Buick Century

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Buick Century
Buick Century -- 04-23-2012.JPG
Overview
Manufacturer General Motors
Also called Buick Regal (in Japan)
Model years 1936–1942
1954–1958
1973–2005
Body and chassis
Class Full-size (1936–1958)
Mid-size (1973–2005)
Body style 2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Chronology
Predecessor Buick Series 60
Successor Buick LaCrosse

Buick Century is the model name used by the Buick division of General Motors for a line of upscale performance cars from 1936 to 1942 and 1954 to 1958, and from 1973 to 2005 for a mid-size car.

The model name Century came about when Buick was designing its first production automobile capable of reaching a speed of 100 mph. The division needed to come up with a name. One of the Buick executives had returned from a recent trip to the British isles and told the other executives that the British referred to going 100 mph as "doing the century". The executives liked the Century name and it stuck.[citation needed]

The Century was sold as the Buick Regal in Japan, as Toyota owns the right to the name Century.


1936–1942[edit]

First generation full-size Century
Overview
Model years 1936–1942
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Platform B-body
Related Cadillac Series 60
Cadillac Series 61
LaSalle Series 50
Buick Special
Oldsmobile Series L
Oldsmobile Series 70
Pontiac Streamliner Torpedo
Pontiac Streamliner
Powertrain
Engine 320.2 in³ at 120 hp (89 kW) I8

Buick renamed its entire model lineup for the 1936 model year to celebrate the engineering improvements and design advancements over their 1935 models. Buick's Series 40 model range became the Special, the Series 80 became the Roadmaster and the Series 90—Buick's largest and most luxurious vehicles, became the Limited. The Century took the place of the Series 60.

The basic formula for the 1936 to 1942 Century was established by mating the shorter behind the engine cowl Special bodies to the Roadmaster's larger straight-eight engine (and consequently longer engine compartment). (In contrast the 1940 Series 50 Super would combine the larger Roadmaster body with the smaller Special engine.) While the Special was powered by Buick's 233 cu in inline-8 was rated 93 hp (69 kW) at 3200 rpm, Centuries produced between 1936 to 1942 were powered by the 320 in³ producing 165 hp, making them the fastest Buicks of the era and capable of sustained speeds of 95 mph plus, earning the Century the nickname "the banker's hot rod."

The Century was discontinued at the end of the abbreviated 1942 model year, during which total model production only accounted for about ten percent of Buick's total output.

1954–1958[edit]

Second generation full-size Century
Buick Century 4-Dorrars Sedan 1956.jpg
Overview
Model years 1954–1958
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door hardtop station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform B-body
Powertrain
Engine 322 ci 4-bbl. 255hp V8[1]
364 ci V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 122"[1]
Length 206.3"(1954)
206.7"(1955)
205.1"(1956)
208.4"(1957)[1]
211.8"(1958)
Width 76"(1954-1955)
Height 60.5(1954)
59.8"(1956)[1]

In 1954, Buick reintroduced the Century using the same formula of mating the smaller, lighter Buick Special body to its largest and most powerful 322 cubic inch V8 engine with the intent of giving Buick a performance vehicle. Included in the model lineup during this period was a station wagon model, a body style that had been unavailable during the Century's first production period of 1936 to 1942.

Introduced in the middle of the 1955 model year the 4-door Buick Century Riviera along with the 4-door Special Riviera and the 4-door Oldsmobile 98 Holiday and 4-door 88 Holiday, were the first 4-door hardtops ever produced. This was the first time "VentiPorts" appeared on the Century, a carryover from the Buick Roadmaster.

In 1955, the California Highway Patrol placed a large fleet order for Century 2-door sedans, a body style unavailable to the general public. It combined the Special 2-door sedan body shell with Century powertrain and trim. Broderick Crawford was shown driving a 2-door Century sedan during the first season of his popular syndicated TV series "Highway Patrol". (In later seasons he'd drive a four-door Century, like his real life counterparts in the California Highway Patrol.) Power brakes were optional.[2] Tubeless tires were new.[3]

The Century remained Buick's performance line, with engine power rising from 200 (SAE gross) in 1954, to 236 in 1955, to 255 in 1956, and topping out at 300 from a bored-out 364 cu in (6.0 L) engine in 1957-58, the last model years for the full sized Century line.

In 1956 the Century's base price was $2,963. Power windows were standard in the convertible. A padded safety dash became optional.[4]

Because the Century was considered the senior "small Buick", the model received GM's only hardtop station wagon, the Century Caballero, from 1957 through 1958. The Caballero proved expensive to manufacture and unpopular with customers (only 14,642 produced for both model years), so GM did not bring it back for 1959.

For 1959, Buick renamed the Century the Invicta.

1969[edit]

In 1969, Buick created a dream car known as the Century Cruiser, using futuristic design and features while recycling the Century name.

1973–1977[edit]

Third generation
1973BuickCenturyGSlarge.JPG
Overview
Model years 1973–1977
Assembly Flint, Michigan, United States
Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe

4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform A-body
Related Buick Regal
Chevrolet Malibu
Oldsmobile Cutlass
Pontiac Grand Prix
Powertrain
Engine 231 in³ V6
350 in³ V8
455 in³ V8
403 in³ V8 (1977 wagons only)

The Buick Century nameplate returned to the rear-wheel drive intermediate A-body platform, shared with siblings like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Pontiac LeMans, Pontiac GTO, Pontiac Can Am, Pontiac Grand Am, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. When all of GM's intermediate models were redesigned in 1973, the Century name replaced Skylark on Buick's mid-size sedans and wagons and some coupes. Beginning at this point, Century was a mainstay of Buick's smaller line, along with the new upmarket Regal coupe (Regal was also used for top-range notchback models). It was available with two- and four-barrel versions of the Buick 350, putting out 150 and 175 horsepower (130 kW) respectively. The 250 hp 455 was also an option.

With the vanishing of the Skylark coupe after 1972, the Century inherited the potent Gran Sport performance option. While the Stage I 455 in³ (7.5 L) V8 was somewhat diminished from its performance heyday due to emission controls, the Century GS coupes of 1973 to 1975 remained strong performers by the standards of the time. At the other end of the power spectrum, to meet fuel economy regulations, some later models of this generation were equipped with 231 in³ (3.8 L) V6s.

In 1973 and 1974, the Luxus high-end trim level was offered for the Century, but for 1975 that line was renamed the Century Custom. Also beginning in 1975, the new 110 hp (82 kW) 231 V6 was installed as standard equipment, and the optional big-block 455 was now exclusive to the station wagon. After the 455's demise, the Oldsmobile 403 was available on 1977 Century wagons. In 1976, the US government legalized square headlights (long commonplace in Europe), and so GM promptly added them to the midsized A-body line (the Century also gained a taller, more formal grille).

Between 1975 and 1977, a Buick Special coupe was marketed as part of the Century model lineup as an entry level vehicle. Called the "Century Special" in Buick literature, the coupe was based on the 2-door fastback body style but had a special landau roof that covered most of the quarter glass, giving it the appearance of the higher-lever formal roof cars. 1976 and 1977 models had a unique body-color header panel.

It should also be noted that, like in "Highway Patrol" before it, several of this generation Century appeared in the US television series Kojak, driven by Telly Savalas and other squadroom members.

1978–1981[edit]

Fourth generation
'70s Buick Century.jpg
Overview
Model years 1978–1981
Assembly Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform A-body
Related Buick Regal
Chevrolet Malibu
Oldsmobile Cutlass
Pontiac Grand Prix
Powertrain
Engine 196 cu in (3.2 L) Buick V6
231 cu in (3.8 L) Buick V6
265 cu in (4.3 L) Pontiac V8
301 cu in (4.9 L) Pontiac V8
350 cu in (5.7 L) Oldsmobile diesel V8
Transmission 3-speed THM200, 250, 350 automatic
3-speed manual
4-speed Saginaw manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 108.1 in (2,746 mm)
Length 196 in (4,978 mm)
Curb weight 3130-3425 lb

In 1978, GM downsized its intermediate line, reducing wheelbase and curb weight by nearly half. The Century name was now applied to the entire range except for the coupe, which retained the Regal name. A fastback coupe ("aeroback") and aeroback sedan were added (the body was shared with the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon), as well as standard station wagons and two and four-door notchbacks. The car was over a foot shorter, several inches narrower, and several hundred pounds lighter than its predecessor. V6 engines were still standard due to fuel economy regulations. Big block engines were gone and the new base powerplant was Buick's new 196 I-6, introduced specifically for the Century and Regal. The 231 and the Chevrolet 305 were options. The Pontiac 265 and 301 replaced the Chevrolet engine for 1979.

One of the more rare models of this time was the 1979 to 1980 Century Turbo Coupe, powered by a turbocharged version of the 3.8 L V6, which offered V8-like performance with more reasonable fuel consumption. The Turbo Coupe was not nearly as popular as the similar Regal Turbo Sport Coupe of the time, and total production is estimated to be less than 2,500.

The two fastback models (along with the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon) proved unpopular, possibly because they did not appeal to Buick's older, more conservative customer base. With the introduction of the new front wheel drive Century in 1982 (see below), the existing notchback sedan and wagon models were transferred to the Regal line.

1982–1996[edit]

Fifth generation
'83 Buick Century Sedan.JPG
Overview
Also called Buick Luxus/Regal (Japan)
Model years 1982–1996
Assembly Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Framingham, Massachusetts, United States
Tarrytown, New York, United States
Ramos Arizpe, Mexico,
Valencia, Venezuela
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform A-body
Related Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera
Pontiac 6000
Chevrolet Celebrity
Powertrain
Engine 2.2 L LN2 I4
2.5 L Tech IV I4
2.8 L LE2/LB6 V6
3.0 L Buick V6
3.1 L L82 V6
3.3 L LG7 V6
3.8 L LG3 V6
4.3 L LT7 diesel V6
Transmission GM TH-125C 3-speed automatic
GM 440-T4 4-speed automatic
GM 4T60-E 4-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 104.8 in (2,662 mm) (1982–1990)
104.9 in (2,664 mm) (1991–96)
Length 189.1 in (4,803 mm) (sedan & coupe)
190.9 in (4,849 mm) (wagon)
Width 69.4 in (1,763 mm)
Height 53.7 in (1,364 mm) (sedan & coupe)
54.1 in (1,374 mm) (wagon)
1986-1988 Buick Century Estate Wagon

In 1982, another downsized Century arrived, this time on the front wheel drive A platform, in coupe and sedan form. In 1984, a station wagon was added to the lineup to replace the departed Regal wagon. 1984 also saw an Olympic version of the Buick Century, commemorating the 1984 games in Los Angeles, California. In 1986, all versions were "freshened" with a new, more angular front fascia. Wheelbase was 104.9 in (2664 mm), with 189 in (4800mm) overall length. Both four-cylinder gasoline units and diesel V6 engines were offered in this generation, although neither became popular. Performance versions of several Buick models, including the Century coupe, were offered in the mid-1980s under the T-Type name. With Buick's 181 cu in (3.0 L) V6 producing 110 hp (82 kW), the Century T-Type's performance was modest, but the 3.8 SFI engine, producing 140-150 hp (105-112 kW), offered spirited performance in this comparatively lightweight vehicle.

In 1985 and 1986, Hess & Eisenhardt/Car Craft of Lima, Ohio converted 124 finished Buick Century coupes into coachbuilt convertibles. Although these convertibles were sold as new cars through Buick dealerships, these convertible conversions were not factory authorized. In the Japanese market Buick could not use the "Century" name, as that was already in use for the Toyota Century, so it was marketed as the "Buick Luxus" instead. Later it was sold in Japan as the Buick Regal at Yanase Co., Ltd. dealerships for a short time.

1989 refresh[edit]

1989–1990 Buick Century sedan

The Century received a facelift for 1989, gaining a new more-rounded roofline, but continuing on the A-body platform. Black plastic inserts with the Buick trishield emblem replaced the rear quarter windows. The front end received flush headlamps and a rounded grille, and the stand-up hood ornament was now standard. All sedan models were easily distinguished by their distinctive full-width taillights, a somewhat extravagant flourish on a smaller sedan, but one that carried on a Buick tradition of big taillights. An interior refresh came in 1990.

In 1987, the engine distributor was replaced by a coil-pack ignition system that proved to be far more reliable 0n 3800 engines, the 3300 was introduced in 1989 featuring multi=port fuel injection, waste spark distributor less ignition controlled by the ECM after startup.

The 2.5 L I4 was replaced with a new 115 hp 2.2 L for 1993. For 1994, the slow-selling coupe model was dropped (603 sold in 1993, or 0.5 percent of overall Century sales[5]), and all models received a standard driver's side airbag. Also in 1994, the 160 hp 3.3 L Buick V6 was replaced with a 3.1 L V6 with the same power rating, and power on the 2.2 L I4 was up to 120 hp (89 kW) with the introduction of MFI. Midway through the 1994 model year, a round speedometer replaced the wide rectangular one, but the car still carried on with the original 1982-style dash.

1992 Facelift

For 1992 the Century received another slight facelift featuring a bigger radiator grille and different headlamps. Also the interior received new door panels moving the window switches and door lock switches into a more convenient configuration found one more modern cars, where the switch location corresponds with the windows locating in the car body. Interestingly this feature never made on its sibling the Oldsmobile Ciera, which retained the inline switch bank mounted flush with the door panel, the rear switch being the drivers door window. Another interesting note is that the Century windows switches were not back lit, but lit by a small bulb in the door panel trim above the switch bank. Other interior changes included new seat covers, and relocating the front outboard seat belts from the A pillar into the door, functioning as "automatic" seat belts so that the belts could be buckled and the door opened and closed while still buckled. The driver and front passenger could enter and exit the vehicle while the seat belt was still fastened.

Despite its dated design, the Century and its sibling the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera still sold well during the 1990s and proved both reliable and profitable to GM since their tooling costs had been monetized. In general the A-body platform was very sturdy, and quality was improved every year while more standard features were added.

Engines[edit]

Years Engine Power Torque Notes
1982–1988 2.5 L (151 cu in) Tech IV TBI I4 90 hp (67 kW) 134 lb·ft (182 N·m) Also with 92 hp[6]
1989–1992 2.5 L (151 cu in) Tech IV I4 110 hp (82 kW) 135 lb·ft (183 N·m)
1993 2.2 L (134 cu in) LN2 I4 110 hp (82 kW) 130 lb·ft (176 N·m)[7]
1994–1996 120 hp (89 kW) 130 lb·ft (176 N·m)[8]
1982–1985 3.0 L (181 cu in) Buick V6 110 hp (82 kW) 145 lb·ft (197 N·m)
1982–1986 2.8 L (173 cu in) LE2 V6 112 hp (84 kW) 135 lb·ft (183 N·m)
1986–1988 2.8 L (173 cu in) LB6 V6 125 hp (93 kW) 160 lb·ft (217 N·m)
1989–1993 3.3 L (204 cu in) LG7 V6 160 hp (119 kW) 185 lb·ft (251 N·m)
1994–1996 3.1 L (191 cu in) L82 MFI/SFI V6 160 hp (119 kW) 185 lb·ft (251 N·m)
1984–1985 3.8 L (231 cu in) LG3 V6 125 hp (93 kW) 195 lb·ft (264 N·m) MFI[6]
1986–1988 150 hp (112 kW) 200 lb·ft (271 N·m) SFI
1982–1985 4.3 L (262 cu in) LT7 Diesel V6 85 hp (63 kW) 165 lb·ft (224 N·m)

1997–2005[edit]

Sixth generation
97-05 Buick Century .jpg
Overview
Model years 1997–2005
Assembly Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform W-body 2nd Gen
Related
Powertrain
Engine 3.1 L L82 V6
3.1 L LG8 V6
Transmission 4-speed 4T60-E automatic
4-speed 4T65-E automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 109.0 in (2,769 mm)
Length 194.6 in (4,943 mm)
Width 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
Height 56.6 in (1,438 mm)
2000 Buick Century Limited

In 1997, the Century was redesigned for the last time, finally replacing the extremely dated 5th generation models. The four-door sedan was the only body style offered (the station wagon was dropped due to decreasing sales), and was still a front wheel drive V6-powered configuration. Plainer "Custom" and fancier "Limited" trim levels were carried over from the previous generation. The 1997 redesign moved Centurys to the W-body platform, rejoining its former Regal sibling. In this generation, the Century and Regal were nearly the same car, distinguished only by seating configurations, trim, and engine differences. Since the Century was lower-priced than the Regal, it was also the lower-powered and plainer of the two, offering only a 3.1 L V6. In keeping with its traditional image, the 6-passenger Century came equipped with a front bench seat and column shifter, while the more performance-oriented 5-passenger Regal came standard with front bucket seats and console shifter. After the 1998 discontinuation of the Skylark, the Century for the first time became Buick's entry-level car. Buick tried to position the Century as a lower-priced alternative to Japanese family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, however it failed to compete with them and was instead widely viewed as a car designed for a geriatric target audience, an image not helped by the Century's assortment of senior citizen-friendly features like extra-large dashboard buttons and an extremely soft suspension. For 2003, all trim levels were eliminated, leaving one standard model. Additionally, the "Century" nameplate on the front doors was dropped, and only seen on the vehicle's taillights.

Changes were relatively few over the Century's nine-year run. The all-new Buick LaCrosse replaced both the Century and Regal in 2005. A limited run of Centurys with special trim were produced for 2005 to mark the end of the name. GM rolled the last Buick Century off the Oshawa assembly line on October 25, 2004.

Engines[edit]

  • 1997–1999 L82 3.1 L (191 in³) V6 160 hp (120 kW), 185 lb·ft (251 N·m)
  • 2000–2005 LG8 3.1 L (191 in³) V6 175 hp (130 kW), 195 lb·ft (264 N·m)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5. 
  2. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1955_Buick/1955_Buick_Brochure_1/1955%20Buick-26.html
  3. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1955_Buick/1955_Buick_Brochure_1/1955%20Buick-24.html
  4. ^ http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1956_Buick/1956_Buick_Brochure_1/1956%20Buick-29.html
  5. ^ Gunnell, John (2004). Standard Catalog of Buick, 1903-2004 (3rd ed.). Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-87349-760-0. 
  6. ^ a b Lösch, Annamaria, ed. (1984). World Cars 1984. Pelham, NY: L'Editrice dell'Automobile LEA/Herald Books. p. 271. ISBN 0-910714-16-9. 
  7. ^ Gunnell 2004, p. 280.
  8. ^ Gunnell 2004, p. 285.

External links[edit]