Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The LeSabre

          The early 1950s was a prosperous time in the USA. The war was over, business was booming and we were on the verge of having jets and even space travel as a daily part of our lives. In 1951 Buick introduced what they called the LeSabre Show Car which first gave the public a look at how aircraft design could be used to create a beautiful car.

          The LeSabre name bounced around for a couple of years and by 1959 it became the official title of what had been the full-sized Buick Special. The LaSabre was an instant success. The LaSabre was consistently one of the company’s top sellers. It also became one of its longest lasting continuous names, running from 1959 until 2005.

          Buick’s class of 1959 was all new. Every car in their line-up received a complete make over with totally new designs. They utilized the two largest body styles from GM at the time (C Body and B Body) and every car saw its length stretched by one inch. One thing that wasn’t new for the LeSabre was the engine. While Buick had introduced a new 401 cubic inch V 8, LeSabre used the 364 cubic inch V 8 that had been used for the past two years. The basic model engine utilized a two-barrel carburetor and a 10.25 to 1 compression ration which generated 250 horsepower. There was an optional four barrel carb that boosted horsepower to 300.

            Only one year old, the LaSabre received a complete re-model in 1960. Basically only the roof and trunk lid survived. The car took on an even more jet age appearance with horizontal headlights and a concave grill. It even sported Buick’s new “Tri-Shield” logo that is still the banner for the marque today. There was an updated instrument panel and steering wheel. The same engine options existed but Buick added a lower compression version of the dual barrel carburetor.

            The second generation of the LaSabre came out in 1961. That is the car pictured here.  With the second generation came another all new restyling. All full sized Buicks no longer sported tail fins. The cars more reserved, less showy though there was still plenty of chrome. The wheelbase was still 123 inches but the overall length and width was slightly decreased. Essentially they were still land yachts but just a bit smaller.

            Power plants remained unchanged with the 364 cubic inch dual carb V 8 being the standard. The lower compression 364 and the four barrel 300 horsepower models remained as options. Buick’s two speed Turbine Drive Dynaflow automatic transmission was standard though a manual could still be ordered as an option.

            One look at this car shows the stylishness of the era. It really was truly foreshadowing cars from the late 1960s and early 1970s which were to become, in many cases, boxier. This was a restrained elegance rather than the flash and gilt of GM’s top full-sized luxury line, Cadillac.

            The LaSabre did quite well through eight generations. It was replaced in 2006 by the Lucerne. It is a much missed classic for sure.

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