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PENNDOT Prototype: 1971 Buick Electra Limited

Occasionally, a car will cross our desks at Barn Finds, which leaves us scratching our heads. Such is the case with this 1971 Buick Electra Limited. At a (very) brief first glance, it appears nothing unusual. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that it features approximately 50% more wheels than buyers expect to find on the average Electra. It is claimed to be a prototype vehicle, although the internet is awash with other theories surrounding its origins. The seller has listed it on behalf of its owner here on Facebook Marketplace in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. They set their price at $100,000, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Ted for spotting this quirky classic.

This is not the first time we’ve seen this Buick at Barn Finds, with it featured in this excellent article by our own Jamie Palmer in 2017. It presents quite nicely in Cascade Blue with a contrasting White vinyl top. The close-up shots reveal minor marks and imperfections, with the seller admitting the car needs work. The listing shots suggest the Buick was rescued years ago, spending time exposed to the elements. There are no apparent rust issues, although an investment of this magnitude justifies an in-person inspection. The trim and tinted glass are in good order, the vinyl looks excellent, and the Build Sheet confirms the wheels are a later addition. I have skirted around this car’s custom aspect, but it is impossible to ignore. Numerous government departments throughout automotive history have awarded grants for individuals to research and develop modifications designed to improve vehicle safety. That is what is claimed with this Buick. The listing indicates that a previous owner received $60,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transport to produce this car. There have been various online claims that the aim was to improve towing capacity, but that is said to be incorrect. The additional wheels are independently sprung and can be lowered to improve rear-end grip on icy surfaces. The theory was that this approach would result in less damage to the tarmac than that caused by studded tires. The fact that we don’t see this feature on modern cars suggests the concept didn’t meet with universal approval. Regardless, the extra wheels and custom fender skirts guarantee this Buick will turn heads.

The additional wheels are the only modifications to this Buick, with its drivetrain comprising standard ’71 Electra fare. The 455ci V8 sends 315hp and 450 ft/lbs of torque to the Posi rear end via a three-speed automatic transmission, while power assistance for the steering and brakes lightens the driver’s workload. This combination provided a ¼-mile ET of 17.1 seconds and a top speed of 120mph, but the reality may not be the case with this beauty. The modifications will have added significantly to the vehicle’s weight, which is guaranteed to tip the scales at considerably more than the company’s claimed 4,486 lbs. Therefore, it is unlikely to score many victories at a “Traffic Light Grand Prix.” However, cruising effortlessly on the open road at 70mph should not present many challenges. The seller indicates the car runs and drives, and the embedded video in the listing suggests the engine is in excellent health. It is unclear whether the Buick is genuinely roadworthy, but with the drivetrain remaining unmodified, getting it to that point if it isn’t is unlikely to break the bank.

I will never understand why a seller will list a classic within this price range and then supply second-rate photos. That is the case with this Buick because this is one of only two interior shots in their listing. However, both suggest its Blue cloth and vinyl trim are in good order and that the new owner shouldn’t need to spend any cash inside this classic. The seller includes the original Build Sheet, confirming that the first owner didn’t hold back when ordering this Electra. It is equipped with air conditioning and power operation for the windows, locks, front seats, and trunk release. The list of goodies continues with cruise control, a speed alert, remote mirrors, a tilt wheel, and an AM/FM radio/tape player.

It will be interesting to gauge your feedback on this 1971 Buick Electra Limited and whether you believe it is a genuine PENNDOT prototype. The article in 2017 generated an enormous response, and I expect to see the same again. The internet is awash with theories about this Electra, some of which are pretty fanciful. One point worth pondering is that in the earlier story, the owner at that time had it listed for $25,000. It raises the significant question of whether a four-fold price increase is justified since 2017. So, over to you.


  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Thank you Adam.
    Further evidence of the charm of Barn Finds, you never know what might be written up.
    I read the 2017 write-up, lots of good (and entertaining) comments then.

    Like 24
  2. HoA Howard A Member

    Okay, most that have been visiting the site will openly admit, some unusual postings. While usually confusing to anyone but the builder, it shows the diversity and good old USofA thinking. A Buick Electra with a “tag” axle, is a bit of a stretch on practicality. What cha’ haulin’? Got any scales to go over? I can understand a lot of reasons for people making unusual vehicles, but this doesn’t make a lick of sense.
    To our friends from other countries, do you have automotive shenanigans like this?

    Like 30
    • Bud Lee

      I could see a prototype being made with a stripper Impala or something, but why a luxury car with all the options.

      Like 14
    • Al camino

      Whaaaaaat does this build proove?

      Like 18
      • Jonathan Q Higgins

        Proves that the government loves to waste money

        Like 10
    • Gerard Planche Member

      …oh yes, many that are not prototypes, but used everyday. For example Citroen, as mentioned below: type “citroen 6 roues”…

      Like 1
  3. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    It will turn heads all right….the other way!

    Like 45
  4. alphasud Member

    They should have used the station wagon for this concept. Like what coach builders did with the Citroen CX creating the loadstar used for transporting newspapers.

    Like 11
  5. Mike76

    This car has been discussed on V8Buick in the past. Interesting curiousity for sure but little more than a custom car. I am sure it will be for sale for another ten years if the seller is insistent on that price.

    Like 18
  6. Mike B

    To reduce suspicion by law enforcement on those laden runs down to Pine Barrens.

    Like 13
  7. Chris Cornetto

    100k…..I dunno old man
    I have your card….Not here or there, not anywhere. Yicady Yukady. You could buy an awful nice ZR1 or a Viper or a 65 Riviera GS.

    Like 10
  8. LCL

    Is this axle powered, driving the wheels?

    Like 4
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

      I doubt it very much. We had a Nissan Pick-up One Tonner in South Africa and it had the same double axle as this Buick. One day I stopped to help a guy and his pals to push one out of a ditch that he had been trying to cross but the truck became stranded with the front wheels on one side and the rearmost wheels on the other. This left the middle axle housing the differential hanging in mid air and unable to drive the truck foreward or backwards.

      Like 6
  9. Chris Cornetto

    OK, OK, I had to return. I just got off work and turned my phone on to see what calamities may have took place at home and this Thang pops up on my phone. Then I think. I’m driving a 72 Impala convertible with skirts. Then it hits me. If I had them thar extree wheels on this rig, I could put some big whopper stoppers on the parade boot without fear of tearing off the exhaust
    I Then think, oh boy! Picture this, The Pennsylvania Turnpike. One of the rear tires goes kaplop, well the first thing that goes flying is that skirt mess, which promptly get redone by the crew cab dully behind you. Then it gets even better, you open the trunk and try jacking it up with the bumper jack provided.But hey its an Electra, unlike my Chevy or my 71 Lesabre rag you get a wooden wedge for the front tire all while jacking it up with trucks and whatever whizzing by at 90+. Ok nuff said, delete away.

    Like 5
  10. Nelson C

    Such a beautiful car to suffer this horrible fate. Should be sold with an advisory bc you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.

    Like 3
  11. Russell C

    It’s one of those images where, during the next day, you remember it and think to yourself, “was that real, or was it one of those dreams that seem really real, but when you wake up, you realize it was total nonsense.”

    Like 0
  12. Rick

    Ummmm…. I have no words, that’s all I have

    Like 9
  13. Fred W

    Produced using a state grant for 60K. An excellent example of what happens when the government gets involved. Interesting but not 100K interesting.

    Like 21
  14. Andy B

    What is the purpose of the wheel arch humps above the quarter panels? Do these wheels retract up into the trunk? Lol.

    Like 7
    • douglas hunt

      yes, check the link to the 2017 write up.
      has pics with wheels retracted

      Like 4
  15. Mark P

    So the concept idea that the extra wheels could be lowered for extra traction in slippery conditions, the rest of the time they’re just hanging there. We’ve gone from possibly carrying hundreds of pounds extra weight for a few times a year in needing the extra wheels to not including a spare tire anymore due to weight concerns and MPG.

    Like 11
    • William Maceri

      Well, I’ll start with a positive. It looks like a very professional piece of customization, and I respect that. Being the Gearhead that I am, I don’t see any added value these extra 2 wheels would provide under any driving conditions. I’m sure the added weight alone would cause far more suspension and handling problems that would far out weigh any possible benefits the 2 extra whees would provide, not to mention how it would totally tank the already low gas mileage those Electra’s were known for. I’ll try to end with a positive as well. This does clearly show given enough time, money and commitment, we humans can and will do anything. In any event this does qualify as the strangest car I’ve ever seen on Barn Finds.

      Like 5
      • Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

        I agree with all of your comments regarding this unloved Buick. (By me at least because I LOVE Buicks), howver, the wear on the trailing tyres during the cars cornering life must be horrendous.

        Like 3
  16. bobhess bobhess Member

    Hot Wheels could have designed a better look than this one. Waste of a good car.

    Like 21
  17. gippy

    That tag axle will reduce traction if it is not driven.

    Like 6
  18. Mark

    Only thing missing is the bumper stick that reads “Not responsible for objects thrown from the road.”

    Like 6
  19. Davey Boy

    Breaks my heart. Absolutely my favorite older luxury car and I don’t care if it was done in the factory or in someone’s garage. They ruined a beautiful car. POINTLESS!!!

    Like 17
  20. Troy

    I don’t want to own it but I would love a opportunity to drift it

    Like 7
  21. Steve

    AHAHAHAHAHA! (sorry)

    Like 4
  22. Erik
  23. John

    OKAY… So do the raised white letter tires allegedly make the large ass end appear sleek and sporty??? OR are they there to just add to the long list of individual things that make us wonder WTF??? Unique but I’m thinking his estate will be selling it off for LOTS less than current asking price.

    Like 4
  24. Erik

    Read more about the car on V8Buick

    Put www. in front of this URL:


    Like 1
  25. Pete Kaczmarski

    $100,000 and it does not even have a belt on the A/C Compressor????

    Like 3
    • Erik

      You are willing to spend $100,000 on this car and don’t have the money to buy a belt?

      Maybe the system is low and they took off the belt to prevend the pump from freezing up.

      Like 2
  26. R.I.P.

    40 years too late to haul Moonshine!!

    Like 7
  27. ClassicP

    I would love to drive this Buick up snow covered hills like we did with our $50 or $100 cars 50+ years ago. I’d make my own paths in this thing.

    Like 1
  28. V8roller

    Looks like a pantomime horse. Might make sense if it was going to tow a semi.

    Like 1
  29. smokeymotors

    I had a 1963 chevy impala, had a pair of big 1963 cadillac snow tires on rims in the shed put them on the impala, done! car went just about any where that was in 1971 central NY snow.

    Like 1
  30. Eric

    Maybe it is for a towing – something like a big parade float? That would account for adding it to a luxury car.

    Like 1
  31. Cobra Steve

    Would be interesting if the tag axle wheels could also be tied into the drive wheels. Then you would have a genuine, four-wheel-drive Buick. 6×4???

    Like 3
  32. Lance

    Ummmmm No.

    Like 1
  33. Al

    Someone at the Penn Dept of Trans, got a nice kickback lol!

    Like 2
  34. jim

    Antifreeze leaking in the video

    Like 0
    • Billy boy

      Now I understand a little better why my state has high gas taxes, turnpike fees, and still has bad roads.
      I wonder who was the political friend of the Buick owner at the time.

      Like 2
  35. FOG

    Take the trunk lid off and install a 5th wheel. God, how this car feeds into our idle motor head conscious.

    Like 0
  36. Chet

    [[Facepalm]] It looks like whoever came up with this brilliant idea was suffering from a self inflicted case of reefer madness.

    Like 2
  37. Ed

    You could install a 500 gallon gas tank and drive ‘cross country non-stop .Ed

    Like 0
  38. Dave Ecklar

    Maybe It’s been said somewhere but, it seems to me the lowered rear wheels would take the weight off the drive wheels and lessen the traction on them.
    Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Like 0
  39. Bama

    This would exactly opposite what they were trying to do, it would lessen traction. I’ve seen a few trucking companies try to run an unpowered lift axle like that in the guise of better mpg. When faced with the fact that you had to lift the axle in slippery conditions to put more weight on the powered tires, and the fact you were hauling extra weight and putting double wear on the brakes and tires on the powered axle when the tag was lifted, most companies finally came to their senses and got rid of that junk. Same thing on semi trailers, hauling one axle puts twice the wear on the one on the ground. Interesting theory that has been proven wrong many times, but some folks still fall for it.

    Like 1
  40. RADggs

    Wholly taxation Batman; in the state of Taxavainia; just to get a feel for the cost, equates to $400k. You highway tax dollars at work. Wonder what it originally sold for at a PA vehicle auction.

    Like 0
  41. Michael Berkemeier

    It’s not a “tag axle”. Those rear wheels are totally independent of one another.

    Like 0
  42. Glenn Schwass Member

    If it could be used for towing a large trailer then I could almost see the point, only almost. Too weird for what was a nice car. Wouldn’t the rear tires fight it in turns?

    Like 1
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

      Yep, the rear turns would scuff like hell.

      Like 0

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