Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sisyphus in the Styling Department

I'd never paid much attention to the '80s-'90s Buick Century. It just wasn't the sort of car someone in their teens or twenties pays a ton of attention to.

Built on GM's A-platform, darling of rental car lots everywhere, it's what happened when you took a Chevy Celebrity and added plush velour and plastic woodgrain. (If you added alloy wheels and fog lamps you got a Pontiac 6000.)

Going to school for automotive design and winding up at Buick in the Reagan/Bush Sr. years must have been like getting picked last at kickball and parked way out in the outfield: A sign that others were less confident in your abilities than you were.

So I'm walking through the parking lot at Meijer's yesterday and really looked at the prow of a late fifth generation Century (I had to look them up on Wikipedia to verify the year) and I felt sorry for the guy in Buick's styling department.

The model received a mid-cycle facelift in '89 and from the leading edge of the hood forward was actually a sharp-looking car.

The thin, dangerous-looking bumper and reverse-sloped front end have a sort of Eighties BMW 635CSi thing going on. The grill has a hint of that throwback Buick waterfall and it's framed by narrow, mean-looking flush glass headlights that flow into wrap-around glass for cornering lamps. The whole thing is obviously supposed to generate a bit of brand identity that marks it as being from the company making the Reatta.

That fascia is actually pretty nice. Some dude worked hard on that. And then it's bolted to one of GM's dullest, most plebeian transportation boxes. Because the rest of the A platform is the Brutalist architecture of automotive styling, carrying forward the torch originally lit by Ford's Granada. "There will be no fun to be had behind the wheel of this car," is emphatically stated by its lines.