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Thread: Fond Memories of a 1961 Buick Electra convertible

  1. #1

    Fond Memories of a 1961 Buick Electra convertible

    Yes, I used to own one. I was 18 years old in and I just finished my second year of college. I had a couple of good friends out on Vancouver Island and decided to pay them a visit. Four of my friends and I decided to make the cruise out there in a couple of days. One of them had scrounged up a posh '77 Lincoln Town Car and was itching to take it out on the highway. I never made it through the trip with them.

    It all started when we stopped in Hope, B.C for fuel. We decided to take a couple of hours and stretch our legs. I wandered around town aimlessly with my buddy Mike. I almost missed it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the unmistakable glimpse of the Buick symbol. I had to know more. I moved in for a closer look and lo and behold, sitting forlornly under a tarp behind a ramshackle house sat what I presumed to be an early 60's Buick coupe (yes, I could tell even though everything was covered but a part of the grill and bumper). Right at that moment I saw an elderly lady emerge out of the house and hobble slowly over to the car holding a 'For Sale' sign in her hand. My heart began to race. Mike and I raced each other to the old lady.

    I asked politely what kind of car it was. She said it was a '61 Buick Electra convertible. She slowly pulled the tarp off and the chrome nearly blinded me via the sun's reflection. It was black with a red interior. It was 100% complete. Not one piece of trim was missing. The paint was faded but there was no glass damage of any kind. The top was worn, but in usuable condition. She made a point of mentioning to me that it got a polish every month for as long as she owned it.

    "How much?" My friend Mike asked. I winced. Watching my father operate as an automotive wholesaler taught me that sweet talking the seller for a while always softened them up.

    "Two Thousand Dollars and not a penny less." the old lady retorted.

    "You're crazy you old bat" Mike replied. "That thing is a hunk of junk. I'll give you $250 for it." I shook my head, knowing he had blown the deal.

    "Get off my property. I'm going back into the house for my gun and when I come back, you'd better not be here."

    Mike shuffled off, urging me to follow. I told him I would see him at the car. He shrugged and walked away. Before the old lady entered the house I told her that I was still interested in the car and willing to offer a lot more than the other guy.

    "Now you seem like a sensible young man. Have a look at the car. When you're done, knock on the door and we'll go from there. The keys are in it." She then proceeded to enter her ramshackle house.

    I unlocked the door. The interior was in mint condition. I turned the key, and after a few times it started up. I popped the hood and saw the every familiar 401 nail head V8. Thank god there was no Dynaflow..... it was equipped with a "Triple Turbine" 3 speed ST-400 Automatic trans. I could take it out on the highway! I?m still haunted with memories of a ?67 Skylark convertible with the two speed Jetaway transmission that I used to own in high school ? whenever you got up to highway speeds with that car the engine, transmission and rear end all signaled in a rather deafening manner that they were nearing destruction. I walked over to the house and rapped on the door a couple of times. She asked me to come in and tell her what I thought of the car. I told her I liked it but wasn't sure what kind of work it needed.

    "It doesn't need anything" she snarled "Just a new owner. The old one is too old to drive it."

    She offered me tea and I accepted. I asked her to tell me how she got the car.

    "What kind of question is that? I picked it up from a dealership out in Victoria when it was new. All the papers are in that box on the floor."

    My pulse began to quicken again. A one owner car?? Too good to be true. I skimmed through the box. She had records going back some 35 years.

    "I stopped driving it last year." She continued. "That's when the doctor took away my permit to drive. Now it just sits there and I'd rather it go to someone who will use it. To be honest, I need the money to pay off the last of my mortgage. I'd rather it be free and clear so I can use every penny of my pension to survive."

    I asked her how much her mortgage balance was. She left the kitchen and returned 10 minutes later with the paperwork and handed it to me. There was $1240.51 outstanding. I slowly fished out the exact amount and put it on the table in front of her. She was astonished. She then gave me a sob story mentioning that she had no groceries. I scrounged another $159.49 and put it in her hand, bringing the purchase price to a grand total of $1400.

    "You got yourself a car, young man. My nephew is a mechanic and he checked it all out so you can just drive it away."

    I stuck my plate on it (I made it a habit in those days of always keeping my spare license plate and insurance policy in my bag whenever I was travelling in case I ran into a deal) and met my friends at the gas station. They were all stunned at my recent purchase, most of all ? Mike. He asked me what I paid for the car.


    ?Ya got robbed ya know? he answered ?There are probably mice in that thing. How?d you convince her to lower her price??

    ?A little patience.? I answered back.

    I told them to continue on without me, but they were intrigued with the car and wanted to crawl over and under it. What the hell. Slowly, one by one they began to determine that I got a bargain. The brakes, headlights and power steering pump were brand new. A tune-up had obviously been recently performed. Everything worked ? even the pod like clock on the center of the dash was 100% accurate. The AM radio was as clear as a bell. The odometer read just over 71,000 miles. Rifling through the paperwork proved that the mileage was accurate and it had never turned over. It was clear through the records that she drove it sparingly. In 1983 at 59,000 miles the car was involved in an accident and repaired. Cost? $1000. In 1989 at 66,000 miles it was involved in a second accident ($425). In 1995 at 70,000 miles it was involved in a 3rd accident ($295) and then probably parked not long after that. After scrutinizing the car for over 2 hours, my friends pushed on without me. I told them I would meet up with them on the Island.

    I took it to the car wash, cleaned the outside, filled the tank and checked all the fluids. I went to the local registry and filled out the paperwork. I called my insurance company and gave them the news. I found the original 1961 license plate in the trunk and put it on the front. Then I pushed on. It drove really well ? so well in fact that I drove non stop to the Vancouver Island ferry. En route, I had picked up a rather pretty hitchhiker by the name of Marlene. Apparently she had just finished her final year of marketing and was heading out the island to party it up as well. She told me the car was so flashy looking she just had to wave me down and get a lift in it. She was self-absorbed, as she talked about nothing but marketing strategies and product branding. I feigned interest, throwing in the odd comment here and there (I had taken a couple of marketing courses myself). I was primarily concerned with soaking up the scenery, enjoying the sunset and watching the rays permeate her long blonde hair as it flowed gently in the wind. She was alarmingly pretty. Birds whistled in the distance. The large steering wheel felt good in my hands, the top was down and the soothing rhythmic hum of the nail head V8 put a big grin on my face. Everything felt perfect.

    ?This feels so perfect. What a great drive. Thanks for putting up with my blabbing.?

    It was like she read my mind. She asked me about myself. I gave out one tidbit after another, trying to keep the chatter to a minimum as I was trying to focus on the drive. The conversation got more heated. Over the next several hours we discussed a wide variety of topics such as international politics, literature, product placement, mutually assured destruction and astronomy. We pulled over at one point and she began pointing out stars and naming them for me. One of my older brothers had just finished his physics degree with a minor in astrophysics (he was also an amateur astronomer). Luckily he imparted a lot of useful information that made me come off as being quite learned. It wasn?t long before we were studying a lot more than the stars.

    We pushed on to the BC Ferry and took a nap while waiting for the first one to arrive in the morning. I awoke to the tapping of glass. I had caught up to my friends and they were waiting in another line. They recognized the Buick and wanted to chat. They cupped their hands to see in the car and noticed the pretty passenger sleeping with my jacket and a blanket draped over her. The oohing and aahing that followed woke her up.

    ?Guys?Marlene. Marlene?.Guys. Let her get some sleep. We?ve been driving all night.?

    She chatted for a few minutes with them and went back to sleep. I got out of the car and talked to my friends until the ferry arrived. While on the ferry we ate and planned our trip. Marlene freshened up and joined us. Our debates spilled over through the entire trip. She met 2 of her friends on the ferry and they joined our conversation. By the time we reached the island, opinions were heated but everyone was excited to start their holiday.

    We all drove into Victoria together and spent the evening going to many night clubs. The Buick was a hit. Everybody loved it. Everyone wanted to ride in it. And I had offers up to $4000 for it, but I wasn?t interested in selling it just yet. I had just bought it the previous day after all. Marlene?s group and ours parted ways that evening. We exchanged names and numbers and promised to keep in touch. We bumped into each other several times in the two and a half months I was out in Victoria. She called the Buick ?the Yacht? and the name stuck. Word spread of the old Yacht and even some of her friends recognized it on the street, at the clubs or driving around town. The car was also a common sight on Wharf Street near the docks. Lots of people mentioned that my land yacht looked good by the sea.

    It was an amazing car. It was beat up a little but it was still an eye catcher. The only problem I ever had with the Yacht was that the charging and electrical system were weak, and needed charging on a regular basis. I was too busy having fun to ever replace the battery or pay an mechanic to trace the electrical faults. It made an excellent cruiser, though. I drove the wheels off it all over the island. I put over 4000 miles on the Yacht in the 2 months and a 2 weeks that I owned it. Some nights we would just put the top down and cruise hotspots. We made a lot of friends ? we even made a few enemies, but man was it ever fun. These are the carefree days that remain ingrained forever in my memory. No worries, no cares and a bright future ahead for every one of us. We seemed invincible in those days.

    In early July my friends were planning on returning and I intended to join them. I intended to bring the Yacht back with me, but one of the regular clubbers I knew just had to have it and gave me an offer I couldn?t refuse?. We finally agreed on $4750. I did really wish I kept that car, but I consoled myself with the fact that an out of province inspection would be too much trouble and expense. Besides, it might have failed with all the electrical bugs that kept creeping up in the car. Better to sell it and use the cash for tuition and my ?71 Cutlass Supreme convertible waiting for me at home.

    I still remember it like yesterday. I pulled in the driveway of the buyer?s parents ritzy home, noted the mileage which had just rolled past 75,000, pulled the plate off it, said goodbye to the car and drove off with my friends in their Town Car. I looked at it in the rear view mirror until it was out of sight. I knew I had made a big mistake selling the car at that very moment. My buddies consoled me with the fact that I had made enough money to not work when I was in school and cover some of my tuition - and that was a pretty impressive thing. Most of them would have to scrounge and find a job that would take them full time for the next six to seven weeks before classes started and part time afterwards. We drove home the next day, spending most of the trip talking either about the things we had done or the Yacht.

    And Marlene? We keep in touch via the internet. Saying hello once every 6 months or so. She works for an advertising firm out on Vancouver Island. The last time we chatted about 4 or 5 months ago and she had mentioned that the guy who bought the Yacht abused it and let it go to rack and ruin. About 7 to 9 years ago it was seen with a booming stereo system and a hasty flame paint job. The clubber sold it to his cousin who not long afterwards joined the RCMP and left the province. The car has been sitting forlornly again in a storage yard. She promised to send me pictures, although I?m not sure if my heart could take it. I?d rather remember it as it was?. My magnificent land yacht.

    Below are pictures I took of the car the week before I sold it. A familiar sight for my friends was this car sitting on a charger. This is one car I?ll miss. I do regret selling it. I still remember how that car smelled and felt.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: Fond Memories of a 1961 Buick Electra convertible

    Great story and beautiful car. The 1961 Electra convertible is probably the "Top 5" list of the most beautiful Buicks ever made.

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