My 1983 Buick Regal Estate Wagon, affectionately known in our family as “Miss Piggy” has been a part of the family since my childhood. The fact that the car has been in our family since new while many other cars have come and gone in the meantime is a testament to our enduring fondness for the car.
Miss Piggy was purchased new sometime in late 1982 in Mountain View, California. I remember being in the back seat for the test drive. I also remember my mother following me in the car as I rode my bicycle to school for the first time. It must have been about second grade for me. The wagon lived in Northern California for another seven years until my mom got a new Buick Century in 1990, the summer before I was going to start my freshman year of high school.
My two aunts flew out from Tennessee, and my mother, my aunts and myself proceeded to drive Miss Piggy down the California coast, across the Mojave Desert, and through the Midwestern plains, Ozarks and finally all the way to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she remained for the next 27 years. That cross-country road trip is a story in itself, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll jump ahead.
Unfortunately, a broken oil pump and the collateral damage it caused necessitated a rebuilt engine shortly after the car arrived in Knoxville. It was used as our family’s primary transportation when we visited extended family back there. It was well-maintained, but certainly not babied. An accident in 2001 required that the car be re-painted, and the vinyl woodgrain was re-wrapped in a lighter-than-original color. Other than the rebuilt engine in 1990 and the new paint in 2001, Miss Piggy is still entirely mechanically original, right down to the asthmatic factory-spec 110-hp 3.8L 2-bbl V-6.
Our family’s townhouse in Knoxville was put up for sale in 2017, and was the car’s home for most of its life in Tennessee. Something had to be done with Miss Piggy. The options were to sell it, or give it someone in the family to take custody. I had told my mother many times in the past that I wanted the car, and she said I had first dibs on it. The car lived up again with my mother in Northern California for about a year as my wife and I bought a new house that would better accommodate the car.
The car had not run in at least seven years. I had the carburetor and fuel sender rebuilt, got a new fuel tank, and blew out the fuel lines. The oil that was still in the pan still appeared in good condition, and golden brown. Several months ago, my father-and-law and I hooked up a new battery and attempted to start the car. Surprisingly, the car started and ran like it had only been sitting for a few weeks. Even more amazingly, it passed smog with flying colors on the first attempt. I took the car to the South OC Cars & Coffee in San Clemente, where I was approached by the U.S. editor for Daytona, an American classic car enthusiast magazine in Japan, about photographing the car for a feature. The car was photographed, and is scheduled to run in an upcoming issue.
While I love the period early ‘80s look, woodgrain and all, and the relative rarity of the G-Body Regal wagon (only offered for the ’82 and ’83 model years), the lack of power compared to today’s cars takes a lot of fun out of the driving experience. Eventual future plans include a comprehensive frame-off restomod, including a reinforced, powdercoated frame, performance suspension, 12-bolt rear axle, LS3 E-Rod, and 4L65-E transmission. With an updated powertrain, I intend to keep Miss Piggy in the family for the foreseeable future.