The 1958 model year was a tough one for the Motor City in general—there was a recession in full swing, after all—but the Buick division of General Motors took an especially hard beating. Sales had tumbled from more than 700,000 in 1955 to a mere 250,000 vehicles in ’58. In an effort to stanch the bleeding, Buick’s product team radically overhauled the product line for 1959. Striking new sheet metal arrived, and meanwhile, the base model Special became the LeSabre; the midrange Century was renamed the Invicta; the Super and Roadmaster were replaced by the Electra; and the top-of-the-line Limited was now the Electra 225.
In Buick lore, the Electra was named not after the character in Greek mythology as we might expect, but after a specific American: Electra Waggoner Biggs (1912-2001). A fabulously wealthy Texas heiress and socialite, she was the owner of the half-million acre Waggoner Ranch northwest of Dallas. She, in turn, was named after her aunt, Electra Waggoner, from whom the town of Electra, Texas also takes its name.
Among her talents, Electra Waggoner Biggs was an accomplished sculptor: Notable subjects included Will Rogers, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman, below. She also happened to be the sister-in-law of General Motors president (and former Buick chief) Harlow Curtice, which seems to tie our story all together with a neat bow. It’s also said that the Lockheed Electra L-188 turboprop airliner (pictured with the convertible above) was named after her, although the Electra name was a familiar one with the aircraft maker by that time.