1987 Buick Electra on Ebay

Discussion in 'Station Wagon Auctions, Craigs List and Other Stat' started by TimM, Aug 21, 2018.

  1. TimM

    TimM New Member

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    I am looking for a road trip wagon and something to take around town to get coffee in...

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/1987-Buick-Electra-/263876342990

    How reliable are these 80's wagons? What is the cost of ownership like? Could I put a few thousand miles on it a year? I live in Western MA and would like to take it to the Berkshires or to the Cape.

    A little bit of background information... I am a 27 year old with a work vehicle that can be used for personal use as well and my grandfather had one of these old Buick station wagons. I am looking to get something affordable that I can enjoy. Driving this thing around New England seems like a lot of fun for the price point. I am not mechanically inclined but wouldn't mind putting a little bit of money into it or keeping it vigorously maintained.

    Maybe the idea is a little too romantic. Any information about these vehicles helps.
     
  2. 101Volts

    101Volts Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum, we're about the same age if not born on the same day (My birthday was last Wednesday.) I had an 84 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Sedan and I also bought a 1990 Mercury Grand Marquis Wagon with a 302. In the 1984 Caprice, the 305 engine was said to be one of the most reliable engines ever, going half a million miles easily; it wasn't a powerful engine but it would last forever with regular maintenance. My Father had an 89 Caprice Estate Wagon and the transmission went on it soon after he bought it around the time I was born in 1991 so I don't think Chevrolet's transmissions are always the most reliable from the factory. Beyond that, it's not just the transmissions but owners don't always take care of their possessions and some never change the ATF.

    If you want a Wagon with shoulder seat belts for outboard passengers in the middle, look for an 89 (Buick, Chevrolet, Olds, Pontiac) but keep away from the last year 1990 models because the front seat belts are mounted to the doors which means you can be ejected in a collision if the door opens. Ford and Mercury also made wagons in the same shape; Ford and Mercury made theirs for 1990 and 1991 but they don't have goofy seat belts, they have an air bag for the driver.

    My Mercury Grand Marquis Wagon is the same general size and shape as these G.M. wagons. I've only driven it about 4,000 miles in the last 4 years and a few issues that the Ford and Mercury models are known for are these:

    Small Transmission Issue That Can Get Big: Throttle Valve Grommet. Stock ones are plastic and they break; if that happens, your transmission blows up in a few miles. This is also an issue on other Fords and Lincolns from the time.
    Timing Belt: Not made of the highest quality in 302 engines; they can get stretched and cause the car to feel like it's not keeping an even rate of acceleration. This is subtle but I notice it in mine.
    Instrument Cluster: The temperature gauge and odometer broke in mine.
    Head Gaskets: These seem to be somewhat problematic with the 302 although mine's OK for now.

    Possible "Old Car" Issues:

    Coolant System Concern: When I bought the Wagon in 2014, the ATF looked like mud; that may have simply been neglect from the original owner. I deep cleaned the coolant system but not with distilled water and now I'm noticing some brown flakes in it again, nearly 4 years later.
    Other possible issues: The Oil Dipstick came out on mine while pulling it (the metal stress relief was already broken) and the fan shroud was broken on purchase.
    Transmission: I'm not sure if this is just from the age of the car, the design of this engine and transmission combo or a combination of everything; however, I can't climb most hills in Overdrive without the car going into a lower gear and accelerating too much or going in a higher gear and not accelerating enough. This is solved when I put it in Drive 3 seconds before I start hill climbing (giving the transmission time to shift.) I never noticed this transmission characteristic with the 84 Caprice Sedan I drove, though; it worked fine uphill in Overdrive.
     
  3. 101Volts

    101Volts Well-Known Member

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    Also, the biggest issue you'll find on any car is rust. Most things about cars can be fixed if you're willing to put enough into it but rust requires more work, especially if the frame's rusted. Good tip: coating cars with Fluid Film (sheep oil) is a great way to prevent rust from starting.

    My Mercury (which was never driven in winter here in Pennsylvania) has rust in the wheel arches (not obvious from 10 feet) and on the frame where a catalytic converter line blew and let exhaust blow on the frame for years, putting a hole through it. Check the roof for rust, especially underneath the luggage strips if the car has roof racks. Mine has rust bubbling under a few strips.

    I don't suppose it's completely impractical for you to get a Wagon but don't expect everything to be perfect (especially if the car was used for years) and don't expect it all to be as developed as newer cars. Also, you might want to avoid models that don't have Overdrive transmissions if you're concerned at all about fuel mileage. Once you're under 20 MPG, the gallons add up a lot faster.
     
  4. Krash Kadillak

    Krash Kadillak Well-Known Member

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    I own a Pontiac version of this wagon - 1981 model year. (These wagons were built from the 1977 model year, all the way up through the 1990 model year, in Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick versions. Heck, there were even some custom Cadillac versions built.)

    The engine in that Buick Electra Estate wagon is most likely the same one as in my Pontiac Bonneville Safari - an Oldsmobile 307 cubic-inch V8. It will get you maybe 15 mpg if you don't have too heavy an accelerator foot. Don't expect to win any stop light grand prix's. The engine only has about 145 hp.

    One thing the seller of this wagon doesn't mention is anything about the body and frame, and whether there are any indications of rust. That is something I would certainly check out.

    These wagons are pretty reliable, but they do have issues with interior and exterior trim pieces. You will most likely find there are a few bits broken or missing. Happens to most of these. The interior headliner is also a trouble spot. This one might have had that already done. Mine was falling down when I got the wagon, and it was the first thing I had replaced.
     
  5. 101Volts

    101Volts Well-Known Member

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    Thankfully, headliners are much easier to replace in Wagons than they are in Sedans.
     
  6. KevinVarnes

    KevinVarnes Well-Known Member

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    The only "problem" with the full size GM wagons of this era is they were all carbureted. If you aren't handy with the spanners you are going to have a hard time finding anybody that actually knows how to work on a carburetor these days. That Buick looks like it is in good shape. Some would take exception with the mileage, but high mileage has never really bothered me. Not sure what the deal is with those two weird dents in the tailgate. As mentioned since it is a CT car a thorough check for rust should be done. Also as mentioned this car has the 307 which was no powerhouse.

    These cars are relatively easy to work on and parts (regular replacement parts that is) are cheap and readily available still. Other things like interior parts and various trim and body panels are getting harder to find.

    Keep in mind this thing is 30+ years old. There are bound to be things that are worn out on it (suspension, steering, brakes, etc). I don't consider that a big deal, but if you have to take your car to a mechanic every time something breaks (and things will break or wear out on a 30 year old car) then it could get expensive.
     
  7. 101Volts

    101Volts Well-Known Member

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    As a cautionary tale, you might want to hear the mess I got into with my 99 Suburban.

    To put a very long story short, I bought a rolling repair bill.

    In more detail, it's been mostly quiet for repairs lately but that first year and a half was ridiculous. A leaking fuel tank (up high which wasn't a big problem,) a cracked windshield and cracked washer fluid reservoir, the transmission rear gear went out, I needed new batteries... However, I never lost everything; the engine did keep going and an oil cooler line (of which this design is problematic) didn't pop off on me.

    I only listed /some/ issues. I didn't have a rusted frame or body on it but there were rusted areas which I have to repair yet and I got all of the panels for the work at hand.
     
  8. Stern70

    Stern70 Active Member

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    Seams like these are know for having week tranny's. From what I have gathered.
     
  9. MAK

    MAK Well-Known Member

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    did you get the car? Price seemed low for condition
    Major issue with 80's GM car is failure of clear coat Most of the interior trim pcs can be had from a sedan, If you didn't get the car and are still in the hunt expect gaskets and seals to be shot, most people don't replace, they just get adding all the fluids - usually cheaper - but gaskets and seals do not last 30 years
     

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