Curbside Classic: 1986 Buick Century Limited Two-Door Sedan – Even If Buick Insists It’s A Coupe

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(first posted 3/17/2016)    The FWD GM A-Bodies are perpetual fodder for CC. We’ve found and looked at just about every variation of the theme in A-major, except for the elusive Pontiac STE, and the true unicorns in the family, like the Gran Sport version of this coupe two door sedan. I’ve long given up on the quest, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never had one of these two door sedans either, so we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with it for our monthly A-Body fix. And yes, this is a genuine two-door sedan, regardless of Buick’s efforts to tell us otherwise.

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Why am I so adamant about this point? Well, when a two-door shares the exact same roof line and C-pillar as the four door, it really is a two door sedan. And is this one of the last American two-door sedans?

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The Century did eventually get a genuine coupe roof in 1989, and we gave it it’s day of fame here. Curiously, the Olds Ciera got it several years earlier, for 1986, but Buick stood pat with their two-door sedan as well as their fibbing. Why they did so is another question, as they sold terribly.

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Out of some 275k Centuries sold in 1986 (the best year ever for this generation), a mere 14,781 of them were two-doors, and that includes 1,029 Gran Sports. That’s all of 5.7% of the total. It appears Buick “coupe”buyers were gobbling up the old-school Regal; almost 100k of them, actually. The Century made a fine sedan, but it just didn’t tickle the coupe bone.

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Here’s that Gran Sport; as sinister as one of these spinster-mobiles ever got, with full monochrome paint job and a wicked 150 hp 3.8 L V6. Undoubtedly it was trying to chase after Ford’s successful Thunderbird Turbo-Coupe. And failing. Which explains the rather T-Bird inspired new cap that finally came a long in ’89.

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Let’s face it; these Centuries decidedly skewed to an older demographic. Which undoubtedly explains this particular example, which I found parked in an area inhabited only by students and some homeless street people who fight over the almost endless beer cans and bottles to be had for their nickel refund. Which is somewhat convenient, because when there’s vomit on the sidewalks on the weekends, it’s easy to blame the bums, especially if the folks are in town for a visit.

This pristine example just had to be a hand-me-down from Grandma or Great Aunt Nonie; it’s just too obvious. What’s not so easily explained is why the venerable Buick coat of arms is upside down.

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Check out the unsullied interior; nobody ever lost their cookies and beer in here. Yet. It even has a sport steering wheel; was Grandpa feeling a bit frisky when he ordered it? Or is this owned by a budding Buick aficionado who went out and found one?

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The yoga mat in the back suggests not, to the latter question. Especially in that shade, since yoga is hardly an exclusively woman’s undertaking. Ask me how I know. And there’s the box of hankies on the front seat. It obviously belongs to a female student, or a co-ed, they were once referred to in the distant past. And a neat one, at that.

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There’s no call-out on the front fender to tell us what’s under the hood. Hopefully not the 2.5 L Iron Duke; this is just too nice of a car to be sullied by that crude implement of noise, vibration and a limited degree of propulsion. More likely either the 2.8 60° V6, which was still burdened with a carburetor (and hence not available in clean California), or the 3.8 V6. That really is the only one that could do this fine example of a GM roadmaster justice. In 1986, the 3.8 was already graced with genuine sequential fuel injection, hence the lofty 150 hp rating.

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Who would have guessed when these A-Bodies arrived in 1982 that they would be with us for…fifteen years! That was an automotive eternity back then; or at least a century. Well, if you’re GM and want to prove it to the world that you can actually build a reliable front wheel drive car, that’s the way to do it; keep building them forever. It’s a habit GM became rather addicted to.

Given that these are really X-Bodies under the skin, perhaps it was GM’s way of getting back at everyone without folks knowing it. And in the process, they became genuine Roaches of the Road™, although that really applies more to the later ones, which so often were reincarnated rental cars. These early ones are rare now, even in four door guise.

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No; it’s not a Grand Sport by any means; more like Grandpa Sport. Hey, it does have the wire wheel covers. And then there’s the half vinyl top, and sporty chrome band over the roof, in an effort to try to justify Buick’s determination to call it a coupe. I’ll bet Grandpa and Grandma felt pretty chuffed when they drove off the lot with it, in their fancy new Century Limited…two door sedan.