A Mostly British Obsession

The Soy-Sauce Mobile

Buick CenturyI have to laugh, I found an ad on the internet for a 1975 Buick Century, my first car–described as a “classic.” Mine was definitely not, and somehow earned the nickname “the soy-sauce mobile” among my friends.

I don’t have any photos of that car, it was red with a white vinyl top and white interior. This would have been 1983 or so, when I was 16 or 17. We paid $1200 for it, of which I pitched in the $750 I had saved and my parents loaned me the remaining $450. The car was maybe ten years old and now that I think back on it, it was in lousy shape for such a brief period. Perhaps the build quality was terrible, or it had a hard life, or both.

In addition to weird primer patches all over, which were perfectly square and looked like duct tape, there was a great deal of rust under the vinyl roof, which I imagine was unprimed from new. On the hot-stereo front, I can remember putting in a stand-alone cassette deck (retail value, $6.99), patched into the single front and single rear speaker. Whoo, baby!

It had a 350 V8, which drank gas at a rate I couldn’t really afford. It got about 12 or so around town but that sank rapidly if I piled a bunch of friends inside. My driving style was heavy on the right foot, too, which didn’t help.

I first turned wrenches on this machine (my dad was not mechanically inclined), and learned a lot, namely, not to trust the guys at the local parts house for decent repair advice.

“Do you need to disconnect a battery when changing an alternator?”


Zap! (Socket wrench welds itself to rocker cover.)

I learned all about fusible links that day, too.

I eventually sold it after about six months at my parent’s behest, I think for $1500–a profit, if you actually ignored the amount spent to keep it on the road. For it being my first car, I don’t have much fondness for it–though it would be fun to see one that has been restored (mainly to ask “why?”).


  1. Allie

    My mom had a Buick. I think it was a Buick Century but I am not sure. It did not look like the one in the picture there… but it was a later model by about 10 years.

    Anyway, it was a piece of crap. Constantly overheated and all manner of things going wrong with it. Ugh. She let me borrow it fairly often because my own car was an even more unreliable piece of crap. (:

  2. Russell Beaty

    I have a 75 “soy-sauce mobile” that might interest you. Give me your address and I’ll send pics. Mine may be the best original anywhere.


  3. Gerrit

    My 1975 buick century has the gran sport option. Mine actually runs very well, and has no engine problems. On average, i get about 18 miles to the gallon. All it needs is paint.

  4. bill

    I haad a 75 buick century for my first car as well. I got it in 85 for 100 bucks. It was ugly pea green with paisley seats. The lady who sold it to me did not think it would last a year. I had it for almost 8. It was great. My mechanic called it the last of the iron horses. Engine was tight. I wish I still had it, but at 17 years old the tranny went. A friend of mine and I rebuilt it, but I did not know what I was doing really, and the fly wheel cracked after about 2 months, I was too lazy to rip it apart again. I miss the ole girl though.

  5. Mike

    I had a 1975 Century Custom. It drank gas big time. I had rust holes the size if a quarter beside the passenger door handle and on the right side of the trunk cover. And this was in the Spring of 1979.Though it wasn’t a great car, it was a heck of a lot better than the 1975 Volkswagon Rabbit that I traded in for it. Since the experience with my Rabbit, I refuse to even park close to a Volkswagon now. My Century was a 2 door, a very dark brown, and a beige vinyl roof. All waxed up it looked pretty well. But if stalled like heck when taking off from a corner. I had it at many shops who fiddled arround with if but never really fixed the problem. I sold the car in 1983, bought a japaneese quite reluctantly,and against my principles since I had sworn off imports, but I have driven nothing but since.

  6. Gerrit

    I like mine alot, im currently going to repaint it and such, redo the interior. mine was blue, with white seats and blue interior, im gonna take the shitty stereo out and put a better one in there, also im gonna do a little to the engine, but it costs alot of money soo ya.. picked it up for only 900 dollars. so far nothing bad has happened, only master cylinder, radiator and fuel tank i had to replace so its all good,


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