Coal Rollin’ Buick: 1983 Buick Century Diesel

A diesel Buick!? What is the world coming to?! Wait, this one is 34 years old already. This oil-burner is a 1983 Buick Century diesel and it’s just northwest of gorgeous Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s on Craigslist with an asking price of $1,000 or best offer.

This was a fifth-generation Century made for the 1982 to 1996 model years, now that’s a decent run! In the 1980s, these cars were like locusts during the dust bowl era, they were literally everywhere.

With the 1982 redesign came a new, smaller platform. But, even more surprising was that it was now front-drive. The seller doesn’t give too much info about this car, and unfortunately there are no interior or engine photos. But, it “runs and drives”, if that give you any indication of the mechanical condition.

The rust spot above the right rear wheel looks like it’s about the only real flaw in the body of this car. The interior should be a sea of velour, like this example, and I’m assuming that it’s either tan or red in color. The engine is Oldsmobile’s LT7, a 4.3L V6 diesel with around 85 hp and it should look something like this. They didn’t stick around too long as the former GM diesel car experiment didn’t go well and by 1986 it went bye-bye, as did most of GM’s diesel car engines. For anyone looking for an inexpensive, pretty nice road car this could be worthy of a look.

Fast Finds


  1. packrat


  2. Howard A Member

    Zzzzz. I’d be happier with the Louisville Ford next to it. My son had a car just like this, gas job (3100?), was a great car. Comfortable, dependable, dynamite heater, somewhat good mileage. It never made any sense to me why someone would go with a diesel car, especially in the north, and I’ve dealt with diesels for 40 years. I know, I know, some had great luck with these, and they were good motors, properly maintained, but a gas job was so much more civilized. For wide open spaces, it makes more sense, but in a heavy traffic situation, ( entrance ramps and such) the diesel was a slug. Below 25 degrees without a plug in, forget about it. Ether, you say? Be careful with that stuff. Can do a lot of damage to a diesel. Pass (on) the smokey diesel, literally.

    Like 1
    • Ed P

      The Olds diesels were an expensive option. I don’t know if the upfront cost was worth it for the fuel savings. The 4 cyl was much cheaper and the fuel mileage was good and power was about the same

    • CJay

      I agree diesels North of the Mason/Dixon better have a heated garage.
      A friends’ diesel Olds ( an almost new company car) would not start.
      He melted the grille with a torpedo heater trying to get it warm enough.
      We jumped it using our Mack log truck. When it still wouldn’t start he asked if I had any Ether? I advised against it because of the glow plugs. He was so damn mad he didn’t care.
      It started with Ether, knocked loudly and shook violently for about a minute! Then smoothed out.
      Didn’t seam to have any long term damage. But he always plugged it in after that.

    • ACZ

      40 to 45 mpg is why. Like any GM diesel of it’s vintage, it’s meant to be a highway car. The V6 had an extra head bolt per cylinder over the 350. Good clamping force meant long life.

      Like 1
  3. Don

    If it runs good could be a good car to get back and forth to work ,I drive 80 miles total to work and back 🚙

  4. nessy

    Well, I am a diesel GM fan, with several Oldsmobile and Cadillac 5.7 diesels in my stable. With that said, I like them because they are interesting to me. I do alot of mods to my diesels where they are now pretty fast, they sound like a big Mack truck and I get over 35mpg on the highway with a big Olds 98 or Caddy. They were not for everyone. I would not trust one for an everyday driver. This little Buick V6 diesel is a very rare find for sure. For 1000 or maybe less, it would be neat to play around with. How many could be left?

  5. rmward194 Member

    This is a great price for this old oil burner. It looks like a Limited model which means it could be loaded, or not. Back then you could pick and choose virtually every option.

    I was selling these cars back in the day along with the Chevy Celebrity, Olds Ciera and Pontiac 6000. We sold the heck out of them, especially with the 2.5L 4cyl. engines. It could have a blue velour interior as well as the red or tan. Above is what the interior would have looked like if it was a Limited with cloth seats.

  6. MFerrell

    Funny, this came up as a “Related Find”:

  7. Warren

    Want to piss off your kid? Put them in this as a first car. :)

    Like 1
  8. kieran

    i’m not a huge fan 1980s diesel cars but they might be tuff as bag of nails tho

    • Country Joe

      Having owned a couple GM diesels in the past, I can tell you toughness is not a good descriptor for the engines. The V6 may have been better, but I don’t care to find out…;-)

  9. XMA0891

    I honestly had no idea Buick ever offered a diesel – never seen one. Thanks for the lesson.

  10. RichS

    When I worked at an auto parts store in the early 90s, had an old guy with one of these come in from time to time. He loved that thing and said he never had any trouble with it. He really loved saying that he never had to smog test it because it was a diesel and claimed it got high 20s for MPGs.

  11. z28th1s

    I bought an ’83 Pontiac 6000 LE that had the 4.3 V6 diesel in it back in the late 80’s. It had 60K miles on it when I bought it. It was my wife’s daily driver at the time and gave us pretty good service for several years.

    We did have a voltage regulator that malfunctioned and ‘overcharged’ everything as we were coming home from a family vacation. The interior lights got really bright, the volt gauge pegged and then smoke started coming out of the dash.

    It was a costly fix because it blew every light bulb in the car and the side posts of both batteries got so hot that they actually melted the side of the battery casing and the posts were about 5 to 6 inches lower than were they originally were.

  12. Connbackroads

    Spray silicone is your starting fluid for Diesel engines, NOT ether.

  13. sdwarf36

    WD-40 works well too.

  14. DDAY

    Had a good long laugh when I realized the random 1983 diesel Buick I bought in Idaho was already an internet sensation!

    Yes! I bought this car and drive it almost every day. Other than basic maintenance, I’ve not done anything to it and it has been a very reliable car. After a few quick cranks of the engine and a “Catrina” sized blast of diesel on cold-start, I’d drive it anywhere confidently. The 4.2 V6 was the successor to the (not so successful) 5.7 V8 diesel, one of which I also owned. The 4.2 is a tough, reliable engine. Lazy, but faithful. One day, I even employed the factory trailer-hitch and pulled a utility trailer with it to get a rise out of the public.

    It runs like a top and is surprisingly quick off the line to up to about 30mph. It will pass a Porsche just fine and hold 85mph on Interstate 5 all day long. Keep in mind, this opinion is coming from a somewhat heavy-footed guy that harbors an old 500hp Mustang in the back shed.

    The Buick drives like a cloud but feels like a tank with that diesel up front, and gets about 30mpg no matter how I drive it. Quite possibly the best purchase I’ve made dollar-for-dollar on a daily driver.

    So, should you ever be in the Seattle/Tacoma area on a clear day and see a proud, black cloud of coal roll above the trees, keep your eyes peeled so you too may spot the “unicorn” of Century Buicks. Alive and well.

    Like 3
    • Steve

      Can you show some I
      Interior photos? Is it loaded up with all the options?

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.