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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A red 1959 Buick LeSabre is shown parked outside of a home.

A Look at Classic Buick Models Through the Ages

Building beautiful vehicles is something that Buick has always been known for. Since its founding in 1899 by David Dunbar Buick and Walter L. Marr, Buick has stood for quality, a value the brand has upheld for over a century. Today’s Buick is known for a lineup of amazing SUVs; responsible for vehicles such as the Encore, Enclave, and Envision, with the Avenir class being the pride of the pack.

If you stop into your local used Buick dealer, you may be able to find some of the classic models that built this brand and gave it the reputation it still holds to this day. While it’s true that most of the original models can only be found today in museums, you can still find some on the used market that are direct descendants. These models helped carry the name and legacy into the 21st century, showing that Buick has provided drivers with luxury, performance, and styling for more than 100 years. Let’s take a closer look at Buick’s evolution over the years and the classic models that helped shape the brand into what it is today.

It All Started With Two Sedans

Buick may have started in 1899, but four short years after its initial launch, it looked like it would end before it even began. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy when the plucky little automaker from Flint, Michigan, was taken over by automotive pioneer Bill Durant and General Motors. In 1908, Buick would go from obscurity to the best-selling car brand in America. The key reason was that the innovations of Buick finally had the financial backing and stability provided by General Motors. One of the biggest was the overhead valve engine, which provided unparalleled power not seen before in other automobiles.

Those early years of innovation and perseverance created two of the most iconic models in the pre-war era. If you are a fan of old movies or modern films depicting the 1930s or 1940s, then you’ve probably seen a 1938 Buick Roadmaster Series 80 Touring Sedan and a 1939 Buick Roadmaster Series 80 Phaeton rolling down the street. The Roadmaster featured those iconic long-running boards seen in movies like “The Grapes of Wrath,” running all the way up to movies like “The Godfather.”

The Roadmaster survived the war and went on to be one of the most popular Buick models of the era. It presented to the buying public a sedan that provided power and ample room, all at an affordable price. The original model was even cheaper than the least expensive Cadillac, making it a worthy competitor in the growing automotive industry. The last Buick Roadmaster model rolled off the assembly line in 1996, attached to a full-size luxury sedan and a large station wagon.

A blue 1953 Buick Skylark is shown parked at a beach.

Cruising Into the Fifties

Buick cemented its reputation in the post-war era as a leading auto brand in America thanks to the 1953 Skylark and the 1955 Century. Sporting a V8 engine and sporty Kelsey-Hayes 40-spoke chrome wheels, the Skylark was the vehicle of choice for teenagers in love who wanted to go cruising and park at “Lover’s Lane.” The Skylark convertible of the 50s remains an icon of the era, representing a much simpler time.

The Buick Century became known as the car every highway patrolman wanted after this hot rod coupe was featured weekly on the popular Highway Patrol television show. The classic Century sported a set of four VentiPorts on each front fender, giving the Buick a look of a fighter plane. These design features would show the flashing lights created by the engine’s spark plugs firing in synchronization. Form followed function with the VentiPorts as they allowed additional airflow to reach the Century’s engine.

You can still find a used Buick Skylark or Century on the used market. However, these are most likely models from the sixth generation of the Skylark, built until 1996, and the fifth generation of the Century, also available until 1996. The later models of both vehicles were now four-door sedans, which sadly didn’t continue the unique tradition of the VentiPorts.

Buick’s Swinging Sixties

If there was any automaker poised to conquer the Swinging Sixties, it was Buick. No other automaker had the styling and power quite like Buick, with the automaker building luxury sedans and coupes that also featured powerful engines, giving motorists the performance they desired in a vehicle the whole family could love. These muscle cars helped define the era, with a trio from the mid-60s standing out among their class.

Buick had introduced the Electra and LeSabre in 1959, but the ones that truly helped popularize the lineup were from the mid-60s, specifically the 1964 Electra and 1965 LeSabre. This pair was joined by another upstart Buick, the Riviera, which was introduced in 1963. Gone were the tailfins, big grilles, and large whitewall tires of the Fifties Buick, replaced by lower profiles, sloping tails, and tight grilles. These gave the LeSabre, Electra, and Riviera a more aerodynamic look, like a fighter jet, as opposed to a propeller bomber. The Riviera even featured its own design specification; an angular frontend that came to a point. No matter which model you chose, you and your family were sure to be getting a superior driving experience.

These three models were so popular that they lasted well into the future. The Riviera went through eight generations until 1999, while the Electra lasted until 1990, with its sixth generation. Still, the most enduring and popular of this trio was the Buick LeSabre, with the eighth generation of the sedan being sold up to 2005.

A red 2019 Buick LaCrosse is shown leaving a used Buick dealer.

The Modern Classics

The term modern classic seems like a paradox. Modern implies the future, while classic usually refers to something from the past. However, starting in the Seventies, Buick began developing a number of cars that have become just that. This can be seen in the Gran Sport version of popular models, which started with the 1965 Buick Skylark. Had Ralph Macchio bought a ’65 Skylark instead of a ’64 model in the film “My Cousin Vinny,” he could have proven Mona Lisa Vito wrong when she said that nobody could confuse a Buick Skylark with a Corvette.

The Gran Sport program hit its stride in the Seventies with models like the GSX, a two-door hardtop equipped with a Wildcat V8 gas engine. These rivaled other muscle cars in performance and blew past them in looks and luxury. Buick also introduced another very popular model in the Seventies that was truly fit for a king. The Buick Regal hit the road in 1973 as a four-door midsize sedan that put others to shame. The Regal proved so successful that Buick continued to build them until 2018. As a result, you can probably find a great deal on a used Regal TourX or Sportback, giving you a royal dose of luxury features and comfortable appointments in an exceptional vehicle.

This commitment to giving drivers the ideal combination of styling, performance, and luxury features continues to this day. One of the last sedans developed by Buick was the LaCrosse, which made its debut in 2005 and continued through three generations until 2019. The LaCrosse won accolades for its standard safety features and superior fuel economy, and like the Regal, you can find used models of the Buick Lacrosse for sale, giving you the opportunity to drive a great car at an affordable price.

Owning a Piece of the Past, for Your Future

All of the great innovations and performance advancements developed over these 100-plus years are the reason why today’s Buick SUVs represent the ultimate in automotive excellence. While Buick no longer makes sedans and coupes, many later models of these classics like the Skylark, LeSabre, Regal, and Riviera are still available on the used market for those interested in a piece of history. Buick has built on its past, all while maintaining a focus on innovation, which is precisely why they are such a dominating force in the auto industry and have over a century of automotive ingenuity to back that up.

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