It’s funny to think about how common coupes once were. Today, the car-based crossover is the hot ticket, with SUV style and wagon utility. But it wasn’t so long ago that many families had impractical coupes in their garages.
The fancy coupes of the ’70s and ’80s succeeded the muscle cars of the 1960s, after they were diminished by emissions controls and skyrocketing insurance on the most powerful among them. So as they moved away from performance, US manufacturers put on the ritz.
Buick was front and center in the coupe market. And although the Regal‘s performance variants, the turbocharged T-Type and Grand National, are collectible today, it was the Limited that hit the personal-luxury bulls-eye.
The name Limited was always a Buick misnomer; in 1985, Buick sold almost equal numbers of base and Limited Regals.
Adjusted for inflation, the price today on a base Regal coupe would be about $22,000, and the Limited would start a bit higher at $23,500. For that $1,500 or so, you got an exterior trim package and a split 55/45 front seat.
Most everything else was optional. The locking wire wheel covers would cost about $420 today.
If you hadn’t gotten a Limited, this padded Landau roof with coach lamps would have been a pricey option, $730 in 2015 dollars.
On top of this Regal’s failed vinyl roof is a portion of the door panel, and it demonstrates how skin-deep the Regal’s luxury could be.
There’s a lot going on here – fake wood, a casket-style door pull, velour and lots of shiny bits…
…and it’s all mounted to a cardboard backing.
Up front, the finely tined grille was a complex embellishment.
Inside, the Limited’s pillowed seats were a cut above the plainer versions in the base Regal.
The scant instrumentation kept you on a need-to-know basis with everything except speed and fuel.
Further down the row was another mid-Eighties Buick coupe, a larger LeSabre.
It’s also a Limited. The big LeSabre was downsized for 1986, and in its last year, the LeSabre Limted coupe sold in volume that about a third of what the Regal sold.
The LeSabre’s styling cues were very similar to the Regal’s, and vice versa. The LeSabre Limited started about $2,500 above the Regal in today’s dollars.
“Limited” in the LeSabre’s case was just the opposite – the 1985 Limited coupe sold four times the number of lower-priced Customs.
Inside, the LeSabre doubled down on the imitation wood, with planks of it capping the door panels.
Coupes were on their way out when these two Buicks were made, and it took GM some time to realize that. When the Regal was redesigned for 1988, it was first introduced as a coupe, and the sedan came later. Big mistake: buyers were in love with four-door Camrys and Accords, and not having to give up rear-seat accessibility in a car that flattered your aspirations helped the coupe fall into irrelevance.
And so these ornate Buicks ended up honoring the period that had just passed.