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Buick form & function (what do you think?)


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I'm thinking about 3D-doodling some concept cars - Buick, of course...<P>Anyway, I was wondering what you people consider to be the hallmarks of Buick form and function. I haven't really been around them long enough to get a really *good* impression (I have a general idea, though) - so I'm asking you, the more experienced forum-goers.<P>What, in your opinion, makes a Buick a Buick?<P>Just so you know, I'm doing this because I don't like Buick's latest public concepts. Not that they're not nice cars, they're just not very Buick-y.<p>[ 03-08-2002: Message edited by: LaserBeams ]

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At least since 63 Buicks flagship was the Riviera a fullsize personal luxury grand touring car. Then there was the Electras and Skylarks and they all just had a look as well as a appearance of quality not overdone like a Cadillac not common like a Chevy. Right up through 1976 then came the squared off flat sided look of the age.Styling castration, much like the bubble age were in now. I - of course - think the LeSabre coupe , Rivieras and Reattas of the late eightys was back in form. Of course the last Riv. was one of the first of the bubble styling when it was still styling and probably a trend setter but that look has gone backwards not forward - in my opinion.<P>By the way. I saw my first new T-bird on the street today and besides its sticking out in your face eye cacther, it just doesnt have - not a line out of place charactor. No designer is going to get personal charactor with that completely round mono color nose look. Its in the way you bend and fold that steel. Any one can simply bow it,in fact thats what their all doing just a simple bow,how invigorating.Take a balloon ,add some lights,windows, and a drivetrain and youve got the next car! or is it the last car? Then youve got the star wars or moon rover look of the new Cadillac and other GM stuff. <P>Damn, I've turned into a narrow minded , prehistoric , old fuddy duddy!

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Ventiports, toothy grilles and sweepspears. Except for the portholes, even the 90s Skylarks had those styling cues, however modified they may be. While we're at it, how 'bout some 50s style hood shields-<BR>not the Tri-shield, more like the ones used from about 1950-53, or even on the 59 hubcaps. Those were works of art.<P>I don't know whether to categorise current GM styling as jelly-bean, melted-by-blowtorch, or just plain bizarre. The Aztek and Avalanche are proof positive of bizarre. At least Buick still has SOME identity.

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Since I saw your question I asked a couple of<BR>friends and also included their wives what<BR>constitues a "Buick" from other cars. Their<BR>answer was "Style" Big massive chrome road<BR>eating monsters that rode like a dream with<BR>excellent visability and handling charactoristics" What say? Can you make a<BR>"mid fifties" modern stylish car that is<BR>lightweight, easy on gas, that handles and<BR>rides like a dream? Hope so. Loren 56 Buick<BR>Century owner.

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Guest Skyking

This is a good subject.......My dad always owned Buicks, starting with a 1938, then a 1950, to a 55 Century, then on to a 66 Wildcat. Alot of people always thought he had money. Hell, he was just a machinist, paying a morgage and raising 5 kids. We didn't have alot of money, but when you drove a new Buick people thought differently. Back then Doctors and buisness owners drove Cadillacs. Buicks were always the next step down. They were big, had alot of chrome and the styling was outstanding from the rest. Just the phrase ( When better cars are built, Buick will build them ) told it all. I guess I followed in my dads footsteps for owning Buicks. I don't know if the newer ones have an affect on me as the older ones do. My last new car was an 1989 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. At that time we wanted a new convertible and the Chrysler has served us well. My next new car will probably be a LeSabre because I still think they are the nicest car on the road. I don't like the round look, but that's the trend that's here for now...........

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<B>Form:</B> Balance of design with tasteful opulence. The ventiports, waterfall grilles, graceful lines (i.e. the sweepspear), etc. were all a part of that. When Buick has deviated from these concepts (1958, 1981 Skykark) it has paid a heavy price.<P><B>Function:</B> Solid build of unquestioned reliability. This does not neccessarily mean heavy cars that last a long time, but more along the lines of a well-assembled and executed product. BMW, Mecerdes, Toyota and Honda today enjoy similar product image. This portion of Buick's image was the most easily lost, and the hardest to regain. It continues to make strides in that direction, and I believe that someday it will be America's BMW if GM's management allows it to.

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Thanks for all the input so far!<P>I just have a few questions:<P>What is a ventiport?<BR>What is a waterfall grille (is it the same as a "toothy grille")?<BR>What is a sweepspear?<P>I probably know what they are, I'm just not familiar with the terminology.<P>Any more information would be great.<BR>The more I hear, the more I want to know!<P> grin.gif" border="0

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Nope, I like the grille ventiports and sweepspear, now that I know what they're called. What I didn't like about the new concepts is the overall shape. Bubble cars = bleh.

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You can put ventiports, waterfall grills, and side spears on a Chevy and call it a Buick, damn, I guess that's been done.<P>To Me, a Buick needs curves, big ones. Cadillac is now going with sharp angles. That's ok. But Buick needs to go the other direction. The last generation Riviera was a good start...but had no V8 or rear wheel drive...also a MUST for a BUICK. A V6 can be standard....but a V8 MUST be optional.

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Lotsa curves, check. But no "bubbles".<P>RWD? FWD? 4WD? rolleyes.gif" border="0<P>Mine's a FWD, but what "should" they be?<P>Just FYI, the highest acceleration and power can be had in a FWD by putting the center of mass as far forward as possible. The highest acceleration and power can be had in a RWD by moving the center of mass as far back as possible. Never outside of the wheelbase, of course. grin.gif" border="0<P>Personally, I like FWD (for the winters). RWD certainly means more power, but power doesn't help when you're in a ditch with the drive wheels off the ground.<P>Or should I just go crazy and make a RWD, rear engine überBuick? rolleyes.gif" border="0<P>AHHH TOO MANY OPTIONS. I'll just have to stick with one. And in the end, it's my choice, right? Right. LOL!

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The grille, ventiports, and sweepspear have all been used on recent concept cars, so these design details may be the very things you haven't liked!<P>The grille is more toothy than waterfall - see a 1950 where the grille bars are outboard the bumper for the idea. Similar to DeSoto of the same era. The ventiports were simulated holes in the side of the hood, first used in 1949. The sweepspear was a fender line and later stainless applied line which started at the front fender crest, dropped going back until it kicked back up in front of the rear wheel.<P>The current large Buicks are certainly not in this theme, having cribbed their basic styling from Jaguar.<P>Functionally, Buicks were generally known as road cars, large and heavy, powerful engines but soft suspensions and indifferent handling, and for many years characterized by using coil springs all around and overhead valve engines when neither was the most common approach.

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FWD's are cheaper to build and get better gas mileage, not something I would expect from a Buick.<P>Form over Function - The interior on my 71 Riviera isn't really that big. I sat in the back seat of a two door civic the other day and I had more room in front of my knees than in the back seat of my Buick. But I don't care because I like the proportion of the long nose and short trunk (or deck) in my car. It just looks right.<P>I think the unique thing about Buicks is that they have useable back seats. Thats why I love mine. I still think that if Buick were to build the BlackHawk they would have a hit. It wouldn't need the 455 to sell, its the styling that has really sold Buicks through the years.<p>[ 03-10-2002: Message edited by: Tomsriv ]

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My love affair goes back to August 64 when my brother and I were college age and Mom was going to get a NEW car and no we weren't rich either. We generally had F**ds although a Corvair and Tempest passed thru previously. For some reason we lobbied for a Buick, not a Chev or Olds. Why--no reason other than we just liked it. Was ordered in the summer, arrived in Sept and guess what..the new one (65 Lesabre 2 Dr. with everything except power seats) looked different. The styling changed, but it was even BETTER than the 64 and it was FAST. The car went away when I was away at school and Mom re-married (didn't last)..I was heartbroken (about the car)..in 1970 I had a 66 Riviera..but wasn't attached to it. For the last 10 years I've eyeballed Lesabres waiting for the right time to be able to have one. Two years ago spotted a 65 Wildcat Convert that needed TLC and wifey insisted I get it for my birthday..really. The styling, the dash, the guts of the 401---it all sets my heart a-flutter. But of course when I'm behind the wheel I'm also back in college.

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For me Buick Beauty started with the right proportions. Long nose, short tail with a distinct waist and a relatively thin roofline. Buick's best designs also had very flowing lines that extended from nose to tail. Take a look at the 68 Skylark they added small fender skirts because that's where the line needed to go in order to make it to the back of the car.<P>My Centurion has a distinct character line that runs from the grill across the hood down the side of the car and curls just before the rear bumper. One smooth sweeping line nearly 19 feet long. The tops of the wheel moldings are tilted to echo this line. Clean and simple.<P>Once the basics of proportion and lines are right then you add the decorations of ventiports, chrome grill etc.

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Anyone see that the new Caddy platform is rear wheel drive... My father, a body man for 40 years, told me when GM and ford were switching to FWD back in 87 that after the RWD cars are no longer on the road they would be brought back as luxury cars and we will pay a premium to get what was once the standard.

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I think Centurian73 has got it right. The flowing line or styling que that links the whole length of the car has been more a hallmark of good looking Buicks in past. More so than portholes & toothy grills, which were were good in thier time, but passe' now. The side-weep crease in the side of the 76 big Buicks and 68 mid size Buicks were stylish in thier time (even Mercury directly copied this crease on the '69 Cougar) Waterfall grills are not exclusively a Buick feature, mid '70's Olds Cutlass come to mind, But probably the nicest examples of that have been on Buicks. <BR>Not mentioned previously, but a common Buick clue has also been long (full width), narrow tail lights, rather than blobs near the rear corners of the car. <BR>Buicks used to fill the styling niche that today is occupied more successfully by Acura & Lexus, nicer (more expensive) looking. high quality cars priced below their competition (BMW & Mercedes). It's a well kept secret that Buicks have equal quality to those cars, but they've given up on the styling and performance aspects that would attract today's buyers. <BR>We've had Buicks continously in the family since '29 and I think the current GM marketing philosophy is killing the brand (and I'm an "under 50 buyer/owner")

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Guest Teamsterdug

Just go to google and enter 1953 Buick Skylark! Images! All of your questions shall be answered once you gaze upon what comes up on your screen. Metal art to the extreme.

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I'm glad that the tailights got mentioned. If you are unfamiliar with the taillights on the 66-67 and 68-69 Riviera you should check them out. In combination with the trunk and rear bumper and gas door they are of the finest artwork,not a line out of place.<P>Also the grills in combination with the hood and front bumper are works of art as well.Not really handsome with the lights down but this has always been the curse of hidden headlamps.

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FWD was used for packaging - more compact drivetrain. Engine placement should have to do with handling (center of mass) not acceleration. The example of rear engine and drive , as used for a long timeon Porsche, actually has severe handling problems - they engineer around them.<P>As a current supplier to the automotive industry,I must disagree with an earlier comment. Sadly, Buick's quality is not up to Honda/Acura or Toyota/Lexus because the GM purchasing folks won't pay for better components. I see the specs and the purchase decisions.

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I think the design challenge here is to take the many good comments on design proportions and scale them to a modern car well. The problem with the latest Buick concepts to me is that they just look too flabby.

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Guest Skyking

I may be wrong on this, but I think good design went out the window when they started using computers to do the designing. Let's all face it, everyone is loosing all common sense,even the designers. You look at some of these new cars and the proportions are so far out of wack, they simply don't look right. I was parked next to an Aztek the other day, and as I studied this, it looked like it came out of a car crusher, had wheels installed, some lights and a set of license plates. How anyone could buy a thing this ugly and pay a note on it to boot is beyond me..And that's just one of these new cars....

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The second I read the thread subject I had a picture in my head. What was it I pictured? the FORGED clutch bell crank of a '65 Gran Sport! Not a piece of 1/8" wall pipe with some flat stock poorly welded to it, but a six or seven pound piece of forged iron! The whole car was over built, even the sedans had a boxed convertible frame! No SS, GTO, or 442 sedan or hardtop used a convertible frame (or that forged bellcrank), but the Buick boys thought it was needed. <P>How about a '64 Riv, what did it weigh, about 4800 lbs! So know I blur the question, how could something with so MUCH form, have so MUCH function? There has been only a few American cars that could even come close the form of the first Rivs, yet it to was WAY over built. Hmmmmmmmmm <P>I think Buick rivaled every other manufacture in both form and function.

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A Buick is a car that looks like it belongs when parked at a country club - near the first tee. At least they sure used to be that way - Skylark (50s & 60s), Wildcat, Electra 225, Roadmaster, Riviera, Reatta, etc. <P>A Buick has that upper middle class, waspy, doctor/banker/engineer aura that means it costs more and delivers more than just a Pontiac or Chevy. A Mercury tries to be a Buick for Ford people, but it falls short in that intangible class measure.<P>A Buick should have a red or black or maybe white interior that contrasts with the exterior color. Or even a green interior on a yellow 50's car. Not a gray or tan cloth interior.<P>A Buick is a car that is available to prosperous customers in more sporty, pretty body styles - convertibles, woody (real or di-noc) wagons, hardtops, even two door sedans. Not just four door sedans and mini-vans. <P>A Buick is a special, better, different car for customers willing to pay for it. Does it feel like that is what they are selling down at your Buick dealership now?

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i agree with ranchero and tomsriv,<BR>these neutral colors (white, tan, beige, etc.) in mind don't seem very buick-esque. not that the colors have to be outrageous and loud (like that nasty salmon color that was popular around 1998) but i loved the two tone going on during the 50s and i would also like to add that ventiports are a must. i think this is one of the most distinct design elements of buick. yeah the only purpose was esthetic, but we all know that buicks were and still can be beautifully designed machines both mechanically (V-8, dynaflow) and esthetically (ventiports, two-tone)<BR>just my .02 as a 25 year old artist and finally a proud new owner of a 53 super (in bad shape, but she is beautiful and she is mine...)

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Well put Ranchero. I would say that the colors have more to do with what is in at the time. I don't think green interiors will come back into style for quite a while. I'm glad my car had a sandlewood interior. <BR>But...I am getting tired of silver, gray, tan and white being the most common exterior colors on new cars. <P>Tomsriv<BR>71 Riv

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