Please welcome Jeff Stork, who comes to us from The Brougham Society with this story of an auto show and a young GM district manager, along with some great pictures. Check out his blog and Facebook page! — JB
In January of 1988, I was in my first year as the Buick Milwaukee District Sales Manager, aka “Factory Rep,” a job that entailed many tasks. Although it was primarily about obtaining enough orders to keep the factory churning- which could be a real task in a Wisconsin winter- there were numerous special assignments, one being the Milwaukee Auto Show.
Today, GM Auto Shows are handled by a team out of Detroit, but back then the responsibility fell to the sales and service reps. My sales counterpart and I (who had the other half of the state) scheduled a meeting with the Milwaukee Sales Managers we and ordered the cars — looking for the right balance of models, equipment, and colors to highlight the new 1988 Buicks. We sought input from the dealers but edited some of their ideas. The service reps supervised the preparation of the show cars and then when it came time to move in, we all worked side by side.
The manager of Rank and Son Buick, a large downtown dealer, insisted that we order a Park Avenue in Platinum Beige with a red leather interior and a dark maroon top. We were skeptical, so we also ordered a back-up car in tone-on-tone Rosewood. When finally saw the car, it looked pink- there was some red in the Platinum Beige paint formula that the red leather picked up and accentuated. We were pretty shocked and ended up using the back-up car, so the pink one became the property of the dealer who suggested it.
And it’s worth remembering at the line itself had undergone a massive transition in a few short years. In 1981, there was only one Buick with front wheel drive- the Riviera luxury coupe, but by 1988 only the Estate Wagon was RWD — and the balance of the entire line were unibody FWD offerings.
It’s a great snapshot of the 1988 Buick line- a sporty Skyhawk coupe, a sensible Skylark sedan and a Quad 4 Skylark Limited coupe with composite headlamps, a two-tone Century Limited sedan and a price leader four-cylinder Custom, the all new W-Body Regal coupe was represented by a black Custom, a ruby red Limited and a white Z-13 Sport Coupe which was rechristened Gran Sport about the same time as the show opening. Leather had just been released for the Le Sabre Limited so we showed one, we put cloth in a tone-on-tone Rosewood Park Avenue and displayed a Platinum Beige Riviera with the new factory Landau top.
There were two brand new Reattas in the display- the turntable car was shipped in from Flint and the floor car was being used by the zone for sales training, so I drove it around the week before the show and the week after. I literally drove it to the Convention Center for set-up day, and then drove it right on in to the Buick exhibit. I was detailing the wheel wells when I looked over my shoulder and there was a Channel 5 cameraman. I immediately turned back to detailing.
These pictures were taken on set-up day, about two hours before the black tie charity reception that takes place the night before the show opens- that’s why there aren’t any people in the exhibit. My boss, the Assistant Zone Manager, asked me to document the exhibit for the Zone Manager who was traveling. All of the reps a great deal of pride in the exhibit. We were pretty much allowed to create and staff it on our own, so I made sure we all got a set of the prints. It’s hard for me to believe that this was twenty-five years ago.