Like most makes of cars that have fallen under the GMC banner, Buick has seen more than its share of successes and utter failures. One make that may exemplify this more than any other is the Buick Regal. While some models have been instant classics and have remained in demand up to this day others have left people scratching their heads and wondering if the Regal had a severe attack of schizophrenia. Say what you will though, this is one Buick that has covered the gambit from dream machines to monologue fodder and from stardom to back alley dust collector with style and grace if not always performance.
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It must have taken Buick more than a minute to decide what they wanted to do with the Regal Because on the designer's boards; it was still being called a Skylark while under development. Then they decide to drop the Skylark and bring back the Century name that hadn’t been seen since the 1950s. With all the infighting over what to call the car, they never got around to releasing the four-door version of the Regal in its first year, so all true 1973s are two-door coupes.
It seems that GM has never been happy to design a new car from the ground up so when they decided to reintroduce the Regal, they went shopping around their design shop for spare parts. The first Regals had the same nose and tail as its lower-priced Century parent with slightly updated grill work and taillights, Greenhouse window design of the Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, and Cutlass Supreme, and the then in style opera windows that everyone stole from the old T-Bird line.
While there was little change in body styles throughout the first generation of Buick Regals, General Motors had a good time playing a game of musical engines just to keep the parts departments busy in their dealerships. In 1973 and 74 all Regals came with a 350 cu in V-8, and this engine remained optional for coupes and standard for sedans ’75-’77. In 1973-1974 only there were an optional 455 V-8 offered and from ’75 on GM used the 231 cu in V-6 that it had dropped from the Skylark line in 1967.
In 1978 Buick decided that the Regal needed to go on a diet, so they reduced it down to a midsized car and created the second generation of cars to bear this name. Strangely, they initially equipped the luxury car with a three-speed manual on the column but soon decided that they might want to offer an automatic as standard equipment. They also chose to infringe on the sport part of the designation of the car by further reducing the size of the standard engine to a 196 cu in and offering the 231 cu in V-6 as an alternative.
With the new body design, other major changes took place to the Regal nameplate and the marketing philosophy behind the car. One of the biggest of these was the complete elimination of all four sedans and five-door station wagon models from the Regal line for the first five years of this new generation. All of these were placed under the Century tag until that car became a front-wheel drive line, and GM placed the old rear-wheel drive models back under the Regal name just to confuse people.
The first but not the last of the Buick Regal Grand National (GN) models appeared in 1982. The car had won the Manufacturers Championship in both 1981 and 1982 and saw a great opportunity to up their marketing plan by creating a special edition to commemorate the achievement. Unlike later Grand National editions these original models were not black, they were charcoal grey with silver gray fire-mist paint added to each side, red pinstriping and billboard shadow letters proclaiming "Buick" down the along with a front air dam and spoiler added on the trunk.
Buick did not build a GN model in 1983, choosing instead to produce what had formally been called the sports coupe model and renaming it a T-Type. These disappointing cars featured tube headers, Hydro-Boost II brakes, 200-4R 4-speed overdrive transmission, a 3.42 rear axle, a 190 hp naturally aspirated V-6 engine, and stunning graphics. Unfortunately, these cars were more show than go, and they were dropped from the line after only one year of production.
In 1984 the T-Type was once again dropped from the Regal line, and the Grand National returned but this time with a firm focus on what the public expected the car to be. It came in one color a menacing dark black with little embellishment and sported such upgrades as distributor-less computer controlled ignition, sequential fuel injection, turbo and boasted 200 hp at 4400 rpm and 300 lb-ft of torque at 2400 rpm. Hitting the market at the height of the Star Wars craze it was immediately dubbed Darth Vader's Car.
For the last year of the Regal Grand National’s production, Buick decided to pull out all the stops and produce an extraordinary car: the GNX, (Grand National Experimental). The company teamed up with legendary builders McLaren and sent them 547 Grand Nationals to be completely reworked. These select few had custom interiors installed, were given bigger turbochargers, bigger intercoolers, high torque rear ends and were capable of crushing Porsche 930s and Ferrari F40s in the quarter mile.
With the release of the 1988 Buick Regals, we enter a dark time for the car in comparison to the beauties that had immediately preceded it. GM, in its infinite wisdom, decided once again that the Regal should be a family friendly midsized car. It was front-wheel drive, came standard with a 2.8 L V6 with upgrades unavailable and though in 1988 it was once again only available as a coupe. It didn’t take long for four-door sedan models to once again enter the picture and muscle car lovers to hang their heads.
As the new millennium approached, GM had another one of brainstorms which the company has so often been famous for. They took the Regal and once again recreated it to be just like the Century and Oldsmobile Intrigue, and the Pontiac Grand Prix, and the Chevrolet Lumina and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo; you get the idea. Placing it on the revised W platform, they relegated it to being another of the nameless, faceless and soulless cars that dominated the entire GM family in this period.
"The official car of the supercharged family" was the official tagline for this car but might better have been we have no idea what we are building anymore. The fastest Buicks built since the Roadmasters of the early 90s these cars were supercharged instead of turbocharged but for all the power they produced they still rode and drove like the family sedans that they were. It should be said that at least there was some effort on Buicks part to not completely denigrate the memory of NASCAR and Street Stock racers who built the models name.
Firmly instilled as a family sedan with most of its performance heritage simply a vague memory Buick once again brought back the Regal nameplate after a four-year absence from the market. Built on GM's Epsilon II platform, the new Regals are a near identical twin to the Opel Insignia. They come with all the niceties that you would expect from an upscale baby howler like split climate control, a top-shelf sound system, and provided the performance to match.
Not a full generation jump but definitely an improved version of the Buick Regal was introduced in the United States in 2014. The new car sported a sleeker exterior, revised roomier and sportier interior but most importantly an improved turbo package that now gave the Regal 258 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. For those who opt for the six-speed automatic transmission, there was also an all-wheel-drive option added though stick drivers were still stuck with front-wheel drive.
For the 2018 model year, Buick decided to reinvent the wheel once again. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing since the car is once again more stylish and fleet afoot than it has been in years. The new Grand Sport Edition has 51 more horsepower than its predecessor with a new smoother shifting close range transmission, a full-time AWD system along with its heated and cooled massage seats ad state of the art infotainment system.