Clearly showing aircraft influence in styling and engineering, the Buick LeSabre was constructed of aluminum and lightweight cast magnesium. Billed as a rolling engineering laboratory, the LeSabre had 12-volt electrics (most cars then were 6-volts), a torque converter automatic transmission with an oil cooler, fuel injection, a strong, chrome-molydenum frame, built-in hydraulic jacks, a rain-activated folding top, a jet-like air intake and prominent tail fins. It is believed the LeSabre cost between $500,000 - $1,000,000, the equivalent of ten times that today. The LeSabre served as an icon for GM's cars for the remainder of the decade.
Designed by Harley J. Earl's studio with styling cues from jet fighter planes and used by him for years as an everyday driver, the LeSabre offered a preview of the aircraft styling that followed in the 1950s. The 1951 LeSabre contained such technological features as a dual gasoline and alcohol fuel system and a moisture sensor which would raise the convertible top if it began raining when the owner was away from the car.
A clay vision of the LeSabre appeared in print in the fall of 1950 and the real thing was first shown to the public in July of 1951. It was not a Buick, although Buick picked up the LeSabre name for 1959. This example was the project of Harley Earl, head of GM styling. In essence, it was a replacement of the Buick Y-Job he used as his personal car and calling card for most of the 1940s. The LeSabre went on to be used for Earl's new ride. It rides on a basic chassis with an aluminum super-charged dual fuel V-8 engine with rubber-based front suspension and a body that used cast magnesium body panels in many places. It is also equipped with hydraulic jacks on each wheel as just one of many innovations found on this vehicle.
Earl used aviation as an inspiration for many facets of his work and the LeSabre was a showcase. The name came from the Air Force Sabre jet fighters, the front jet-like intake held two headlights, the rear fins hinted at P-38 inspired Cadillac fins, and rear nozzle also was jet inspired. The instruments said aircraft in style and in the inclusion of an altimeter. Fuel tanks for gasoline and methanol were in the rear fenders and limited trunk space.
With over half a century worth of memories, the earlier models of the LeSabre inspire a sense of nostalgia back to a time when life was supposed to be simplified. The image of technology in the early stages, design, dynamic lines, unique and individual accessories, and the advance exterior engineering is apparent in the LeSabre models of old. Maintaining the same qualities that carried it through the rough times, superb engine, tremendous engineering and unwavering reliability, the LeSabre continues to impress car enthusiasts today.
Buick has kept an age old reputation for producing ‘the best of the best', and the LeSabre has proved capable of weathering the storms of the times, and acclimating itself to the ever-changing demands of its clientele. With parts available in a various and wide array, the option to upgrade the Buick LeSabre is simplified and all encompassing.
A concept vehicle created originally by General Motors Styling and Buick Engineering, the LeSabre was finally revealed in 1951. Eight years later, the LeSabre nameplate was finally put on a production vehicle. Perhaps not as exhiliarating as the 1951 dream car, the styling on the 1959 vehicle with its large tail fins was both dynamic and a sign of the times. A mainstay at Buick for four decades, the total sales of the LeSabre model exceeded six million. The LeSabre has been the number one-selling full-size vehicle in the U.S. and has won both numerous quality and 'best buy' awards for the past six years.
Totally redesigned for the 2000 model year, the LeSabre sported a fresh view and design as well as various innovative safety features, comfort and convenience.
Consistently ranked as Buick's best selling full-size car, the LeSabre was Buick's entry level vehicle. Replacing the full-size Buick Special model in 1959, LeSabre has also carried the title of America's Best-Selling Full-size Car until its discontinuation at the end of the 2005 model year. The vehicle was replaced by the 2006 Buick Lucerne. The LeSabre nameplate has outlasted the Electra, Electra 225 and the Invicta. The LeSabre also carried the lowest base price in the Buick lineup. A full-size car the was produced by the Buick division of General Motors, the Buick LeSabre replaced the full-size Buick Special model in 1959.
Originally showcased on a Motorama show car in 1951, the LeSabre nameplate was featured in a various line of body styles. Though during 1965 through 1975, the station wagon variant was dropped from Buick's full-size line, the LeSabre has been offered in a full line of body styles. The pillared coupe eventually became the only model available, both sedan and wagon body styles, in 1977 the LeSabre along with other GM full-size models were downsized. Beginning in 1964, all LeSabre models except the Estate Wagon shared their drivetrains with the mid size Buick models.
Available in two trim levels, the LeSabre Custom and the base model from the start in 1965, the Estate Wagon model was dropped. Dropped in 1970, the LeSabre 400 package included a '400' 3-speed automatic transmission along with a 4 barrel carburation on its small V8 engine. The 3-speed THM 350 transmission became standard on all models. Replacing the base Wildcat model from the year before, the new LeSabre Custom 455 now shared its model number with the Wildcat.
The LeSabre convetible model was dropped in 1973. The following year the LeSabre Luxus, a much more luxurious model, replaced the Centurion model. Available with a new ‘performance package', the Luxus included a 455 cubic inch engine, suspension upgrades and other various equipment. After a year off the market, the convertibe coupe model returned to the LeSabre lineup, and the Stage 1 performance package became available on the LeSabre in 1974.
One of the largest vehicles to be powered by a V6 engine, the 1976 Buick was the first American full size car with a standard V6 engine. The LeSabre Sport Coupe came with a turbocharged V6 with a 4 barrel carburator in standard equipment from 1978 to 1980. The LeSabre Limited replaced the LeSabre Custom model in 1979. Bucket seats with a center console also became available on the Sport Coupe model. In 1980, the ‘portholes' which had showcased on all LeSabre models since 1960 were removed.
Introduced on the new front wheel drive H platform, the 1986 Buick LeSabre departed from rear wheel drive on the GM B platform. With only minor updates through the years, the LeSabre station wagon, later called the Estate wagon, remained based on the B platform before being discontinued in 1990. A Gran National model was released in 1986, eventually followed by the LeSabre T/Type in 1987 through 1989.
Used throughout the 1980's as a performance package by Buick was the T-type designation. From 87 to 89, the LeSabre T-type was a representation of the highest performing H-body. A notch above other LeSabres, the T-Type's direct competition was the outstanding Regal. Originally, the T-Type was seemed to need a Turbo, the engine output was limited due to transmission durability complications. Instead Buick chose to improve the acceleration by utilizing a performance axle that was geared lower than most LeSabres. Grand National inspired black out trim, and the addition of aluminum wheels and both front and rear spoilers improved the vehicle styling. The installation of a consile with shift lever and front bucket seats updated and improved the interior. To accent the T-type bades, a Pontiac-style red-orange dash cluster was used, as well as other interior changes. By installing a large 1.25-inch sway bar in the front, and a .75-inch bar in the rear, the handling was greatly improved. Agile, while still incredibly comfortable, the T-type was an amazing vehicle that was beautiful without being flashy.
Redesigned with a fresh image in 1992, the Buick LeSabre now joined the ranks of the new Regal, Century and Park Avenue Sedans. Available only as a four-door sedan, the LeSabre continued this style until being discontinued in 2005. Featuring GM's plastic body technologies, the high-stree plastic now replaced the front fenders, and the headlight were streamlined with a separated amber turn signal strip that wrapped around the lower front fascia. The front was smoothed with simplified chrome molding and absent bumperettes while the rear fascia featured a wider trunk mouth and lower liftover height to ease loading baggege.
Producing 170 hp in 1992, the LeSabre has had the same engine, the 3800 V6 and is capable of 18 mpg in the city, and 28 mpg on the highway. The LeSabre accelerated to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds and had a top speed of 107 mph.
Offered in two trim levels, the base Custom trim and the premium Limited which featured allow wheels, fold down access panels to access the trunk from the rear seat, and the hood ornament. The Limited also had an 18 gallon fuel tank, power radio antenna, anti-lock brakes, and many high tech instrumentation features.
The LeSabre standard 3800 series V6 OHV powerplant received an extra 35 hp in 1995, due to an intake manifold and re-engineered throttle body. Rated at 19 mph in the city, and 29 mph on the highway, the engine on the 3800 series even received better fuel economy.
Introduced in 1999 as the Buick LeSabre 2000 on the G-body, the automobiles eventually reverted to the Buick LeSabre nameplate following the end of the 2000 model year. On an updated revision of the G platform that was also shared with the 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora and the Pontiac Bonneville, the LeSabre was manufactured in Hamtramck, Michigan at GM's Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly factory. Various changes were made that included a grille that did not open with the hood, smaller overall dimensions, a slightly larger interior area, and due to a new chassis; overall stiffer structure.
The previous Custom and Limited trim levels from 2000 were carried into 2003 models. To commemorate Buick's Centennial, a new Celebration Edition package was featured on all of the standard equipment of the Limited. Buyers were able to choose from a blacked-out grille, pearlescent White Diamond or Crimson Pearl tricoat paint schemes, 16' chrome wheels, and special badging. Available features that were either optional or standard on the LeSabre included OnStar, EyeCue heads-up display, Stabilitrak, all-weather traction control, side airbags, automatic load-leveling, heated seats, tire-pressure monitoring system, dual-zone climate control, and RainSense automatic windshield wipers.
The final LeSabre was rolled of the Lake Orion, Michigan assembly line on June 18, 2004.By Jessica Donaldson