free to use the comments box to weigh in with your own thoughts. D/S