If the 1950s had been a decade of dazzle, the 1960s started out by turning down the volume -- at least with the 1960 Buick Electra and the GM fold.
Big changes had been the rule for the 1959 Buicks, with their huge canted "Delta wing" fins and slanted quad headlights. Some considered it the most dramatic Buick of all -- and a sharp contrast to the garish 1958 with its unexcelled load of chrome doodads.
The new model names and body styles introduced for 1959 continued this year: low-price LeSabre, sporty (more or less) midrange Invicta, luxury Electra, and even bigger Electra 225. That latter nameplate denoted the overall dimensions of the long-deck model, which stretched 4.7 inches beyond an ordinary-size Electra.
Basic appearance was similar to 1959, with its then-new long-deck, thin-section roofline, and vast glass area. Changes this year were just extensive enough to soften some of the more frivolous excesses and sharper edges.
A more subdued grille was made up of concave vertical bars -- quite a change from the bulky pattern of chrome blocks that marked the 1959 version -- and quad headlights now sat side by side.
Tailfins were comparably canted and integrated into the overall profile, their upper line extending all the way to the windshield. This time around, though, they sat tighter in, helping to highlight rather than conflict with the deeply sculptured bodysides.
Hardtop sedans came in two distinct roofline styles: a six-window Riviera with curved rear and triangular rear-quarter panes; or a four-window with flat roof, slim pillars, and huge panoramic wraparound back window.
Traditionalists got something they hadn't seen for several years: VentiPorts. Yes, the row of "portholes" that had first identified Buick fenders in 1949 was back, albeit in modified form.
To learn more about the 1960 Buick Electra engine, transmission, and styling, go on to the next page.
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Beneath the 1960 Buick Electra and Invicta hoods was the 401-cid V-8 introduced in 1959, dubbed Wildcat 445 (to denote its torque rating) and churning out 325 horsepower. LeSabres carried a 364-cid engine, with 235 to 300 bhp.
Electras came with power brakes and steering, but this year's dual exhaust system switched to a single transverse muffler. Limited demand and high cost nixed the Triple Turbine Drive transmission that had been optional since 1958.
In its place, a new Turbine Drive transmission featured a variable-pitch fluid-control mechanism that replaced ordinary gears. Buick Transmission Engineer Harold Fischer explained to Car Life that "for maximum acceleration ... you don't shift gears, you shift a constantly flowing stream of oil."
Instead of the customary "neck-snapping" downshift when passing, the magazine reported "a smooth surge like a rising wave."
Other magic went inside: namely, a new Mirromagic instrument panel that let the driver read the bar-style speedometer and warning lights through an adjustable tilting mirror.
More important to passengers was the lowering of the central tunnel and floor pan, which added leg room. Back doors opened wider than before, doubtless a concession to the age of the typical Electra customer.
A smooth ride had long been a Buick trademark, so the company promoted Electra's Torque Tube driveline, full-coil suspension, and solid K-braced frame. Air Poise suspension, formerly optional, was now consigned to the history books.
Electras rode a 126.3-inch wheelbase, 3.3 inches longer than the other Buicks, and carried 8.00 x 15 tires. A convertible came only in the Electra 225 series, priced at $4,192. Budget-minded buyers could get a base Electra hardtop sedan for a mere $3,818.
An impressive option list included Twilight Sentinel that turned headlights on automatically, Guide-Matic to dim them, power windows and six-way seat, air conditioning, and "Wonder Bar" (station-seeking) radio.
Production had risen considerably in 1959, though Buick dropped from fifth to seventh place in industry sales. But fewer cars came off the line for 1960: only 253,807 (including 56,314 Electras), versus 284,248 the previous year.
That loss dropped Buick down to the ninth slot, its worst showing in 55 years, while corporate rival Pontiac's fortunes were rising.
Whether the result of poor sales or simply a more conservative styling approach, this revision set the stage for a softening of the look and the quick demise of the slanted fins.
Now, Buick was ready to slim down a bit, inject an extra dose of performance, and debut a mini edition to match its full-size luxury tourers.
"When better automobiles are built," trumpeted ads with regularity, "Buick will build them." Whether the 1960 Electra was "better" than the 1959 is a matter of taste.
With a convertible top down, in particular, either of those huge heavyweights still turns heads today -- even if some observers might be taken aback at the sight of all that chrome and bulk.
For 1960 Buick Electra specifications, go on to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1960 Buick Electra Specifications
The 1960 Buick Electra was softer and more subdued than its 1959 predecessor. But with tailfins, VentiPorts, and a "Wildcat 445" engine, the sedan was still a highly stylized -- not to mention, powerful -- luxury tourer.
Engines: ohv V-8, 401 cid (4.19 × 3.64), 325 bhp
Transmission: Turbine Drive (twin turbine) automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: live axle, coil springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 126.3
Weight (lbs): 4,453-4,653
Top speed (mph): 110-180
0-60 mph (sec): 11.0-12.0