Not many would know, but it was Buick that established the General Motor company, and not vice versa by the simple order of precedence. Buick, so founded by David Dunbar Buick in 1899, became a marque of GM in 1908 and is considered luxury to date, positioned just below Cadillac.
While not many youngsters want to be seen in one, Buick is still growing. And the reason lies at outside shores because Buick sells more than 80% of examples in China – with only 20% of its sales in the US, Canada, and Mexico. So let’s talk about the 10 best Buicks that shaped America’s auto industry, and let the Chinese have the LaCrosse.
10 1975-1980 Skyhawk: Better Than The Competition
Buick should not have entered the subcompact arena, but this was the oil embargo era, and everything needed to be toned down to better mileage and emission standards. So Buick got the Skyhawk hatchback, that resembled the Chevy Monza as well as the Oldsmobile Starfire a little too much.
The names sounded a lot like the characters in the Centurions toon, and sadly, the rear-drive Skyhawk was based on the awful Chevy Vega. That was the bad news. The good news was the power mill – a 3.8-liter V6 that spat out 110 horses and preferred not to explode like the Vega’s block four. At least the Skyhawk was fast.
9 1963 Buick Special Skylark: Drunk On Power
The Buick Special took a break between 1958 and 1960, reappearing in 1961. This time, it was all about performance and completely new styling. The full-size Special Skylark was retired in favor of the unibody Y-platform, but even then, there was a sparkling surprise under the hood. Buick managed to fit in a 3.5-liter all-aluminum V8 mill, available in two options.
One was a two-barrel carburetor that jetted 150 ponies and the other was a four-barrel one that took it up to 190 horsepower. The latter option was bumped up another 10 ponies to 200 horsepower. It may have had less power than the larger Buicks, but compared to its equal-sized market rivals, it fairly burst with power. The perfect racing car indeed.
8 1936 Buick Century: 100mph Plus Buick
Why have we dug out such an old relic that no one even remembers now? Well, the Buick Century or the Series 60 carried a 5.3-liter inline eight power mill under the hood, good for 120 horses. In the 30s, 120 horses were solid gold and the Century got its name because it crossed 100mph, a feat for this post-prohibition era.
Its drivetrain was later used by the Roadmaster and the Limited, but none of them could go past the 100mph mark – and so the Century rightfully held on to its title. With an interesting art-deco persona and one of the fastest cars around, the Century sold like hotcakes.
7 1963-65 Buick Riviera: A Beauteous Ride
One of GM’s most beautiful cars ever made, the second being the Corvette Sting Ray; the design floored most buyers. In the 60s, most of America’s homegrown cars were OTT, like the doomed Edsel line. The Riviera was like a breath of fresh air – with spear-like fenders, sculpted sides, and a raised prow.
The 6.6- to 7.0-liter Nailhead V8s jetted out 325 to 360 ponies which more than adequately powered this understated car. The 65 Riviera is considered even better than the 63 models, with the headlights getting clamshell covers and adding a subtle flavor of mystery to this already exotic beauty.
6 1970 Buick GSX Stage 1: A 33-Year Record
Somewhere between the Mustangs, the Camaros and Roadrunners – they forgot all about one of the most superior muscle cars around. The Buick GSX Stage 1 could have ruled the roost making people forget the Mustang ever existed, but sadly, it came a little too late on the scene.
The 7.4-liter V8 that powered it jetted 350 horses which went up to 360 in the top trim. The 510 ft-lb torque remained a 33-year-old record till it was finally broken by the Dodge Viper in 2003. Sadly, it ended before it could even take off because of strict EPA regulations, coupled with an oil embargo.
5 1950 Buick Roadmaster: The Chomping Grill
There not an iota worth of difference between the mechanics of the 1949 or the 1950 Roadmaster. The 1949 model was at an all-time low in sales with the 5.2-liter straight-eight engine aging a bit too prematurely. So Buick wizened up the design and introduce nine unmissable chrome teeth on the grill – the kind that jetted up and above it.
This 1950 model with the same engine no one seemed to like in 1949 became the face of Buick because of those teeth – and sales jumped 38%. Goes to sat that a wardrobe change can improve saleability, at lease of cars. The Roadmaster will always remain an iconic Buick car – and those teeth were its crowning glory.
4 1966 Buick Wildcat GS: Pure Potency
The Wildcat Gran Sport was available for just a single year – in 1966. In 1967, it was back to the Buick Wildcat. There were options for the Wildcat GS: a single Y48 carburetor setup yielded 340 ponies on a 7.0-liter engine and a Super wildcat W14 dual-carb option upped the yield to 360 horses.
Mind that, these were rare. Only 21 W14 Wildcats were ordered, as opposed to the 1,224 Y48 ones. Either way, both these options had upgraded chassis, suspension as well as their looks. Red and white stripes were the norm for these and they also sported special GS plates to raise their position over and above the normal Wildcat.
3 1987 Buick GNX: One Of The Fastest
The Buick GNX was the Regal’s top performance trip trim. With the Grand National’s 3.8-liter turbocharged power mill already jetting out 245 horses and 420 ft-lb torque, Buick wanted to raise the bar higher. Thus the GNX or the Grand National Experiment was born, but for insurance purposes, Buick undersold the horses at 276 and the torque at 360 ft-lb.
This did not stop the Buick GNX from being the fastest car of 1987, and one of the fastest cars from Buick, going 0-60mph in a flat 4.6 seconds. Sadly, this top trim of the Regal came at the very end of Regal’s second-gen tenure, and only 547 of these cars ever left the dealerships with their lucky owners.
2 2012 Buick Regal GS: Horsepower Potent
The Regal nameplate is very much alive and well, but the 2012 example was extra special. It had the highest horses a Regal ever threw out, with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine pounding out 270 horsepower and 295 ft-lb torque. This made the Regal GS spin 0-60mph in a quick 6.1 seconds.
With wider tires, a lower than normal suspension and large air vents in the front – the 2012 Buick Regal GS looked as it was, a beautiful but menacing performance model. Think of it as the as 2012’s or rather that decade’s most awesome sleeper car – it looked plusher than performance but ran a mean game.
1 1986 Buick Regal T-Type and Grand National: Ate Corvettes
When the Grand National was introduced in 1982, followed by the T-Type in 1983 – the interest was dull. This changed in 1986 when Buick added an intercooler to the V6 power mill and relegated the Corvettes to the too-slow category. And we’re not kidding, Camaros may not have eaten Mustangs for breakfast as Chevy once proudly declared, but Grand Nationals did eat Corvettes for breakfast.
In 1986, the Buicks jetted 235 horses, which was bumped up to 245 horses the very next year. 1987 was the last year for these cars and when word spread, sales rocketed. 7896 of these were sold in 1986 and in 1987 the number went much higher with more than 20,000 Grand Nationals reaching lucky owners.