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Buick Century

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1st Generation (1936-1942)

The Buick Century name actually dates as far back as 1936, 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)

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 Malibu, Oldsmobile Cutlass and Pontiac LeMans. 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 using the longer 116" wheelbase. 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. A top of the line Luxus model was offered, as was a sport-oriented GS coupe, which was available with either the 350 or 455 engine. It of course was nothing like the Stage 1 GSs of a few years prior, but Buick at least should be credited for at least trying to inject a little excitement, which wasn't easy for any car manufacturer in the mid-1970s. It is now considered a minor collectible, especially a 455 model.

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. 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 discontinued. Buick resurrected another nameplate from the past, the Special, which became the base model. Upper model Centurys in 1976 now had stacked quad headlights - Special models continued with dual round headlights. The 3.8L (231 cid) V6 was now the standard engine on Specials, and the GS models were discontinued this year. The 350 was still the most popular engine, and the 455 would hang on for one more year. 1977 models would differ little from 1976s, other than the 455 no longer being available. Now that the full-size B-body LeSabre had been downsized this year, the Century was now nearly the same size dimensionally as a full-size LeSabre. Some Century coupes could be had with the Regal's unique styling features, but could also be had with the 231 V6 unlike the Regal, which had the 350 as standard. The Century (along with all the other A-bodies) would be downsized for 1978.

4th Generation (1978-1981)

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. 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.

In 1981, the 2-door Century was dropped altogether - if you wanted a 2-door Century, 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 Regal sedan.

To be continued...


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