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
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?