By on November 25, 2020

As we’ve arrived at another edition of Thanksgiving in this, the Most Awesome Current Year, let’s celebrate with a very American Rare Ride.  Today’s big boat was the pinnacle of the Buick brand in 1980. Full of acres of ruched velour and wood-look trim, the Park Avenue took Electra to new heights before the fancy name ever became an independent model.

Come along and enjoy American Luxury, even if it’s not an Oldsmobile.

Buick’s Electra nameplate debuted for 1959, a year of change at Buick: The brand renamed all its models that year. At the time, Buick offered only three cars, all full-size. The Special became the LeSabre, the Century morphed into Invicta, the Super of ’58 vanished, and the range-topping Roadmaster was split, into the slightly lesser Electra, and the pinnacle Electra 225. The 225 moniker signified that version’s additional length over standard Electra, which in its first generation spanned over 225 inches.

For the next 30-plus years, Electra was Buick’s largest and most expensive sedan. Initially offered in two-and four-door guises, and pillared, hardtop, four- and six-window sedans, body styles were pared down over time like all large domestic offerings. The Electra’s Park Avenue trim appeared for 1975 as an option on the Limited. By that time the 225 was the base model, trumped by the Limited, which was supplemented by the luxury appearance package Park Avenue. The trim hierarchy continued onto the fifth generation Electra, which appeared as a downsized C-body for the 1977 model year (short 11 inches). Buick’s flagship was offered in coupe, sedan, and wagon variants; hardtops were gone for good.

A year after introduction, the Park Avenue name graduated from a mere appearance package on the Limited to a freestanding trim. For 1978 upgrades specific to Park Avenue were limited to the grille and tail lamps, but 1979 upgraded the trim further: A more vertical front end treatment appeared, as well as different tail lamps with an integrated Buick crest and additional trim. 1979’s over-the-top treatment was a big ask though, and for 1980 Park Avenue reverted mostly to the ’77 look, apart from a grille with vertical slats. Breaking from a tradition that dated to the model’s introduction in 1959, the 225 trim disappeared from Electra in 1980. Just as well, as the car was shortened a couple more inches that year, down to 220.9 from its original 222.1. More edits in ’80 saw the disappearance of the signature VentiPorts from the fender. A concession to Park Avenue’s upscale customers, faux VentiPorts appeared that year in the fender trim, as dents in the metal highlighted by black stickers.

Engine offerings varied by year, as emissions regulations quickly strangled out the big block. Offerings ranged from the smallest 4.1-liter Buick V6 through the Oldsmobile 403 (6.6L). Depending on trim, the transmission was either a three- or four-speed automatic.

1984 was the end of the rear-drive C-body Electra seen here, as in ’85 another serious downsizing at GM accompanied a swap to front-drive power trains. In 1991, Buick changed up its full-size lineup once more and offered two cars instead of one. The Electra which used the Park Avenue name as a trim replaced by the newly created Park Avenue. The front-drive C-body played second fiddle to the new flagship of the brand, the rear-drive B-body Roadmaster. You probably know the story after that point.

Today’s silver over luxurious burgundy Rare Ride was auctioned in 2018. Well equipped with air conditioning, 8 track player, and the 350 Buick V8, it sold for an unspecified sum. As a closing observation, I think the wrap-around tail lamp treatment and simple horizontal lines of the Electra make the Buick the best looking of any C-body of this era.

[Images: seller]

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39 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1980 Buick Electra, Luxury on Park Avenue...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This thing just begs for a 6 liter LS, overdrive trans, and some good shocks and tires. Outta my way plebes….

  • avatar
    ajla

    “and the 350 Chevrolet V8”

    That’s a Buick V8. An Electra would never sully itself with pleb bowtie trash.

    • 0 avatar

      I forgot it made sense to engineer completely different identically-sized V8s!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Dude, that’s going to be on the final.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        “I forgot it made sense to engineer completely different V8s, and call them all 350’s even though only half of them were actually 350s.” (The Buick is really a 349 and the Pontiac is really a 354)

        Fixed it for you.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Those engine designs and manufacturing capacity go back to the 1950s when the biggest competition for GM in N. America was between divisions. It took decades (and a lot of market share loss) to get it rationalized.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I was not alive at the time, but the “Chevymobile” lawsuit incident from ’77 makes me believe that there was at least some marketing wisdom to keeping divisional engines in place.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yup there were a lot of people who were pissed off when their new Cutlass came in and when they lifted the hood they didn’t find that familiar Gold Rocket 350 that they checked an option box and payed extra for.

            The reason of course was the sudden success of the Cutlass overtaking the full size Chevy. So they Olds engine line was maxed out while the Chevy line was running at a fraction of capacity.

          • 0 avatar
            spookiness

            Our 77 Regal had a 305 Chevy in it.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    I remember riding in the back of my uncle’s tan over burgundy example. It was like riding on a cloud. Not even my dad’s Town Car came close.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    At this point there wasn’t much distinction between the full size Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac. It got worse in ’85 with the next round of downsizing. Lincoln, whose cars were still large land yachts even did an ad campaign ridiculing people who bought full size GMs for their inability to distinguish one from another in a parking lot. It worked, Lincoln sales soared

  • avatar
    Cicero

    The side view fairly screams “Impala!!!” but once you see the all the wood-print model airplane plastic that festoons the bordello-themed interior, you know you’re in the mid-to-upper-mid-zoot regions of the GM product line.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    That color looks more gray to me. Did Buick have a Dark Claret color for 1980, or was that Oldsmobile only? That’s what the interior looks like here. A darker shade than the Bordello Red of the era.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Yeah I was gonna say that does not look like silver.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I think that exterior is Grey Firemist. They offered claret, camel, blue, and black interior colors for this car I believe, with a choice of velour or leather.

      http://oldcarbrochures.org/United%20States/Buick/1980_Buick/1980-Buick-Full-Line-Prestige-Brochure/slides/1980%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Prestige-16-17.html

      Too bad this example doesn’t have the standard Park Avenue wheel covers. Those were truly a thing of beauty. I’d definitely be on eBay trying to source a set of those if I owned this.

      Here’s the option sheet if you want to fantasise about how you would have equipped yours!

      http://oldcarbrochures.org/United%20States/Buick/1980_Buick/1980-Buick-Full-Line-Prestige-Brochure/slides/1980%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Prestige-60-61.html

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I owned a 80 Toronado Diesel in Grey Firemist with the claret velour interior. The seats were quite plush and cozy.
        I always liked the 78-79 LeSabre Turbo Sport Coupe. It was as if GM pulled out their promising technology from the early 60’s Olds F-85 and Corvair Corsa turbo that was mothballed and applied it to the CAFE era.

  • avatar
    ajla

    For better or worse it looks like Genesis is bringing back the aesthetics of that steering wheel.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Yum. My step grandmother had one of these, white, tan leather inside I think, and diesel. Astroroof, everything.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    This one is a year too late for peak Park Avenue, because as you note it reached its pinnacle in the 1979 model year. I had one of those and it was just a superb luxo-boat, in some ways even better than the Cadillac of that year. Mine had the Olds 403 under the hood, every available option except sunroof, and a better highway cruiser you could not find. The seats were unbelievably comfy, upholstered in crushed velour and in a loose-pillow style. Unlike this one, it did not have plastiwood on the inner door tops (which would wear and fade in just a few years of use) but instead more of the velour upholstery. Great car.

    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1979_Buick/1979%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Prestige%20Brochure/n_1979%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Prestige-52-53.jpg

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    This…is…glorious.

    The 8-track player in 1980 is a tad unusual option as the cassette era was in full swing.

    Whoever initially bought this checked all the right boxes.

    I miss velour and it is near indestructible qualities. I wish it would come back.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I had an ’84 LeSabre Limited, an excellent car in every respect. If GM still made cars this good it wouldn’t perpetually be in deep doo-doo.

  • avatar
    amwhalbi

    Boy, does this bring back memories. My Dad had three 225’s, and I remember in particular his 1974 – a gorgeous yellow-gold color with a cream colored vinyl top, and the softest velour seats ever. Dad was living at his home in Florida, but he always bought his cars at a dealership in Ohio where he had lived prior to moving to Florida. When he bought his ’74, I (along with my lovely wife) got to drive it from the Ohio dealership to Florida to deliver it to my impatient Papa. It was the fall of 1973 before the gas shortage hit. That car absolutely devoured I-75; I set the cruise control at 80, and we floated as if on a pillow. What a cushy ride! Course, you had to plan your lane changes plenty early, given the size of the car and the momentum it gained – it was not exactly a curve carver. But I have very fond memories of that trip and the car. Thanks for jogging my memory of a time past but still hugely enjoyed.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    A handsome car, shame about those terrible regulation bumpers.

  • avatar
    B-BodyBuick84

    Absolutely beautiful car, brings back memories. I actually owned a pristine 81′ model for a grand total of 3 months a number of years back. It was red with a black vinyl top and that exact colour interior. Rode like a dream and floated on the highway, but dead slow- it was equipped with the Buick 4.1 V6 and 4 speed overdrive. Fuel mileage was initially terrible but it was the first year of GM’s CCC computer controlled carburetor system- I replaced the 02 sensor and that rocketed my highway mileage from 20-21 to 24 mpg U.S.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    5th picture: Is it possible to replace the air conditioning evaporator and the blower motor from underneath the hood, without taking the dash apart? (If so, I’m jealous.)

  • avatar
    redgolf

    I owned a 1972 Buick Limited for 10 years ( which was a 225 ) blue/black vinyl top,455 v8, it became the new family car after I sold my 69 Camaro! It was such a great road cruiser, I remember once I was selling a tv when 2 women of color came over to buy it, when one of them looked at the Buick in the driveway she said ” that’s a fine looking deuce ya got there ” also known as a deuce and a quarter!

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    A light warm over of that engine would make this a great cruise yacht. Just enough to wake it up, not make it a performance car.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Maximum Brougham! Nice car, though I prefer the more nimble B-bodies of the era. The whole Chev engine in an Olds lawsuit thing struck me as specious as most people wouldn’t know or care what engine they had as long as it started. In fact, most manufacturer websites now will tell you virtually nothing about the engine in your new car.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Just nasty, like something unidentifiable and sticking to the bottom of your shoe. Badge-engineered with different badges and bumpers. However, GM being GM made sure the common parts on a Chevy/Pontiac/Olds/Buick had different parts numbers. A shining example of why people paid above list price at the Honda/Toyota dealer. Mercedes was quietly talking to your doctor, lawyer, accountant and the other professionals taking care of you. There are reasons these aren’t seen at the big auto auctions. Hard Pass.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    If I’m not mistaken, this was the last year they had those beautiful silver background gauges. The next year they were replaced with these horrible black background ones with industrial-type number fonts, something that would have been suitable for a cargo van but certainly not a Buick. And the sad part is they continued with them until the mid 1980’s. Awful move.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Interesting.

      They kept the gauges like this in the Regal until 1983. 1984 was the year Buick went to the sweep speedo cluster seen in the GNs up through the end of the run in 1987.

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