When I bought my 1996 Buick Park Avenue Ultra for only $2,100 six months ago, I knew it was a rare unicorn in the Buick world, but I had no idea how excellent of a car it would really be. Just $2,100 bought me one of the great final examples from the glorious land yacht era. Despite weekly emails from people offering to buy it, there’s no way I’m letting it go. Really, you’ll have to pry the keys from my cold, dead hands.
Now that joke has a ring of truth to it, as many great examples of 80-90’s land yachts come out of estates — often from the original elderly owners who never felt the need to upgrade. In my Buick’s case, I was told it was owned by the original owners for 20 years before the second owner purchased it. After I bought it from the second owner, and have had six months to enjoy the car, I totally understand why someone would keep this golden oldie for decades.
1996 is the perfect year for the Park Avenue, as they launched the Series II 3800 V6 a year before a major redesign — a redesign which resulted in a major cheapening of the interiors, and in my opinion, a generation of unattractive, blobby styling. So this Buick still retains a more classic high quality interior, as well as the more traditional styling, with a nice modern powertrain. The Ultra models were even more special, as they got the same supercharger setup as the Monte Carlo SS, bumping the horsepower from a little over 200 to 240 — but the torque is really where it’s at, all 280 lb-ft of it.
Of course, no car is perfect, and the number one gripe people have with the Park Avenue is the front-wheel-drive, but I really don’t care. This was never meant to be a performance car. While the torque steer is a little annoying, you do get some benefits, like better traction in poor weather conditions, a flatter floor since there’s no hump needed to make room for a driveshaft, and the excellent ride quality. Obviously, a rear-wheel-drive car can also have a plush ride, but unlike most modern cars, a Buick from this era didn’t have to compromise on the luxury in favor of some performance.
The dynaride suspension system in my 1996 Buick that I paid $2,100 for actually rivals the 2007 S-class I owned for comfort, and I imagine just about any other major luxury player. In my opinion, I feel like Buick should get back to building bargain ultimate luxury cars like my Park Avenue, as they’ll never be a major player in the sport-luxury segment with all the European and Japanese competition. This may already be happening with Buick’s newly launched Avenir line, billed to deliver the ultimate luxury experience by sprucing up existing Buick models, but I’ll reserve my judgment until I actually see one in person.
Even though my Buick is a truly great car, it’s over 20 years old, and I’ve had a few problems. I purchased the car with a sagging, dead air ride in the rear, which required replacing both air ride shocks — as well as the air pump — to fix. I also had to repair a noisy blend door, which would make a flatulent-sounding noise for 30 seconds every time I started the car. Even though passengers found it funny, I had to get that taken care of.
After the initial sorting, the only other thing I’ve had to replace is the alternator, as it was making an annoying squeaking noise. Unfortunately, replacing the belt for the alternator also requires disconnecting a motor mount, but none of these jobs were very expensive. In all, I’ve spent a little over $1,000 in sorting and additional repairs in the last six months. I could probably get close to the total I’ve invested in this Park Avenue back if I wanted to sell, but there’s really nothing I could buy with $3,000 that could even come close to replacing this car. Despite having much more expensive cars in my fleet, I do drive it regularly. Even if I didn’t drive it much, the rarity of this car would still give me pause to sell it.
So unless I go bankrupt or do something crazy, like buying a Rolls-Royce Phantom next week, I’ll probably keep this car until I’m so old, my kids end up taking the keys away after I hit the neighbor’s trash cans for the 50th time. By then, we’ll hopefully have floating autonomous pods to ferry us around, so it won’t really matter.
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