Welcome, Jalopnik and Autoblog readers! We have many meh cars at Eighties Cars—the unloved category covers most of them.
I saw a reasonably original Buick Somerset Regal with Dark Gray Metallic paint on a side road in Philadelphia about a week ago. It was the first one I’d seen in many years.
“There has never been a Buick quite like the Somerset Regal”
Buick’s Somerset Regal was a new model for 1985. Available initially in coupe form only, Buick’s version of the N-body (Oldsmobile had the Calais, and Pontiac had the Grand Am) was designed to at least partially replace the Skylark. It failed miserably, only surviving for three years before being subsumed back into the Skylark product line. Respectable first-year sales of 86,076 declined to 75,620 in 1986 and 46,501 in 1987.
The Somerset Regal was not a big car by today’s standards. With 180 inches of length and a 103.4-inch wheelbase, it is within shouting distance of a 2019 Honda Civic coupe, which is 177.3 inches long and has a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Of course, cars, in general, have gotten a lot bigger in these thirty years—the Somerset Regal was notably more substantial than the 1985 Honda Accord.
The standard powertrain was a Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection (a slightly upgraded Iron Duke) paired with a five-speed manual transmission, but I believe most buyers went with the optional ($425) three-speed automatic instead. The hot set-up (if you could call it that) was the optional ($560) LN7 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci multi-port fuel-injected V6, only available with the automatic. 0-60 times ranged from 10.5 to 13 seconds.
Mileage for the inline four and five-speed manual combination was an impressive 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by 2018 standards). Choosing the more realistic three-speed automatic cost two mpg while upgrading to the V6 dropped you all the way down to 20 city/26 highway. With a 13.6-gallon gas tank, owners of the most profligate powertrain combination could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
For the Somerset Regal’s $8,857 base price (about $21,300 in today’s dollars), standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, tungsten-halogen headlights, and body-colored bumpers. The interior included cloth or vinyl bucket seats, a center console, brushed metal accents, electronic digital instrumentation (somewhat upmarket at the time), and an AM radio. Moving up to the Limited trim added dual horns, chrome bumpers, and courtesy lamps, along with snazzier cloth seats and steering wheel.
Standard features that date the Somerset Regal included the Delco Freedom II Plus battery, front and rear ashtrays in the console, and the P185/80R13 tires (now considered a trailer size) on 13-inch wheels.
Options included the $645 air conditioning (in the mid-1980s not yet standard on most cars), cruise control ($175), leather seats ($275 and only available with the Limited), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Vista-Vent sunroof, Delco GM/Bose Music System AM/FM stereo cassette ($995!), cast-aluminum wheels ($229), and a Gran Touring suspension ($27).