Muscle Wagon: 1989 Buick Electra Estate

If you are on the hunt for a classic station wagon but fear that you are going to find yourself lumbered with some non-descript vehicle with an asthmatic lump of cast iron under the hood, then maybe you need to look at this 1989 Buick Electra Estate as an alternative. Barn Finder Pat L referred the Buick to us, so thank you so much for that Pat. This Electra, which is located in Plumstead Township, Pennsylvania, hides a bit of a secret. If you read this and want to investigate it further, then you will find it listed for sale here on Craigslist with an asking price of $4,500.

The owner says that the Electra is 90% rust free. He does make mention of the spare wheel well, but it isn’t clear whether this requires repair, or whether it has been. Either way, that is still a fairly easy repair if it does need to be performed. You can see some surface corrosion appearing on the top of the vehicle, but the rest of it looks quite reasonable. The owner says that the original woodgrain was also looking tired, so this has been mostly removed. The rest of the white paint looks pretty good, so this looks like a decent starting point for a project vehicle.

The owner openly acknowledges the fact that the interior is going to need some work, but it does appear to be quite serviceable as it is. The upholstery on the seats and door trim is showing the ravages of both normal wear and tear, along with UV damage. We don’t get a look at the rear seat or the dash, but I think that the pad might have at least one crack in it. As far as optional equipment is concerned, the only thing that doesn’t currently function is the air conditioning. Otherwise, you get power windows, power locks, cruise control, a CD stacker, and power rear glass.

I wish that the owner had supplied an engine photo because that’s where the business happens with this Electra. Forget any thoughts of a wheezing 307, because this is a car that means serious business. What lies beneath is a Mondello Performance 403ci Oldsmobile crate engine. This has been treated to a host of performance items, including a bigger cam, a Holley dual-feed carburetor, Crane roller rockers, a Pertronix HEI, and headers. I mean, why live with 140hp when you can have 300+? Backing this engine is a TCI StreetFighter 200R4 transmission, which feeds power to a Posi rear end. Stopping and cornering duties have been assigned to a set of cross-drilled discs, and Koni shocks. Dual electric fans help to keep the beast cool, and the Electra has now covered 25,000 miles on this setup. I hazard to guess that they would probably have been 25,000 fairly rapid miles, too.

This Electra Estate is a real Jekyll and Hyde proposition. Its unassuming exterior hides one very big secret, and judging by the list of parts that have been used, someone wanted to extract decent performance out of the vehicle without sacrificing reliability. I suspect that it would be a blast to drive, and it would be well worth the price purely based on the cost of the upgrades alone. It really does offer a great alternative for the person looking for an entertaining family wagon.


  1. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    So when this hauler was new and I ran the One Lap of America, there was an entrant who brought a “skunkworks” version of the Estate Wagon. It had a GNX drivetrain.

    You could say that it was quick, for something that probably weighed about 4500#, but aerodynamically I was told that it “hit a wall” right around 110mph. Even the mighty Buick Turbo motor couldn’t overcome physics.

    Personally I’m glad that the seller peeled the woodgrain plastic off of the sides. It looks better in all white.

    Like 7
    • ACZ

      There were two of those from back in the mid to late 80s. They had Reatta buckets and consoles. Really nice handling with the suspension mods and pretty quick for what they were. They ended up being “yard cars” at the old Buick City plant.

      Like 2
  2. Rock On

    The Olds 403 is the perfect upgrade for the Olds 307 as all of the accessories will bolt right up as the exterior dimensions are identical. Joe Mondello has been building Oldsmobile engines for years, looks like a good deal if you need the space.

    Like 5
    • Chebby Staff

      Aha, that answers the question why not an LS swap.

      Like 3
      • Doyle Durham II

        Because Oldsmobile V-8 and Chevy V-8 are completely different animals, much like Pontiac & Buick parts. With an LS Swap, motor-mounts, transmission & several other related components would also have to be changed.

        Like 1
  3. Will Fox

    I see this wagon has the framing, but no woodgrain inserts on the sides. Those probably faded into oblivion a long time ago. These WERE available sans woodgrain too. Good luck on getting the leather seat repaired. That won’t be cheap.

  4. JoeMac Joe Mac

    Wouldn’t that transmission be a 2004R vs. 200R4? I’m just sayin….it’s a car blog, we should get these things correct. ;-)

    Like 1
  5. A.J.

    Sure wish this was closer. Puts a new meaning into a “quick run to the store”.

  6. moosie moosie

    I’d rather have this one then the Ford previously listed, cheaper, & probably would run circles around that Ford too. The seller should have peeled the wood grain off of the tail gate too. Otherwise a tidy long roof.

    Like 1
  7. Karl

    403 is a very good motor and a great base to build on as your performance needs change it was close to the ultimate engine in Trans And, my question is why would someone put such a potentially filled engine in such an absolute dead end car?

    Like 1
  8. Troy s

    Must be day of the killer station wagons. The hopped up Merc, now this. Looks a bit heavy but I bet she can move. This is more of a sleeper than the other wagon today, nobody would suspect this hulk as a mover.
    I’m glad to see these types of cars being re-worked into entertainment, but I can’t help but wonder how this Buick would go if it had an old 455 Stage 1 under that hood. Now that would be really special, but way expensive…

  9. Bruce Fischer

    I still have my daily driver, a 87 Buick Lesbre Estate station wagon.Drives nice still for sale or trade for a older station wagon needing work.Thanks.Bruce.

    Like 1

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