It was thirty-four years ago
tonight -- December 16, 1970 -- that my Dad was contemplating his next
automotive purchase. The time had come to replace the family's much-loved 1965
Wildcat 2-door hardtop, and my folks were busily planning a family vacation to
San Diego over the Christmas holiday. The goal was to make the trek in a brand
new full-size 1971 Buick.
The process of selecting a new Buick had really begun during the summer of 1970. We had looked at some of the beautiful 1970 Wildcats, but we realized that an all-new full-size Buick would arrive in the fall. "The Oregonian" newspaper had carried an article about a new Buick series to replace the Wildcat. Buick Motor Division had purchased the rights to the name "Centurion" from Challenger Corporation of Memphis, Tennessee, a manufacturer of Suburban-based ambulances. Buick had determined that it would reclaim the name of its famous 1956 Motorama dream car, the "Centurion".
The Centurion would continue the "Century
concept" of mating Buick Division's largest engine with its lightest
standard size body, preserving the tradition of the Century, Invicta, and
Wildcat series cars that preceded it. We were primed and poised to purchase a
new Centurion, and eagerly awaited the annual September new model introduction.
September arrived with great disappointment. The United Auto Workers struck General Motors shortly after production of the new models began, and our local dealership had received exactly one new 1971 Buick, a Skylark 4-door sedan. There was no immediate end in sight for the strike, so we headed to the larger cities of Oregon's Willamette Valley to check the inventory at the Buick dealerships. Huling Buick of Eugene, Oregon had a beautiful Rosewood Electra 225 Custom 4-door hardtop on the showroom floor, and my Dad made a full-price cash offer, but the dealers were simply unwilling to sell the new models. The dealers had concluded that it was wiser to show prospective customers the few new cars in inventory, collecting orders for the time that production would resume. We returned home with the old Wildcat.
It was only after production resumed in early December and the new Buicks began trickling into the Pacific Northwest dealerships that we had hopes of buying a new Buick. Dad was sitting in a motel room in Portland, Oregon thirty-four years ago this evening, and he telephoned to say that he had leads on two possible Centurions. Wallace Buick on Sandy Boulevard had a Rosewood/Sandalwood vinyl roof Centurion 4-door hardtop, and Dad was very impressed with the appearance of this car. But he had telephoned Royal Moore Buick of suburban Hillsboro, and, after assuring Mr. Moore that he was not another dealer seeking cars, had learned that the dealership had just received one of the new Centurion Formal Coupes. Dad had an appointment with Mr. Moore the following day, December 17. I spent the evening back at home poring over the photos of the new Centurions in the Buick brochure.
Dad arrived at the dealership, and was led to the new Centurion in the service area, where it was being prepped for display. Mr. Moore explained that he had attended a dealers conference months before in Las Vegas, where the new Centurion models were unveiled. He had thought that the color combination of the Las Vegas car was so striking that he had ordered an identical car for his dealership's first Centurion. The car was finished in Sandpiper Beige with a dark brown vinyl roof, black Centurion paint stripe, and saddle vinyl interior.
Dad knew immediately that the Formal Coupe was the car for us, and the Wildcat was traded in. The Centurion was fitted with Buick's chrome road wheels, and Dad figured that Mom would think these wheels were an unnecessary extravagance. He instructed the dealership to exchange the tires and wheels with those of a new LeSabre sitting nearby. As luck would have it, he then noticed that the Centurion had the extra cost oversize tires, and this appealed to his practical nature, so the chrome road wheels and larger size dual stripe whitewall tires remained. The teenage boy sitting back home with the Buick brochure would be eternally grateful.
And, so, a long-term relationship began that continues to this day. When Dad arrived home with the new Centurion, even the owner of the Buick dealership was eager to see it. No one in town had yet seen a full-size '71 Buick of any description. The Centurion was an incredibly trouble-free car and a supremely comfortable long distance cruiser. Mom and Dad racked up many miles, and received numerous offers from others in our hometown who were eager to buy it. Many expressed that the Centurion was the "prettiest car in town".
They opted to keep the car after buying a new '77 Electra 225 Limited Landau coupe. By '79, however, the Centurion had passed into my possession. In 1982, I began to collect NOS parts in preparation for a cosmetic restoration. Bob Alberini, BCA #3038, was another early Centurion enthusiast, and he was extremely helpful in my quest to obtain parts and information. In late 1984, the car was taken to a Bellingham restoration shop for fresh lacquer paint and replacement of some of the stainless trim. It was not possible to locate the correct dark brown vinyl for the roof, so the upholsterers dyed a new roof covering to match the original. I had carefully documented the original Centurion paint stripe, and an artist was employed to repaint them.
Sandpiper Beige proved to be the second most popular color for the '71 Formal Coupes, with 1,671 deliveries of 11,892 cars produced.
A unique feature of the full-size 1971 Buicks was the vent louvres on the rear deck lid. The louvres functioned to exhaust air as part of the new power ventilation system. The large number of louvres on my car reflects its very early production; the body is no. 125 from the Southgate assembly plant. A short time after the beginning of the model year, the number of louvres was reduced from 54 to 24. The louvres apparently admitted more water into the drain-off system that it could handle, and some body styles created a positive pressure over the louvres, causing air to be drawn from the trunk area back into the passenger compartment. For these reasons, the louvres were eliminated altogether on the 1972 models. My car also has a series of openings in the rear of the hood over the concealed windshield wipers, and these were again discontinued midway through the 1971 model year.
It remains a pleasure to cruise in the same great Buick that I cruised in during my senior year of high school more than thirty years ago. In fact, the Centurion has now cruised in excess of 155,000 miles, but the engine and drive train have never required more than normal maintenance. Among my great memories are driving the car to the BCA National Meet in Los Angeles (1985) and the Flint Homecoming (1988). This fall, my wife and I enjoyed the Centurion on a wonderful three-day tour with the North Cascade Chapter, and my eighty-eight year-old Dad joined me and the Centurion at a car show in late September. I sometimes ask him if he figured he would still be riding in the Centurion thirty-four years later, and he admits that the possibility had never occurred to him. But I knew from the moment I saw the Centurion that it would be a long-term relationship.
Cowl Tag Info:
ST 71-4664700125 BDY
TR 466 61 F PNT
ST-71 = Style 1971; in other words, a 1971
4 = Buick Motor Division
66 = Centurion
47 = Formal Coupe
C = Southgate, CA GMAD (General Motors Assembly Division)
00125 = Body Number
TR 466 = Trim code - Saddle Elk-Grain Expanded Vinyl and Madrid-Grain Vinyl Notchback Seat Interior
61 = Lower body color (Sandpiper Beige)
F = Upper body color (Dark Brown Vinyl Roof)
12A = Built 1st week of December, 1970
4 = Buick Motor Division
66 = Centurion
47 = Formal Coupe
1 = Model year (1971)
C = Southgate, CA assembly plant
100774 = basic sequential production number (774th Buick produced at Southgate, 1971 model year)
|UPC||Code||(as listed on Order Form)|
|A02||L2||Soft-Ray Tinted Windshield|
|A85||J3||Color Coordinated Custom Front & Rear Seat Belts (3 Each) & Front Shoulder Belts (2)|
|B32||P2||Carpet Savers (Saddle)|
|B93||OA||Door Edge Guards (order in combination with Remote Control Outside Rear View Mirror)|
|C60||I6||Air Conditioner - Manual Controls|
|D33||OA||Remote Control Outside Rear View Mirror (order in combination with Door Edge Guards)|
|D90||W8||Body Side Paint Stripe (Black)|
|F40||H2||Firm Ride and Handling (Heavy Duty Suspension, Springs and Wheels)|
|M40||B2||Turbo Hydramatic 400 Transmission|
|N42||X3||Rim Blower Steering Wheel|
|P05||V2||Chrome Plated Wheels|
|P30||F2||Oversize Whitewall Tires J78-15|
|U15||K3||Speed Alert and Trip Odometer|
|U63||DC||Sonomatic AM Radio (order in combination with rear speaker)|
|U80||DC||Rear Speaker (order in combination with Sonomatic AM Radio)|
|V30||N5||Front and Rear Bumper Guards|
|WB4||D4||AM-FM Stereophonic Radio with Front and Rear Dual Speakers|
|WC2||X4||Custom Rear Body Moldings (Rear Deck Lid & Rear Quarter Extensions)|
|Y54||P2||Carpet Savers and Handy Mats (Handy Mats added to existing P2 option)|
|Accessories Added:||Trunk Mat|
Royal Moore Buick
© Buick Centurion Registry 2005