I have a friend who used to refer to throwing up as “selling Buicks.” I never really understood the connection until I saw this unretained pile of ugliness. I actually thought of writing about this car some time ago, but held back. I did, I really did. All the way up until now.
The Buick Signia was inflicted on the public at the Detroit Motor Show in 1998. There are people who think the 80s were a decade without taste, but this eyesore goes to show the 90s gave them a good run for their money. In terms of a “design language” this one is made of four letters words, most of them ending with an exclamation point. There is no angle that doesn’t induce revulsion and shock. The shapeless protrusion at the front is only matched by the bulbous monstrosities hanging out at the rear.
Clearly the designers knew the show car was going to need some sort of camouflage. That’s why they painted it in the most awful spoilt-meat-orangey-yellow they could find. Mmmm, nice. Yes, that really helped it blend in.
The ugliness doesn’t stop on the outside though.
The styling of the dash isn’t that bad – hey, it’s a show car. But wood? At least I assume it’s wood, it’s kind of like the sticky backed plastic stuff that was used on the cheap furniture I had as a student.
The real clue to the market Buick was aiming at is there, in the gear lever. Yep, it’s a sort of taste free 9-iron. It’d be funny in Billy-Bob’s pickup, but here they’re trying to be serious, which immediately makes me suspicious. GM wanted us to believe that if golfers could wear masses of plaid with pride, they’d really go for this thing. Then there was the space in the back, they wanted everyone to think it would take bag after bag of golf clubs.
Thing is, it was all a ruse. It was never intended to carry outings of golfers. It wasn’t meant to carry cartons of milk either, you just open the rear door when you got home and it would all just slosh out. No, the real purpose for this car is there, at the back. See those side opening doors and that slide out deck? Yeah, that right, this was a car for the Mafia. It doesn’t have an ounce of Italian motoring flair to it, but it does have room for a few bodies. If any of them were foolish enough (or still breathing), you could bring that giant hatchback down on their heads. And with that deck you could just roll them straight out into the concrete, keeping you alloy wheels well clear of the sticky stuff and all those pesky CSI inspired detectives.
Despite the public reaction (which I understand had to be mopped up later), GM carried on with this type of styling. Only in typical GM style they cut corners, or more to the point, large round bendy surfaces. Around the time the Signia was “wowing” audiences, Pontiac was pushing the Aztek
At least Buick hit on a better stealth color.
While they might have appealed to your hard-up Don, they were never going to sell in big numbers without the sliding wood body dumper.
None of these cars set the motoring world alight (at least not in a good way), even if they were a precursor to the now trendy “crossover.” Some people were so embarrassed by their purchase they resorted to drastic measures to keep new car out of the limelight. Or perhaps they were trying to keep the bodies out of sight, what do you think?
PRICELESS: “The shapeless protrusion in the front…bulbous monstrosities hanging out at the rear.”
Are you sure you aren’t describing a bad blind date, Nigel?
Okay. The “selling Buick” sent me on a Google quest to see if there was a reason for your friend’s use of this phrase (or if he was alcohol impaired). According to Urban Dictionary.
Feb 22, 2003 – to vomit; so named because of the way buick can be made to sound like a vomit noise.
And, now, my work here is done. I’m off to write.
You’re a mine of information, who knew? Selling buicks – I thought he made it up on the spot.
Sorry to disappoint, but I never waxes so lyrical about bad blind dates 🙂
Nigel, your post is the first and only enjoyment I’ll ever derive from these butt-ugly vehicles! I hadn’t seen the Buick concept car before, but I’ve always thought the Aztek was the ugliest vehicle ever designed (until the Nissan Cube came along, but don’t get me started).
I do have to admit to a certain liking for the body dumper, though. I’m not sure how the wood finish would stand up to repeated usage, but the basic concept is a good one. Maybe a liquid-tight PVC floor pan? Or, better still, disposable teflon liners. No muss, no fuss, and no straining to shift heavy bodies; they’d just slide right out. If you did it right, you wouldn’t even have to stop the car. You could just open the back door and stomp on the gas.
Thanks for my morning laugh!
Hi Diane. Oh, I like your idea. Maybe there’s a business to be made in selling teflon body-bags to the Mafia, who knows? As you say, no muss, no fuss, just plenty of horsepower and a heavy right foot and your hitman’s on his way.
The Cube is definitely something it takes a while to appreciate. Another two hundred years should do it for me.
Have a good weekend.
Hi Nigel. I found these cars depressing. To me they were a clear demonstration of GM’s miserable management skills. The demise of the mighty Cash rich GM was a process that required decades of irresponsibility and miserable “leadership”. It’s popular now to put all the blame on the unions but GM signed those union deals willingly. Those that signed those deals likely estimated that they would be cashed out before the house of rotten cards fell.
My only question about GM’s demise is why it took as long as it did. These cars are a monument to bad business practices. Now congress and the union holds sway over GM.Lets see if they can convert that disgusting transcontinental industrial disaster into a company. So far it”s not looking too good.
Yes, its a wonder that anyone let these cars go ahead as far as they did. I think the US and European car industries were in complete denial that anyone else could build a car, then the Japanese came along and wiped out a lot of them. Competition is good. In fact, if I ran a large company I wouldn’t want to buy my competitor because then there would be no motivator for the employees to push themselves.
GM really hammered the nails in their own coffin when they thought they could make more money from finance than cars. I think they still have a block in their minds against the idea that anyone could be better than them. They believe their own publicity. And you’re right, its the lack of leadership that’s crippling them. Management is one thing, but leading is something quite different.
Have a good weekend.
Hmm… I kind of dig the Signia. As someone who frequently gets lots, a car that stands out is vital. Plus, I’d love referring to my car as the “shapeless protrusion” with “bulbous monstrosities.” Does not get cooler than that! 🙂
Thanks, Nigel. I never thought I was capable of having a dream car in mind… *sigh*
Well, its certainly a car that stands out, if only in the shapeless protrusion sort of way. I must admit I missed that line as a sales idea, perhaps it was GM was aiming for. I’m glad that you’ve found your dream car (even if they never put it into production), but I must admit I am wondering if you’re european root trace all the way down to Italy and the mob.
Thanks for the comment. Have a great weekend!
That is too funny Nigel! What a repulsive color. How could anyone run around town in that? I’m sick just thinking of it. What people will do in an attempt to reinvent the wheel.
You right, the color is just as horrible as the shape. It’s a kind of sickly match to the wooden interior. Sadly, the whole car business is about reinventing the wheel!