Friday, December 9, 2011

Fun Friday: Buick Compacts and Little Limousines

Buick has long been known for large. powerful, comfortable cars- for powerful Roadmasters and sporty Rivieras and roomy Le Sabres and sumptous Park Avenues- but that's only a part of the story. Buick has also produced some of the finest compacts in the industry and we thought we'd take a look at some today, starting all the way back in 1908.

It was in that year that Buick introduced the car that put it on the map- the Model 10 runabout. A well built car, Model 10 was priced at $900, featured a 165 cubic inch 4 cylinder engine, and sold like hotcakes- 4,000 were produced in 1908, doubling to 8,100 for 1909 and 10,998 for 1910. Buick was now a serious car company, and they had the success of the cute little Model 10 to thank for it all. When new management discontinued the Model 10 in 1911, sales fell dramatically.

Buick did well through the roaring twenties but again found itself with declining sales as the depression wore on in the early thirties. They experimented with a lower priced companion known as Marquette in 1930, but the marque failed to launch. The year 1933 was particularly bad, with only 40,930 cars produced in total- Buick's lowest since 1914.

Newly appointed General Manager Harlow Curtice knew that a small car had to have the Buick name to be successful. He created a new small "Series 40" Buick with a smaller straight-eight engine and a price tag starting at $795 for a business coupe. The car was an immediate hit and sales doubled. The following year, the car was renamed the Special and an icon was born. The car really took off with the beautifully restyled 1936 models- Of the 168,596 Buicks produced for the 1936 model year, over 2/3- 120,714 to be exact- were Specials. The car had literally saved the company and the Special would be an important part of the Buick line up for the next twenty two years.

Buick rode high in the postwar era until a deep recession affected all of the upmarket brands in the late 1950's. Volume plummeted in 58, and all new car in 1959 didn't recover, and even 1960 languished, with model year production of only 253,999 units- about a third of what they had built in the record year of 1955. Clearly, help was needed.

It arrived once again as the Special- a totally new compact car in three styles- sedan, coupe and wagon, and with an all new engines- an aluminum 215 V8 that was praised as nothing short of brilliant. Special was an immediate hit, selling 87,400 units in its first year. A new V6 engine would be introduced for 1962, and sales would again nearly double to 154,500. Again the Special had rescued the company.

As cute as the Special was, some buyers wanted a more luxurious version and so the Skylark made its debut at mid-year. Featuring a luxurious interior and the name from the exclusive dream car of the fifties, it was offered as a coupe or a convertible and was not only a hit, but became an instant classic and the Skylark name became an icon for Buick luxury on a smaller scale. Bucket seats and the 215 aluminum V8 were standard.

Changing times mean changing Buicks. Skylark was totally restyled for the 1980 model year on a compact FWD platform. Featuring Custom and Limited trim levels and a choice of 2.5 litre four cylinder or 2.8 litre V6, Skylark's timing could not have been better and Buick's "Little Linousine" was a solid success and a well liked car. Sales were astronomical- topping 240,000 in the 1980 model year.

And now the premium Buick Verano compact is arriving. The compact new sedan is powered by a 180 HP 2.4 litre 4 cylinder engine mated to a six speed automatic transmission. Verano also features Stabilitrak, On Star, Bluetooth and Remote Start as standard equipment.

Projector beam halogen headlamps are standard. Verano comes in three trim levels- Verano, Convenience Group, and Leather group. Available options include Bose audio, fully integrated Navigation, sunroof, and leather interior. Pricing starts at $22,585.

Verano is the most highly contented and luxurious compact Buick of all time. USA TODAY pronounced it "nearly perfect." It will be arriving at our showroom later this month. Stop in and see the latest in a long line of "Little Limousines" from Buick.

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