Striking concepts define Buick’s past and future

This article originally appeared on www.freep.com, written by Mark Phelan, on August 5, 2016

A pair of Buick concept cars won significant honors this week as the brand powers through a year rich in new vehicle introductions.

The auto industry’s first concept car — the 1938 Buick Y-Job — was inducted into the National Register of Historic Vehicles just days after the dynamic new Avista concept was named Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2016.

Avista

The Avista drew praise from the panel of automotive journalists who named it both Best Concept Car and Most Significant, an award selected from the winners of three categories of concept vehicle that debuted in North America over the last year.

“With the Avista, Buick shows that it has style — to say nothing of more than a little swagger,” said Gary Vasilash, one of the Concept Car of the Year jurors and editor of Automotive Design & Production magazine.

I’m also on the jury that presents the concept awards and I emceed the award ceremony Sunday at the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth.

The sleek rear-wheel drive Avista coupe features a 400-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0L V6, wide stance, low roofline and sweeping lines. The 2+2 interior is swathed in rich leather with carbon fiber and metal trim. The interior borrows some design elements from the 2017 LaCrosse large sedan, the last of three new models the brand is introducing this year.

Avista and Y-Job

The Avista’s 110.7-inch wheelbase matches the Chevrolet Camaro, which uses GM’s Alpha architecture, but Buick says there’s no plan to build the Avista. The concept was designed to set the tone for future production Buicks, GM design chief Michael Simcoe told me as I handed him the trophy for most significant concept.

That was also true of the 1938 Y-Job, the auto industry’s first concept car. Legendary GM design chief Harley Earl created the Y-Job to experiment with ideas for styling and technology.

The Y-Job is still drivable, and still breathtaking. Buick recently paraded it and the Avista around the rolling grounds of the N.B. Center for American Automotive Heritage in Allentown, Pa.

The Y-Job is the 14th car in the National Register of Historic Vehicles. Every detail of its history and construction is documented in the Library of Congress.

Like the Avista, the convertible concept uses a GM production drivetrain. In the Y-Job’s case, that was a modified Series 50 engine.

“The Buick Y-Job is a true American design treasure,” Historic Vehicle Association president Mark Gessler said.

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