Rare Rides: The 1980 Buick Electra, Luxury on Park Avenue

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1980 buick electra luxury on park avenue

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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  • Roberto Esponja Roberto Esponja on Nov 30, 2020

    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.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Dec 03, 2020

      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.

  • SportyClassic SportyClassic on Jan 30, 2022

    Bought one in 88 off the daughter of an old man passed away for $1,750 Canadian had 60,000 miles and new tires new battery just got certified a pillar on the passenger side had a 1" rotted out section because of the moonroof drains...leaves clog it up. Door skins were roached rear quarters bottoms were done car ran like a dream road like a dream had every single option except leather which was great. Cruise tilt/ tele, power windows, seats, gas cap trunk w remote release, turn signal indicators on the hood, factory alarm cigarette lighters, 6 speaker AM/FM cassette, wire wheels dark blue exterior with a baby blue top only thing that didn't work was the opera lights as it was about 400 bucks for the module. Sold it in 90 for $2650.

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.
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