(first posted 7/23/2014) The voice on the commercial was a mixture of auctioneer and late night car salesman. Running as often as political commercials prior to an election, the promise made by the lip-flapping announcer was almost overwhelming for this then twelve year-old. The premise worked; I was yanked in like a hairball into a vacuum cleaner.
It was September 1985, and the commercial was for the Southeast Missouri District Fair, better known locally as the SEMO District Fair, held in the world’s only inland cape of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In addition to being one of the grandest social events in the area, the SEMO District Fair is more fun than a barrel of monkeys with each night having a themed hootenanny at the grandstand.
The hootenanny that had captivated me was the stunt driving show.
Relentlessly needling my parents about it, they finally (and uncharacteristically) acquiesced and bought tickets under the pretense of it being a birthday present. That was awesome–a stunt driving show was a grand way to celebrate entry into that exclusive club of being a teenager.
Upon arrival, what do I find encompassed the bulk of their stunt fleet? Brand new 1985 and 1986 G-body Buick Regal’s. This show was uptown–they were driving Buick’s!
By no means was this my first exposure to the G-body. This was the Midwest; these were as common as mosquitos along the Mississippi River.
It might seem most of the Gs were Chevrolet Monte Carlos, but that was not the case in 1986. Notice this picture; there were three different header panels for one car within one model year. Times have certainly changed.
The Pontiac Grand Prix always seemed to be the thinnest on the ground and sales prove that as only 41,000 moved out the door.
By far the most popular was the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, a car which seemed to be in about half the driveways in the area, outselling the Grand Prix roughly 3.5 to 1. One of these is the only G-body I have ever driven.
Combined sales of the two-door G-body in 1986 was 301,000 units; as a comparison, the entire 1986 production volume of the GMC light duty line was also 301,000 units. Even better, each of these cars were relatively unchanged from 1981 to 1987.
The only tangible differences among the four brands were a rhinoplasty and a butt-job, but these did follow the time-tested and proven GM recipe of corporate body similarities. To its long-lasting credit, GM sure knew how to capture the essence of each brand as each had its own distinct personality. These were not the blatant badge engineering effort of later endeavors, such as the Cadillac Cimarron.
Sitting at ground level, separated from these careening Regal’s by only a thin cast iron railing, the seeds for my long-lasting adiabatic admiration of the Buick Regal were planted. Doing stunts similar to what Joie Chitwood was doing in 1956, I realized there was nothing more captivating than seeing a Buick Regal flying through the air or being driven on two wheels. It was pure poetry in motion.
My young mind was overflowing with savory Buick goodness. Had anyone in the history of the world created a cooler car? Hell no. To use some 1980s vernacular, it was totally gnarly and rad, man.
I didn’t fully comprehend this generation of Regal dated back to the downsizing of the A-body in 1978. Neither did I know the A-body Regal was reassigned to the G-body nomenclature in 1981 to coincide with a healthy exterior update and the introduction of the new, front-wheel drive A-body Chevrolet Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, Oldsmobile Ciera, and Buick Century.
At the time I likely knew the Buick’s were powered by either a 3.8 liter V6 or a 5.0 liter V8. But in my twelve year-old mind, nobody with a lick of sense would have ordered the V6 as six cylinders equated to levels of puniness surpassed only by a four-banger.
I had tangential knowledge of Buick’s turbo V6, an engine that had been available in the Regal since 1978. With that engine, I was intrigued. My thought was if Lee Iacocca claimed a turbocharged 2.2 liter four could accelerate like a V8, this turbo V6 should accelerate like a fighter jet off an aircraft carrier. Maybe not all V6 engines were boat anchors.
My intrigue only grew as Buick continued to cultivate the potential of their turbo V6, seen here in (what else?) a black Buick Regal.
Just when it seemed the G-body flame may have started to flicker, it was doused with high-octane gasoline causing some dormant seeds to grow.
Many of the various stories I have told at CC have had a nugget of truth within them, some larger than others (here). Since you are waiting until later to check out this link, a major element of the linked story is a high schooler playing an illicit game of “Chase.” It won’t take much to guess where that came from.
One weekend night during my senior year of high school, as I was out carousing, I met up with a buddy. He was driving the 1979 Chevrolet cargo van he had liberated from his grandfather’s appliance store. As we were cruising around in his van (the only Chevrolet van I’ve ever seen with a three-speed on the column), we encountered a classmate of mine who suggested the game of Chase. He was in his mother’s 1986 Buick Regal.
My classmate’s father was a shade tree mechanic of sorts who felt compelled to enhance the performance potential of the 5.0 liter V8 General Motors had bestowed upon the Buick. In other words, it ran like a scalded dog. Careening around the university campus and adjacent residential areas of Cape Girardeau was great fun. My buddy was slamming gears in the van and its 250 cubic inch straight six was yelping for mercy. He was a very good driver and was able to stay far enough ahead of the Buick.
However, the Buick was a formidable foe. It was also a very tail happy car, as it went sideways around numerous corners and was able to quickly catch up from our various evasions. It was a night of great fun that thankfully did not involve any members of law enforcement.
It cemented my fondness for the two-door G-body Regal into something as permanent as a tattoo of one’s name on their torso. There are times when I have wondered if I have had a pollyanna view of cars in my various write-ups. This time, I do not care; these two experiences have created a G-body Buick fanboy out of me, and for that I will loudly profess it to everyone!
Related Reading: The CCCCC Series, Part 12