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No Reserve: 1978 Buick Century Station Wagon

In my younger days, I was nearly always envious when our neighbors drove home in a new station wagon, and try as I did to persuade my dad to follow suit, he was a sedan man and never bought into the idea.  But the wagon spent many years as the people mover of choice for many families, and while my vision of the ideal vintage example might be something a bit larger and more glamorous than this 1978 Buick Century Station Wagon here on eBay, this one does look like a fun cruiser and it’s got that fake wood paneling, a staple of coolness for the times.  So far, bidding is only up to what seems like a reasonable $2,151 with no reserve, and if you’re near Tacoma, Washington it might be worth checking out and maybe even driving home. Thanks go to PRA4SNW for the tip!

The Century received a total redesign in 1978, and the model shed some size and pounds from its predecessor which carried over to the wagon, so if you’re in the market for something gargantuan this may not meet your needs.  But it does look like there’s ample room inside for 6 reasonably sized adults plus quite a bit of cargo space in the rear, and this one’s nicely equipped as well with luxurious components not found on all vehicles back then such as power seats, windows, door locks, cruise control, and a tilt steering column.

The Dark Red paint is said to be original with a good shine remaining according to the seller, although the faux wood is said to be showing a bit of fading, but to be 45 years old the exterior still appears to be in decent shape overall.  This one’s also got a roof rack, so in spite of the smaller size, there’s some additional room for luggage outside.  There’s also the optional air deflector, which probably doesn’t work if suitcases are strapped on top, but it looks sporty nonetheless.

The 3.8-liter engine is a V6, but these have a good reputation for longevity and the motor is said to run well.  We get a couple of shots from under the hood, which looks to be in good order, and there are also numerous maintenance receipts dating back from when the car was new.  Even the original window sticker is still present, which shows the Buick came with California emissions, so it may be a little starved in the performance department compared to those sold in other states.  I’m thinking this might be a pretty good driver for those seeking a seventies station wagon.  What do you think?


  1. Chunk

    Well, let’s see…

    It’s a G-body, same as the 1980-something Malibu wagons that my mother owned back in the day.

    1. The rear windows don’t roll down so it’s stuffy back there.
    2. There’s not as much room as you’d think if the driver has the bench seat all the way back.
    3. The articulated metal plate on the back of the fold-down rear bench rattles on bumps.
    4. The frameless glass rear hatch rattles on bumps.
    5. Chevy and Buick made very different 3.8 liter V6 engines; we had one that was speedy and one that was an utter dog.
    6. It’s altogether a pretty joyless and uninspired ride.

    1. With the rear seat folded down, I could sleep in the back.
    2. With GM’s E-ROD engines, I could install a California CARB-legal LS3 engine and automatic transmission and triple the power without affecting fuel economy.
    3. I like the color.

    I might have time for another project car. Hmm… if the body and interior are MINT…

    Like 4
    • Jack

      Why do you say that the rear windows do not roll down? There is clearly a power window button on both rear doors

      Like 3
      • Robert Cordova

        This is true! However, the power window button is for the vent windows. The door windows do not roll down.

        Like 10
      • Nelson C

        Robert is right on how the windows operate on the rear doors. By having stationary side glass the door could have a relief cavity built into the interior side. This increased rear hip room because no window mechanism. This was when side door beams were only in the front doors.

        Like 2
    • bone

      Another con is that the rear frame rails rust away on all G body cars, unless you live in a dry state ….and then the cheap plastic interiors disintegrate

      Like 1
  2. Art Engel

    It seems to be like pulling teeth these days to get the mileage on classic vehicles, something that everyone wants to know but just doesn’t get posted, or they post low mileage like nobody knows they start from zero again once they roll over. This vehicle appears pretty tidy in the photos, I’d just like to know the mileage.

    Like 3
  3. Maggy

    The Buick carbed 231 v6 was a boat anchor imo. Head gasket blowing rope crank seal oil leaking lack of power with a junk Rochester dual jet electronic carb lack of power , low oil pressure due to worn aluminum front covers pos .Used to use TRW oil pump extension kits with longer gears and a add on cast iron housing with roll pins to line it all up to get oil pressure higher.This car is screaming LS me with a built 8.5 diff , posi and sway bar and Tremec 5 speed….imo.I like the car looks solid.Nice options and color plus solid condition.Just my .02

    Like 9
    • Rick

      I was a GM dealership parts counter guy from 1980 through 1995 and there’s no forgetting the problems with those older Buick V6s. You covered the bulk of them. There was also a cylinder wear and oil burning issue which called for the installation of “standard high limit pistons” to effect a cure.

      Like 3
  4. Stan

    If i had the money… throw a newer camaro v6 driveline in this wagon. 🙌

    Like 4
  5. BA

    Ummm perhaps a different strategy how about a turbo on this low compression pos & drive it like you stole it till the 12 pounds of boost grenades it! Not as much work as other options & when she blows pull the snail & look for the next victim! Ok have to have fuel management but we have seen the answer before work on other turbo coupes like the 1979 buick century hump back so those mods should work here & much less work or least your working mostly standing upright! Just my take on it no offense meant

    Like 3
    • Stan

      None takin BA. Turbo buicks are always cool. Grenade what you have 1st is always welcome 😃🙌
      Ive seen some buick wagons done up as a sinister black GN wagon with the Grand National drivetrain. It was cool, T-type wagons too.

      Like 5
  6. CCFisher

    Cloth in the front, vinyl in the back? Practical, but hardly typical for a Buick. I would expect something like that to be a special-order option called out on the sticker. Whoever did it did a good job; the upholstery pattern is a near match.

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      That upholstery is very common for a Buick of that time. That was done because kids always go in the back or second seat and when they make their messes, it’s easier to clean, but the driver still gets the comfort of cloth.

      Like 2
      • CCFisher

        Couldn’t find it in the 1978 brochure, but it’s there in the 1979 prestige brochure: “Cloth front and vinyl rear seats are available.” I’m still surprised it’s not called out on the sticker, though.

        Like 0
  7. Gary Raymond Member

    Re the ‘wood grain’ , a fellow car nut who used to be in love with those big old Mopar station wagons said the key to keeping that wood grain nice is…wait for it…brown shoe polish. His rigs always looked good! Just sayin…

    Like 2
  8. Allen L

    Nice G-body.
    Which also means checking the rear frame rails, notorious for rusting out.

    Like 3
    • ACZ

      If you looked at the auction pix, this thing is clean. Cali born and bred.

      Like 3
  9. Randy Anderson

    These cars make good destruction derby cars throw away mobiles at least this one has a three point eight v6 engine in it I will give it that much credit.I think the Pontiacs look and perform better than these throw away mobiles but that’s my opinion!

    Like 0
    • BONE

      Actually, they are garbage derby cars, as all G bodies are. The rear frames are designed to drop down in a rear collision , and with the open channel type frames it only take a couple hits before the roof is bent down from the rear doors back and the rear bumper is bulldozing the ground. The front fenders are narrow and the headers are fiberglass, so any head on or side shot will take your radiator out.

      Like 1
  10. Chris Cornetto

    It malaise but clean and nicely optioned. The engine and the metric 200 Trans are its drawbacks. At this point cars like this are what they are and if you get one that was cared for, you just continue on. It is not a 440 suburban, a 429 Squire or a 454 Kingswood. It was a tough time for American cars. Many languished until the late 80s. I had a 78 woody Cutlass version of this. The car was given to me and used for wagon stuff. Slow ..yup, in fact as rolled along one day the car heaved, bucked and stopped. I turned the key to only get a clunk…motor locked. The car had made no noises, oil fine, nothing leaking, coolant fine. I inadvertently put my hand on the ac compressor and recieved a helluva burn. The ac compressor locked up and the engine had not enough umph to melt the belt. I cut the belt and it started right up..malaise…simply malaise. I drove it another year or so and then watched it go through a press and onto oblivion. I still wouldn’t pass on one now if I stumbled upon one. This one survived so like the 84 Carolla I bought last year and have done a fresh up on, sometimes slow is ok as long as you avoid the interstate. A reasonable, nicely optioned functional unit that still shows nice. It needs to become part of someone’s regular guy line and live on..

    Like 1

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