History of model
The LeSabre nameplate made its first appearance on the 1951 Le Sabre show car, which introduced the world to aircraft-inspired design elements such as the wrap-around windshield and tail fins. There is a V8 for the Buick LeSabre (5.00L) which originated in 1953. In 1959 LeSabre became the new moniker for what had previously been known as the Buick Special. The Buick LeSabre was offered in a full line of body styles except between 1965-1969 when its station wagon variant was dropped from Buick's full-size offerings. In 1977, the LeSabre was downsized along with other GM full-size models, and was available only in pillared coupe, sedan and wagon body styles.
In addition to being Buick's entry level vehicle, the LeSabre was consistently Buick's best selling full-size car. Of the four nameplates introduced in 1959 (LeSabre, Invicta, Electra, Electra 225), the LeSabre nameplate lasted the longest.
From 1959 to 1961, the LeSabre was powered by a 364 cubic-inch V8, which was smaller than the 401 cubic-inch V8 used in the more expensive Invicta and Electra models. The 364, which was previously used in all Buicks in 1957 and 1958, was rated at 250 horsepower (190 kW) in standard form with an "economy" 235 horsepower (175 kW) version offered as a "no cost" option in 1960-61 and an optional power-pack version with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts that was rated at 300 horsepower (220 kW). For 1962-63, the LeSabre came standard with a two-barrel carbureted version of the 401 V8 rated at 280 horsepower (210 kW), or a no-cost "economy" low-compression version rated at 260 horsepower (190 kW). Starting in 1964, all LeSabre models except the Estate Wagon shared their drivetrains with the mid size Buick models by switching to those models' smaller-displacement V8s at least as standard equipment for the next few years with cubic-inch displacements of 300 (1964–65), 340 (1966–67) and 350 (1968–76). A large-displacement would not reappear in a LeSabre until 1970 when a 455 cubic-inch V8 was introduced as an option and was offered through 1976. Beginning with the downsized 1977 models and continuing through three subsequent generations of front-drive LeSabres introduced in 1986, 1992 and 2000, Buick's 3.8-liter (231 cubic-inch)V6 would become the standard engine for most LeSabre models and V8 engines were dropped (except in station wagons) after the last of the rear-drive LeSabre sedans and coupes came off the line in 1985.
For most years from 1959 to 1971, a three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment on all LeSabres but rarely ordered. Far more popular was the Turbine Drive automatic transmission (previously known as Dynaflow) along with power steering and power brakes. For 1961 and 1962, the automatic transmission was standard on the LeSabre and all other full-sized Buicks but in 1963 was moved back to the option list on LeSabres. For 1964, the Dynaflow-based Turbine Drive was replaced by two new automatic transmissions, the two-speed Super Turbine 300 and the three-speed Super Turbine 400. A four-speed manual transmission was offered as a LeSabre option from 1963 to 1965 but only a small number of cars were so equipped. Automatic transmissions would once again reappear as standard equipment on LeSabres in mid-1971 and continue in such form until the model line's demise after 2005.
LeSabres were rear-drive six-passenger vehicles from 1959 to 1985 (station wagons through 1990) featuring separate body-on-frame construction along with a longitude-mounted front engine. The first downsized generation of LeSabres introduced in 1977 retained the rear-drive and body-on-frame construction, while the later-generation models introduced in 1986 switched to front-wheel-drive, unit-body construction and front transverse-mounted engine. Convertibles were offered each year through 1975 while two- and four-door hardtops were dropped after 1976 and only pillared body styles were offered from 1977 to 2005. Station wagons were offered through 1964 and then dropped for several years until being reintroduced in 1970 and continued until 1990 after which year they were moved to the revived Roadmaster series.
First generation (1959–1960)
LeSabre and all other 1959 Buicks not only got new names, but all-new styling as well, adopting the new GM B- and C-body used on all of the corporation's full-sized cars (the larger C-body used in the Electra as well as the Oldsmobile 98 and all Cadillacs was basically a stretched out B-body rather than a distinct body and chassis for 1959–60). Wheelbases increased by one inch on all models. The new styling included slanted headlights in front along with a chromey square grille somewhat similar to the 1958 Buick and "Delta-wing" fins back along with round taillights.
While Invicta and Electra/225 models were powered by Buick's new 401-cubic-inch V8, LeSabre continued with the 364-cubic-inch V8 previously used in all Buicks in 1957 and 1958. In standard form, the engine delivered 250 horsepower with a two-barrel carburetor and 10.25 to 1 compression ratio (with Dynaflow transmission; manual transmission cars had a lower 8.5 to 1 compression ratio but horsepower was still rated at 250). Optionally available was a four-barrel version of the 364 rated at 300 horsepower. A three-speed manual transmission was standard on LeSabre but most cars were built with the optional two-speed Dynaflow automatic transmission that was standard equipment on the Invicta and Electra/225. A three-speed "Triple Turbine" Dynaflow variant was also available. Power steering and power brakes were optional and all 1959 Buicks used the unique 12-inc
The 1960 LeSabre received a minor facelift with a concave grille and horizontal headlights centered by Buick's then-new "Tri-Shield" logo, which is still in use today. Reintroduced to Electras and other Buicks for 1960 were the chrome "Ventiport" portholes first introduced in 1940 and last seen in 1957. LeSabre and Invicta models had three portholes while Electras and Electra 225s were "four-holers".
Inside, a revised instrument panel featured a "Mirromatic" speedometer for which the lens could be adjusted to better visibility to suit the driver. A new two-spoke steering wheel with horn bars was introduced, replacing the time-honored horn ring then still common to most automobiles. The 250- and 300-horsepower 364-cubic-inch V8s were continued from 1959, but a new no-cost option was a 235-horsepower lower-compression two-barrel version of the 364 with a lower compression ratio to permit use of regular-grade gasoline instead of the premium fuel required with all other Buick engines.
LeSabre and all other full-sized Buicks (joined by the compact Special this year) were completely restyled for 1961 featuring finless rear ends, more restrained use of chrome, and boxier sheetmetal. Wheelbases remained at 123 inches (3,100 mm) but the new cars were slightly downsized in both length and width, and rode on a new X-frame chassis which included a conventional rear axle and driveshaft replacing the decades-old torque tube design.
Inside were revised instrument panels retaining the "Mirrormatic" speedometer and new upholstery trims. The Station Wagons received an all-vinyl interior as standard, with the regular cloth/vinyl combination interior available as an option.
Engines were unchanged from previous years including the standard 250-horsepower 364-cubic-inch V8, no-cost regular fuel 235-horsepower 364 or the four-barrel 300-horsepower option of same engine available at extra cost. The two-speed Turbine Drive Dynaflow automatic transmission was standard equipment on LeSabres and all other full-sized Buicks this year, although a manual transmission was also available.
The 1962 Buick LeSabre was only moderately changed from the previous year with bodies taking on a few extra inches to give them a longer look along with new grilles and taillights. Two-door hardtop coupes received a new convertible-like roofline complete with simulated bows.
Under the hood, the 364 cubic-inch V8 was replaced by the larger 401 cubic-inch V8 used in Invictas and Electra 225s. LeSabres came standard with a two-barrel high-compression (10.25 to 1) version rated at 280 horsepower with a low-compression regular fuel version of that same engine rated at 265 horsepower offered as a no-cost option. Optional at extra cost was the four-barrel 325-horsepower 401 which was standard on the Invicta, Electra 225 and the mid-year Invicta-based Wildcat coupe.
Inside, interiors were mildly revised with the "Mirrormatic" speedometer replaced by a conventional horizontal sweep unit.
The 1963 LeSabre received a major facelift with even boxier body contours than 1961-62 models and revised rooflines on four-door hardtop sedans.
Inside was a new instrument panel with round instruments shared with other big Buicks and the new personal-luxury Riviera coupe. New options this year included a seven-position tilt steering wheel/column, AM/FM radio and Electro-Cruise control.
The same assortment of 401-cubic-inch V8s was carried over from 1962 but the three-speed manual transmission returned as standard equipment with the two-speed Turbine Drive automatic reverted to the option list. A new and rarely ordered option this year was a floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission.
Minor facelifting with new grille and horizontal taillights replacing the 1963's vertical units highlighted the 1964 LeSabre. A somewhat better equipped "Custom" version also joined the lineup this year, easily identifiable by its full length chrome side molding with a brushed metal insert. The regular LeSabre had a narrow trim piece on the rear third of the body.
Under the hood, the 401-cubic-inch V8 was replaced in LeSabre sedans and coupes by a smaller 300-cubic-inch V8 designed for the upsized Special/Skylark intermediates that replaced the aluminum V8 in those vehicles. In standard form, the 300 was rated at 210 horsepower with two-barrel carburetor and 9 to 1 compression ratio for use of regular fuel. Optionally available was a 250-horsepower version of the same engine with four-barrel carburetor and higher 11 to 1 compression ratio mandating the use of premium fuel. The LeSabre Estate Wagon came standard with the larger 325-horsepower 401 V8 from the Wildcat and Electra 225 models.
Replacing the old Dynaflow-based two-speed automatic transmission were two new Super Turbine automatics. The two-speed Super Turbine 300 (shared with the intermediate-sized cars) was available with the standard two-barrel 300 V8 while the three-speed Super Turbine 400 (shared with other big Buicks and Rivieras) was standard with the 300 four-barrel and optional with the standard engine as well as the 401 in the Estate Wagon. The standard transmission with the base 300 two-barrel V8 was a three-speed column shift manual and a four-speed manual was available as an option with either engine. The new ST300 transmission carried over the variable pitch torque converter from the Dynaflow that had been used since the mid-1950s, while the first year for the ST400 featured a fixed-pitch converter. Inside, only minor trim/upholstery revisions were made.
Third generation (1965–1970)
LeSabre and other full-sized Buicks were completely restyled for the 1965 model year, featuring more rounded bodylines and Coke-bottle profiles with semi-fastback rooflines on two-door hardtop coupes. Wheelbases remained at 123 inches (3,100 mm), but a new perimeter frame shared with other GM B-body cars replaced the "X" frame used since 1961. Body styles were unchanged from 1964 except for the station wagon, which was dropped in favor of the stretched intermediate Special-based Buick Sport Wagon which featured a raised rear roof and glass skylight over the back seat similar to the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
Starting in 1965, the LeSabre was available in two trim levels, the base LeSabre and the LeSabre Custom, which featured a more luxurious interior trim and also included the convertible body style not available in the base LeSabre line. Interiors were also new for 1965 with a revised instrument panel featuring two round dials for speedometer and other instruments much like the 1963–64 models along with new heating/air conditioning controls.
Drivetrains were unchanged from 1964 with the 250-horsepower two-barrel carbureted 300-cubic-inch V8 the standard powerplant on all models with a standard three-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed manual or two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic. Available at extra cost with the new LeSabre "400" package was the 250-horsepower 300-cubic-inch V8 with four-barrel carburetion and 10.25 to 1 compression which required premium fuel, compared to the standard two-barrel engine that used regular fuel. The 400 package also included the more desirable Super Turbine "400" three-speed automatic transmission also found in Buick's higher-priced Wildcat, Electra 225 and Riviera models.
Buick's engine–transmission practice was similar to that of GM's Chevrolet Division, which at that time only offered the two-speed Powerglide automatic with most of its engine offerings in full-sized cars, requiring buyers who preferred the similar three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic (basically the same transmission under a different name) to order one of the larger V8 engines. Both Pontiac and Oldsmobile offered the Turbo Hydra-Matic on all of their full-sized cars with any engine offering, and three-speed automatics were also the norm on big cars from GM's medium-priced competitors such as Chrysler Newport and Mercury Monterey, which offered the TorqueFlite and Cruise-O-Matic transmissions, respectively.
New grilles and four-segmented taillights highlighted the face-lifted 1966 LeSabre models. Also new was a revised instrument panel with a horizontal sweep speedometer replacing the round pod instruments and new interior door handles. Both base and Custom level series were continued. New standard safety features included a padded instrument panel, outside driver-side rear view mirror and backup lights.
Under the hood, the 300-cubic-inch V8 was replaced by a larger 340-cubic-inch V8 rated at 220 horsepower with two-barrel carburetor and available with either a standard three-speed manual transmission or optional two-speed automatic, but the four-speed manual was dropped from the option list. Ordering the LeSabre 400 option upgraded the buyer to a 260-horsepower 340 with four-barrel carburetor and higher 10.25 to 1 compression ratio along with the three-speed Super Turbine 400 automatic found in the larger engine Wildcat, Electra 225 and Riviera.
Somewhat more rounded sheet metal and a swoopier fastback roofline for the two-door hardtop highlighted the 1967 LeSabre but chassis and inner body were unchanged along with drivetrains. Both base and Custom-level LeSabres were continued.
New options for 1967 included front disc brakes and a stereo 8-track tape player. The standard drum brakes were upgraded with more cooling fins and a dual-master cylinder system was introduced.
Engine and transmission offerings were unchanged from 1966.
The 1968 LeSabre received a minor facelift including new grilles and taillights along with concealed windshield wipers. Inside was a revised instrument panel with square speedometer surrounded by other instruments with minor trim revisions for both base and Custom models.
A new 350-cubic-inch V8 replaced the previous 340. In standard form the 350 V8 delivered 230 horsepower with two-barrel carburetor and 9 to 1 compression ratio and came with a standard three-speed manual transmission or optional two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic. The "LeSabre 400" option package included a 280-horsepower 350 four-barrel V8 with 10.25 to 1 compression and three-speed Super Turbine 400 automatic transmission. The "Switch-Pitch" torque converter used in conjunction with the Super Turbine automatic transmission was discontinued in favor of a standard torque converter.
The 1969 LeSabre received new sheetmetal with more squared off styling than the 1965-68 models including a formal roofline on coupes replacing the semi-fastback of previous years. Though the 1969 model was extensively restyled with new sheetmetal, the basic 1965 chassis and inner body structure were retained, along with the roofline of the four-door pillared sedans though vent windows were dropped on all models. Wheelbase remained at 123 inches (3,100 mm). Interiors were mildly revised with minor changes to the instrument panel including the movement of the heating/air conditioning controls to the left of the steering wheel, which was new this year. Headrests, previously optional, were now standard equipment due to a federal safety mandate. The 1969 LeSabre and other Buicks also received a new steering column mounted ignition switch (relocated from the instrument panel) that also locked the steering wheel when the transmission was in Park. The ignition/locking steering column appeared on all 1969 General Motors cars one year ahead of the federal mandate requiring all cars to be so equipped.
Also new was a variable-ratio power steering unit along with revised front suspension geometry for improved ride and handling under Buick's tradename of Accu-Drive. Steel rails were also built into the doors (and rear quarter panels on coupes and convertibles)for improved side impact protection as was the case with all 1969 GM B- and C-body cars.
Powertrains were unchanged from 1968 with the 230-horsepower 350 two-barrel V8 standard and available with a three-speed manual transmission or the two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic while the LeSabre "400" package once again included a 280-horsepower 350 four-barrel engine and three-speed Super Turbine 400 automatic.
Only minor detail changes including grille and taillight revisions were made to the 1970 LeSabre. New features this year included a hidden radio antenna which amounted to two wires embedded in the windshield. Wheelbase was increased by one inch to 124 inches (3,100 mm), matching direct competitors such as Oldsmobile Delta 88, Mercury Monterey and Chrysler Newport.
Both base and Custom models were again offered. Engines were revised with the standard 350 two-barrel V8 increased in horsepower from 230 to 260. A new option for 1970 was a low-compression regular-fuel version of the 350 four-barrel rated at 285 horsepower and the high-compression premium fuel 350 four-barrel V8 was reworked with horsepower upped to 315 on a 10.25 to 1 compression ratio. Added to the lineup was a new LeSabre 455 line which shared interior and exterior trimmings with the LeSabre Custom and was powered by Buick's new 455 cubic-inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor, 10.25 to 1 compression and 370 horsepower, which also required premium fuel.
Transmission offerings included a standard three-speed manual with column shift for the base 350 two-barrel or optional three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic 350 automatic, which was standard equipment with the two 350 four-barrel engines. This transmission completely replaced the old two-speed automatic offered with the smaller base engines in past years, while the 455 was paired with the Turbo Hydra-matic 400. Buick now joined other GM divisions in marketing the automatic transmission under the Turbo Hydra-matic trade name rather than the "Super Turbine" designation used since 1964.
At the start of the model year, variable-ratio power steering and power drum brakes were optional equipment. Those items were made standard equipment on all LeSabres (and Wildcats) effective January 1, 1970. Power front disc brakes remained an extra-cost option.
For the first time since 1964, Buick offered a full-sized station wagon for 1970 under the Estate Wagon nameplate. Though it used the LeSabre's B-body, it rode on the C-body Electra 225's 127-inch (3,200 mm) wheelbase chassis. The Estate Wagon came standard with the 455 V8 and interior trims were similar to the LeSabre Custom and Wildcat.
Fourth generation (1971–1976)
Like the other GM divisions, Buick completely restyled its B- and C-body cars for 1971. The full-size cars emerged larger and heavier than before and also ever after. The styling featured curved bodysides, long hoods and wide expanses of glass, similar to that of Chrysler Corporation's 1969 full-sized cars, but with a lower beltline than the Chrysler products. Semi-fastback rooflines were utilized on two-door hardtop coupes and convertibles had a new top design to permit a full-width rear seat.
The same assortment of 350 and 455 cubic-inch V8s were carried over but featured lowered compression ratios and other modifications in order to enable the use of lower-octane low-lead or unleaded gasoline as a result of a General Motors corporate mandate. Variable-ratio power steering and power front disc brakes were made standard equipment on all LeSabres at the start of the 1971 model year. A few months later in March, 1971 the Turbo Hydra-matic transmission became standard equipment, and all Buick LeSabre's and would remain so equipped in base form for the next 35 years until the marquee's final year in 2005.
The new body also featured a double shell roof for improved roll-over protection. Also new for '71 was a flow-through ventilation system utilizing vents mounted in the trunklid shared with other full-sized GM cars and the compact Chevrolet Vega. It used the heater fan to draw air into the car from the cowl intake, and force it out through vents in the trunk lid or tailgate. In theory, passengers could enjoy fresh air even when the car was moving slowly or stopped, as in heavy traffic. In practice, however, it didn't work.
Within weeks of the 1971 models' debut, however, Buick—and all other GM dealers—received multiple complaints from drivers who complained the ventilation system pulled cold air into the car before the heater could warm up—and could not be shut off. The ventilation system was extensively revised for 1972.
Also new for the 1971 was an optional MaxTrac computerized traction control system.
Inside was a new wrap-around cockpit style instrument panel that placed all controls and instruments within easy reach of the driver, along with easier servicability with instruments and switches accessible from the front when the faceplate was removed. The seats of a new full-foam design with headrests more squared off than 1969-70. Again, base and Custom model LeSabres were offered in the same sedan and coupe bodystyles while the convertible was a Custom-only offering. The LeSabre 455 model line was dropped for 1971 with the larger engine now being offered as an option on the regular base and Custom-series models. LeSabre Customs equipped with the optional 455 engine got a "455" badge underneath the LeSabre nameplates on the front fenders instead of the "Custom" badge normally used.
A revised grille and taillights lenses were among the styling changes for 1972. Out back, a small "BUICK" nameplate was located above the right side taillight replacing the larger block letters spelling "B U I C K" across the lower trunklid between the taillights in 1971. Also new for '72 was a larger 5-mph front bumper introduced a year ahead of a federal safety mandate requiring such bumpers in 1973.
Interior trims received only slight revisions from 1971. A revised flow-through ventilation system utilizing vents in the door jambs replaced the troublesome system used in 1971 with the trunklid vents.
Both the 350 and 455 V8s were carried over from 1971 with horsepower ratings switched the new SAE net figures based on an engine as installed in an automobile with accessories and emission controls hooked up, rather than the gross horsepower method of past years based upon a dynameter rating from an engine not installed in a vehicle. With that, the standard 350 two-barrel V8 was rated at 160 net horsepower compared to 230 gross horsepower in 1971 while the top 455 V8 was rated at 250 net horsepower in 1972 compared to 315 in 1971. Engines were also revised to meet the 1972 federal and California emission standards with California-bound cars receiving EGR valves, which would be installed on engines of virtually all automobiles for nationwide sales in 1973.
Inside, the instrument panel featured a new "FASTEN SEAT BELTS" light due to a new federal safety regulation and the buzzer which sounded when the key was left in the ignition also sounded upon starting the car to remind the driver and passengers to buckle up.
A larger federally mandated 5 mph front bumper and new vertical bar grille highlighted the 1973 LeSabre along with revised taillights set in the rear bumper. Both the 350 and 455 V8s were revised with EGR valves used on both federal and California-emission equipped cars.
The LeSabre Custom convertible was dropped this year leaving the short-lived Centurion as Buick's only ragtop that year as the intermediate Skylark (replaced by the Century for 1973) lost its ragtop completely after the 1972 model year.
New grilles and taillights along with a 5 mph rear bumper highlighted the 1974 Buick LeSabre. Four-door pillared and hardtop sedans retained the same rooflines as 1973 but the two-door hardtop coupe featured a new roofline with a side rear opera windows.
Inside, the instrument panel was substantially revised but retained the wrap-around theme. A new (and seldom ordered) option was an "Air Restraint System" which included driver- and passenger-side airbags along with a unique four-spoke steering wheel. This option, also available on Electra 225s and Rivieras as well as full-sized Oldsmobiles and Cadilacs, was not very popular and was dropped after the 1976 model year.
New integrated seat and shoulder belts were introduced this year along with a federally mandated interlock system that required the driver and right front passenger to buckle their seat belts in order to start the vehicle. The interlock was met with such a major public outcry that Congress rescinded the interlock regulation in late 1974 after a few early 1975 models were so equipped, permitting owners of all 1974 and the early 1975 models equipped with the interlock system to legally disconnect it.
With the Centurion line discontinued after 1973, LeSabre was now Buick's only B-body full-sized car. The base LeSabre was continued, but a new LeSabre Luxus series replaced both the LeSabre Custom and the Centurion. The Luxus convertible also returned the ragtop to the LeSabre line after a one-year absence and was Buick's only ragtop.
Engine offerings were revised for 1974. The 350 two-barrel remained standard on all models with optional engines including a 350 four-barrel and 455 four-barrel V8s, both carried over from 1973 with revisions to meet the 1974 emission standards. New engine options for 1974 included a 455 two-barrel and the Stage 1 455 "performance package" which added dual exhausts, suspension upgrades and other equipment.
New options for 1974 included radial-ply tires, GM's High Energy Ignition and a "low fuel" warning light that illuminated when the fuel tank was down to four gallons. This would be the final year for the MaxTrac electronic traction control system as an option.
The upscale LeSabre Luxus designation was dropped and replaced by the LeSabre Custom nameplate. 1975 also was the first year of the catalytic converter, and standard high energy ignition which was part of GM's Maximum Mileage System at the time. The 1975 LeSabre was the first to require use of unleaded gasoline, due to the advent of the catalytic converter. The LeSabre lineup offered a coupe and two sedans while the LeSabre Custom lineup offered the coupe, two sedans, and the only convertible in the Buick lineup. 1975 would be the final year for the LeSabre Custom Convertible with around 5,300 examples rolling off the assembly lines. Engine offerings were simplified and reduced to just two including the standard 5.7-litre V8 (350 CID)and a four-barrel carburetor or optional 7.5-litre V8 (455 CID) with a four barrel.
Bodylines on the 1975 were somewhat softer than the 1974 model featuring round headlights side-by-side and a cross-hatched patterned grille that flowed across the front of the car and under the headlights. Turn signals were located in the front bumper. A Buick tri-shield hood ornament was standard on the Custom Series and optional on the base series. The three-hole 'ventiports' were moved from the hood to the front fenders. Slightly larger taillamps than the 74 draped the back of the car with back-up lights positioned in the center broken up by the license plate. Four-door pillared sedans received a new small third windows to emulate the six-window "Colonnade" styling of GM intermediates while four-door hardtop sedans had new opera windows.
Inside, a new flat instrument panel shared with Electra and Riviera replaced the wrap-around cockpit dash of previous years and featured a horizontal sweep speedometer that read to only 100 mph compared to 120 mph in previous years and also included kilometer readings. Otherwise, interior trimmings received only minor revisions.
Convertible production for both the LeSabre Custom and the Centurion convertibles were not very abundant in the years 1971 to 1975. The rarest production in that time was the 1971 LeSabre Custom with just over 1,800 units built, and the most produced was the 1973 Centurion with slightly over 5,700 units built. Due to this very low production volume and the end of the full-size convertible era, this may make this series of ragtop LeSabre Custom and Centurion Convertibles quite collectable - depending on the vehicles' overall condition. The convertible mechanism used was called the 'scissor top' that folded inward on itself, instead of straight back. This was featured on all GM full-size convertibles from 1971 to 1976.
Only minor styling changes highlighted the 1976 Buick LeSabre, which was the final year for the 1971-vintage bodyshell, the unpopular and rarely ordered driver- and passenger-side airbag option, the 455 V8 and hardtop bodystyles. Changes amounted to rectangular quad headlights, eggcrate grille and turn signals located just below the headlights.
The '76 LeSabre was the only American full-size car with a standard V6 engine, which was Buick's brand-new 3.8-litre (231 CID) V6 engine. The V6 was only offered on the base-level LeSabre and not mentioned in initial 1976 Buick literature issued in September 1975 because the V6 engine was a last-minute addition to the line. The 350-cubic-inch V8 was the base engine on the LeSabre Custom and the 455-cubic-inch V8 was optional. Both V8s were optional on the base LeSabre.
Fifth generation (1977–1985)
The 1977 Buick LeSabre and other GM B-body full-sized cars were considerably smaller and lighter than their predecessors to the tune of losing 700-800 pounds of weight and overall length of 10 to 15 inches (380 mm).
The full-sized cars were the beginning of a "corporate-wide" downsizing of vehicles in order to improve fuel economy ratings following the 1973-74 energy crisis that would filter down to intermediates in 1978, personal-luxury cars in 1979 and compacts in 1980 with subsequent downsizings of each line of vehicles scheduled in subsequent years.
Though the '77 Buick LeSabre was considerably smaller on the outside, headroom, rear seat legroom and trunk space were increased over the much-larger 1976 model. The engine lineup consisted of an assortment of engines including the standard 231 cubic-inch Buick-built V6 and various optional powerplants including a Pontiac-built 301 cubic-inch V8, 350 cubic-inch V8s built by both Buick and Oldsmobile, and an Olds 403 cubic-inch V8. The V6 was standard in base and Custom coupés and sedans, the 301 V8 on the new LeSabre Sport Coupé and the 350 V8 on the Estate Wagon.
Following a major downsizing and redesign, the 1978 Buick LeSabre received only minor changes including new grillework. Engine offerings were unchanged from 1977 on most models, but the LeSabre Sport Coupé was now powered by a turbocharged 231 cubic-inch V6 with a four-barrel carburetor.
Only minor changes including a new grille highlighted the 1979 LeSabre aside from the top-level LeSabre Custom of previous years being renamed the LeSabre Limited. The LeSabre Sport Coupé continued with the turbocharged V6 as standard equipment and a new option for this model only were Strato bucket seats with center console. This would be the final year for the Pontiac 301 and Olds 403 V8s on the option list.
New sheet metal highlighted by new swept back grilles/headlights, new taillights and revised coupé rooflines were among the changes to the 1980 Buick LeSabre aside from the complete disappearance of Buick's traditional portholes (The C-body Electra would retain them until 1984). The cars were also a bit lighter in weight for improved fuel economy along with the slightly more aerodynamic sheet metal which made the 1980 models look a little bigger than their 1977–79 counterparts but overall dimensions changed very little. Engine offerings were shuffled a bit for 1980 with the standard Buick 231 V6 and optional 350 V8 carried over from 1979, with the Buick 350 making its last appearance this year. New options included a larger Buick-built 252 V6, an Oldsmobile-built 307 V8 and a 350 Diesel V8, also built by Olds. The LeSabre Sport Coupé continued with the four-barrel turbocharged 231 V6 as its standard and only available powerplant. The Sport Coupé was dropped from the line after 1980 along with the Turbo V6 engine due to slow sales, with the Turbo V6 continued on the Regal and Riviera.
Following the demise of the Buick 350 V8 after this year, Buick would only build V6 engines as a result of GM's emerging corporate engine policy dictating types of engines built by various divisions for use throughout the corporate lineup. According to the plan, Buick would build V6 engines, Pontiac would manufacture four-cylinder powerplants, Chevrolet would build four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines, and V8s for larger and higher-priced cars would be sourced from Oldsmobile and Cadillac. This meant that from 1981 onward, V8-powered Buicks would feature Olds engines, both gasoline and diesel.
Only minor grille and trim changes highlighted the 1981 LeSabre, still offered in base and Limited models. The modified grille now had five (rather than four) rows of openings. Engine offerings included the 231 cubic-inch normally aspirated Buick V6 (standard on sedans and coupés although decidedly underpowered for a car weighing in at around 4,000 lbs.), or optional Olds 307 cubic-inch V8 (standard on wagons, optional on sedans and coupés) and the 350 cubic-inch Olds-built diesel V8 (optional on all models). All gasoline engines received GM's "Computer Command Control" system to control fuel mixture, spark advance, and emissions controls.
The three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was standard equipment with the V6 and the diesel V8. New this year was a Turbo Hydra-Matic 200 4-R four-speed automatic overdrive transmission paired with the gasoline V8 engine for improved highway fuel economy.
LeSabre and other GM cars for 1981 received new 35 PSI radial tires for improved rolling resistance and fuel economy.
Very few changes were made for the Buick LeSabre for model years 1982 and 1983 other than revised grilles and trim items. The base LeSabre sedan and coupé models were dropped for 1983 with the LeSabre Custom now the entry-level model and paired with the upscale LeSabre Limited models in both coupé and sedan models. Engine offerings in these two years included the standard Buick 231 V6 or optional 252 V6, or optional Oldsmobile 307 (gasoline) or 350 (diesel) V8s.
New grilles and wider and lower taillights were among the appearance changes for the 1984 Buick LeSabre, still offered in Custom and Limited models. The 252 V6 was dropped from the option list but all other engines returned including the 231 V6 (standard on coupés and sedans), or optional Olds 307 gasoline V8 (standard on wagons, optional on sedans and coupés) and Olds 350 diesel V8 (optional all models).
This would be the final year for the rear-drive LeSabre before another downsizing and conversion to front-wheel-drive for 1986 (sedans and coupés only; the rear-drive LeSabre Estate Wagon would soldier on unchanged a few more years). It was also the last LeSabre sedan and coupé to feature body-on-frame construction, V8 power and Buick's traditional all-coil suspension (the 1992–96 Roadmaster sedans would also be similarly built). The top-line LeSabre Limited became the LeSabre Limited Collectors Edition to mark the end of an era for the rear-drive sedan and coupe.
Engine offerings included the standard 231 V6 (sedans and coupés) or optional Olds 307 V8 (which came as standard in the wagons) and Olds 350 diesel V8 (available in all models). 1985 307s received roller lifters for reduced friction. Production of this generation continued until 1990 in Estate Wagon form, as well as some reportedly found as hearse conversions.