Barn-Find Family Hauler! 1971 Buick Wagon

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

At 227 inches, the 1971 Buick Estate Wagon would win a length-off vs. a 2018 Chevrolet Suburban by three inches!  This particular specimen in Afton, Wyoming still shows its barn dust, and seeks a new owner with an auction here on eBay, where active bidding has surpassed $6100 without meeting the seller’s Reserve.

Witness a highlight of American engineering – the Glide-away Tailgate! This wagon is described as being “complete and in excellent condition.” Last started about ten years ago, it will need attention in many areas but replacement in few.

I’ve driven these sedans, and the bountiful torque makes them feel smaller than they truly are. With attention to gentle steering input, they can glide along a twisty two-lane at speeds beyond what most drivers achieve in modern seven-passenger vehicles, and this one seats nine.

A friend inherited a sedan like this, and his Grandfather (according to family legend) had the dealer swap out the 455 air cleaner for a “350” part because his wife forbade him from ordering the “big engine.” In fact only the 350 HP 455 cid V8 powered these trusted family haulers (thanks to automobile-catalog.com for some details). Even the Estate Wagon’s 10 MPG is barely worse than the worst 2018 Suburban’s 12 MPG, and this car can be kept running much more cheaply.

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    Don’t forget that you will look far cooler driving this than a Suburban!

    27
  2. Beatnik Bedouin

    Suburban or Estate Wagon? I’d take the latter, but would want to add some factory five-spoke wheels to replace the aftermarket wire wheel covers.

    As fuel prices in NZ are effectively double those, stateside, I could see my pension fast disappearing into that Buick’s fuel tank.

    One of you guys should definitely check this one out.

    8
    • Dovi65

      Not 100% sure, but those wire wheelcovers could be Buick issued. I would swap them out for a set of the Buick mag wheels

      7
    • TVC15

      Great for blasting through the Karangahake Gorge though !

      2
    • TVC15

      Great for a blast through the Karangahake Gorge though

    • David F

      The hubcaps look like OEM. The biggest reason to swap them out is because they are noisy. The click clack and squeak spoils an otherwise quiet ride.

  3. jdjonesdr

    That right front fender is looking a shade or two lighter than the doors, but I’d still love to have it.

    3
    • MFerrell

      Body by Fisher?

      1
  4. JoeNYWF64

    Look how thin those windshield pillars are! Great visibility all around. Hidden wipers & radio antenna.
    If the power tailgate motors fail, is there a failsafe to operate them manually?
    & is it tough to service/find replacements for the motors?
    (’77 wagon is impressive in weight savings & room inside, but it is a “box”. & 307 v8 was largest motor, i think! I would think the lighter somewhat smaller ’60s wagons would get better mpg too with largest 400 motor.)
    If a/c does not work, is it less expensive/would you get more mpg to switch to Vintage air?
    Good luck finding a parking spot for this behemoth that is wide & LONG enough – today. & lanes wide enough to fit this on some hiways too – today!

    3
    • Rusty

      Dad had a ’74 Caprice Estate with the manual version of this tailgate and a ’75 Buick Estate with the electric one. The manual tailgate had counterbalance springs but was still harder for a kid to close than the conventional tailgate on his ’70 Pontiac wagon. I read the entire owner’s manual on the ’75 and found no mention of a manual override for the electric tailgate. The subject car here seems to have the manual tailgate, as the power ones did not have that handle at the top center of the tailgate.

      These had a forward-facing third row seat instead of the rear facing one in the previous generation. While it was wide enough for 3 people, there was a large hump for the differential separating two individual seat cushions. Small adults fit ok back there, but it was really made for kids.

      The ’74 Chevy with a 454 and full tow package would only give 8-9 mpg on the highway. The ’75 Buick had the 455 and full tow package and would give us 15 mpg on the highway and 10 in town if you drive conservatively. I don’t think it was geared quite as low as the Chevy, but it towed 4000 lbs without breaking a sweat. My grandmother’s ’72 Electra 225 Limited with the 455 would give 17 mpg on the highway, but was not equipped for towing. I think the Chevy’s lousy highway range was the reason we only kept it for a year. Dad was driving 30-40k miles/year, and the Chevy wouldn’t go even three hours on a tank.

      With the HD suspension and a set of Michelin radials, that big Buick wagon could be coerced into some pretty good cornering antics. I took my driver’s test in it in Ohio. It stuck out on both ends of the state’s prescribed parking rectangle in the “maneuverability test”, which have this 16 year old nerd a certain satisfaction.

      5
  5. Luke Fitzgerald

    Last of the real cars – and those family holiday snaps – a real delight!

    5
  6. MathieuB

    Real nice preserved car.
    Highly optioned too.

    3
  7. jw454

    The electric rear window worked the last time it worked. LOL That’s good information to know.
    It can haul the family or 4 X 8 sheets of plywood. Let’s see a new mini-van do that.

    6
    • EmmyJ

      “Let’s see a new mini-van do that.”

      The Honda Odyssey would like you to hold its drink and watch. 😉

      3
      • Miguel

        But your wallet will be $50,000 lighter.

        7
    • Greg

      These older Land Yachts make killer Street Sleepers.

      1
  8. Fred W

    In the early 90’s I frequented a local auto auction looking to pick up bargains. 70’s full size wagons (and sedans for that matter) with fairly low miles and no rust routinely hammered at $100- $200. If you had started buying them and filling a warehouse, you would have been sent to the funny farm.

    5
  9. Jubjub

    Yeah, a set of Buick Road Wheels would make this pop. Those JC Whitney wire wheel covers are period but kinda cheesy. Like the 8-track player.

    1
  10. ACZ

    Only year with the louvered air exhaust.
    What a sweetheart!!

    2
  11. Michael Gregory

    Brings back memories! I drove a ’76 Estate Wagon for several years. The crazy tailgate never failed to work, and I don’t remember if there was a failsafe manual method. Mine had the chrome road wheels and I added a chrome luggage rack on top. I might still own it if an airborne drunk driver hadn’t T-boned it going 90 or so. Fortunately, I wasn’t in it. It was in the driveway and it moved 27 feet sideways.

    3
  12. Paul

    I have always loved these clamshell wagons. I am so glad the comparison was made to a brand new suburban. I’d take this wagon over the suburban any day.

    1
  13. W9BAG

    I’ve always wanted a full size wagon. Here is a link for the ULTIMATE station wagon. Notice is does not have power windows. Why, I do not know. With the tilt & tel + rim blow steering wheel, sunroof, and all the other accoutrements, I guess the tax payers had to draw the line somewhere !
    https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yset_ff_syc_hp-s&p=1972+plymouth+sport+suburban+station+wagon#id=2&vid=753be5a564089a1fcf3494000cdda4b1&action=click

    1
    • Miguel

      A lot of people didn’t trust power windows back in 1972.

      1
  14. Eduardo

    Fantastic wagon, one of my cars now is a 75 country squire with 400 engine that we use for going camping !!, you cannot find a better car for this……love american cars of the seventies

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