Here’s the tale of how the Buick Electra and Electra 225 got their names.
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.
Of course, how the carmakers come up with their model names is quite a story in itself. The designations can carry tremendous meanings or tradition, or they can mean absolutely nothing at all. They might be nothing more than a random sequence of letters or numbers. In the case of the Buick Electra and Electra 225, there’s a bit of a tale behind the names.
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.
As most every American gearhead knows, the 225 designation also carries a specific meaning. It signified the vehicle’s length, a whopping 18 3/4 feet, or 225 inches—nearly five inches longer than the standard ’59 Electra. Other distinguishing features included prominent “Electra 225” badges on the front fenders and thicker, heavier rocker panel bright metal than the regular Electra. Both the Electra and Electra 225 were based on GM’s luxury C-body shell shared with Oldsmobile and Cadillac, and all Buicks that year were powered by a 325 hp, 401 CID version of the familiar nailhead V8. (Read about the trusty nailhead V8 here.)
As most every car buff also knows, the 225 model designation eventually picked up a slang version: “Deuce-and-a-Quarter.” (Among the excessively hip, this was shortened to “Nine.”) Developing its own inertia over time, the Electra name lived on at Buick well into the 1980s, when it was last used on the division’s C-body, front-drive V6 sedans. Could we ever see the Electra and Electra 225 names again? Sure, why not? Model names have their way of circling back into use now and again.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.