1979 Buick Road Hawk

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

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.

  1. Brian Jackson

    Gary, actually the 1975 GM H body was the only year to have the larger transmission tunnel for the Wankel engine. At least for the Buick H body only the Buick V6 engine was used (except for one 1977 made with the Buick 350 V8). A friend of mine has a great site on the RoadHawk if you are interested http://monza.homestead.com/roadhawk.html

    It would be great for us to find more information on these cars if possible. Sorry to read that the studio really couldn’t take the car seriously. Those years were tuff for a lot of car manufacturers. Not to mention the econo models like the H body. Everyone seems to remember them though.

    This is from Bryan’s site ( The Road Hawk apparently began life as Buick’s attempt to get its H-Body platform into the NASCAR circuit. Unfortunately, NASCAR deemed the H-Body unable to handle the speeds required of NASCAR vehicles and the H-Body never saw the tar of a NASCAR track. Obviously NASCAR was thoroughly unaware of or were blind to the fact that the IMSA Monza (Chevrolet’s H-Body platform, which, other than a few cosmetics details, is the same car as the Skyhawk) was literally dominating the GT Camel series all over the U.S. in the late 1970’s. NASCAR rejected the Road Hawk and went the route of the GM F-Body instead.)

    Bryan has done a lot of research on the RoadHawk, we know for 1980 only 292 were made. We haven’t found the 1979 production numbers yet. Both of us are always looking for more information so if anyone can help us out that would be great. Brian Jackson brjackson@spitfire.net brian.jackson@subaru-sia.com

  2. Actually take away 4 of those hawks and you’d be correct, lol. None on the hood or rear deck lid (that was Nighthawk and Designer’s Accent Edition) and none on B-pillar, unless you ordered the Targa Band and/or Astroroof.

    As for the large tunnel, not only just 1975 but just the ’75 2+2 Sport Hatchbacks, the Towne Coupes got the reworked smaller tunnel which ran thru the rest of the H-Body production run.

    I guess everyone has their own opinions, as I happen to love the Road Hawk and have one awaiting a restoration (as well as a finished Monza Spyder, so I guess that makes me a bit biased towards the H-Body).

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