Family Cruiser: 1986 Buick Electra Estate

When I was a boy, most people purchased a station wagon more out of a matter of necessity than as a matter of choice. They weren’t a cool car, and were primarily seen as a workhorse for the larger family. The station wagon has now made way for the SUV, but some people would still rather own a wagon if they had the choice. That is where vehicles like this 1986 Buick Electra Estate fit into the scheme of things. Classic wagons are now extremely desirable, and this one is a tidy example that is ready to be driven and enjoyed. It is located in Auburn, Massachusetts, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has made it to $4,651, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Electra is finished in Medium Blue and presents nicely. The paint is showing some fading on the hood and the roof, but it still presentable. It would not be an expensive proposition to address this issue, and then it would really stand out. The woodgrain vinyl has held up remarkably well for a wagon of this age, and it seems to need nothing. This is a bonus because this is one item that can be prone to damage and deterioration. If this happens, it can create a headache, because it can be quite hard to obtain a match with replacement vinyl. Quite often, an owner will replace all of the woodgrain to maintain uniformity, or they will remove it altogether. I’m not a great fan of the latter option, because I think that it destroys a lot of the character of these classic wagons. The seller has owned the Electra for 6-years. To the best of his knowledge, it has never seen a Winter road. As a result, it is claimed to be rust-free. The trim and chrome hold a beautiful shine, as do the wheels. I can see no problems with the glass, while the Estate comes equipped with a two-way tailgate.

The interior of the Electra is a bit of a surprise because its overall condition is excellent. The reason that this is a surprise is that the majority of these wagons were used as family transport. This meant that the interior tended to get loaded up with kids, dogs, luggage, and groceries. This left the trim prone to its share of wear-and-tear. It isn’t unusual to see the interiors pretty severely beaten up by now. This one has only a couple of minor flaws, and even these aren’t deal-breakers. There is a crack on the wheel rim, and the carpet is looking slightly faded and worn. Neither should present a problem, because wheels are available for around $160, while a carpet set can be sourced for under $200. With those items installed, this is an interior that would be close to perfect. Not only is it tidy, but it is also quite nicely equipped. For added versatility, this is an interior that features the 3rd-row seating. Also, there are air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power seats, cruise, an AM/FM radio and cassette player.

The Estate comes equipped with a 307ci V8, a 4-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. This V8 produces 140hp, but there is no escaping the fact that the Electra is a heavy vehicle. It tips the scales at 4,321lbs, which means that the journey down the ¼ mile takes 19.6 seconds. However, that’s not what this classic is all about. This is a vehicle whose primary role is to transport a family reliably and comfortably. The interior appointments take care of the comfort factor. That leaves the drivetrain responsible for reliability. The Electra has recently been fitted with new brakes, new tires, a new battery, and has received a fluid change. The owner states that it runs and drives nicely. He also claims that it has a genuine 82,000 mile showing on its odometer. However, he doesn’t indicate whether he holds evidence to verify this claim. When all is said and done, it appears that this is a wagon that is ready to hit the road for a lot of family fun.

I know that we should never say never, but I have my doubts that we will ever see vehicle manufacturers introducing large family wagons into their range again. The SUV has supplanted the wagon, and they do offer a high level of versatility. While there are plenty of people who would like nothing better than to walk into a dealership and slap down their cash for a wagon, the sales volumes simply aren’t there at present to justify the millions of dollars in development costs. With that in mind, it is going to be left to tidy survivors like this 1986 Buick Electra Estate to fill that void. It is a role that it should perform well, and with values steadily increasing, this is a case of a once uncool vehicle becoming an automotive “must-have.”


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  1. Beyfon

    Large family wagons? Early this year I was over in Europe and my rental cars were a Volvo V90 in Sweden and an Audi A6 wagon in Germany. Both large and very pleasant cars. Would take those over SUVs any time!

    Nice Buick!!

    Like 9
    • nlpnt

      No Opel Insignia? That’s a nice Buick too…

      Like 1
  2. davidricheh Member

    This one checks all my boxes, the color is super sharp and I love the velour interior.

    Like 5
  3. 1-MAC

    Comfortable. reliable, easy to repair. Dependable v-9 rear drive, what we made best. Too bad they are no longer made. These are good cars easy to go 200K miles.

    Like 2
  4. Maestro1 Member

    You bet. Much better than silly SUVs. Very handsome wagon. Someone jump on this.

    Like 4
  5. thomas casserly

    Over the years I had 4 of these in varying flavors and years. The only thing that ever went wrong was each one needed the intake gaskets went bad, changed all four.

  6. Poppy

    Whoever ends up with this is going to want to redo the headliner. I hate the quilted look from pinning it up almost as much as it sagging down against your head. At least the huge headliner backer is simple to remove out of the tailgate. All it takes is the right material, the right contact cement, and some technique for attaching to the board from which you have already laboriously stripped of old headliner and foam residue. I’ve done 4 of my cars already. A PITA to do but worth it.

    Like 1
    • Bob C.

      Yeah, I agree. I was never a fan of how the manufacturers did the headliners during these years, especially GM. They always seemed to sag over time. Otherwise, nice 80s example.

      Like 2
  7. Mountainwoodie

    How many velours had to die for this wagon?

    Ughhhhh…….the 80’s fascination with velour, especially GM, makes me want to say…………gag me with a spoon!

    I get creeped out just looking at velour. That said and since I’m Mr. Positive, for what it is, it looks well cared for. Nice to see.

    I can’t look at any of these behemoths without thinking of Clark Griswold.

    Like 3
  8. George Mattar

    We had an 87 Caprice Estate wagon when the kids were little. Dependable, comfortable and I could fix it. My middle daughter, now 32, has a super complicated Acura SUV. When she goes to the dealer for service, OUCH. Love this Buick wagon. The USA is a joke when it comes to cars today. Everybody wants SUVs or Ford F 150s. I don’t get it.

    Like 5
  9. Gransedan

    Beautiful wagon. I’d love for it to be parked in my garage. Interesting that this Electra’s classic Buick chrome wheels appear to be shod with trim rings. Normally, these wheels are one piece, no beauty rings. The chrome portions of these wheels seem to not have the usual chrome luster. The car’s name emblems normally located on the fenders aft of the wheel openings are missing.

    Like 1
  10. sg

    Wow I drove the twin to this car in college! My boss would occasionally let me use his dad’s wagon to run errands. At the time it seemed like the fanciest car you could imagine – it had the chrome and woodgrain dash, digital radio, power everything, and the AC worked perfectly (rare for a 10 year old GM car back then!).

    Years later his father’s health declined but he kept driving the wagon, and it started getting a lot of scrapes and dents. One morning he drove in and it looked like he’d been bumping and trading paint in a NASCAR race. Poor car!!

    Like 1

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