1979 Buick Road Hawk
1979 Buick Road Hawk
Buick got a bit carried away with the idea that graphics were the key that would remake their image. For example, consider the Road Hawk. It had a “Free Spirit” hawk on each wheel center, one on each side of the car, one on the hood and another on the deck, one on each B-pillar molding, one in the center of the steering wheel, one embroidered on each seat, one in the center of the grill, and finally one on the emblem in the center of the rear end panel between the taillights. That’s 17 too many. Not only that, but there was a quarter panel overlay that extended and wrapped over the hatch to form a deck wing, and a special front spoiler. All topped with two-tone graphics. You have to understand that the studio really couldn’t take the car seriously. The Skyhawk was really a Chevy Monza with Buick badging, and our task was to make it look like a Buick. A sporty appearance was all that could be hoped for. At the time the typical Buick buyer was an aging market and Buick was hopeful that cars like the Skyhawk would help lure younger buyers into showrooms. I think Don Johnson was burdened with the task of jazzing up the Skyhawk. By the way, the H-body had a really big transmission tunnel that took up a lot of room in the interior. The reason? The H-body platform was designed around GM’s rotary Wankel engine that was eventually scrapped, but not until it was too late to change the structure of the H-body.
1986 Buick Riveria
That reminds me of another story. We were working on the new downsized E-body, the Riviera. That is a very important car to GM—a money-maker. At the same time, Oldsmobile was developing the Toronado, and Cadillac the Eldorado, all sharing the same platform. It was getting late in the program, and the doors were already released. It dawned on GM management that the new E-bodies were not very dimensionally different from the new N-bodies that were also being completely redesigned. They even looked similar. Problem is, they cost way less. So it was decided to make them wider to make them different looking from the cheaper car line, and to accommodate Cadillac who decided that they wanted to be able to have a V-8. Buick and Olds both would use Buick’s 3800 V-6. We literally added 160–200mm right down the center of the car. (My memory is a bit fuzzy on this; we may have widened it twice. Once to make it look different, and the second time so Cadillac could stuff a V-8 into the thing for a total of about 160–200 mm.) The problem with adding that much width right down the center is that the doors were already designed and released, so they couldn’t be changed. It’s OK to make a car wider, but the tumblehome (front view inward slope of the side glass) needs to be increased so the roof doesn’t look too wide. Well, they couldn’t change the tumblehome, so the cars went into production with a really wide roof. Too wide.