Plain-Looking 1979 Buick Century Is a Malaise-Era Sleeper With a Nasty V8

When it comes to classic sleepers, there are plenty of factory-built models to choose from, especially from the 1960s and the early 1970s. However, the arrival of the Malaise era in 1973 put an end to unassuming automobiles with high-performance drivetrains.
1979 Buick Century fastback 11 photos
Photo: countryclassiccars77/eBay
1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback1979 Buick Century fastback
So if you're a fan of the boxy designs of the late 1970s but you need more oomph to have fun with, your only choice is to heavily upgrade the car's factory engine or drop a larger mill under the hood. Someone went with the latter option for a 1979 Buick Century coupe and the result is intriguing, to say the least.

Discontinued for the second time in 1958, the Century was revived for the 1973 model year. But it was no longer a land yacht. Brought back to replace the Skylark, the Century was downsized to intermediate duty.

The fourth-gen model that arrived in 1978 remained in the midsize market, but it was downsized again to a wheelbase that measured only 108.1 inches (2746 mm). The nameplate also lost the big-block V8s that Buick offered until 1977. The white fastback coupe you see here is part of that lineage. But it's not what it seems.

A Turbo Coupe trim, this Buick left the factory with a turbocharged version of the company's 231-cubic-inch (3.8-liter) V8 engine. Rated at 170 horsepower, it was a better option compared to the 301-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) Pontiac V8 available at the time (150 horsepower) but it wasn't exactly impressive.

The previous owner of this car thought the same and ditched the turbo V6 for something a lot bigger: a 455-cubic-inch (7.5-liter) big-block V8. Yup, as shocking as it may seem, the engine bay is big enough to comfortably accommodate one of the largest production V8s for passenger cars ever made. And whoever made the swap did a great job, at least based on the photos that come with the ad.

On the flip side, the seller doesn't provide any info on the unit beyond the fact that it's a Buick powerplant. The company offered a 455 from 1970 to 1976 and the unit found its way into almost every vehicle it produced in that era. The list includes the Electra, LeSabre, Riviera, Wildcat, Gran Sport, and even the Regal.

But while the mighty 455 Stage 1 fitted in the limited-edition GSX delivered 360 horsepower and a whopping 510 pound-feet (691 Nm) of torque, the regular version became significantly less powerful through the 1970s, dropping to only 205 horses in 1976, its final year on the market. But even with this detuned variant, the fastback is still notably more powerful than with the turbocharged V6.

On the other hand, the package also includes upgrades like an aluminum intake manifold, Holley carb, and an aftermarket ignition, so the actual output should be higher. The mill mates to an automatic transmission.

Engine swap aside, the fastback is pretty much stock inside and out except for a set of new gauges in the dash. The car was likely repainted some time ago and it's far from perfect, but it looks good from a distance. The video that comes with the ad reveals a nice V8 burble that reminds me of early 1970s muscle cars.

This unusual sleeper is located in Staunton, Illinois, and eBay seller "countryclassiccars77" is looking to get $12,950 to let it go, but he's entertaining offers. For reference, all-original 1979 Centuries in great condition usually change hands for less than $8,000.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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