The cars we loved.
The 70’s had been tough for Buick, who like other auto manufacturers were struggling with the twin evils of tougher emissions standards and higher fuel efficiency requirements. In this demanding and challenging environment, Buick decided to look to turbo charging its 6 cylinder engines to replace the high performance V8s of the past. The public’s reception of turbocharged engines was lukewarm at best, due to early reliability issues. After the appearances of a Turbo V6 Century as the pace car for the 1976 Indy 500, turbocharged V6 engines became the defacto option for anyone wanting a high performance Buick. The turbo V6 later went on to became the dominant performance option well into the 80s.
Turbo charging was not new to Buick, having used it on Regals and even the large LeSable by the mid 70s. When the downsized Century was introduced in 1978, it did not take long for a performance variant to follow in 1979 called the Turbo Coupe. One of the distinctive features of the Turbo Coupe (and all fourth generation Centurys) was the fast back design of the coupe model. Its shape was in some ways the forbearer too the later Chevrolet Citation (billed the first car of the 80’s in Chevy advertising). Being innovative had its price for the Century. The hatchback design was not popular. From certain angles, it appeared ungainly, especially as a regular Century Coupe. The concept had worked in the past with Buick’s fastback hatch design in the smaller Sky hawk, but its rounded edges work well with its overall shape. The harsh angularity of the Coupe was more successful in the wagon and sedan versions as sales revealed.
Turbo Coupes were distinguished on the outside from regular Sport Coupes and other Centurys by a large rear spoiler, blackout window trim, lights and grill. The special treatment extended to technical details like the exhaust, power brakes and a automatic four speed transmission. All of this was topped off by special 14 inch wheels and a decal of a soaring eagle, an item that would find its way on future Buick performance models.
The charm of the Turbo Coupe was its engine. Turbo V6 engines were available in almost any Buick at the time, but when mated to the smaller and lighter Century Coupe, its 3.8 liter did not have to work as hard. With 170 hp, the smooth running engine was said to be docile in everyday traffic and aggressive when called on to move quickly. The Turbo Coupe offered V8 like performance with V6 efficiency, a fact that sold Buick on the power of turbos for future cars. With better performance than the more popular Regal, the Century Turbo Coupe was hampered only by its fastback appearance.
When the fifth generation Century rolled into dealer showrooms in the fall of 1981, the Century had become a smaller front wheel drive sedan or wagon while the coupe was now a Regal. The development of the turbo charged V6 that started in the Century would later go on to new sales hights in the Regal and later would firmly establish itself in performance car history in Pontaics Trans-Am as the 80’s came to a close.