For many, the Buick nameplate is associated with — well — old age. While it is true the traditional Buick demographic ranks right up there with Lincoln in terms of the advanced average age of its owner base, the fact of the matter is there is an aspect of Buick’s lineage with a decidedly youthful flair.
More than just purveyors of quiet, soft riding cars, there are some true performance standouts in Buick’s past.
Back in the 1960’s muscle car era Buick had the Gran Sport models, versions of which continue to this day. And while performance is universally associated with youthful exuberance, there is more to a youthful image than just out and out speed.
There is also a personal luxury aspect to the youthful demographic. With the launch of the mid-size personal luxury coupe in the 1970’s, younger buyers had a new way to express their upward mobility. The success of Pontiac’s Grand Prix, Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme, and yes, the Buick Regal underscored this point.
The first Buick Regal came to market in 1973, as the ultimate trim level of Buick’s Century model—until it became a freestanding model unto itself in 1975. It featured a more upscale interior than could be found in the base Century with woodgrain trim on the dashboard and door panels, along with door-pull straps and notchback bench seats, which featured center armrests upholstered in either cloth, vinyl or (the ultimate in luxury for the time) velour. That first generation Regal ran from 1973 to 1977.
In 1978, the model was downsized as part of GM’s attempt to hold off the emerging onslaught of smaller, more efficient imported cars. The 1979 Regal was the only turbocharged American car of its period. The Regal’s 3.8-liter forced induction V6 ultimately led to the creation of the legendary 1987 Buick GNX. The ultimate iteration of the performance oriented Regal; the engine in the GNX was quoted as producing 276 horsepower and some 360 ft.-lbs. of torque. Regal GNX ran to 60 in 4.7 seconds and did the quarter in 13.5.
To date, there have been five generations of the Buick Regal. This retrospective picks up with the fourth generation of the model, introduced in 1997.