Tuesday, December 12, 2017

1996 Cadillac Fleetwood - Sorry, Methuselah

We don't know for sure what killed the dinosaurs but we do know for sure what killed the body-on-frame, rear wheel drive, V-8 "Yank Tank" like our splendid 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood here. And, newsflash, it wasn't because liquefied fossils become too expensive or there was some shortage of them. No, sir. "Grand Dad's Car", "Land Yacht" or whatever you want to call them, rolled over and died one day because of, plain and simple, a seismic shift in consumer tastes. That was too bad, really, because aside from a limousine, no car on the road today offers the kind of rear legroom one of these does.

GM hasn't built anything like this since 1996 when they closed the plant that built them and retooled it so they could make more trucks. Just as well. The market for these things was drying up anyway and what with splitting hairs with Ford for market share, GM felt they could make more money selling pickups, SUV's and what not. GM made more than enough to let Ford have this market all to themselves. And, sorry, no Lincoln has ever been or will ever be a Cadillac.

The shift in consumer taste away from cars like this began as far backs as the '60's when well-heeled tastemakers starting eschewing Cadillacs for imports like the seminal Mercedes Benz 190 and 220. In the 1980's when "Baby Boomers" came of the age when they could afford luxury automobiles, they ran as fast as they could from Cadillac showrooms and into not only Mercedes dealerships but BMW, Audi and later Lexus and Inifiniti stores. Couldn't blame them, honestly since by then Cadillac hadn't been "Cadillac" for more than thirty years and, ahem, Cimmaron, HT4100, Olds Diesels, 1980 Seville; the list of Cadillac disasters in tje 1980's goes on and on. That left the market with only two potential buyers for cars like this; older, traditional buyers, like "Grand Dad", and the service industry - limos, hearses and what not. Sorry, Methuselah, not the ambulance business. Cadillac had stopped selling a commercial class chassis to ambulance builders back in 1979. Note to staff - blog about Cadillac ambulances. Soon. 

There was a time, say, between 1949 and 1957, that Cadillacs were still de rigueur with even the Hollywood set. After that, Cadillac did little more than bank on the cache they had established with their fabulous pre-war cars and even some but not all of their models immediately after the war. So, in many ways, our 1996 Fleetwood here, not to be confused with a "Fleetwood Brougham" or even a "Brougham" was the best 1949 Cadillac there ever was. The best was, actually, the worst was, no one cared.

Since the mid '80's this car's demise was imminent yet somehow, like Grand Dad, it stuck around.  That's because GM realized there was still some milk to be had from these cows. That and some dollars to be made from the service sect. Since '96, Cadillac has since sold rear wheel drive sedans but they weren't the body on frame battering ram-blimps like this. And when we say blimp, we mean it. Despite downsizing in the '70's and Cadillac keeping their dimensions relatively tidy throughout the 1980's into the 1990's, Cadillac hit the carbs hard for 1993 when they introduced our Fleetwood stretching their exclusive D platform out so it could accommodate a 225-inch long body.

Keenly eyed historians of GM bulk and excess will recognize that 225-inch length as the same length of legendary Buicks, Olds and Cadillacs of yore. Not that designers of this car had that in mind when they penned this thing but it is worthwhile noting since this car was just about as big as Cadillac's had ever gotten. Almost as heavy too with at an aluminum rim warping 4400 pounds. These cars were so big their gigantic trunks could accommodate a full-size spare.

Our '96 here has a ride as supple as any Cadillac from the good old days but it also handles and brakes with an aplomb here-to-fore never seen on a "Grand Dad" Cadillac. Note, we didn't say it was sporty - isolation from the road was still high on the list of priorities when engineers dialed in suspension settings. By the mid-1990's, though, General Motors had finally figured out how to bolt, glue and weld the whole package together so it didn't feel like a shuddering, disconnected mess. You know, like Grand Dad's older Cadillac's did.

With a less powerful version of the GM LT-1, 350 cubic inch or 5.7 liter V-8 of Corvette, Camaro and Firebird fame, Grand Dad's Cadillac here had way more scoot than any deVille, Fleetwood or Brougham before it ever had. Incidentally, make sure that if you're in the market for one of these end-of-the-run "D-platform" Fleetwood's you get a 1994-1996 model with the LT-1 and not one of the throttle body fuel injected 350's that the 1993 models came with. You'll be giving up 75 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque if you don't otherwise.

We'd be thrilled if hipsters started buying up these big old Cadillacs and started using them as daily drivers but we doubt they ever will. You'd think they would seeing that they like old stuff that they that they believe was at one time "cool". Afterall, most antiques weren't that desirable when they were shiny and new either. However, as timeless as "cool" is, these cars were never cool when new in the way a '49 Cadillac was or that Sinatra, Elvis, John Wayne, fedoras, bourbon and the Brooklyn Bridge once were. Shame too since, again, these were actually pretty good cars that stayed bolted together long after Grand Dad (finally) passed on.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2002 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS - The Problem With Repair Shops and Flat Rates

My 2002 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS has had me concerned of late as we're about to cross the fairly lofty 150,000 mile threshold together. That's my now 20 year old son and The Dale on the day I brought it home back in 2010. Coolant had been dripping from behind the engine on the passenger side and it was not coming from the water pump. The leak had been get steadily worse to the point where I was going through about a bottle of coolant every two weeks. Not good. My research pointed towards something onerous - a leaking intake manifold which, incidentally, I had replaced professionally about a year ago. I finally said "uncle" yesterday and dropped my car off at the shop that did the manifold work. I also had them check on why my check engine light was stuck on, why my A/C won't blow cold and inspect the front end to check on a slight vibration I've been feeling.

Turns out the problem was a leaking elbow on the intake manifold and the shop said they'd cover the repair under warranty. Score. They also told me that my A/C condenser needed to be replaced, I needed wheel bearings, an O2 sensor and a purge valve by my gas tank, which is part of the exhaust gas recirculation system (EGR). They gave me a write up for repairs just shy of $1,500 to make my 16 year old car with "just" 150,000 on it as good as new. Or as good as it can be. I thanked them for their time, instructed them to do the warranty work, change my oil, rotate my tires and call me when it was ready. I told them I'd take care of the O2 sensor, purge valve and bearings. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the A/C. I haven't had A/C in the car for over two years now and with living in northern Ohio, A/C is not all that important. I could tell, though, that the shop manger was not happy with me.

Armed with a coupon for $25 off any service and anticipating a bill of maybe $75, imagine my shock when they gave me a bill yesterday afternoon totally nearly $200 when I went to pick up my car. For what, right? Well, turns out they wanted to charge me for every single diagnosis they made. You can only imagine how upset I became especially since they did not disclose to me that they would be charging me for each diagnosis. My understanding was that they'd bill me their customary $49.95 diagnostic fee. Silly me.

I know they're not fans of customers like me since I literally use them to do the very difficult work of diagnosing problems. Repair work is fairly straight forward, figuring out what's wrong, especially if it's something that can't be diagnosed on a scanner, is the hard part. 9 times out of 10 I drop my vehicles off and ask them to diagnose what's wrong, they tell me and I do the repairs myself. Yes. I'm that guy. While it's time consuming for me to make my own repairs I've saved thousands of dollars over the years doing so and it's the main reason I've been able to keep my aging 2002 Chevrolet on the road.

I've had a fair amount of trouble with this car in the seven years I've had it but I don't really feel as though it's been that much of a bother since I've done so many of the repairs myself. With an old car, perspective is important. Two kids in college will also force you to not make snap, emotional decisions like ditching an old car for a new one just because "something went wrong". Again. Perspective.

The problem with automobile service centers is the nature of the work they do and the way they pay their employees. Is it fair for someone like me to drop of their car and have a number of diagnosis' made for one fee? I think it's absolutely fair meanwhile the shop thinks I'm an ogre. Again, perspective. Apparently at that shop they pay their employees by the job; it's what's called a "flat rate" and the techs are paid a fee based on the rate of the repair.  Absurd. Why anyone would work under such pretenses is beyond me but who am I to judge? Folks do need to work, though, and I respect that but that flat rate might be one of the reasons I never see the same techs working in that place each and every time I go there. Which, candidly, is not that often.
The bottom line is you need to protect yourself when you call a repair shop asking them to diagnosis problems with your vehicle. Ask them how much the diagnosis or multiple diagnosis' are going to cost and don't assume that one fee will cover everything - shops are a business and they will do what it takes to get more money out of you. I did not ask what the fees would be and since they did not disclose to me what the charges would be I assumed they'd charge me the $49.95 they also did. They also did not tell to me that they'd recently doubled the cost of diagnosing. Wow, really? Really. Fool me once shame on me. I felt their methods of billing underhanded and I will never go back there.

Friday, December 8, 2017

1992 Cadillac Fleetwood - Riddle Us This

Some people would look at these big front wheel drive Cadillac's and see just an old car. Others, like us, see a perfectly embalmed time capsule of the way Cadillac used to be. That said, though, they've  always vexed us. In a vacuum, they're plush, refined and capable automobiles. However, compared to vehicles that it was allegedly targeted against, those being the heady rear wheel drive makes and models from Germany, they were wannabes in a race of thoroughbreds. Cadillac's philosophy was that these automobiles offered enough of what the far more expensive German makes and models offered at substantial savings.

Offering value, though, is a slippery proposition and no two people view it the same way. Therein lay a large part of the problem Cadillac had with these cars. Buyers of tony German cars have always been willing to pay the cost of admission to a very exclusive club. Buyers of these cars most typically were older Cadillac faithful who bought the logo because they believed it still meant something; even if it was obvious that "Cadillac" didn't mean what it was did.

What "Cadillac" meant at one time was that it was the "Standard of the World". Might have been an advertising pitch but in many ways back then it was true. Before World War II a Cadillac was for all intents and purposes an American Rolls Royce and was defined as much by the exclusive features it offered as much as being marketed as an appliance for the affluent. As the creature comfort and convenience features that Cadillac offered became mainstream and engineering and development of their cars became relatively stagnant, General Motors resorted to marketing their prestige division as an aspirational brand above and beyond anything else. Even if, creature comfort wise, it offered nothing that you couldn't get in the lowest rung Chevrolet. A Cadillac, therefore, became nothing more than a higher priced Chevrolet.

The sea change occurred in the mid 1960's when tastemakers on the coasts began forgoing Cadillac's for supremely well engineered German makes and models. They were, to illustrate what people will pay for prestige, considerably more expensive than Cadillac's too. Just-like-that, if you really wanted to impress the Jones', you bought a Mercedes, not a Cadillac. Throughout the 1970's, while the imports got increasingly better Cadillac, save, arguably, for the Seville which Cadillac failed to keep reinventing after initial sales success, did little to stem the tide of their decline. Said decline, "Best of all it's a Cadillac", culminating in a perfect storm of circumstance, poor planning and less than stellar execution. What rose from the ashes, meanwhile, is not the Cadillac that we're familiar with today but a Cadillac that attempted to Band-Aid multiple bullet wounds with cars like our Fleetwood here.

We forget, though, just how off in the woods Cadillac was with these cars. Again, these aren't "bad cars" per se, it's just that you can't compare them to their competition. Years ago there were rumblings that General Motors was working on a "European inspired", rear wheel drive platform to compete with the imports, but the best that Cadillac came up with was in 1997 when they rebadged an Opel they called "Catera". Meanwhile, back at the opera, Cadillac continued to peddle automobiles that the blue hairs loved and "Baby Boomers" abhorred.

Meanwhile, riddle us this, Toyota and Nissan were able to introduce exquisitely engineered luxury makes and models that turned the tables on the Germans. What's more, they were priced comparably to Cadillac's thus splitting the luxury car market even further. The worst was, they hit the bullseye on what "Boomers" perceived to be a prestige buy. Why couldn't or didn't GM do the same? Seriously, in retrospect, you can't say that they even attempted to. Cadillac didn't have a legitimate hit in the 1990's until they, again, a rebadge, slapped "Escalade" on a GMC Yukon in 1999. Even that was more of a reaction to Ford's Lincoln Navigator rather than anything proactive to offset the imports. Cadillac's target buyers continued to get older and older and as the retirement funds began to run dry, so did their penchant to open the checkbook to buy or lease another Cadillac. Again, and we've said this time and time again, it's a miracle Cadillac is still around today.

Oddly enough, these 1989-1992 Fleetwoods have aged better than any of the other front wheel drive Cadillac's of this vintage. If we were so inclined to buy any Cadillac sedan back then it would be a one of these. Probably has to do with its traditional styling cues and its elongated wheelbase giving the design proper balance. The added length, though, made the cars appear too narrow. The lack of a vinyl top helps to accent its formal roof line in such a way that it gives our subject here a, dare we say, air of Sinatra cool. These days that's a good thing; quarter-century ago that was construed as "old". Have at our big little Fleetwood here if for no other reason you could have a Cadillac that won't embarrass you at the stop light or gas pump and could make you appear cooler and hipper than you ever thought possible. After all, everything old is new again. Here's the listing. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible - Worth a Schott

Back in the day when General Motor's GM-10 platform (later called "W-body") was shiny and new, the only way to get a convertible top in one was through Oldsmobile. Harkening back to the days of "family sized" convertibles, save for Chrysler's LeBaron and Sebring which were both  significantly smaller, these cars were also quite unique in that they could sit four adults comfortably. None of the Big Three make anything remotely similar to this car today.
I drove one of these years ago when a friend of mine in the leasing business had one returned by a customer when their deal was up. I was driving my 1994 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 at the time and was quite dismayed to find it was a very nice driver. A much nicer ride than my relatively harshly sprung, underpowered "sporty" Z34. I forget what color that Cutlass was but it may have been this gag me "1990's awful" electric teal like this one. It had the SFI 3100 engine and a newer dash design so it probably was a '95. Same car as this for all intents and purposes.

I've always had a rocky relationship with convertibles. By rule, I don't care for them because by and large they ruin the lines of otherwise good designs; if said convertible wasn't designed as such from the start. Some cars look good as convertibles with the top up and others with it down. This one, strangely enough, looks good with the top either up or down. Convertibles are impractical, though and require constant maintenance, are expensive, the sacrifices made to make them don't outweigh any pleasantry they may offer and finally I think you can't help but look like an old "look at me" douche bag when you're driving one with the top down. I've yet to drive one that didn't wind buff the hell out of me as well.

To make matters worse, on these first generation GM-10 or W body coupes, with the door handles in the B pillar, GM festooned these cars with a massive "basket handle" running up and over the middle of the car that messes up, in my opinion, the overall flow of the design. Guess it was less expensive to do that rather than design special doors with the handles on the doors instead. There may have been some additional bracing provided by the "basket handle" but the basket handle would do nothing in the unlikely event the car flipped over.
Our subject GM-10 Cutlass convertible, like the one I drove years ago, has this lovely leather lined interior. Far superior to the cloth interior of my Z34, the driver's seat is also power adjustable whereas my Z had a lever that allowed the driver to literally "rock" or hinge the seat bottom. Better than nothing, I guess, but nothing beats a power seat.
Being a 1993 Cutlass, our subject suffers from all the horrible ergonomics and cheap plastics the original 1988 Cutlass had. Interesting how Oldsmobile marketed the 1988 Cutlass as an "International" car. Overall the car certainly was not and while the exterior design may have been so in appearance, debate all you want, there was certainly nothing "international" about this interior.  This dash is about as international as an International House of Pancakes. Oldsmobile's reboot of the dash for 1995 was a marked improvement.

Rarely do I recommend an older engine design over another but in the case of a GM-10, if you can forgo GM's "Dual Twin Cam" 3.4 liter V-6 or even the "SFI 3100" for this engine, by all means do it. While it makes only 135 horsepower in this application and is no doubt burdened with having to motivate well more than 3,500 pounds of midsize convertible, this engine had none of the intake manifold gasket issues of the "3100" and was certainly far more reliable than the "TDC".

Somehow and someway, though, I like this car a lot. I did so back then and even now despite a number of quirks that might otherwise conspire to make this one ugly turkey. It makes no sense what's-so-ever but convertibles aren't supposed to make sense. It's is quite old and I'm leery of anything built before 1996 because of a lack of OBD-II but that might be a blessing in disguise. If you're looking for an inexpensive convertible that won't break down on you like this car's spiritual successors would, give the Shott Brothers a call. Tell them I sent ya. Maybe they'll cut you a deal. The 4-1-9 area code is an expansive area up here in Ohio so pack a lunch if you're heading out to kick the tires.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

1991 Chevrolet Caprice - Shamu

We find it hard to believe that as long as we've been doing this blog we've yet to blog about a 1991 vintage Chevrolet Carprice. We have blogged about the car this car technically sired, a 1994-1996 Impala, but we feel as though there's enough different between this car and the Impala to warrant a separate blog. Today we're crossing our 1991 Chevrolet "B body" omission off our to do list and step back in time to when Chevrolet broke a lot of GM "B body" loving hearts, including ours, with literally a whale of a sedan that was nicknamed, "Shamu". "B body" was GM vernacular for "full size car" from 1926-1996.

Nicknamed after "Shamu" the killer whale because of its whale-like design not to mention proportions, the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice was as much a break from convention as several seminal Chevrolet designs; most notably 1949, 1955 and 1977 Chevrolet's. However, despite standard anti-lock brakes and a driver's side airbag, the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice sorely missed its mark with its target buyers. Those buyers being lovers of conventionally large, rear wheel drive, V-8 powered body on frame automobiles. Don't mistake breaking from convention with being necessarily seminal or automatically successful.

Years ago when we first heard that Chevrolet was going to significantly upsize their B Body Caprice, we were giddy with anticipation. Suddenly, it was the fall of 1948 or 1954 and we couldn't wait to get a peak of what our favorite automobile division was going to come up with. Especially since it was going to be bigger. We had heard that it was going to be dramatically aerodynamic and since we loved what they did with the Lumina coupe, not the sedan, we had good reason to believe that the 1991 Caprice was going to be something else. We were miffed but not dismayed that there were no plans for a coupe but Chevrolet hadn't built a two door "B" since 1985 so we did our best to see past it.

Then we saw this. This misshapen blob of what-the-hell-are-they-doing? To say we were crestfallen  is an understatement. More like crushingly disappointed. Despite the fact that it's only two inches longer and wider than a fairly lean and mean 1990 "box" Caprice, the '91 Caprice's bulbous design made it appear infinitely ginormous in comparison. Yes, we love a big car but size, obviously doesn't always matter and just like "we don't love all old cars just because they're old", we don't love all big cars just because they're big. Maybe it was the pseudo rear fender skirts or that soaring C pillar that made this car so huge looking. Who knows but only this thing could make us wax nostalgic for the very long in the tooth design it replaced. 

Despite plunging retail sales, Chevrolet built this beast through 1996 making some tweaks, some major some minor, to its styling along the way. For 1993 the built-in fender skirts were gone and, surprise, instead of making it look like a clone of a 1992 Ford Crown Victoria, it made the car look even uglier because the newly opened rear wheel wells didn't fit well over the rear wheels. Somehow, though, the abridged 1993 redesign worked quite well as the basis for one of our favorite cars of all time, the 1994-1996 Chevrolet Impala SS.

Shamu was a captive killer whale (orca) which appeared in shows at SeaWorld San Diego in the mid to late 1960's. After her death in 1971, the name Shami continued to be used in SeaWorld "Shamu" orca shows for different whatles in different SeaWorld parks.

Friday, December 1, 2017

1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Yes. Mom. Thanks.

This 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo has been stuck in our browser history for months now trying to get our attention and we've finally given in. The problem is coming up with something to write about it since we've already eviscerated these homely little bombs. Alright, 1980 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, entertain us.

On paper, we should like this car if not love it. A reasonably sized, V-8 powered, two-door sedan modeled after, even if pretentiously so, an American design icon. An icon in and of itself that was based on pretense even if buyers had no idea that it was.


We don't like these cars, in fact, we despise them much, in the same way, we dislike our high school yearbook photos and 4th-grade pictures with Santa. These are the cars mom would have bought us with all the best of intentions in the world because she thought them better to drive than the big brutes that came before them. She'd say, "at least it's got a V-8 like you want". Yes. Mom. Thanks. Again, she'd mean well but would have no idea that the Chevrolet 267 cubic inch V-8 was even less desirable than the 229 cubic inch Chevrolet V-6. Dad, of course, would have had our back saying that he wanted to get us a 1977 Monte Carlo with the 350 four barrel but "mom" overruled him. Thanks, pop. 

On the block at $6,999, we'd love to know who would spend that kind of money on this. Seriously. While it could be an interesting first car for a teenager to beat up, seven grand is better spent on who knows what else. Ten-year-old Camry or Accord? How about a nice, gently used 2006 V-6 Mustang? Even the most sentimental of people we know would be allergic to parting with that much money to put their first car back in the garage. It has only 23,000 miles on the odometer so it would appear it's priced as an old car in very good condition more so than as a "vintage" car in great shape. Again, that money for this makes no sense on any number of levels.

The essential problem with these cars and all of General Motors half-baked 1978 intermediates is that, much like their overly heralded 1977 full-size cars, is that they didn't break any ground technologically. They really were nothing more than shrunken versions of what came before them. So, in essence, they were really were nothing more than rehashes of the same-old, same-old that GM had been pushing out since the late 1940's. Sad thing is that when GM did attempt to do something original they failed miserably. For more on this subject please read our blogs about GM's X-bodies . Check them out here and here. 

We've discussed many times before how certain designs need an appropriately sized canvas in order for them to work aesthetically and, in the case of GM's 1978 vintage "A bodies", ergonomically. Look, we're not designers or engineers; we're consumers who are rabid fans of American automobiles. We can only express our feelings about what is rather than even recommend what should have been; these cars were painfully bad outside and inside. For instance, this is allegedly a six-passenger car but who in their right mind would ever sit in the middle of the front seat in one of these? All of GM's "A's" from 1978-1987 shared this most miserable of interior layouts.

Questionable styling, a cramped interior and this gutless, 267 cubic inch, 115 horsepower V-8; the hits just keep on coming. Well, at least it's not the Olds 350 diesel but the 267 always begged the question, why did Chevrolet bother with this engine? The only thing we can muster is that back then marketing a car with a V-8 was more appealing to many buyers than a V-6. Made no sense whatsoever given that the Chevrolet V-6 provided somewhat better performance and better fuel economy. Pontiac and Oldsmobile also made similar sized engines during this time period. Buick  spared the ignominy of having to make a small V-8. That's why you find Olds and Pontiac V-8's under the hood of early '80's Buicks. Of all of these very small GM V-8's, all of which displaced between 260 and 267 cubic inches, allegedly, the 267 is the most upgradable of them all. If that means they're the easiest and least expensive to yank out and replace with a junkyard 350 from a late '80's Silverado then have it but that's not the case. There are a number of YouTube videos out there of built up 267's. 

Have we sufficiently trashed this car so we can expunge it from our browser's history? Not sure but one thing is for sure, we feel confident in stating our case that a 1978-1980 Chevrolet Monte will never find a place in our Jay Leno-esqe, multi-floored fantasy garage. Love to chat with the person who plunks down seven large for this thing too. After all, as they say in the car business, there's an ass for every seat. Here's the listing. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

1973 Buick Century - The Center of Geo Politcs

Metaphorically speaking, which came first - the OPEC Embargo of October 1973 or the influx of imports from Asia and Europe? Yes, the imports came first but their share of the market really didn't take hold until after the embargo. Have to wonder, though, if there was no embargo, would The Big Three have downsized? With no embargo, what would have been the impetus to do so? Based on GM's upsizing of their full-size "B and C bodies "in 1971 and subsequent upsizing of their intermediate "A bodies" for 1973, like our fabulous '73 Buick Century here, it seemed there was no end in sight as to how long and wide American automobiles could or would get.

Now, with regards to the first energy crisis, it's not as if warning signs weren't everywhere that we could have been forced into a precarious situation if OPEC turned off the spigots. Since 1949, with our country's cozy relationship with oil-producing nations in the middle east, we had steadily increased importation of foreign oil because it was less expensive to do so than producing it domestically. In April of 1973, six months before the embargo amidst growing hostilities in the Middle East, the Nixon administration announced a new energy strategy to boost domestic production to reduce U.S. vulnerability to oil shortages in the event "something happened". Well, something did happen on October 5, 1973 when an Arab coalition launched a surprise attack on Israeli positions. With the United States supporting Israel and the Soviet Union supporting Arab nations, OPEC stopped exporting oil here. The embargo, in turn, led to drastically increased gasoline prices and shortages the likes of which the United States had never seen. Even during World War II. All of a sudden that shiny, our shiny new, 10 miles per gallon 1973 Buick Century became a stone cold pariah. To make matters even worse, as part of the bargaining chip to end the embargo in March of 1974, the Nixon administration allowed OPEC to continue charging the increased prices for crude oil that they had been charging during the embargo.

While the size of this car was a problem with regards to its maneuverability, it's not what kept in languishing on dealer lots for months during the embargo. That "350-2", Buick built V-8 down there was the primary culprit and was, in a round about way, at the center of geo politics back then. Although it made just 155 horsepower in two barrel guise, less horsepower in theory using less gas, it had nearly two tons of less than aerodynamic mass to push around. Factor in early emissions gear bogging down engine performance and efficiency even more and you have a good old fashioned gas guzzler.  

Through it all, though, we've always thought these big Buick A bodies the most handsome of the 1973 GM intermediates. I know we're in the minority in appreciating the lines of these cars too with most "car people" preferring the 1967-1972 GM A's over these cars. Regarding size, though, and we're people who love a big car, they are about as big an automobile as we'd ever wanted to drive. Anything bigger than this really gets hairy to maneuver. The '74's got bigger by rote since the government mandated that rear safety bumpers be festooned to all cars sold in this country as well. Bit of an oddity then that the '73 "A's" came our with this one year only rear bumper. These "mid sized" cars were so big that they were the basis for GM's full size A and B bodies starting in 1977.

GM's A body intermediates never got any bigger and the Buick Century (and Regal for that matter) underwent a painful restyling in 1975 that took away most of the character lines that our black beauty has. 1975 also brought about the re-introduction of the Buick V-6 as the base engine to help improve mileage. If you thought the "350-2" powered cars were underpowered drive one of those V-6 powered Centurys or Regals for that matter. This car would feel down right sporty in comparison.

Our subject is for sale on CL up here in Northeast Ohio between Cleveland and Youngstown Ohio with an asking price of nearly $9,000. Yes, that's a lot and while it's probably priced accordingly for a mid '70's personal luxury car in very good condition, we think it a ton of money for anything made after 1971 that's not a Corvette and is certainly no muscle car. It's also optioned strangely but it does have only, allegedly, 29,481 miles on it. Here's the link. If you get it at anything close to $5,000 you've done well. You can spend the savings on the gas it's going to use.