1972 Buick LeSabre Custom
8-cyl. 350cid/180hp 4bbl
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The 1971 Buick LeSabre was the fourth generation of Buick’s B-platform car, and it was a generally handsome form of family transport. The design still carried some of the same aesthetic that was present in the LeSabre of the late 1960s, with crisp and sweeping lines, and the car came as a two-door convertible or hardtop, or a four-door sedan or hardtop. No station wagon was offered until the 1974 model year, and the convertible LeSabre was absent during the 1973 and 1976 model years.
Engine power on the 1971 LeSabre was a standard GM small block/big block choice, with Buick’s 350-cid small block V-8 rated at 230 hp, and a 315-hp rating for the 455-cid big block V-8. The engines did not change for 1972, but horsepower ratings plummeted as the industry changed from gross to net ratings. The 1972 LeSabre claimed only 160 horsepower from the 350 and 250 hp from the 455. The next four years produced more of the same, with the 350 holding steady at 155-165 hp and the big block V-8 ranging from 250 down to 205 hp.
A 3.8-liter V-6 with 105 hp appeared in 1976, but Buick had not lightened the LeSabre to match the engine, and it remained a hefty 4,000-pound full-size sedan. Transmission options across this generation were always limited to GM’s standard Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed.
This generation of Buick LeSabre carried two interesting options. An early attempt at computerized traction control, called MaxTrac, was offered in 1971 and 1972. The MaxTrac system placed a sensor at the left front wheel and a sensor on the transmission speedometer output. A simple analog computer compared the readings and if they diverged too sharply, the system cut spark until traction was restored. Thankfully, MaxTrac came with a dash-mounted on-off switch. An early attempt at air bags was also introduced in 1974 as an option. While the system was available through the 1976 model year, few were ever ordered.
After spending decades in the wilderness, this generation of Buick LeSabre is gaining interest among collectors. The 1971 model year is typically placed at the top of the pecking order due to fewer mandated compromises being made to both the bodywork and the engine. Convertibles from 1971 and 1972 are the prettiest and rarest, and values are correspondingly high when compared to the rest of the generation. Predictably, the sedans are the most abundant and cheapest examples today.