Friday, July 16, 2021

Buick at the 1992 Milwaukee Auto Show

Here's an interesting blast from the past- I came across a box of photos of the 1992 Buick Display at the Milwaukee Auto Show. 

But first a bit of background. In 1992 I was a District Sales Manager in Downtown Milwaukee. My job responsibilities included calling on Buick dealers, helping them with their sales needs, solving their incentive problems, stuffing their ears full of inventory (whether they needed them or not) until they screamed and turned blue, and also interestingly enough, auto shows. 

These shows were a team effort. We would start in the late summer with an ordering party- we'd get together with the metro Milwaukee sales managers and configure the new cars for the January show. My counterpart and I would polish the orders, make sure they reflected the new models. colors. and options, and then submit them to the zone. 

The cars were all shipped to a cooperative dealer where the service reps would toil over making sure they were prepared to show condition and were worthy reflections of Buick quality. A couple of back-up cars were ordered in case any of the show cars turned out to be a "dud," like the Platinum Beige '89 Park Avenue with Red Leather that the sales manager at Rank and Son INSISTED was "sharp."  We used the Rosewood one instead that year.

1992 was an interesting year for Buick. The two-seat Reatta was no more, the full-size Le Sabre sedan was fully redesigned and based on the one-year old Park Avenue. A brand new very full-sized Roadmaster sedan joined the one-year old wagon (it debuted in 1991.)  Both sported rear wheel drive and rode on a perimeter frame. But there was news in the compact segment as well- a fully redesigned Skylark coupe and sedan, complete with a prominent beak which, whilst on an acid trip, bore a slight resemblance to a 1939 Buick, or so I was told. For contrast, Buick sent us a cute little 1962 Special Deluxe convertible from the permanent collection. I will allow the viewer to decide which design has stood the test of time most beautifully.

Move in day was intense. Both metro sales and service reps were on hand as the show cars arrived off the transporter. It always snowed during set up so we trucked them for minimal weathering. Once set in place we spent a day and a half cleaning and detailing. The VIP Preview took place on the night before the show opened, it was not unheard of to change from detailing clothes to my Tuxedo in the men's room behind the exhibit. 

So sit back. ladies and gentlemen, and enjoy the Buick Display at the 1992 Milwaukee Auto Show- brought to you by your Metro Milwaukee Buick Dealers: 
Getting ready for the VIP Preview

Regal GS Coupe and Limited Sedan
A 1992 Skylark GS Coupe- with a $19,000 sticker!
Buick's own 1962 Special Deluxe
The all-new 1992 Skylarks
Buick Compacts Galore!
Roadmaster Estate Wagon looked great with wood
Roadmaster and Century Estate Wagons
Regals and Centuries for days!
Regal Gran Sport Sedan
Regal Limited and Gran Sport Coupe
New Roadmaster Sedan
Restyled 1992 Le Sabres
Riviera with R1V Decor
Park Avenue Ultra with Touring Suspension

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cars of the American Revolution

Of course it began with American Motors. The Bicentennial of the American Revolution was beginning to appear on the outer edge of the American psyche, and it's only logical that little AMC would be the first to capitalize. However I do believe it was accidental. 

AMC had been trying to create a more youthful image with youthful cars like the Javelin and the AMC, and entered a specially prepared AMX in the SCCA Trans Am racing series. As an attention getter, the car was painted in bands of red, white, and blue- a scheme so effective that they offered it as a limited availability option for sale on the production AMX.

The SC/Rambler of 1969 was another image car from AMC, this time done in conjunction with Hurst. The little Rambler coupe had a 343 V8 stuffed under the hood and a series of performance mods so that the car would keep up. Again a color scheme of red and blue accents against a white field. This notion would prove popular.

Another AMC performance car was "The Machine:, a 1970 offering based on the AMC Rebel. They were offered in one color scheme, again with red and blur striping on a field of white. 

Ford got in on the fun for 1972 with their "Sprint" packages available on Mustang, Maverick, and Pinto two door coupes. The cars all featured white paint with blue striping outlined in red, wheel covers with trim rings, Sprint deals, and white interiors with blue seat inserts and red piping, Carpets and dash were blue. These were very successful for Ford. 

Chevrolet saw a good idea and responded with their own "Spirit of Anerica" models. Based on Nova, Vega, or Impala Custom two doors (the Nova and Vega were hatchbacks), they featured white or dark blue interiors, white interiors with blue accents, color toned wheels, special striping, and "Spirit of America" emblems. They were offered one year only.

Bicentennial fever was reaching a fever pitch when Buick decided to go all out. They had been selected as the Pace Car for the 1975 Indianapolis 500 and the car they created was very dramatic. Designer Gary Smith created an American Flag that swept along the sculptured flanks of the Century. The car proclaimed "Free Spirit" on the front fenders and featured a white interior accented in blue, white wheels, and blacked out trim. A few hundred identical replicas were sold through Buick dealers.

Not to be undone, the Official Support Vehicles for the 1975 Indy 500 were GMC Trucks. They were also finished in white and had red and blue strobe striping to harmonize with the Free Spirit Buick Pace Cars. They also had special interior trim.

Here's a Bicentennial oddball- a Dodge Colt done up in a red, white and blue package. Called the Carousel, It featured a blue vinyl roof, blue striping outlined in red, and a white interior with blue seat inserts surrounded by red piping. I guess nothing says American Exceptionalism quite like a Japanese car. It was offered in 1975 and 1976.

Dodge also had a model for those who prefer American made products- the "Spirit of '76" Dart Sport. Again in white with a white interior, it featured sport wheels, red and blue exterior striping and decals, and blue seat inserts and accents set into a white interior. 

And last but not least, the Queen of them all, the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Bicentennial convertible. Built to commemorate the final edition of the Eldorado as a ragtop, these triple white cars featured red piping and environment, red and blue pinstriping, and white wheel discs (all other '76s had black.) In addition, each had a dash plaque proclaiming it to be one of the last 200 production convertibles. For now, anyway. 

Of course, this list isn't intended to be exhaustive and there will be other examples that come to light- especially dealer editions and aftermarket striping kits, but I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the special editions of the red, white and blue. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

When Buick Set the Pace at Indianapolis

This week, Buick Town Monday happens to correspond with Memorial Day weekend, so let's take a moment and remember some of Buick's role in this iconic American Experience. Buick was one of the first manufacturers to take part in racing at the Indy track, and won several events in 1909, two years before the first Indianapolis 500 of 1911. Many, many Buicks were also raced at Indianapolis including factory sponsored racing engines as recently as the 1980's.

But Buick has also served as the Official Pace Car at Indianapolis on no fewer than six different occasions, and created some very special cars to suit the role.

The first Buick Pace Car was a 1939 Roadmaster Series 80 Convertible Sedan. It used Buick's most powerful 320 cubic inch OHV straight eight engine in a slightly smaller chassis for high speed performance. Although nearly stock in appearance, The Roadmaster had no trouble maintaining the high speeds required of a Pace Car.

The next time Buick was selected as Pace Car was 1959. This was a great opportunity to showcase the all new 1959 Buick with its swept back fins. A white Electra 225 convertible with red bucket seats was specially prepared for the event. Following the race, the car itself was presented to race winner Rodger Ward.

The 1975 Buick Pace Car wrapped itself in the red, white and blue. A loaded Century Colonnade Coupe with 455 V8, bucket seats, and T-Tops was chosen and finished off with a patriotic red, white and blue flag-derived paint scheme which was very much in keeping with the Bicentennial mania that was sweeping the country. In addition, white Le Sabre convertibles were supplied for race executives and a fleet of replica Century coupes, with the same cosmetic treatment, were offered through Buick dealers.

Buick was the Pace Car again in 1976, but this time the technology was all new. The 1976 Century Pace Car featured the first Turbocharged V6 engine which was specially developed for this high speed application. This concept would lead to turbocharged V6 engines in the 1978 model year, and ultimately to the legendary Buick Grand National. It was finished in an aggressive color scheme of silver, red, and black, and again replicas were offered through Buick dealers, but they had conventional 350 V8 engines.

The Buick Regal was chosen as the 1981 Indianapolis Pace Car, again showing off Buick's V6 power. This time, a highly modified 4.1 litre V6, conventionally asperated, developed 281 horsepower and helped further establish the performance reputation of the Buick V6. The actual pace car had a Targa-style roof with an integral roll bar, and was finished in a unique color scheme of silver and dark maroon with bright red and orange trim.

Buick's most recent trip to Indianapolis was in 1983. That year a special Riviera Convertible was chosen to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Buick's personal luxury car. A special color scheme of two shades of tan, a leather and suede interior, a fuel injected turbocharged V-6 engine and even genuine wire wheels set the car off. A replica coupe called the Riviera XX was offered through Buick dealers, although only 500 were ever made.

So when you sit back and enjoy the 102nd anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, remember that Buick has been a important part of the Indianapolis story sine the very first days, and that Indianapolis has played a big part in the development of some very important Buicks.