1986 Buick Century sedan

For the last few weeks, there’s been a white Buick Century sedan parked outside one of my local supermarkets. Followers of Eighties Cars know that is likely to generate a blog entry.

“… truly satisfying motoring in the European tradition.”

For 1986, Buick’s Century gained a new slanted grille along with lower profile headlamps. The other major news was the T Type coupe had been discontinued, though the sedan version remained alive. Both the sedan and the coupe were available in Custom (base) and Limited trim, while the wagon was available in Custom (base) and Estate versions. We’ll concentrate on the sedan in this post.

Standard power on the Century remained the Iron Duke 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. Two different V6 engines were available: a $435 112 bhp 2.8 liter/181 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor and a $695 150 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with sequential fuel injection. A three-speed automatic transmission was standard with the 2.5 liter inline four and 2.8 liter V6, but buyers could add a four-speed automatic for an additional $175.

With these three engines, two transmissions, and curb weights in the 2,750 to 2,850-pound range, there was a wide variance in performance. 0-60 mph with the inline four/three-speed automatic combination was about 13.5 seconds, while 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 owners with the four-speed automatic could expect to get from 0-60 in about 10 seconds.

Mileage with the base four and three-speed automatic was 22 city/32 highway (19/29 by today’s standards) while owners of the top-of-the-line V6/four-speed automatic combination could expect 19 city/29 highway (17/26 by 2018 standards). With a 15.7-gallon fuel tank, Century V6 drivers could expect a range of between 305 and 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $10,228 Century Custom (about $23,800 in 2018 dollars—just slightly under what a 2019 Regal Sportback goes for) included front-wheel drive, power rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/75R14 tires (a size still available from Hankook) on 14-inch wheels. Inside, a cloth notchback front bench seat and a Delco AM radio with dual front speakers and a fixed antenna were included.

Moving up to the $10,729 Limited (about $25,000 in today’s dollars) added 55/45 notchback velour seats and a hood ornament.

The relatively rare $13,714 T Type (about $31,900 in 2018 dollars) included the 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 and four-speed automatic combination, along with a Gran Touring suspension and 215/60R14 tires on 14-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, a full length storage console, and reclining cloth bucket seats were included.

Century buyers had many choices to personalize their sedan. Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included aluminum wheels ($199), tinted glass ($115), and engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($750), cruise control ($175), Twilight Sentinel ($57), power windows ($270), and six-way power driver’s seat ($225) were available.

Century page from the 1986 Buick full-line brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1986 Buick Century sedan sold rather well—sales inched up slightly from 1985 as Buick moved about 232,000, with 5,286 being the T Type version.

I think of these A-body cars as basic and honest. Centurys sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. Make mine dark blue metallic.

Other A-bodies I’ve written about in this blog (I guess I owe the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera some attention):

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan

1980 Buick Riviera S Type coupe

I’ve been on a Riviera kick recently, brought on (no lie!) by the appearance of a 1965 model in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie a couple of days ago. I covered the 1984 T-Type a few years ago—here’s the 1980 S TYPE.

“… an impressive road car.”

In its second year, Buick’s sixth-generation Riviera gained little but revised body mounts and new side mirrors with a notably more integrated look. Buick continued to offer Riviera fans a slightly more sporty S TYPE version, returning to a theme first present with the 1965 Riviera Grand Sport.

The S TYPE‘s standard powertrain was the LD5 170 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with turbocharger and a Rochester M4ME four-barrel carburetor paired with a Turbo Hydra-matic automatic transmission. The LG4 155 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with a Rochester M4ME four-barrel carburetor was optional (it was standard on the base Riviera). The S TYPE was spritely for a big (3,633 pound) coupe by 1980 standards, but not fast: 0-60 came in about 11 seconds, which compared well with the Cadillac Eldorado, [Chrysler] Imperial, Lincoln Continental Mark VI, and Oldsmobile Toronado. Fuel mileage was rated at 16 city/23 highway by the (rather unrealistic) standards of the day—with a 21.2-gallon fuel tank, range was about 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The $11,823 S TYPE (about $39,800 in 2018 dollars, or about what a 2019 Buick LaCrosse Sport Touring sedan goes for) came with amber front park and turn signal lenses, tungsten-halogen high-beam headlights, dual remote black mirrors, and GR70-R15 tires (equivalent to P225/70R15, which is still a readily available size) on 15-inch wheels with Designer’s Sport wheel covers. Inside, cloth or vinyl bucket seats, sport steering wheel, storage console, and black-trimmed instrument panel were all standard. The 1980 S TYPE also included a Rallye ride-and-handling suspension with larger front and rear stabilizer bars and stiffer shock absorbers.

Standard exterior and mechanical features on all 1980 Rivieras included front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, automatic level control, Soft Ray tinted glass, power steering, and power front disc/rear drum brakes. Inside, every Riviera had air conditioning, electric door locks, power windows, driver’s-side 6-way power seat, and an AM/FM stereo radio with automatic power antenna.

Exterior and mechanical options included four-wheel disc brakes ($222), electric rear window defogger ($109), and the Astroroof ($1,058). Inside, automatic air conditioner ($150), Cruise-Master speed control ($118), Twilight Sentinel ($51), passenger-side 6-way power seat ($179), and leather with vinyl bucket seats ($360) were all available. You couldn’t get the tilt and telescoping steering column on an S TYPE, but you could get a tilt only steering column ($83).

Sales of the S TYPE were decent in 1980—with 7,217 made, it accounted for about 15% of overall Riviera sales. For 1981, the Riviera S TYPE was supplanted by the T-Type.

S TYPE pages from the 1980 Buick Riviera brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Folks are collecting the sixth generation Rivieras—there’s robust discussion and support on the AACA’s Buick Riviera page. S TYPEs also come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, though there aren’t any right now. As I write this in November 2018, there is a “civilian” 1980 with a white exterior, burgundy leather seats, a V8, and 19,000 miles for sale on Hemmings, asking $11,500.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Riviera in #1/Concours condition is $11,800, with a more normal #3/Good car going for a mere $4,000. Make mine the extra-cost ($186) Gray Firemist, please. I love those Buick color names and believe everyone should have at least one Firemist.

1988 Cadillac Eldorado coupe

“… a bold styling statement.”

For 1988, Cadillac’s Eldorado gained a new 4.5 liter V8, along with a power dome hood, a revised grille, a reshaped rear window treatment, and an extended trunk. Length increased by three inches, and the 1988 Eldorado looked a little bit more like the Eldo people had grown to expect.

The Eldorado’s powertrain was Cadillac’s 155 bhp HT series 4.5 liter/273 ci V8 with throttle body fuel injection paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration improved notably—the Eldorado’s 0-60 mph time was now under 10 seconds for the first time since the early 1970s. Fuel economy was 17 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (15/22 by today’s standards). With an 18.8-gallon fuel tank, an Eldorado owner could expect a range of between 315 and 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

So, what did those buyers get with their $24,891 (about $52,600 in today’s dollars or about what a loaded 2019 ATS coupe goes for) 1988 Eldorado? Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included front wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, power-assisted rack and pinion steering, power four-wheel disc brakes, and 205/70R14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, six-way front power seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with tilt and telescope adjustment, cruise control, power side mirrors, power windows, power door locks, electronic climate control, Twilight Sentinel, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were all included—the Eldorado was pretty well equipped.

Moving up to the Biarritz (almost always the top if the line Eldorado since 1956) added wire wheels, two-tone paint, nicer front seats with power lumbar support and power recliners, and real walnut trim on the instrument panel, console, and door trim plates.

Options included anti-lock brakes, touring suspension with 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, Astroroof, a nicely integrated cellular phone, and Delco/Bose Symphony Sound System.

Eldorado page from 1988 Cadillac brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The exterior redesign and the new engine definitely assisted sales—they were nearly double what they had been in 1987, though still not close to the salad days of 1985 and prior.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1988 Eldorado in #1/Concours condition is $9,800, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for a mere $3,500. Eldorados of this age come up for sale often in Hemmings Motor News, so folks are saving them. As I write this in November 2018, three 1988 Eldorados are for sale, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $11,900.

1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan

“One car that does it all.”

1985 was, mercifully, the last year for the Chevrolet Citation. It was also, in a sad General Motors tradition, the best Citation (the 1985 Citation had no recalls after the nine that the 1980 had). Half-heartedly renamed Citation II in 1984, the X-car would be replaced by the Nova in 1986. There were some changes: new colors were available, and the dashboard was revised, allowing the “normal” horizontal radios.

For 1985, the Citation II’s standard powertrain remained the LR8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a four-speed manual (the Citation never got a five-speed). With the standard powertrain, 0-60 came in a little under 12 seconds in the 2,500-pound car with a theoretical top speed of 101 mph. Mileage was competitive: 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards).

Powertrain options included two different 2.8 liter/173 ci V6’s (why?): the LE2 112 bhp version with a two-barrel carburetor ($260) and the LB6 130 bhp type with fuel injection ($435). A three-speed automatic was (of course) available ($425). The V6 in general, and especially the fuel injected version, made the Citation II substantially more spritely: 0-60 times of about 9 seconds and a top speed of about 118 mph. You paid a mileage price for that performance: 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards).

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,090 Citation II hatchback sedan (about $17,000 in 2018 dollars—about what base Chevrolet Cruze sedan goes for) included halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disk/rear drum brakes, and P185/80R-13 radial tires (now a trailer size) on 13-inch by 5.5-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers. Inside, sliding door locks, a lockable glove box, a folding rear seat, and an AM/FM radio with two speakers were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($110), two-tone paint ($176), power brakes ($100), power steering ($215), and the F41 sports suspension (acknowledged to be a bargain at $33). Inside, a quiet sound/rear decor package ($92), air conditioning ($730), cruise control ($175), comfortilt steering wheel ($110), an electric rear defogger ($140), and an electronic-tuning AM/FM stereo radio with cassette, clock and seek/scan ($319) were all available.

1985 Citation II brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Citation II did not sell—overall sales in this last year fell to 8% of the first year sales. At an average Chevrolet dealership, you could expect it to be outsold by the Chevette, the Cavalier, the Camaro, the Celebrity, the Monte Carlo, and the Caprice Classic.

I haven’t seen a Citation in years—the last one was an X-11 in early 2014. They rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one shown, though I’m not betting against that at some point.

1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

Hemmings Motor News published an extended discussion on the Cadillac Cimarron in their always interesting Hemmings Daily blog, so I figured I’d bring one of my first posts up to a more current location.

“A new kind of Cadillac for a new kind of Cadillac owner.”

Ah—the poor Cadillac Cimarron, rushed to market for CAFE and other reasons without much thought as to who would actually buy it. When released in 1982, it was just a nice as possible, relatively well equipped Chevrolet Cavalier.

Inside page from the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The only engine available for 1982 was the 88 bhp L46 1.8 liter/112 ci inline four with Rochester Varajet II two-barrel carburetor. When paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, mileage was an impressive 26 city/42 highway by the standards of the day (about 21/31 by modern standards), but the car was slow—0-60 mph took a little under 14 seconds. A three-speed automatic transmission was optional and likely even slower (estimates come to about 16 seconds). The 13.7-gallon fuel tank gave a range of between 330 and 420 miles with a 10% reserve.

The $12,181 base price (about $32,900 in today’s dollars—just a little under what a base 2018 Cadillac ATS sedan costs) included standard exterior and mechanical features such as power brakes, power steering, power mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and P195/70R13 tires on 13-inch aluminum wheels. Air conditioning, leather seating areas, a leather steering wheel, a tachometer, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were all standard in the interior.

Options included a sunroof ($261), cruise control (about $150), power door locks ($12—why bother making it an option?), power windows (yes, the base 1982 Cimarron came with roll-up windows—power windows were an extra $216), six-way power seats ($366), tilt steering wheel ($88), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($153). It wasn’t hard to load a Cimarron up to almost $13,500—real money in 1982 and about $36,400 in 2018 dollars.

In typical General Motors fashion, the Cimarron improved each year (sometimes significantly). However, the stench of that horribly failed initial release stayed with the car until Cadillac finally stopped selling them at the end of the 1988 model year. By that point, the Cimarron had upgraded from the fairly awful four-cylinder to a decent (and standard) V6 and had exterior styling that was at least somewhat more differentiated from Chevrolet’s.

So, the Cimarron remains a spectacularly easy target—routinely making those “worst ten cars of all time” lists and suchlike. I have yet to see a Cimarron at a serious classic car show, but I’m betting some intrepid soul will save one and bring it back.

Surprisingly, Hagerty does track the Cimarron with their valuation tools—according to them, all the money for a 1982 in #1/Concours condition is $6,100, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $1,600. I can’t remember ever seeing one for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—they’re treated by Cadillac folks like Ford folks treat the Mustang II from the 1970s. You do occasionally see them on eBay Motors.

Save

1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe

“Built to take on the world.”

Ford’s biggest news for 1981 was the all-new Escort. Marketed as a “World Car,” the Escort replaced the unloved Pinto and represented a three billion dollar commitment from Ford. The new Escort was shorter, thinner, taller, and about 400 pounds lighter than the Pinto it supplanted.

The Escort’s standard powertrain was the Compound Valve Hemispherical (CVH) 65 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with Holley-Weber 5740 2-barrel carburetor paired to a four-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was a $344 option). Mileage with the standard powertrain was impressive: 28 city/43 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was less so: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds in the approximately 2,000-pound car. With a 10-gallon fuel tank, Escort drivers could expect a range of from 240 to 320 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $5,158 base Escort (about $15,300 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta SE hatchback costs) included front wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering, fully independent four-wheel suspension, halogen headlamps, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available thanks to Kumho) on 13-inch steel wheels. Inside, high-back body-contoured front bucket seats, fold-down rear bench seat, and an AM radio were included.

As was often true with 1980s Fords, there were many trim levels. L added bright headlamp surrounds and a bright grill along with other brightwork. Moving up to the GL gave the purchaser reclining bucket seats and a four-spoke steering wheel. GLX added dual color-keyed remote sport mirrors, digital clock, locking glovebox, and P165/80R13 tires on styled steel wheels—but started at $6,476 (about $19,200 in 2018 dollars).

Fitting between the GL and the GLX in price, the somewhat sporty SS included black grill and headlamp housing, tape striping, and handling suspension ($37 for other Escorts).

Exterior and mechanical options included power brakes ($79) and power steering ($163). Inside, air conditioning ($530), fingertip speed control ($132), a floor console ($98), cloth/vinyl seat trim ($28), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($187) were all available.

Escort page from the 1981 Ford brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The first-year Escort and its platform-mate Mercury Lynx sold well: 193,000 Escort hatchback coupes, 128,000 Escort liftback sedans, 73,000 Lynx hatchback coupes, and 39,000 Lynx liftback sedans, making for a total of over 430,000. First-generation Escorts and Lynx’s were once so prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see Escorts for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none out there as I write this in June 2018.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“Introducing a brilliant new driver’s coupe”

The Grand Am name returned for the 1985 model year. Instead of the rear-wheel-drive coupe and sedan that it been in its previous two lives from 1973 to 1980 (with none in 1976 or 1977), it was now a front-wheel-drive coupe, part of GM’s N-body offerings. As such, it’s first relatives were the Buick Somerset Regal and the Oldsmobile Calais.

The standard powertrain on the Grand Am was GM’s Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection connected to a five-speed manual. For $560, optional power was a 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with fuel injection which required the $425 automatic transmission (also available with the base engine). 0-60 times for early N-body cars are hard to come by, but were likely about 10.5 seconds for the standard powertrain and about 9.0 seconds for the V6/automatic combination—the 2,419 pound shipping weight helped. Mileage with the standard powertrain was rated at 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With the 13.6-gallon tank, Grand Am buyers could expect a range of 310 to 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,995 base coupe (about $19,600 in 2018 dollars) included power rack and pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and P185/80R13 tires on 13-inch wheels. Inside, reclining bucket seats and an integral floor console were included.

The LE (starting at $8,495 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included “substantial body side moldings,” upgraded front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, deluxe door trim, and a fold-down rear seat armrest.

Options included rally tuned suspension ($50) and cruise control ($175). A Driver’s Package was also available, which included 215/60R14 Goodyear Eagle GT radials on 14-inch turbo cast aluminum wheels, “sport-tuned” front and rear stabilizers, and a Driver Information Center.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

I think these were handsome cars, especially with those turbo cast aluminum wheels. Like many America cars of the era that aren’t considered to be collectible, they have essentially vanished despite over 82,000 sold in 1985 alone. They’re invisible in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay and are hard to find anywhere.