Buick replaced the Wildcat name as their middle senior car series in 1971 with a new appellation, the Centurion. The company had played the same game in 1963 when it replaced the Invicta line with the Wildcat. Below it remained the LeSabre, and above it remained the Electra 225.
The 1971 B-body General Motors cars were entirely new, featuring a new “fuselage” look popularized by Chrysler starting in 1969. The bodyshell was shared with the LeSabre, riding on a 124-inch wheelbase, and the standard engine was Buick’s own 455 cubic inch V-8 of 330 hp (a huge upgrade from the standard LeSabre’s Buick built 350 cubic inch V-8 of 230 hp). This was the same formula that Buick had previously used decades before for the Buick Century line – small(ish) body, biggest engine. Front disc brakes were standard.
Body styles included hardtop sedan, hardtop coupe and convertible coupe. Prices began at $4,195 for the coupe. The styling itself was typically conservative and recognizable as a Buick. After GM’s huge 1970 strike, 1971 sales had nowhere to go but up. Buick sales were 551,188 units for the year, good for seventh place in the sales race, and comfortably ahead of rivals Mercury and Chrysler.
For 1972, the same line-up was ushered into the spotlight, but the big Buick V-8 now had 225 hp due to the new “net” power ratings used in the US. Front styling was changed, and the Centurion had an exclusive ‘vertical tooth’ grille as well as government mandated front crash bumpers.
The 1973 cars debuted with a revised tail and rear crash-bumpers added, as well as changes to trim and details. The base engine was changed to the Buick-built 350 cubic inch engine, but the line-up remained the same. The Centurion name was retired after this model year, replaced by LeSabre Luxus in 1974.
The Buick engines seemed to have the edge on competitors in running better with the crude emission systems then in place, probably due to Buick’s stellar engineering expertise. Contemporary tune-up books state outright that “Buick’s emission systems have proven pretty reliable; they were the first to come out with the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system to reduce NOx, and seem to have had as little trouble as any manufacturer, and certainly less than Ford and Chrysler.”
Buyers of these cars when new obviously liked the comfort and size of a big Buick, but didn’t wish or could not afford to go “to the max” with the massive Electra 225 cars based on GM’s C-body structure. Yet they obviously could afford more than the lower cost LeSabre line, and proceeded to go to the “just right” category in the middle when buying.
People who enjoyed the 1960s big Buicks might enjoy the relative bargain (and standard disc brake safety) of these behemoths in order to obtain that magic carpet ride. The fact that these cars can easily run on unleaded gasoline doesn’t hurt, either.
Considering the reasonable cost per-pound of vehicle, it’s obviously best to buy the best car you can find if you have an appetite for these big, comfortable, quiet cruisers. You could do much worse, and the other thing of note is that you most certainly will garner a lot of attention at car shows, because the unusual seems to get the eyeball treatment. The other factor might well be that many of these cars were purchased by more mature folks who looked after the cars fastidiously – meaning fewer restoration and repair expenses when buying #2 condition “survivors”.
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