Junkyard Find: 1986 Buick Somerset Custom
Because General Motors felt that the world — or at least Michigan and maybe Wisconsin — needed a small, affordable personal luxury coupé with a digital instrument cluster, rackety pushrod four-cylinder engine, and a name that started life as the designation for an early-’80s Regal trim package, the 1985-87 Buick Somerset, sibling to the N-Body Pontiac Grand Am, was born. I have an unexplainable fascination with The General’s attempts to compete with high-end German sporty luxury in the 1980s and 1990s, so I was drawn to this California Somerset like a personal-injury attorney scenting an Accord driver with Takata airbag fragments embedded in his flesh.
Somerset buyers could get an optional 3.0-liter V6 making 125 horsepower, but the standard engine was the 2.5-liter Iron Duke four-banger, a sturdy-but-primitive engine based on one bank of the Pontiac 301 V8. The Iron Duke would have been a fine powerplant for a Soviet irrigation pump, but it seemed out-of-place on an alleged luxury coupé.
The coolest thing about the Somerset was this odd pod-mounted radio perched atop the HVAC controls. If a Somerset owner, weary of Delco sound optimized for Dream Academy, felt like upgrading to more modern audio gear … well, tough luck!
According to the ’86 Somerset brochure, “new fabric will be found in the Somerset Custom and an extraordinary velour cloth in the Limited.” Since this is a Custom, we are looking at the “new fabric” in this photograph.
Standard on all Somersets (as well as many other 1980s Detroit cars) was a headliner that fell down and had to be re-attached with staples, thumbtacks, or simply tied in a knot to keep the cloth from blocking the driver’s vision.
The second-coolest Somerset feature was this classy hood ornament.
Gimme savvy! Gimme cool! Gimme a car that breaks all the rules! The only place to get cheesier False Rock in this era was within a Cavalier ad.
The car of choice for sexy lawyers late for an arms-for-hostages negotiation with Adnan Khashoggi.
[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]
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