1970 Buick Electra 225 convertible (top; image by the author); 1970 Chrysler 300 convertible (bottom; image by Richard Lentinello).
Editor’s note: This or That is not a comparison report between two vehicles, but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a regular basis, but with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this pairing, and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.
Featured in this edition of This or That are a pair of 1970 convertibles from that year’s market segment rivals: a Buick Electra 225 and a Chrysler 300. Each represent the last of their kind. Though both continued to exist as regular production models beyond ’70, neither were offed in convertible guise the following year, signalling the beginning of the end of convertible production – especially full-size platforms – for years to come. Here are a few more details about each (if you want to read more than we’ve provided, both cars were former subject material in our Hemmings Classic Car magazine–just click on the links provided).
The Electra 225 came into existence during the great Flint revamp of 1959. Published reports vary; however, it’s safe to say that as the full-size platforms were redesigned, the Roadmaster and Limited were re-named Electra 225 in one shot (the Super became the base Electra, Century became Invicta, and Special was renamed Le Sabre). But by 1962 the Electra series was dropped from Buick’s lineup altogether, leaving just the Electra 225 as the top-of-the-line series for decades to come (the “225” portion of the name was dropped after ’76) while eliminating hierarchy confusion among casual and first-time Buick buyers.
As to the 1970 convertible pictured above, it was available only in the Custom trim level within the series (costing $4,802 without options), each assembled in Buick’s home plant in Flint, Michigan. Aesthetically, the Electra 225 series had been redesigned a year prior, thus for ’70 visual updates were minor. All Electras – now measuring 225.8 inches long – still featured the division’s traditional sweepspear styling, and Ventiports were retained yet again and appeared behind the front wheel openings. Their steel bodies were bolted to a full perimeter frame, the latter’s wheelbase measuring 127 inches. Capable of carrying six in luxurious comfort, the line was supported by a conventional coil-sprung independent front suspension system up front and a a four-link, coil-sprung suspension under the back end, while each of the four corners touted hydraulic tubular shocks and 12-inch brake drums. Those drums were different front-to-rear: finned aluminum with cast-iron liners up front; finned cast-iron in the rear. A front disc system was optional.
The big news for Buick’s Electra, however, was the engine change. Gone was the 360-hp 430-cu.in. V-8 that had been utilized in the series since 1967. In its place was the new 455-cu.in. big-block. Fitted with a Rochester 4MV Quadrajet carburetor, the 10.0:1 compression engine was capable of producing 370 hp and 510-lbs.ft. of torque. It was backed by a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission.
As model year production came to a close, Buick assembled just 6,045 Electra 225 convertibles: the lowest Electra drop-top output since 1959. Despite the mechanical and visual improvements, that figure translated to a 27 percent reduction in output over the previous year.
Chrysler’s 300 series had far different, and somewhat older, lineage. Unleashed in 1955 as the Chrysler C-300, it was a perfect blend of the New Yorker body, with an Imperial grille and a mighty powerful 300-hp, 331-cu.in. Hemi engine. This full-size performance car became an overnight legend on the NASCAR and AAA stock car circuits, claiming 37 combined wins in its first year of production. It was, arguably, the fastest domestic production car on the market at the time, and its on-track dominance continued a year later as the 300-B. Dubbed the letter cars, each year the alpha-numeric designation progressed to “L” for 1965, but in 1962 Chrysler Corporation introduced a companion make to the letter series, simply called the 300. It was a sporty-but-not-letter-car replacement for the Windsor.
For 1970, the “300” was offered in three body styles: two-door hardtop, four-door hardtop, and the convertible pictured above. Touting a base price of $5,195, visually it was the elegant epitome of 1969’s unveiling of “fuselage” styling. The platform featured a 124-inch wheelbase and a 224.7-inch long body that wrapped up to six passengers while hiding a 350-hp 440-cu.in. engine (in base trim), backed by the ever-durable TorqueFlite automatic. Buyer’s could have optioned up to the 375-hp, dual-exhaust version “440 TNT” V-8. The entire ensemble was supported by Mother Mopr’s tried-and-true rear leaf spring suspesnion, complemented by torsion bars up front. Power-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drums were also standard equipment. Like Buick’s Electra 225, the list of standard comfort and convenience equipment was lengthy, and there were plenty of options available to help make the commute more comfortable.
However, the lack of demand for convertibles that began to plague Buick also hit Chrysler; even more so. Just 1,077 were produced for the 1970 season, which translated to a staggering 44 percent drop from the previous year.
Given the opportunity to obtain a full-size 1970 rarity, which of the two would you add to your stable and why?