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Road Test: Buick Electra (1985)


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I listened to the video.

It narrates it like how I remember these cars as.  Downsized on the outside while retaining the interior dimensions of the previous gen.  Faster and better handling.  

I also remember these vehicles being popular. Very popular. The Pontiac Bonneville, Oldsmobile Delta 88 and 98.  The Buick LeSabre and this one.  (Yes I know...the Cadillac versions, Olds 98 and this one was on the K platform, slight differences between the two but overall not much different either) 

I also remember there being a subset of the population not liking these cars.  The anti-downsizing folk and the anti-American car folk. 

After listening to the video and using my memory of these cars of when I was a teenager, I must say with a clear mind, free of my pro-GM bias of the time...that these cars were...GREAT!

There was NOTHING inherently wrong with these cars.  Other than them being "wrong" wheel drive for image purposes that would be associated with them a DECADE LATER, because at the time, if we were TRULY honest about the whole thing, FWD in the mid 1980s versus RWD was really a non-issue, due to the reason that horsepower was on the down low. In fact, these cars BEING FWD actually was a BENEFIT to these cars.  For EVERY metric. And THAT is why GM went down the FWD path as they did.  

Was it a good choice?

Well, for coming out of the 1970s and all its problems of CAFE rules and gasoline shortages and high gasoline prices, it WAS the right choice!  And although GM flubbed the earlier  1970s and early 1980s attempts to address these issues, this platform  was executed almost perfectly.  Despite the similarities that all three brands shared with this platform, GM actually did a fantastic job on differentiating them.  

I do wonder though if it was the right choice for Cadillac.  I do not think these did any harm to perception to Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick in the grand scheme of things.  But I do think it did Cadillac harm.  

Anyway, these were great vehicles and if we were honest about it, these were tons better then their predecessors and were also better than their Japanese and German rivals of the time.  

 

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23 hours ago, oldshurst442 said:

 

I do wonder though if it was the right choice for Cadillac.  I do not think these did any harm to perception to Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick in the grand scheme of things.  But I do think it did Cadillac harm.  

 

Given those 3 brands are all dead now (Buick is still around, but irrelevant), it probably did them harm also.   GM from the mid 80s onward made too many generic FWD vehicles. 

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Having MULTIPLE FWD generic, brand engineered models did them in. Yes. Ill agree.

But specifically these models. I dont think so.

The 1st gen and 2nd gen were very popular.  And great vehicles too. 

What Oldsmobile did was they confused the folk to which direction they needed to be in.   Oldsmobile kept the 2nd generation of these cars old and staid while they as a brand, re-invented themselves as youthful.  The FWD Aurora broke that old stigma mold. Then the Intrigue. Then the Alero.  But the 2nd gen Delta 88 and 98 kept the Boomer image alive. When the 2nd gen Aurora came, it replaced the Delta 88 and 98 outright. But by then, it was too late. 

Pontiac did better with this platform as it kept things exciting all the way through. 

What killed Pontiac is that they had a brand engineered FWD minivan mess, brand engineered FWD small car mess like the Sunbird/Sunfire.   Then the alphanumerics came like G5 (Sunbird really which is Cavalier/Cobalt really),  G6 and  G8?  WTF are those?    

Killing off the Trans Am and replacing it with a GTO that looked nothing like a GTO did not help things. 

Pontiac had no business getting into the CUV adventure market with offerings like the ugly Aztek.  Today yes! 20 years ago, no!

Sharing a car with Toyota was not a good thing either.  FWD/AWD hatchback CUV or whatever you wanna call the Matrix was NOT the car for Pontiac.  

Solstice,  GTO (with real GTO exterior looks), a G8 that was named Grand Prix WERE the right choices, but it came at a very bad time. And they could have (re) built their portfolio off of those.  Introduce AWD performance to any future product line and slowly get into adventure style products (with the aforementioned AWD to help things with the CUV adventure thing) that we are seeing now and Pontiac would have been relevant.  

The Aztek, with better exterior looks, could have been a market leader later on.   It WAS ahead of its time. But it was ugly. It was not the time for that car and it certainly was not the right car for Pontiac.   Bob Lutz wanted Pontiac to be niche. Performance oriented.  In 2009. That would have bridged the gap between the fall of the sedan and the performance coupe and into the CUV world and Pontiac would have been the adventure brand instead of the performance brand.   

 

 

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I liked the T-Type version of the Electra, quite a change from the traditional Buick sedans.  The clamshell hood was neat, and I liked the early ones before the ugly composite headlights that came later.

 

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 But I also like the old-school big body Electras of the 80s...

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Edited by Robert Hall
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Dad had a red LeSabre, gonna say an ‘86. I remember checking out the forward opening hood- it had rollers and support rods along both sides. He traded it on an circa ‘92 LeSabre. Good experience with both cars, but I didn’t get much seat time in the first one (was out of the house by ‘90).

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I agree with you.   But with Buick, it would be the Coupe T-Type, Pontiac Bonneville SSE and the Olds Delta 88 and 98 rather than Buick's 4 door versions. 

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But with the big boys, I prefer the Chevy version 1st. Then the Olds version. Alternating between Delta 88 and 98

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There was also a 2dr Electra T-Type..haven't seen one in probably 30+ years.  Can't seem to find a pic of one, but here is a 2dr Electra of that generation..

 

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