- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Back in the early 1990s, a friend of Chris Gallagher’s bought an enormous 1967 Buick convertible. Mr. Gallagher was so taken by the monstrous machine that he began searching for an equally outrageous car of his own.

He was dissatisfied with those he found until he saw an ad offering a 1968 Buick Electra 225 Custom four-door hardtop. There wasn’t much difference between the 1967 and 1968 models and, besides, the car was located nearby, close to the Washington National Cathedral in Northwest.

In September 1994 Mr. Gallagher hitched a ride with a friend and found the Buick in a basement parking garage under a blue cover intended for a boat. Even beneath the nondescript cover the shape and size of the 18-foot, 9-inch-long Buick was unmistakable. With low expectations, he lifted one corner of the blue tarpaulin for a peek at what lay hidden.

As soon as he saw just one corner of the Buick, the pleasantly surprised Mr. Gallagher was sold. The then 26-year-old car was in remarkable condition and had been driven only 41,500 miles. The seller was the second owner of the gargantuan Buick and permitted Mr. Gallagher to take it to his own mechanic for a thorough physical examination. The only flaws uncovered by the mechanic were created by disuse and could easily be rectified.

Mr. Gallagher returned the next day, paid for the car, and happily drove the metallic charcoal-gray Buick with black vinyl top the 12 miles home to Alexandria. “It’s just a dream,” the car’s third owner says of the car with 15-inch wheels that rides on a 126-inch wheelbase.

In the intervening years Mr. Gallagher has discovered that his car was purchased new on March 6, 1968, from Circle Buick at 527 W. 57th St. in New York City. The original Protect-0-Plate with the first owner’s name is still in the tiny glove compartment.

Before transportation costs and taxes, the price was $4,685.

Inside the elegant car, black is the predominant color, indeed, the only color including the carpeting, headliner and everything in between. Protecting the black carpeting are white rubber floor mats with the Buick emblem. They came with the car.

In 1995 Mr. Gallagher had a dual exhaust system installed. It was a factory option in 1968 that he figured the original owner had overlooked. He reports more performance and better gas mileage from his four-hole Buick.

Behind the egg-crate grille and four headlights of the supersized car is an equally supersized 430-cubic-inch V-8 engine that develops 360 horsepower. Drinking from the 25-gallon gasoline tank that Mr. Gallagher replaced in the spring of 1998, the four-barrel carburetor feeds fuel to the engine at the rate of about 12 miles per gallon. All that power is transferred to the rear drive wheels through a Super Turbine 400 automatic transmission.

When weather permits Mr. Gallagher enjoys motoring in his spacious 6-foot, 8-inch wide Buick with all four windows lowered to take advantage of the pillarless appearance. The slim three-spoke steering wheel is easy to turn with the aid of power steering and the AM/FM radio provides accompaniment through the rear-seat speaker.

Some of the goodies on the luxurious car include:

• Speed alert.

• Tinted glass.

• AM/FM radio.

• Power windows.

• Air conditioning.

• Cornering lights.

• Custom vinyl top.

• Six-way power seat.

• Undercoating glaze.

• White sidewall tires.

• Electric rear antenna.

• Front and rear floor mats.

• Ride and handling package.

• Remote-control side mirror.

Mr. Gallagher has never found rust anywhere on the car and he says there are no signs that it was ever abused. On the contrary, evidence indicates that the car has always received the best of treatment.

He has never had his car up to the 120-mph limit on the speedometer but he has no doubt that it is possible.

Mr. Gallagher points out that 1968 was the last year for the front-door vent windows on Buick and the first year for the hideaway windshield wipers.

The Custom four-door hardtop Electra 225 was the most popular Electra model in 1968 with a total of 50,846 manufactured.

It’s appeal, even with 70,750 miles recorded on the odometer, has never waned for Mr. Gallagher.

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