The Buick Electra
The Buick Electra was a full-size luxury car manufactured by Buick for 31 years. It was finally laid to rest in 1990. But it began way back in 1959. Over the years, the various stylings of Electra resounded with the fashions of three decades worth of engineering. Most popular with collectors are the models that were produced in the early and mid-1960s.
The Buick Electra: The Early Years
The late 50s saw Buicks that wanted to stand out from the crowd. Featuring sleek “delta wing” fins, these cars looked like land sharks. By 1960, Buick was playing up its substance over its style. The new line of Buicks, including the Electra, would feature “the most advanced automatic transmission every designed.”
The Electra was designed to be the biggest and baddest vehicle in Buick’s lineup. It was the luxury model of the bunch and included a standard 401-CID V-8 that was introduced in ‘59. They called it the Wildcat 445 as an homage to its torque rating. It generated an impressive 325 hp.
The ‘60 Electras featured a revised model of Buick’s Turbine Drive Transmission that featured a variable pitched fluid control mechanism that was designed to replace ordinary gears. The effect was to produce a smooth transmission as opposed to a whiplash-inducing thrust.
The ‘60 Electra also featured an interest Mirromagic instrument panel. Much like Mazda does today, Buick’s trademark was all about “driveability”. For Buick, that meant cashing in on their innovating transmission design and ensuring a smoother ride for drivers.
By ‘61, the fins had been drastically scaled back but still featured a land shark styling on the hood of the car. Much like a vestigial organ, the fin got smaller in subsequent models with tail fins phased out.
In the mid-60s bigger was better. The Electra 225 was Buick’s flagship vessel and stretched 224-inches from front to back. The wheelbase was 126 inches. In other words, it was a boat.
The Electra was featured in both hardtop and convertible designs with a standard V-8 that was rated between 325 and 360 bhp.
Buick has always managed to position itself as a mid-range vehicle in GM’s line. It’s luxury end, but it’s not quite a Cadillac. That being said, Buick’s cost about $1000 less than the Cadillac banking on an unparalleled driving experience to set itself apart from the crowd.
There’s a reason, however, why these cars are still prized by collectors today. They emphasized performance over style letting the Electra line do its talking for it. Buick continued to play up the smoothest ride in the game even into the late ‘60s.
Buick remained a perfect marriage of luxury and performance well throughout the 70s and the 80s. The fact that Buick was able to run the Electra as its flagship vehicle for over 30 years is a testament to the amount of success it had with consumers.
For collectors, the 60s were a great decade for American auto manufacturing. With each of the major companies trying to outperform the others, it was a time of optimism and exploration. Just how powerful could we make a vehicle? The 1960s Electras were a testament to American ingenuity and engineering.