1959 Buick LeSabre
8-cyl. 364cid/250hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
These were some of the cars developed by GM in a huge rush after the marketing of all-new long, low and finned cars by Chrysler Corporation in 1957 radically changed the expectations in the marketplace. Given the long lead-time normally needed to tool up cars, it really was miraculous that these cars weren’t delayed until the 1960 model year, and shows what happens when the then largest corporation in the world sets out to do something.
Buick marketing experts chose to jettison more than the huge, chromed image of their 1958 cars for 1959 as well, and all of the series names were changed. What had been the “Special” became the LeSabre, named after a phenomenal GM Motorama show car from 1951 which was so fascinating that GM showed it for several years.
The ’59 LeSabre was a pretty fascinating car in its own right. The plans for long, wide, low and finned came to fruition with it. The wheelbase was 123”, only an inch longer than the previous year’s Special, but the car looked entirely different. Unfortunately for Buick, the target had moved – again. Buyers wanted lower priced and more economical cars after the recession of 1958, and flocked to cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle.
The LeSabre started life with the 364 cubic inch Buick V-8 developing up to 250 horsepower. Engineering was Buick’s forte in this time. Their big finned aluminum drum brakes were the best in the business, though their attempt at revamping their Dynaflow automatics with a new second version starting in 1958 was a mixed bag. The 1959 fins were “canted” and unlike anything else on the road, and the dual headlamps were “canted” as well.
For 1960, the cars were only mildly facelifted with a new concave grille flanked by dual headlamps on a horizontal plane and re-sculptured body sides. A 300-horsepower version of the LeSabre V-8 became optional at extra cost. Buick’s troubled Triple Turbine automatic was not on the option list for 1960, but the better and less expensive Twin Turbine automatic was retained.
Solid upper middle class folks were all too ready to buy these cars new, and Buick had plenty of repeat customers after their huge sales successes in the mid 1950’s. Who collects these cars now? Most likely folks who have fond memories of them for family reasons, or those who like the style. Naturally, the convertibles fetch big money in top condition. 1960 cars also command a slight premium. The 2-door hardtops, meanwhile, are still gorgeous but relatively affordable.