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The Buick Century name actually dates as far back as 1936 and used on other various models in the 1950s before becoming one of Buick's main staples starting with the 3rd generation in 1973. The Century lasted until 2005, and had continually been one of Buick's better sellers, appealing largely to traditional, conservative buyers.
Here's a brief rundown on each generation:
1st Generation (1936-1942)
The first Century was slotted in between the Special and Roadmaster models, with the Limited being the top of the line. The Century's claim to fame was it had the Roadmaster's bigger 5.2L (320 cid) I8 engine, but was built on the shorter Special's body frame. This generation Century lasted through the 1942 model year and unfortunately was a bit of a poor seller for Buick, accounting for only 10% of its total sales.
2nd Generation (1954-1958)
In 1954, the Century name reappeared, again combining the smaller Special model with the larger engine of the Roadmaster model. This generation Century would again be short-lived, lasting only thru the 1958 model year. One interesting Century model, however, would be the 1957-58 Century Caballero hardtop station wagon, which would be the only such model ever offered by GM. It was a bit of a sales dud, though, prompting Buick to drop the model, and the entire Century line, after 1958. It would be replaced in 1959 by the Invicta.
3rd Generation (1973-1977)
|Body Style|| 2-Door Coupe|
|Wheelbase|| 112" (coupe)|
116" (sedan, wagon)
|Transmission|| 4-Speed Manual, RWD|
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engine|| 3.8L (231 cid) V6 (1976-1977)|
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1973-1977)
7.5L (455 cid) V8 (1973-1976)
|Similar|| Chevrolet Malibu|
After a 15 year hiatus, Buick pulled the Century nameplate out of the drawer one more time to place on its new intermediate model. The Century now was an A-body corporate mate to the Chevrolet Chevelle and Malibu, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Pontiac LeMans, and basically picked up where the Skylark left off (although the Skylark name would reappear in 1975 on the newly-redesigned X-body compact).
The Century was available as a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and a 5-door wagon, and shared the common A-body "colonnade styling" theme. Sedans and wagons utilized the 116" wheelbase, while the coupes were on a shorter 112" wheelbase. The 2-door personal-luxury coupe Regal also debuted this year (in fact at first it was known as the Century Regal), and aside from obvious styling differences, it differed from the "regular" Century coupe by offering more luxurious interior appointments.
Base engine was the 5.7L (350 cid) V8 with a 2- or 4-bbl carburetor, with a 7.5L (455 cid) V8 4bbl V8 as an option. In addition to the Regal, the Century lineup for 1973 included the base Century, the mid-line Century 350 and the uplevel Luxus models each available as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan with the base and 350 coupes using a semi-fastback roofline with triangular fixed rear side windows and Luxus coupe sharing the Regal's squared-off formal roofline with vertical opera window. A sport-oriented Century GS or Gran Sport was offered using the semi-fastback coupe body, which was available with a variety of engines including a 350 four-barrel (190 hp), 455 four-barrel (250 hp) or the Stage 1 455 four-barrel (270 hp). Due to low compression and strangulation from emission controls, the '73 Stage 1's performance was only a shadow of the 1970 Stage 1 GSs of a few years prior, but Buick should be credited for at least trying to inject a little excitement, which wasn't easy for any car manufacturer in that timeframe, and far better than that year's Chevrolet Chevelle SS (454/245 hp), Pontiac GTO (455/250 hp) and Oldsmobile 4-4-2 (455/250 HP), or similarly watered down Ford or Chrysler intermediates. The '73 Century GS is now considered a minor collectible, especially a 455 model. About seven Century GS models were reportedly built with the 455 Stage 1/four-speed combo in 1973 out of a total production of nearly 800 Stage 1 455-equipped cars built that year, the vast majority of which were teamed up with the Turbo Hydra-matic 400 transmission.
1974 models got newer, larger front and rear bumpers to comply with the new federally mandated 5-MPH crash standards. this year, and all others continued as before. Regal models were no longer "Century Regals", they were now simply Regals. Also the base Century line was dropped, leaving the Century 350, Century Luxus and Regal lineups. Turbo Hydra-matic transmission and power steering became standard equipment on all Century models this year with power front disc brakes standard on station wagons and optional on coupes and sedans. The Regal line was expanded to include a four-door sedan for the first time this year. Radial tires were a new option on all models and included with the Gran Sport option, which was still offered with the Stage 1 455 V8, one of the few survivors from the musclecar era though horsepower dropped from 270 to 245 and the four-speed was deleted from the option list.
In 1975, all models got catalytic converters, mandating the use of unleaded gasoline, and they got new grilles and revised taillights but were otherwise the same as in 1974, other than the Luxus being renamed the Century Custom. Buick resurrected another nameplate from the past, the Special, which became the base model. Buick's old V6 offered in the early to mid 1960s was resurrected in 231 cubic-inch form to meet a need for greater fuel economy following the 1973-74 energy crisis. The V6 was standard equipment on all Century models except station wagons and Regal sedans and in base form, came with a three-speed manual transmission though the Turbo Hydra-matic was optional and the only transmission available with the optional 350 and 455 V8s. The Century GS option continued for its final year as a trim package available with any engine offered in the Century lineup and a few white 1975 Century coupes with red and blue striping were built as replicas of the Century coupe that served as the pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500 race. While the actual pace car was powered by a 455 cubic-inch V8, the street versions were motivated by either the 231 V6 or 350 V8.
All Centurys in 1976 got quad rectangular headlights (stacked vertically on four doors and wagons, horizontally on coupes) with Century coupes getting a sloped nosepiece and Regal coupes an upright vertical bar chrome grille. The 3.8L (231 cid) V6 remained standard all Century models except the station wagons and the Regal sedan, and the GS models were discontinued this year. The 350 and 455 V8s was still offered as options. As was the case in 1975, a Century coupe again served as the Indianapolis 500 pace car in 1976. The actual pace car was powered by a non-production turbocharged 231 V6 and served as a springboard for development of the production Turbo V6 that was introduced in the 1978 models.
An interesting Free Spirit package was offered on the coupes, which included silver paint with (very) large "Free Spirit" decals that ran down the sides of the car and trunklid. The Free Spirit package also blanked off the rear quarter windows with mock stainless steel plates. Body-colored mag wheels with the heavy-duty suspension were also included, and it could have either the 350 or 455 V8 with bucket seats, floor shifter and console or a bench seat with a column shifter. The Free Spirit, along with the Pace Car edition, were both very rare and would be quite a find today, and potentially offer minor collector interest.
Only minor trim changes were made for the 1977 Century, which was in its last year of the 1973 colonnade body that was set to be replaced by a new downsized A-body for 1978. The 455 cubic-inch V8 was discontinued, as were the Pace Car and Free Spirit editions. That year's full-size B-body LeSabre had been considerably downsized and was now nearly the same size dimensionally as a full-size LeSabre for that one year only.
4th Generation (1978-1981)
|Body Style|| 2-Door Fastback Coupe (1978-1980)|
4-Door Fastback Sedan (1978-1979)
4-Door Notchback Sedan (1980-1981)
|Transmission|| 3-Speed Manual, RWD|
4-Speed Manual, RWD
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engine|| 3.2L (196 cid) V6 (1978-1979)|
3.8L (231 cid) V6 (1978-1981)
3.8L (231 cid) Turbo V6 (1979-1980)
4.3L (260 cid) V8 (1980-1981)
4.9L (301 cid) V8 (1978-1981)
5.0L (305 cid) V8 (1978-1981)
|Similar|| Chevrolet Malibu|
The 1978 Century was about 600 lbs lighter and over a foot shorter than the 1977 model. Base engine was now the 3.2L (196 cid) V6 engine, with the 3.8L (231 cid) V6 (a much more popular option) and the Pontiac-built 4.9L (301 cid) V8 with a 2-or 4bbl carb as options (a 5.0L 305 V8 was available on California models). A 4-speed manual transmission was available with any engine, but just about all had the 3-speed automatic. 2- and 4-door bodystyles ditched the former colonnade styling of the previous generation and were now a rather curious fastback "aeroback" theme shared with the Oldsmobile Cutlass, and it was definitely a look not everyone approved of. Rear windows also didn't roll down at all, even on station wagon models - again, a cost-saving measure that didn't sit well with some buyers. Despite the oddball styling, the Century did still manage to be a respectable seller, but it was really the Regal coupe that got most of the attention.
1979 models got a different grille, but were otherwise identical to the '78s. One interesting model that debuted this year was the Turbo Coupe, which had (naturally) a turbo 231 V6 engine that was borrowed from the Regal Sport Coupe. It was available only on the coupe and only with the automatic - and is the only Century of this bodystyle to garner any sort of collector interest, albeit very minor. Sales dipped a little this year, although it still sold in fairly substantial numbers.
In 1980, Buick wisely canned the aeroback sedan bodystyle and replaced it with a more conventional notchback bodystyle whose styling resembled the 1976-79 Cadillac Seville. And, not surprisingly, the Century saw a big sales spurt as a result. The mostly-ignored 3.2 V6 was dropped, the much more popular 231 V6 was now the standard engine. The 301 V8 remained an option (as did the 305 on California models), but the Oldsmobile-built 4.3L (260 cid) V8 also became an option. The 2-door still had the dowdy aeroback bodystyle, and the Turbo Coupe was still available, but very few buyers cared about either one of them.
In 1981, the 2-door aeroback Century was dropped altogether - if you wanted a 2-door mid-sized Buick, your only choice was now the Regal, which was fine by most buyers. Century Sedans and wagons got a new grille but were otherwise largely the same. The 301 V8 was now limited to the station wagons only, no longer available in the sedans. The largest V8 in the sedan was now the 260. The 231 V6 remained standard on both models. The Century name would be placed on a new front wheel drive A-body in 1982, but the rear-drive Century bodystyle would live on thru 1987 as a G-body Regal sedan.
5th Generation (1982-1996)
|Body Style|| 2-Door Coupe|
|Transmission|| 3-Speed Automatic, FWD|
4-Speed Automatic, FWD
|Engine|| 2.2L (134 cid) I4 (1993-1996)|
2.5L (151 cid) I4 (1982-1992)
2.8L (173 cid) V6 (1986-1989)
3.0L (181 cid) V6 (1982-1985)
3.1L (191 cid) V6 (1994-1996)
3.3L (204 cid) V6 (1989-1993)
3.8L (231 cid) V6 (1985-1988)
4.3L (262 cid) Diesel V6 (1982-1985)
|Similar|| Chevrolet Celebrity|
Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera
The Century was an entirely different animal from its predecessors this year. The Century was now an all-new front wheel drive A body, and now a corporate mate to the Chevrolet Celebrity, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera and Pontiac 6000. The Century rode the same 104.9" wheelbase that was based on the X-body Chevrolet Citation, but the A-body proved much less troublesome than the X-body did (although it still wasn't without its issues, like every other car). Bodystyles were a 2-door coupe and a 4-door sedan, and base engine was a 92 hp 2.5L (151 cid) "Iron Duke" I4, with a 110 hp 3.0L (181 cid) V6 and a 4.3L (262 cid) diesel V6 as options. All engines had a 3-speed automatic. The new Century was originally intended to replace the older rear-drive model entirely, but it was still a strong seller for Buick, so they kept it on and it became a part of the Regal series.
1983 models differed very little, and in 1984, in addition to a revised grille a T-Type model was added, becoming Buick's version of the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport and Pontiac 6000 STE, although it wasn't nearly as popular as either of those models. Other big news for 1984 was the addition of a 5-door wagon model, available in base or woodgrained Limited trim, and could have either the 2.5 I4 or 3.0 V6. The Century's conservative styling was a hit with older traditional customers perhaps trading from a larger LeSabre or Electra. 1985 models got another new grille, but remained the same otherwise. The 125 hp 3.8L (231 cid) V6 became an option this year, along with a 4-speed automatic transmission. 1986 models got a modest facelift, the front end was more angular and forward-facing than before. Taillights were revised slightly also on the coupes and sedans. The 3.0 V6 was dropped in favor of the 130 hp Chevrolet-built 2.8L (173 cid) V6 (which finally got fuel injection), and the 3.8 V6 got a power boost to 150 hp. The slow-selling diesel got the axe after 1985 also, but the Iron Duke I4 remained the standard engine. 1987 models pretty much mirrored the 1986s.
There wouldn't be many changes in store for the 1988s either, but in 1989, Centurys finally got a minor restyle, becoming more rounded in the front and rear, and gaining composite headlamps and large full-width taillights. The Iron Duke I4 got an hp boost to 110, and an all-new 160 hp 3.3L (204 cid) V6 replaced the 3.8 V6 as the top engine option. T-Types were also discontinued. In 1990, the 2.8 V6 was gone, and 1991 Centurys would get another new grille and front turn signals. In 1992, the Century and Cutlass Ciera would be the only 2 remaining A bodies left, as by now the Chevrolet Celebrity and Pontiac 6000 had gone on to bigger and better things. As staid as the Century design had become, it along with Olds's Cutlass Ciera still struck a chord with older traditional buyers and remained a strong seller for Buick. It also didn't hurt that the Century had become hugely popular with many rental car fleets.
In 1993, the Iron Duke I4 was dropped in favor of a 110 hp 2.2L (134 cid) I4, and they got a driver's side airbag as standard. 1994 models got another revised grille and a different V6 engine: the Chevrolet-built 3.1L V6 replaced the 3.3 V6, but hp remained the same at 160. Coupe models were discontinued this year, leaving only the sedan and wagon bodystyles. There weren't any real changes in 1995 other than a revised dashboard, but the Century, being as old as it was, still racked up 100,000 sales a year - many of which were fleet sales, but Buick had to be elated nonetheless. In fact, the car's name, "Century" had become a bit of a punchline with some in the automotive press, saying the car was aptly named because "it seems like it's been around that long." 1996 models were finally the last of this line, as GM would debut an all new redesigned model in 1997.
- Chrysler Concorde
- Chrysler Fifth Avenue
- Chrysler New Yorker (1990-1993)
- Dodge 600
- Dodge Diplomat
- Dodge Dynasty
- Dodge Intrepid
- Eagle Vision
- Ford LTD (1983-1986)
- Ford Taurus
- Mercury Marquis (1983-1986)
- Mercury Sable
- Plymouth Caravelle
- Plymouth Gran Fury (1982-1989)
6th Generation (1997-2005)
|Body Style||4-Door Sedan|
|Transmission||4-Speed Automatic, FWD|
|Engine||3.1L (191 cid) V6|
|Similar|| Buick Regal|
Pontiac Grand Prix
After a 15-season run in its prior form, Buick's staple sedan finally earned a total redesign. This generation Century was a bit larger than the previous, and was once again closely tied to the Regal for the first time since 1981. A 4-door sedan bodystyle was the only one available - no more station wagon. The Century would now be a W-body corporate mate to the Chevrolet Lumina, Oldsmobile Intrigue (which would be introduced a year later), and the Pontiac Grand Prix. The 160 hp 3.1L V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission carried over from the previous generation, and would be the Century's sole drivetrain - no more four cylinders. Although the Century and Regal were very similar on the outside, the Century differed by offering a smaller engine and true 6-passenger seating (and of course a lower sticker price). While the Regal went after a younger, more sport-oriented clientele, the Century would once again appeal to the older, more traditional Buick-buying crowd - and once again, it hit its mark perfectly. Other than a couple of new colors there weren't many changes for 1998.
1999 Centurys got traction-control and a new tire-inflation monitor on the dash. There were a few changes in store for 2000: the 3.1 V6 got an hp increase to 175, and dual-zone climate controls (manual in the Custom, automatic in the Limited models). In 2000, a new Century 2000 Special Edition options package debuted included a blacked-out grille and door moldings, body-colored exterior trim, alloy wheels, steering-wheel audio controls, and "Century 2000" emblems. The Special Edition options package would become available on the base Custom in 2001, and OnStar would become standard on both the Custom and Limiteds. Not many changes in 2002 other than front bucket seats with a floor shifter borrowed from the Regal were now an option on the Limiteds. In 2003, the exterior trim moldings were now body-colored instead of chrome, 2004 models got the Regal's 4-wheel disc brakes and an optional driver's side impact airbag.
2005 Centurys got virtually no change after a short model year run, which would be the last of the Century as the model was finally retired for good. Century sales, while still fairly respectable, had started declining in its last few years - it remained popular with fleet sales (rental car agencies and such), but its biggest problem was that its core audience was dying off (literally), and Buick had to do something to reverse this trend. The Century was replaced by the all-new, much more up-to-date LaCrosse during 2005. Time will tell if the new LaCrosse will make the indelible mark on Buick history that the Century did.
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