By on February 9, 2021

Though its nameplate dated back to the Thirties, the Century was an all-new model for Buick in 1973. The Century promised exciting value and (optional) power and luxury in the mid-size segment.

Let’s check out this very basic three on the tree coupe.

The first Century was offered in 1936, a year when Buick renamed their entire line to recognize new styling and engineering improvements. The name was discontinued after 1942 but returned in 1954 when Century was once more a full-size car. The first- and second-generation Century models followed the same formula: Use the body from Buick’s Special with its largest V8 engine. The second-generation Century lasted only through 1958 before the name was retired once again.

Not until 1973 did a Century return to Buick’s showroom floors, as a new midsize offering on the rear-drive A-body platform. Prior to ’73, Buick’s midsize was the Skylark, but that name went away for a while (to return later as a compact) and the Century took its place. The top Century trim was the Regal at the outset, a name which quickly became its own separate model. Century was available with two doors as a coupe, or with four as a sedan and wagon.

Worth mentioning, there was a class distinction amongst the Century coupes. Base models called Century 350 had a rear quarter window and fastback profile, while the more expensive Century Luxus had a notchback roof with opera windows. Century Regal (shown) also carried the more formal roof. The Luxus name was short-lived and was replaced by the more familiar Custom trim in 1975.

Base engine duty was handed to the 231 cubic-inch Buick V6 from 1975 onward. Customers who enjoyed eight cylinders had two or three options from which to choose. A Buick 350 was Century’s initial base engine, with the Buick 455 as a hi-po offering. At the top was Oldsmobile’s 403, but that was only offered as an option on wagon versions in 1977. Transmissions on offer were three-speed in manual or automatic guise, as well as a four-speed manual.

The third-gen Century lived through 1977 before it was downsized into a smaller A-body in 1978. That was the last of the rear-drive A cars, as in 1982 the fifth-generation Century debuted as a front-drive A-body. Today’s first-year Century has the base 350 engine, a manual transmission, and not much else aside from a radio. It’s for sale in salt-free New Mexico and asks $12,500.

[Images: GM]

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40 Comments on “Rare Rides: Basic Brown Buick, a 1973 Century Coupe...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    The stench of poorness permeates today’s featured vehicle. Fellow should have been shown a Nova.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      …and handily enough, Buick sold a version of the Nova at the time – the Apollo.

      https://barnfinds.com/ready-for-lift-off-1973-buick-apollo-455/

      That’s WAY better looking, if you ask me. And it’s even brown!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I read that as “stench of porn-ness”, probably because my first thought on seeing the GM pictures was of ugly-shirt-era Bud Lindemann and some swingy, slightly skeezy background music.

      Random thought: was the fuel filler behind the license plate? Seems like a very low mounting, and extra difficult to reach with the tow hitch.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Didn’t appreciate these back in the day but they really are nice looking cars. The sedan doesn’t really work, but the coupes are fine. Three-on-the-tree just seems wrong for these, but I’d like to try driving one. But not in Malaise Brown, please.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Agreed. I’m another one who didn’t appreciate these when they were new. The coupes are particularly good. In fact, I’ve become a nostaligic fan of mid- and full-size American coupes and two-door sedans in recent years. The Dodge Challenger is about the closest existing vehicle to something like this today. A base Challenger with a Pentastar V-6 and as few stripes, spoilers and scoops as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, what did you expect for $3,013 ($18,502)? There probably weren’t too many manuals sold, since the turbo hydramatic was a $129 ($729) option. These cars rode well, better than the full size floating Buicks, and had Buick seats, the best front seats GM made, comfortable on long trips.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    It would have been nice to include a picture of the actual car for sale in the article, as opposed to period advertising photos.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no longer permitted to use seller photos without written permission. I agree, it would be nice.

      • 0 avatar
        namesakeone

        Sorry about that, Mr. Lewis, I didn’t know.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Footnote: In that last brochure photo, check out the (nonexistent) space between the whitewall and the wheelwell edge. Now compare it to the much larger space in the photos above it.

        Back story: GM always exasperated even its own stylists by insisting on idiotically large gaps around the wheels, just in case owners wanted to use tire chains. Obviously in this brochure photo, they lowered the crap out of the car, probably in retouching (this being the pre-Photoshop era), to get that looooong look that GM thought everybody adored. All GM divisions did this crap, and they did something similar with the width in grille-on shots of “wide-track” Pontiacs, too. Freakin’ GM.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Actually, Corey has made it pretty easy for us. Just click the link (New Mexico) and, voila! There it is!

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        $12,500 for a guzzler-era dinosaur with a three-on-the-tree? No dice!

        The nostalgia is interesting for about five minutes. Driving what GM considered acceptable in 1973 would get old very soon.
        Unless your parents had one exactly like this one, you had your first in the back seat, and you’ve been looking for its twin for years, you’d be kicking yourself for spending so much on so little.
        The seller is dreaming. It’s No Dice at a third of the price.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    The profile always makes me think of this

    https://robocop.fandom.com/wiki/6000_SUX

    Or Sheriff Buford T. Justice.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The resemblance makes sense – the 6000SUX was, in fact, a GM A-body sedan (not sure what make) with some supremely tasteful styling updates. Unfortunately, they didn’t throw in the Blaupunkt with it.

      Buford T. Justice drove a Pontiac.
      https://i2.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/sb-justice-lemans-main.jpg

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    For the best and the Brightest? Were these GM’s Colonnade Cars? All I can think of is sagging doors that rattled when closed and whistled and leaked cold air when driven above 55mph. But hey, in 73′ what were you doing driving over 55mph anyway?

  • avatar
    toronado

    wow that is a special kind of ugly. Lets press the Buick sweep spear directly into the body panels instead of adding it with chrome, and then give it an awful front end to finish.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The Pontiac LeMans was definitely the best looking of this GM bunch…such as it was.

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51iQHrnA7HL._AC_SX679_.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      IMHO the Malibu Laguna with the body colored and blended in front bumper was one of the more good looking versions. Lacking the typical 70’s massive misfitting chrome bumpers was a big plus.
      https://www.ss396.com/cars/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/1974-Chevrolet-Chevelle-Brochure6.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The 73-75 Grand Am appealed to me far more than screaming chicken Firebirds. With its endura front bumper and nose, 400 or 455ci and Euro tuned suspension they showed that at least GM was trying to made the mid sized car competitive. Same with the Chevrolet Laguna S-3.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    The featured car is fantastic!

    I thought Colonnade 2-door 3-on-the-trees existed only in the sales brochures–I cannot believe GM actually built this thing!

    I can’t tell if it has a PS pump. I’ve driven a pick-up with non-assisted drums and steering, and it was easier then expected, but it had the 250 six, not a Buick V8.

    I don’t agree with the “stench of poorness” This was definitely ordered that way. Perhaps the original buyer was born in 1915 and experienced the depression first-hand. Perhaps something compelled him to drive a “classy car” and he had better things to spend his money.

    On the highway for sure, and even parked, no one would, or will know that he saved $210 (or whatever an automatic–Turbohydramatic 3-speed in a BUICK, none of that cheap Powerglide, thank you), unless they stop and notice the missing PRND21 indicator.

    This is a unique car. It appears in good shape. Millions of these once traversed the roads of America, much like the buffalo, and are now virtually extinct (OK, the buffalo has rebounded–but the closest these came were the early 2000s FWD Monte Carlo)

    Good TTAC article! Much better than a lot of your other recent stuff.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    There are PLENTY OF GOOD REASONS why these behemoths are not made anymore. Even a modern pickup is a far better vehicle.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The featured car for sale is my favorite of that generation. But its non-OEM mods are a turnoff.

    These things used to roam everywhere. Most were kept roadworthy long after they should have been scrapped, simply because of the “Buick” badge.

    Today’s Buicks are better cars, but far less worthy of the badge.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    My first car was a ’78 Buick Skylark w/3 on the tree. Me & a buddy spent a day one weekend putting the shifter on the floor where it belonged. It was still a POS with a set of those nice factory Buick chrome & black rally wheels but at least it didn’t’ have that dorky column shift.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I had a 73 Chevelle Deluxe 4 door with a 350 V8, power steering, power brakes, and air and it was far from dorky or being a piece of junk. The Chevelle was the Chevy version of this vehicle. Much easier to criticize these cars especially if you only compare them to today’s cars and trucks and not the competition during the same time. The GM intermediates of this time were overall better than most of their competition. Forty years from now there will be a younger generation that will say that today’s pickups are behemoths and spartan compared to the new vehicles of the future and question why someone would ever drive these trucks.

    It was Telly Savalas as Kojak that drove a 4 door version of this Buick Century.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “I had a 73 Chevelle Deluxe 4 door with a 350 V8, power steering, power brakes, and air and it was far from dorky or being a piece of junk.”

      This car’s heyday was well before I was born but I’ve noticed that **while not universal** there seems to be a positive correlation to how well-equipped someone’s 70s car was and how much they liked it. People that drove around in some skinflint 72hp Granada with 2.02 gears, no audio, no air and sandpaper upholstery is much more sour versus someone that had a DeVille Phaeton.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    My mother had a ’74 Century sedan. I had just broken my leg and was in a full leg cast and my parents decided that her ’71 Charger was too difficult to get me in and out of, though I could have made my way in and out of it. I remember it not being at all notable for anything, just kind of a standard Detroit car, and that the fit and finish on it was not very good.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    In case anyone cares, the two cars in the first photo are ’74s. The second photo is of a ’73. Carry on.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    You could run at least 3 QOTDs; what GM/FORD/MOPAR sent you to the import (Japanese) dealer with nary a look back? This would be strong candidate.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @ajla–73 Chevelle was my first car which I bought in May of 1975 just before graduating from college. It had been a fleet car for Baroid, an oil service company. The Chevelle had a rubber floor and cloth seats but it was equipped with a 350 V8, power steering, power brakes, and ice cold air conditioning otherwise it was stripped with no chrome and just hubcaps. After graduating from college I went with my brother on a trip out west in that Chevelle. That car ran better at 100 mph than at 50 and was one of the best running vehicles I ever owned. Typical body quality on a 70s era car but it had no rust. I bought the Chevelle for $1,400 with over 80k miles. Very reliable and it was so smooth you could not hear the engine running.

  • avatar
    Boff

    My wife drove one of these when she was doing her post-doc in San Francisco in the late 80’s. You can imagine how her biotech contemporaries, zipping around in their Acura’s and BMW’s, felt about the car…they dubbed it “The Enterprise”. Thankfully, it died before we met (our first car together was…an Acura).

  • avatar
    loner

    Nice one on Denver craigslist.

    https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/denver-1973-factory-black-buick-century/7273473081.html

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I have to assume that whoever ordered a ‘stripped’ model such as this would be someone who still believed in the prestige of the Buick brand. Possibly a retiree?

    These were rather ‘billowy’ and vague in their handling and by this year and with the base engine, underpowered.

    As for A-Bodies in general, I much prefer the Pontiacs.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I think that fastback coupe is a great looking car, especially if you put the bumpers on a diet and tucked them a bit. Those are some of the best looking rims an OEM ever fitted to a car

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I actually preferred the pre 1973 GM intermediates but I got use to this generation. I had the 73 Chevelle Deluxe sedan and then I bought a new 1977 loaded Monte Carlo at the end of the model year. My favorites are the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix of this generation but I don’t mind all the others.

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