Buick Electra

Big Buick has ‘Electrafying’ effect


There is nothing small about John Gerdtz’s 1978 Buick Electra Park Avenue 225 two-door coupe.

So long, so wide and so white is this Buick that it is probably visible from outer space.

John’s luxury land yacht carries three storied names from the brand’s illustrious history: Electra, Park Avenue and 225.

Since 1959 the “Electra” was always the top of the line Buick.

This was the model you bought if you did not want to been seen in a more garish Cadillac, but still wanted your neighbours to know you had money.

The Electra name was in honour of Electra Waggoner Biggs, a renowned American sculptor, and who just happened to be the sister-in-law of General Motors’ boss at the time – Harlow Curtis.

“Park Avenue” was the ultra-luxury interior trim option.

It featured as much velour as could be tucked, rolled and stretched across the interior of a car without actually impeding operation of the vehicle.

And then there’s the fabled numbers “225”, reflecting the car’s original 225 inch length (5715mm) in 1959.

Buick fans know it by its street name “the deuce and a quarter”.

John’s coupe has its own illustrious history.

The car was built in the USA for Joe Mitchell, who was the chairman of Carter GM, one of Canada’s, biggest GM dealerships.

“I’ve been in contact with Joe Mitchell and he reckons the car was one of his favourites,” John said.

Mr Mitchell kept the car for about a year and then sold it to a young Aussie who was living in Canada.

When he returned to Australia in 1981, he brought the car with him.

Oddly, it was converted to right hand drive in Canada before shipping down under.

The conversion was reasonable job but one thing the Canadians could not get quite right was the linkages for the column mounted automatic transmission selector.

The local fix was to install an LH Torana console and T-Bar set up.

John bought the Buick in 2005 from its then lady owner.

It had been languishing in a shed for 11 years.

“It took me two weeks just to fix the dashboard,” John said.

He had to replace all of the wood inlays which had deteriorated.

On a warm Friday morning John took me for a drive through north western Sydney.

Out on the road the big Buick wafted along, in silence.

We were insulated from the pesky cares of the work-a-day week by the thick sound proofing and ultra soft seats.

The 5.7-litre long stroke Buick V8 was totally under stressed.

At 100 km/h it barely registered 1500 rpm.

That’s because there is a 2.41 diff in it,” John said. “It does not get away from the lights very quickly but it rolls along just fine once it gets going.”

As the “deuce and a quarter” progressed along the highways and byways of Sydney it drew admiring glances.

People hung out of car windows to take photos, cameras no doubt set to panoramic mode in order to ensure all of the Electra was in the frame.

John drives the car at least two or three times a week.

He admitted that supermarket car parks are the main problem.

“Sometimes it can be a bit difficult getting in and out of the car because the doors are so long that they do not open wide enough if the parking spaces are narrow.”

And he is right about those doors.

They stretch almost two metres in length.

The upside is that it is very easy to climb into the rear seat, unlike most coupes where accessibility is only for those who are very supple of limb.

By our reckoning John’s car is the only one of its kind on the road in Australia.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au


David Burrell is the founder and editor of Retroautos.com.au, a free online classic cars magazine. David has a passion for cars and car design. He's also into speedway, which he's been writing about since 1981. His first car was a rusted-out 1961 Vauxhall Velox. Prior to starting the magazine, David worked as an international executive in a Fortune 500 company, in Australia, NZ, Asia, Latin America and the UK.