Buy/Drive/Burn: A Rear-drive C-body Showdown in 1980

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A few months ago we selected a General Motors C-body from the three on offer in the mid-1990s, right at the end of the front-drive platform’s lifespan. Today’s trio is a variation on that theme, as suggested long ago by commenter Sgeffe.

He wanted to talk about rear-drive C-platform offerings — the full-size GMs available shortly before everything started going awry for the large sedan customer. Let’s go.

Buick Electra

Before the Roadmaster was recognized as Buick’s largest offering in the 1990s, the Electra held the banner as the company’s flagship. In its fifth generation for the 1977 model year, Electra and the other C-body offerings shrunk around 10 inches in length. Malaise and downsizing had taken hold! The 1980 model year saw a diesel engine added to the options list, as well as the availability of the Oldsmobile 307 V8 (today’s selection). 1980 was also the last year for the three-speed TH350 transmission; GM switched to a four-speed THM200 in 1981. Other changes this year included a grille with vertical slats and the deletion of “225” from the Electra’s badging. 1980 would also be the last year the Electra wore ventiports along its fenders. Length: 220.9″

Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

Oldsmobile’s flagship Ninety-Eight model entered its 10th generation in 1977, increasing interior head and legroom even as exterior dimensions shrank. The Ninety-Eight realized some extensive exterior renovations for the 1980 model year. Aerodynamics and fuel economy required a more downward-sloped hood and a higher trunk. The overall effect was a chunkier, heavy-looking car. Ninety-Eight customers could select from LS or Regency trims on their sedan; today we’ve selected the Regency with a 307 V8. Vinyl roofs and opera lamps are good things. Length: 221.4″

Cadillac Sedan de Ville

The DeVille resided above the entry-level Seville, and beneath the Fleetwood Brougham sedan and limousine in Cadillac’s lineup. 1977 happened to be the 75th anniversary of the Cadillac brand, and the Detroit company celebrated by downsizing everything. The new DeVille lost nine inches in length and about 1,000 pounds over the outgoing model. Like the Oldsmobile, interior dimensions increased. Customers in 1977 saw a DeVille which had to forego the formality of fender skirts for the first time. Rakish! Grille changes for 1978 accompanied slimmer tail lamp designs. An aluminum hood arrived in 1979, along with another new grille. For 1980 the DeVille received the same aerodynamic treatment as the Oldsmobile at the front and rear. Customers could also select a (4.1L) V6 engine — the first time the company dipped below eight cylinders since 1914. Most customers opted for the new 368 CID V8 engine, with its six-liter displacement. It was selected here, as well. Length: 221″

Traditional, restrained, or festooned — which one gets the Buy?

[Images: General Motors]

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