Buick Regal version 3.0

For 1988, Buick had prepared a third generation of Regal. It was no small change. The nameplate was again a two-door-only model, at least initially, but outside of that there was little, if anything, shared with the previous generation, which technically debuted about ten years prior.Design Notes Lite: 1988 Buick Regal

1987 Buick GNX front leftThere’s a bit of tragic irony that a model which birthed high-performance variants like the Grand National and mighty GNX would have its power delivery moved from the rear to the front, and make the sole engine a 2.8-liter V6 that produced a feeble 125 horsepower.

Regal’s wild days were pretty much done. But a generous dose of modern styling, that danced between sport and elegance, helped the new car drive sales up roughly 20 percent.

Here are a handful of pictures showing pre-production design work.

This first one has a fantastic profile. Although, I think the front axle is about six inches or maybe three feet too far rearward. I know that’s generally a result of fwd packaging but this was a bit excessive. Things like that don’t necessarily make a car ugly in my eyes but stunted fwd proportions swindle the grace out from under too many designs.

Design Notes: 1988 Buick Regal sketch 1

I really like the roofline and C-pillar on the car in the drawing above, particularly how that C-pillar intersects with the trunk line. The only thing that seems overlooked, from a practicality standpoint, is rear passenger space. No?

This next introduces us to an option that must have been considered at some level to inspire and commission this next drawing.

Design Notes: 1988 Buick Regal sketch 2

T-tops! Man, that would have been cool. They were available on the previous generation, although I’m not sure if they could be had through 1987. In any event, T-tops could add a happy compromise between convertible and hardtop for many people, myself included.

Either way, this drawing looks similar to the finished product, including the tail lights. But that interior was a bit aspirational compared to what made production. And there’s that darn anteater-proportioned snout again… grrr.

Next is one of two models I have pictures of. At first I thought they might have been the same model with a different version of the design on each side but in the larger picture, in an areas that’s been cropped out, snow can be seen in one shot while the other appears lush.

This first one, which had the snow, doesn’t appear to be dramatically different from the car that made production. It’s just blockier and devoid of any real character.

Design Notes: 1988 Buick Regal model 1

While the model above invokes Mercury Sable up front, the rear window reminds me of the Cutlas Supreme sedan’s, of the same generation.

This next model appears largely the same but has its differences (notice the green foliage and lack of snow).

Design Notes: 1988 Buick Regal model 2

Even though the C-pillar received some attention, it and the rear window still had more to go. And, the plain-Jane tail lights would have the unfinished look finessed away, with the rear license plate holder moved from the bumper to the trunk lid, between the lenses.

Here’s a picture of the production car, below, for general comparison.

1988 Buick Regal front right