By on November 6, 2017

1977 Buick Electra in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Back in 2011 we admired a discarded example of the last of the true Buick Electra land yachts: a 1976 Electra Park Avenue Limited four-door hardtop found in a Northern California wrecking yard. What happened in 1977? General Motors, suffering from plummeting sales of thirsty big Buicks in the wake of events beyond its control, shrank the Electra, ditching the pillarless hardtop in the process.

Here’s one of those downsized Electras — a Limited, spotted in a Denver self-service yard.

1977 Buick Electra in Colorado wrecking yard, pillar emblem - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Even though the ’77 Electra was nearly a foot shorter and correspondingly lighter than its predecessor, The General didn’t skimp on the gingerbread. On the outside, a swanky padded vinyl roof with heraldic-crest badging showed the neighbors that Electra owners had almost as much class as Sedan DeVille buyers.

1977 Buick Electra in Colorado wrecking yard, front seats - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Inside, large swaths of Whorehouse Red button-tufted velour made the Electra Limited’s interior feel like Hugh Hefner’s guest bathroom.

1977 Buick Electra in Colorado wrecking yard, door pull - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Now I am wishing I had purchased these exquisitely mid-1970s-GM fake-wood “coffin handle” door pulls for my next junkyard-parts boombox project.

1977 Buick Electra in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The base engine in the 1977 Electra was a Buick 350 cubic-inch V8 making 155 horsepower. This car has the optional Oldsmobile 403, same as the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am of Smokey and the Bandit fame (the cars used in the film had beefed-up Pontiac 400s swapped in, because the stock 403 wasn’t capable of sufficiently gnarly burnouts), rated at 185 horses.


In the oddly cadenced words of the highly Buickian Glenn Ford, “For 75 years, the attribute that most people have been willing to give to the name Buick… is luxury. That’s been true from the very beginning, on through the touring cars and what was fondly called… the doctor’s cars.”

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58 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Buick Electra Limited...”


  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Our neighbours had one of these when I was a kid. Their’s was brown, and I’m pretty sure it had the Park Avenue trim package.

    In those days, a business or professional person could drive a Buick sedan without anyone questioning their choice, and I believe these were pretty decent cars by the admittedly low standards of the era.

    The styling has held up well, I think. Some of the broughamtastic gingerbread might be a bit kitschy and over the top, but the whole package seems tasteful and understated compared to some of the current premium brand “SUVs” that have replaced this sort of car.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      It’s amusing because I just picked up my new-to-me lease-takeover Regal GS on Friday.

      Each time I tell someone I got a Buick it’s one of the same two responses:
      “Why would you get a Buick when there are so many other better brands?”
      or, more commonly,
      “Buick? Isn’t that an old man car?”

      Does Buick even have a marketing person anymore? If so, they should probably be looking at a different career.

      It’s a great car, so far. It’s pretty much the base GS, I wish it came with the blind spot monitoring though as it’s very hard to see what’s going on on the right side of the car.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My old man had a baby blue ’77 Oldsmobile version of this. Either an 88 or a 98 – I would have to ask him.

    I do remember those big ol’ door pulls.

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    These cars were really excellent to drive on long trips. Not fast by today’s insane standards, but plenty of low end torque and a great ride.

    Cars today ride like crap because auto mags have convinced us we all need slot car handling for our highway commute, usually averaging 38 mph.

    Wide seats and no center consoles baby!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Love the upholstery and matching dash. Even the 60/40 split front seating. And it appears to have worn much, much better than modern ‘bonded’ leather seating would.

    Buicks were viewed as the auto of choice for ‘responsible’ authority figures. Your family doctor, your accountant, manager of the local bank/credit union, the Director/General Manager of your local manufacturer. In Canada, Prime Ministers who wanted to maintain a ‘populist’ image would ensure that they were driven in a Buick rather than a Cadillac.

    It was the choice of someone who had money, but was not frivolous and placed substance over style.

    • 0 avatar

      Bank manager, credit union, and (for a bit longer) savings & loan.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      The Electra was a bit different from the other Buicks. The others were just what you said, solid cars for solid citizens. The Electra had just a bit of flamboyance and style (at least before the GM downsizing debacle) that made it the choice for hipper men than the average Buick owner. Like that cool uncle who seemed to have a continuous stream of new girlfriends and no worries like your parents.

      A few years back I stopped in at an informal car show and saw a whole line of deuce-and-a-quarters, mostly convertibles, all owned by black men of about the right age to have had that uncle when they were teens in the late 60s – early70s.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The 225 was indeed used satirically for that purpose in Doonesbury back in the ’70s’ when Clyde Montana purchased one, once he started to make ‘big’ money.

        But then Gary Trudeau has since been accused of harboring some shall we say, older school attitudes?

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    ahh… “color-keyed door handle inserts”

    noice!

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    These were among the best cars GM ever made. Just so utterly smooth and quiet. Really, the Electra Park Avenue was a Cadillac (arguably a better car than a Cadillac of the era) at a much lower price.

    • 0 avatar
      someoldfool

      Best GM cars ever? I hope not. I had one, a 1977 Electra with the 403 V8. So much low end torque it could not squeal the tires. Could barely get out of its own way. It was extremely comfortable, ate up interstate miles like nobody’s business. But, there was always something aggravating if minor wrong with it. Worst thing was the front seat’s frame bent, a lot, when I tried to get something out of a pocket. It was constant, the minor repairs. The only big (?) repair was to replace the rear springs. I do miss the beast for its comfort. It would scrape the door handles off from leaning when trying to turn at over 20 mph. Oh, wait! it had flush door handles.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        If your 403 didn’t spin the tires it was out of tune or had the timing set very low which was quite common back in the day. I have driven loads of these types of cars with the 403 and in proper tune would easily burn rubber and had loads of low end torque

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    “The base engine in the 1977 Electra was a Buick 350 cubic-inch V8 making 155 horsepower. This car has the optional Oldsmobile 403”

    This was the era when GM started to share more engines between divisions.
    As noted the Oldsmobile 403 made its way into the Trans Am with the 6.6 moniker on the shaker hood.
    The Buick 231-3.8 V6 was offered in various Oldsmobile and Pontiac models. A friend of mine had a Phoenix with it.
    There was a Monte Carlo with the turbo version.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Our family car was a Regal with the 305 Chevy V-8.

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      GM started to provide an insert to their brochures that listed all of the available engines and which division produced them. some engines were required for California and high altitude locations due to emission standards. It was amazing the overlap and duplication of engines. In 1978 every division had a 350, all with different horsepower and torque numbers. Chevy had a 305, Pontiac had a 301. Olds had a 403, Pontiac had a 400. Chevy had a 250 straight 6 while Buick had 231 V-6. This was to cover themselves to make sure they properly disclosed that engines from different divisions may end up in different cars. This happened in 77 when Olds buyers discovered they might not have a “Rocket” V8 in their Delta 88, but a Chevy V8….The end of engines unique to each division.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        I had an ’82 wagon with the 301. The mechanic who did the heavy work for my friend’s ranch popped the hood to confirm the engine then said, “Best engine ever made. Everything hanging off of it or bolted to it will fail but that engine will run forever.” I didn’t get the chance to find out – I sold it to a friend who wrecked it. Great ski car with studded tires and a full tank of gas.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          An 82 Buick wagon would have had the Olds 307 not a Pontiac 301 which was discontinued after April of 1981. The Olds 307 was a great engine and many examples with 300-400K miles are still driving around today.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      I think the Buick V-6 was one of the earliest engines to be widely shared at GM because all of the marques originally had their own V-8s but for a time the Buick V-6 was their only V-6.

      By the way, it shows you both the massive wealth that GM once had (as well as the intra-division rivalry) that they could afford to develop SIX totally different sets of V-8s for the six divisions (Chevy, Pontiac, Olds, Buick, Cadillac AND Holden) and in many cases the divisions had more than 1.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        You could forgive the redundancy back when GM owned the market but it didn’t end when they lost it. As recently as 2004, GM was selling cars in this country using NINE different six cylinder engines, seven of which were essentially unrelated.

        As well as the LS1, the LS2, three displacements of small block Vortecs most of which came in multiple flavors with either iron or aluminum blocks, two very different 4.6 Northstars, and a big block Vortec besides.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Ah, the “Chevmobile” fiasco when the “lowly” Chevy V8 began to be used in Oldsmobiles. That led to the corrective advertising quote “GM cars use engines supplied by various GM divisions world wide. See your dealer for details”…or something like that as I am shooting from memory from what, 1977…there was some kind of suit over this and the corrective ads were a result of this…

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          And today they make 5 different versions of the bread and butter 3.6 global engine. LLT, LFX, LGX, LFY and one other that is used in the Colorado’s. Some have stop/start. Some have cylinder deactivation. Some have neither. And the power/torque ratings are all over the map. And let’s not forget the 3.0 and 3.6 TT V6’s in the Cadillacs that are based on these.

  • avatar

    Add ‘fullsize traditional cars’ to GM’s repertoire of things they do correctly.

    After GMAC repossessed his Trofeo after their divorce, my father and I took a bus down US19 and looked at several cars – a Dodge Daytona, a Ford Taurus, and eventually a 1979 Buick LeSabre Landau coupe. Darker green with lighter green two-tone and a landau roof. I loved the ride, the look, the everything. This was a car…and is superior in ride, handling, and American roadability to almost anything offered today.

    • 0 avatar

      Your very own Grapes of Wrath tale.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “After GMAC repossessed his Trofeo”

      Nooooooooo!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Sorry you are wearing your rose tinted nostalgia glasses. Cars of this vintage were arguably superior to modern cars in some areas (roominess, although a lot of their space was wasted with a giant hood) but handling was not one of them by any conceivable measure. These cars were great highway cruisers going down a smooth interstate in a straight line but that was about it.

      • 0 avatar

        I dunno, the 77-up B-bodies could handle quite well. I have it’s older cousin a 77 Chevy Chevelle sedan, with nothing more than a refreshed suspension under it, and it’s a ball to drive on a winding road. Sure it’s possibly an exception, but even my parents 84 Olds Delta 88 could acquit itself quite well on a fun road. My parents 92 LeSabre was not fun, nor was my 95 Explorer, or my 04 Buick RendeZvous. my 00 Contour was pretty fun.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          These cars are “fun” in the sense that they create a lot of drama when you are not really going fast enough to get in a lot of trouble – you’d going around curves with the bias ply tires squealing and the engine roaring and the car leaning wildly and the tail end ready to break loose and you’d feel as if you were going 100 as you slid across the bench seat but then you look at the clock and you are really doing 40. In any kind of objective testing you’d do much better in a modern stock Civic with traction control (but it wouldn’t be as much “fun” because the car would just go where you point it and there wouldn’t be any good sound effects just the sewing machine whine of the engine).

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          The Contour really was a great handling car. No dive, squat, or jitter in town, no non-linear surprises at speed, and an excellent ride-handling balance overall. Even as someone who only drove German cars at the time it impressed me. I came within inches of buying a V-6 Sport with a 5-speed manual, my first brand-new car…it’s lucky I didn’t, since I was laid off the following week.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Denver

            The Contour was the same car as the Ford Mondeo that they sold in Germany so it is not surprising that it handled like a German car. It was a post-malaise car and a far cry from a ’77 Electra. Really apples and oranges.

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            Edit: I was responding to Texas01’s mention of his Contour…I realize it otherwise seems like a non-sequitir in this piece on 70s land yachts!

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        They also offered far greater trunk space back then, more room and width up front, offered as much as 6 different interior color choices and more than double the exterior paint colors, the V8 engines could barely be heard and they drove so much smoother and quieter than most of today’s cars. With optional 225/70R15 tires and the famous F41 suspension they were also some of the best handlers of the time too. Gas mileage and 0-60 times of course couldn’t hold a candle to today’s stuff.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    A 403 that wouldn’t leave 10K miles of tread over a 50′ strip? Sad, sad times.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My parents had a 78 Delta 88, brown w/ tan vinyl roof over non tufted tan velour. It was their first car with power windows, mind you this was 83 or 84 when they bought it.
    It was quite reliable, with the 350ci iirc, and a good trip car.The transmission was a bit clunky later in its life but ultimately it met its demise in in ’89 when my older brother ran off the road on the way to a tennis tournament and hit a concrete drainage ditch in an offset type accident. He was unhurt.
    Later, a full investigation led to cause of accident my brother was reaching into the passenger footwell for a Kleenex and ran off the road.

  • avatar
    gtem

    For anyone pining for a clean red ’77 Electra Limited of their own…

    indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/1977-buick-electra-limited/6352604924.html

  • avatar
    Aron9000

    Were they still using the Electra 225 moniker by 1977?? That was one of my favorite car names, pronounced “deuce and a quarter”

    These were great cars by late 1970’s standards. Much nicer driving/better handling than the really huge 1976 full size GM cars they replaced. They had a certain nimbleness to them that made them drive like a lot smaller car.

    Its too bad GM had to go screw up a good thing in the early 80’s with their full size cars, putting gutless engines like V6 Chevies, 307 Olds V8, and the really awful Caddy HT4100 under the hood. Then they get rid of the bombproof TH400 trans for much weaker and trouble prone over-drive units. That was nothing compared to the horrors of 1985 when their “big” cars went FWD.

    People say 1970’s GM cars suck, I’d argue they were great for their time if you didn’t buy a compact. Look at all the FWD turds GM tried to sell in the 1980’s, most of the good stuff like 80’s Caprices, Olds Cutlass/Regal/Monte Carlo, the trucks, those were all holdovers from the 1970’s.

    One final thought, this would have been a great demo derby car. Very surprised that wasn’t its final fate.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      1970’s GM’s really didn’t suck unless you bought a small 4 cylinder car like the Vega or Chevette. If you stuck with their bread and butter V8 mid and full size cars chances are it would be decent to very good. As somebody who grew up with these cars and really watched them closely I can tell you that most owners back in the day preferred them overall to the Ford’s and Chrysler’s.

  • avatar
    montecarl

    My granddad had a new duce in 1977 after his 1973 duce got smashed at work… someone dropped a steel beam on it..The 73 had a better ride than the newer one

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Laughably, the downsized 77 was like a compact compared to the older ones. I think the wheelbase went from 122 or 126″ to 116″ and they still increased interior space in 1977. I bet the longer wheelbase and additional 800 pounds prior to 77 would make a smooth ride.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Still prefer the Nova-based Seville from this era for clean lines. Yeah I know more expensive. Meh Electra wasn’t nimble enough for Starsky & Hutch or classy enough for Frank Canon or suave enough for Hawaii-Five-0. It looks to me to be the homicide victims wheels in the first 5 minutes of any one of those episodes…

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    My first Non-120k plus car was a 77 Grand Prix, with the 231 V6. Pale Yellow with Tan cloth (Not Velour) interior. It was a Fleet Unit, so AT, PS, AM Radio, A/C and that was it. It was my dads ex-company car and had about 50k on it. Typical GM overboosted power steering made it as easy to drive as could be. Engine power was not exactly earth shattering, but it would get on the freeway and got ok mileage. That was helpful as I was driving from Des Moines to Minneapolis and back 2-3 times a month. Gas was SO EXPENSIVE then!! :)
    With Snow Tires on the rear, it did OK in the snow, at least til it was up to the bumper. Got a really good deal on it from the fleet outfit and it lasted me a couple of years. My previous car was a 64 Custom 500. That was a rust bucket tank with manual steering and a near dead 289. The GP was a major upgrade!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Our next-door neighbor (WWII vet) had a metallic orange (The imaginative name of that color? “Orange”) ’77 Le Sabre four-door, one of the late year models with the even-firing 231 V6 (I went with him to the dealer to pick it up, and trade in his gold ’70 Le Sabre four-door 350 2-barrel sedan). After owning the ’77 Le Sabre for awhile, he wished he’d had the ’70 back. It ended up getting traded for a metallic purple(!) ’79 Dasher (which he sold to the guy that lived on the other side of us), then a green ’73 Impala four-door, an ’81 Escort with a four-speed, then finally an ’82 Cavalier, his final car before he passed away.

    The one thing I liked about these were the black-on-silver gauges, that evoked the instrument panels of the ’30s and ’40s.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    Every two weeks I start and idle three to four of my GM cars just to keep the engines happy and the batteries charged. Yesterday was reserved for the 1972 Toronado, 1985 Toronado, 2003 Aurora Final 500 and the 1984 Buick LeSabre Limited Coupe. All four started right up and all four were taken up and down the street for a bit before being parked back in the storage lot or garage.
    Nest time: the 2002 Intrigue, 1998 Aurora, 1969 Toronado and the 2006 SAAB 9/5.
    Also, I sold several two door 1979 Buick LeSabre coupes in 1979 through my leasing company. That car had the BEST grille and finest dash style. Always liked the clock either in the glove box door or on the right side of the dash – very nautical.
    I delivered twenty five 1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88s to Tishman Management from downtown Los Angeles. There was only one coupe available (Rod Neske got that one). His only complaint was that the car seemed to steer mildly to the right. We discovered that in his travels he was riding on the crown of most roads, where the asphalt leans just a bit to the right for drainage!
    My 1983 Cadillac Coupe deVille (I should have kept that one too!) was a fabulous driver; one of the few with a bulletproof 4100. Yes, red leather interior too!

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    My dad had a ’78 Electra Limited coupe, silver with the red interior and the 350 V8. I think the 2-door with the landau top looks better than the 4 door in this case.

    I remember taking many trips to the supermarket and grandparents in that car, even the night we took delivery of it (Dad traded our ’72 Riviera with electrical gremlins for it) and always thought it was very comfortable.

    It was Mom’s daily driver until we traded the ’78 Impala wagon for an ’86 Ford Aerostar, when the “silver bullet” passed to Dad. After the A/C compressor went, he drove it for about another year before getting an ’85 Mercury Marquis to replace it.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My cousin still has a 1982 Electra Limited in dark green with the original 307 Olds with 320K miles on it. The 200R4 was rebuilt once and the engine was treated to a timing chain and gears and new valve cover gaskets a few years back but it otherwise has never been opened up. Driving the car you would never know it had that many miles. He changes the oil at 3000 miles on the dot and fully services that car each year.

    That is his around town car. His road trip car is a 2000 Park Avenue in pearl white that is closing in on 200K! Again it has the original drivetrain and the only thing replaced on the engine was the upper and lower intake gaskets. He loves both cars

  • avatar
    74DodgeD300

    My dad had one of these cars. I can remember riding in the back seat, barely able to look over the dash from the rear seats, it always felt like the front end was higher going down the highway. We never put on the seat belts. My siblings and I would always argue over who’s turn it was to ride lying down on the rear deck :) oohh the days.


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