A near twin to the Vega-based Chevrolet Monza, this 97-inch-wheelbase subcompact “hatch-coupe” took a bit more than eight percent of total division sales in its first six months. This reflected the product policies of Lloyd Reuss, a former division chief engineer who became Buick general manager in 1980. A genuine “car guy,” Reuss wanted some Buicks to be American-style BMWs, and he got his way. Announcing a second wave of GM downsizing, these smaller big Buicks shared a 110.8-inch wheelbase and measured some two feet shorter and 400 pounds lighter than the 1977-84 models. GM remedied its mistake for 1991, and Buick added Regal sedans with the same trim levels and wheelbase as its W-body coupes. An added option for ’88 was Oldsmobile’s new “Quad 4,” a dual-overhead-cam 2.3-liter four with four valves per cylinder, an aluminum head, and a cast-iron block. The usual Custom and Limited versions were on hand, and a Gran Sport appearance/handling package offered front “bib” spoiler, rocker-panel skirts, black grille, aluminum road wheels, and other “Euro” touches.
Fore and aft spoilers, special paint and tape stripes, identifying decals, mag-style wheels, and larger tires were included, but there was little action to back up the brag. A prime example is the 1970 GSX, a bespoilered GS 455 hardtop with new “Stage I” engine tuning; it saw only 678 copies; the GS 455 convertible was little higher at 1416. Both were back for ’71 (GSX as an option package) with bold black body stripes and hood paint, special grille, chrome wheels, and fat tires. Signaling the imminent demise of midsize Buick convertibles (ragtop sales were down to a trickle industrywide), Skylark hardtop coupes offered a fold-back cloth sunroof as a new ’72 option. Through 1987, Somerset/Skylark engines comprised the familiar 2.5 four (updated to “Generation II” specs that season) and extra-cost Buick 3.0 V-6. This made smaller engines feasible, yet interiors were within inches of the old behemoths’ size.
The first fruits of this program were dramatically evident at Buick, where LeSabre and Electra shrank to almost Century size. A compact also returned to Buick, its first in 10 years. Rated at 110 bhp, and also standard power for the ’75 Skylark, Century, and Regal, this would be a significant engine in years to come. An open-air Reatta bowed for 1990 as Buick’s first “in-house” ragtop in 15 years. Though basically a Riviera cut down to a 98.5-inch wheelbase, Reatta was only 4.5 inches shorter overall and almost as heavy (at 3350 pounds). Buick took pains to note that Reatta was not a sports car but a “mature” two-seater emphasizing luxury, comfort, even practicality. The last of the 1968-vintage Skylarks appeared for 1971-72. They remained solid, good-looking middleweights, though their engines were being emasculated by power-sapping emission-control devices, which meant Gran Sports weren’t so hot anymore. Design highlights included rack-and-pinion steering, all-coil suspension, Olymp trade; click this site, and transversely mounted engines — either 2.5-liter Pontiac-built inline-four or an optional 2.8-liter 60-degree V-6 from Chevrolet. Among the more-notable improvements was the 1989 exchange of 3.0 V-6 for the torquier 160-bhp “3300” unit. Buick was thus wise to retain the V-6 (unlike Pontiac, which dropped it for the ’88 Grand Am).
An important new Buick arrived in the spring of ’79 as an early-1980 entry. The inevitable T Types arrived for ’83 — notchback two-doors first, then fasthatch coupes too. Having learned with the J-cars that too many corporate clones spoil the sales broth, GM returned to more individual styling for a trio of 1988 midsize coupes. All employed a new-generation A-body with so-called “Colonnade” styling that did away with pillarless coupes and sedans. Styling changed little through the final ’89 models save an optional hidden-headlamp nose from 1986. Coupes, turbos, and T Types were all dropped after ’87 due to dwindling sales and the division’s return to its more-traditional “Premium American Motorcars” thrust. Despite all this, Regal sales continued to disappoint. Though most buyers opted for standard powerplants, the blown Riv was a fine performer — able to leap from 0-60 mph in under 12 seconds while averaging close to 20 mpg in more-restrained driving, this despite a still-bulky 3800-pound curb weight.