I recently took a couple of days off work for some much needed rest, relaxation, and a quick trip to the Cape with some of my friends and former track teammates from high school. Despite all of our shenanigans, I still kept an eye out for any interesting cars. Indeed, when we stopped at JoMama’s coffeehouse (which I highly recommend) in the morning, I spotted this 1977 Buick Regal “Colonnade” coupe.
The 1973-1977 GM A-body is a car that often garners very love-it-or-hate-it opinions. On the one hand there’s the cheapened-out interiors (relative to predecessors), shrinking engines and output, fixed rear windows (on coupes), and an increasing amount of parts shared between various brands.
Yet, the 1973-1977 A-body was not without its merits. For starters, there was its distinctive styling. Referred to as “Colonnade” by GM (and what the ’73-’77 A-bodies are more commonly known as), these frameless window, fixed B-pillar vehicles exhibited sleek, flowing body lines with long hoods and low trunks. Their appearance is naturally subjective, but arguably better looking than anything similarly-sized over at Ford.
The Colonnades also sold in astronomical numbers, with the Oldsmobile Cutlass becoming the best-selling car in America in 1976. Buick A-body sales were not quite so high, but still nothing to scoff at. 175,560 Regal coupes were produced in 1977 alone, the Colonnade Regal’s most successful year.
This final-year Colonnade is a 1977 Buick Regal coupe. Appearing for the Colonnade’s introductory year in 1973, the “Century Regal” was positioned as Buick’s premier intermediate model, and to some extent, a budget Riviera personal luxury coupe. Initially available only as a 2-door notchback coupe, the Century Regal primarily differed in its unique fascias, upgraded interiors, and some minor equipment and trim variations.
For 1974, a 4-door model was added, sharing most of its bodywork with the regular Century. Changes were largely limited to the annual new grille for 1975, although there was a bit of reshuffling in the engine department. Now standard on Regal coupes was the Buick 3.8L V6, making a mere 110 horsepower. The Buick V6 was first introduced on the 1962 Buick Special, making it the first V6 in an American production car. Buick dropped it after 1967 in favor of a Chevrolet inline-6, with the tooling sold to Kaiser-Jeep.
In light of the 1973 energy crisis and impending U.S. Congress-enacted Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), GM actually bought back the tooling and put the Buick V6 back into production at Buick’s engine assembly plant in Flint, Michigan in 1974 for use in 1975 models. In light of this, the thirsty 7.5L V8 that had been optional on the Regal and Century was dropped, as it would not comply with new emissions standards, despite ever decreasing output.
The following year saw the “Century” prefix disappear, although the Regal was still considered part of the Century series for the remainder of this generation. 1976 also brought a significant exterior refresh as part of the Colonnades’ mid-cycle update. The higher-volume Regal coupes benefitted from a more extensive transformation, gaining a new hood, front clip, and more slab-sided fenders and doors, all for a more squared-off appearance.
A new flat front fascia featured a larger full-height grille, flanked by quad rectilinear-oriented headlights and turn signals. Interestingly, the stopgap LeSabre-based Riviera would largely emulate this look for 1977; something unusual for a flagship vehicle. Regardless, the coupe’s new appearance was very upscale and stately. Some might even describe it as “regal”.
Sedans meanwhile, gained vertically-stacked quad headlights, although they retained their position at the end of pontoon-like fenders, which were carried over from the original design. Likewise, the ’76 Regal sedan’s front end largely carried over, apart from a new grille pattern. New grille patterns yet again graced the faces of both the Regal coupe and sedan for 1977, but overall, changes were limited for the Colonnades’ final year.
GM’s massive effort of across-the-board downsizing was already well underway, with the new 1977 B- and C-bodies the first platforms receiving this treatment. Riding on an identical length (to A-body sedans) 116-inch wheelbase, in some cases, a 1977 “full-size” B-body was actually externally smaller than a 1977 “mid-size” A-body. This depended on model, as each vehicle’s styling altered exterior dimensions slightly; Buicks always tended to be a bit longer than their corporate siblings.
Interiors were not the strongest point of the Colonnades, and even the premium-positioned Regal was no exception. This Regal features the standard notchback bench seat in all-vinyl. Upgraded seating choices included a greater-contoured bench in cloth or vinyl, 60/40 split bench in cloth or vinyl, vinyl buckets with console, and Regal S/R-only cloth buckets with console. Regals also added simulated woodgrain appliqué to the dash and door panels.
A-bodies received their own downsizing for 1978, with the Regal once again becoming a coupe-only model. Following the Century’s transfer to the new front-wheel drive A-body, a sedan and wagon briefly joined the Regal lineup in the early-1980s. It was the Regal coupe, however, that was most successful and memorable, and it was one of the first cars that brought back serious performance, with the Regal Grand National and GNX models.
An interesting note about this ’77 Regal is that it was built only about 110 miles away from where I found it in Orleans, MA. GM used to have an assembly plant in the town of Framingham, MA, that manufactured various Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick models from its opening in 1948 until its closure in 1989. The dealer badge on its trunk indicates that this Regal was sold, presumably when new, in Yonkers, NY. At some point in its 38 years it made its way to Cape Cod, where the milder climate appears to be treating it well.