Hooniverse Topless Tuesday: The Land Yacht Edition

Well, my fellow Hoons, as this olelongrooffan neglected to get an image of that dual V8 Boss Hawg powered trike this past weekend, I decided to hijack a post here on Two Wheel Tuesday to share with you this entry for Topless Tuesday.

Yes, it is a malaise era 1974 Buick LeSabre Luxus convertible. It was about three miles long with room to land an airplane on either the hood or the truck lid.

And what about that brown exterior over a tan vinyl interior? Does anything say malaise more that that color combination?

Okay, I agree those 5 mph bumpers help define that era also! But that Land Yacht sure was pretty.

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  1. Alff Avatar


  2. Tomsk Avatar

    Too big to live, too brown to die.

  3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    I damn near bought a very similar '73 Buick Centurion convertible in high school, but gas was up near $1.25/gal (!), so I passed. The interesting thing is that it was also brown (I believe a slightly darker shade than this), which Buick creatively named "Brown." Really! — not Burnt Carmel, not Toasty Root Beer, not Dog Dirt Metallic — "Brown." It's like they weren't even trying.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I accompanied my then next-door neighbor to the Buick dealer (Ken Pruitt Buick in Garland, TX) to trade his '70 LeSabre Custom 4-door sedan (350 4-barrel, gold with tan interior) for a new '77 LeSabre Custom 4-door sedan (231 even-firing V6). That thing was metallic orange with a tan houndstooth cloth interior. And the name of the paint color? Just plain "Orange".

  4. Black Steelies Avatar

    Everyone bemoans those bumpers but the best thing about them is they work! Minor bangs and bumps are common when you drive a car that's over 20 feet long and you've just started driving. Newer plastic bumpers and frail, vintage chrome trim bits just don't hold up.
    I will say they tend to look bad on the exquisite styling of European cars sold in the US at the time, but America fully embraced malaise styling!

  5. tonyola Avatar

    Impressive beast. You could seat a Little League team on that front bumper. My daily driver is a direct descendant of this car – a '94 LeSabre with low miles and in excellent condition. Though not nearly as visually imposing, I probably have the same performance, 1500 pounds less weight, better handling, and double the gas mileage. But I can't put the top down.

    1. dwegmull Avatar

      Can't put the top down?
      Problem solved.

  6. topdeadcentre Avatar

    I think the malaise era didn't really begin until the downsizing started.
    I would totally own and drive this car, and give it a little unstrangling help for the engine.
    I'd also name the millionaire villian "Luxus LeSabre" in my first superspy novel.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      There's been some contention on the car blogs as to what defines malaise era. My take is that it begins with the 1972 model year when engines were detuned and compression ratios dropped in order for cars to run on low-octane unleaded. This year was the first big fall-off in performance. The impact bumpers started coming along for 1973. The last true malaise year was 1982. The Mustang GT 5.0 came along mid-year and convertibles began to appear again. Performance started coming back in 1983, aero styling appeared, car sales improved dramatically, and there was a new optimism in the car industry.

      1. west-coaster Avatar

        I'd vote for 1975 as the start, even though you make a good case for '72. But at least pre-'75 cars were still able to exhale through their exhausts.
        Nineteen seventy five brought the catalytic converter into play, which really strangled exhuast systems. A particularly egregeous example was the Corvette, which suddenly found itself with a single catalytic converter center section, split back into two mufflers at the rear. The cars sounded wheezy as hell, and you could barely tell there was a V8 under the hood.
        The other downside to cats on all cars was that if the carb got out of tune (ie too rich), the converters would overheat and start melting rear bumper trim. It was horrible until the first generation of computer controls came along in the early '80s.
        I'd also add that some cars in 1983 were still under malaise, particularly the big Mercedes-Benzes. An '83 380SEL produced something like 155 horsepower, and relief didn't come until the 500SEL (and SEC) came along in '84.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The cats were both a positive and a negative. From 1972 to 1974, most cars were equipped with all sorts of bizarre air pumps and smog gear attached to the engine. Also, the ignition timing was severely retarded on these cars. For these three years, cars often ran poorly with stalling, pinging, stumbling, and dieseling being the order of the day. The cats for 1975 allowed the removal of some of the junk and ignitions were advanced back to a reasonable setting. However, they did increase back pressure on the exhaust and made unleaded mandatory. It was a trade-off. There wasn't a lot of power, but at least the cars ran better.
          I picked 1983 as the first non-malaise year because this was the year when US makers began increasing horsepower ratings across the board, especially in sportier versions. Both the Mustang GT and Camaro Z/28 were boosted up to 175 hp this year. Convertibles were popping up all over the place. The C4 Corvette arrived mid-year. Fuel injection became more common. Performance packages like the 6000STE were pushed harder. It took a while and not every manufacturer immediately began jumping, but 1983 was the start of the long climb out of the doldrums.

          1. west_coaster Avatar

            Yeah, but the pre-cat stuff was easy to "re-tune" by bypassing a few vacuum switches, advancing the timing and busting off those so-called "sealed" caps on the carb mixture screws. (My dad and most of his friends did that, or at least take the car to a mechanic for the work, right after bringing a new car home.)
            Whereas the catalytic converters had this weird voodoo thing about them, and by about 1977 or so, muffler shops were paranoid to remove them under threat of fines by the EPA or CARB. You pretty much had to do that yourself, and then add one of those "test pipes" (laughingly sold by JC Whitney, et al, as a way to "test to see if your catalytic converter was clogged, but by all means do NOT leave on a car that's going to be operated on public roads" — wink, wink), if you even wanted to hassle with it at all.

      2. scoutdude Avatar

        I'd say there is no clearly defined start or end. Many cars made it through the 71-73 time period virtually unchanged. Not every engine was high compression, high HP, and the only reason the advertised HP dropped was that they started quoting Net rather than gross HP across the board, but some MFGs like IH had always quoted Net along with Gross numbers. Similarly the end was not a clearly defined date. As I stated before yes the 82 Mustang GT was the beginning of the end but many MFGs soldiered on their previous designs for a few more years after that complete with anemic engines.

        1. scoutdude Avatar

          I forgot to add that while emission regulations were responsible for the beginning of the power train related malaise it was emission regulations that also caused the end of it too. 75's regulations allowed most automakers to eliminate some of the issues by using catalytic converters, 81 marked the year when O2 sensors became the norm which ushered in computer controls that allowed low emissions and high HP to live together and 96's OBDII requirements furthered that ability.

        2. tonyola Avatar

          The change from gross to net horsepower had a huge impact on the advertised numbers but the actual horsepower drop from 1971 to 1973 was very real. You can't drop compression ratios, install power-sucking air pumps, and retard the ignition timing without some effect. For instance, even the base Ford 351 compression ratio dropped from 9.0 to 8.5 from 1971 to 1972.

  7. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

    That is beautiful. The body sculpturing of 1971-74 Buicks is derivative of classic early 50's Buick styling, especially 1950 which also has the portholes on the hood instead of the fender. The effect is more pronounced on 1971-73 cars before the rear was redesigned for the crash bumpers. And the dash design, placing all the controls in front of the driver, leads you to wonder why you would ever want a center stack.
    A '74 Electra was my daily driver from 1992-96. I would sure like to have that one back.

  8. west-coaster Avatar

    This era of cars defined "all day comfort" with that big bench seat and armrest. (And a six-way power seat let you rock it back at a nice Barcalounger angle.) As long as you were just tooling down the highway, side bolsters were completely unecessary.
    Somewhere along the way, a marketing or design type "decided" that everyone had to have bucket seats with a stretch-out-restricting center console.

  9. Jewels Avatar

    I just bought the 74.. very happy with it. Great condition and it's waiting for me to cruise down the highway with it once the snow clears.

  10. B.C. Mike Avatar
    B.C. Mike

    I had that exact same '74 Buick LeSabre Luxus convertible in my early 20's. It was identical in colour except mine had the Buick factory mags and all the power options. Boy, I loved that car and only sold it to buy a new Honda to go to university. What I wouldn't give to have the Buick back again. In Spring to early Fall I loved loved timing a red light before it went green and dropping the top with all the other drivers around drooling in jealousy. Great memories. One of the best cars I've ever owned. I hope someone is still enjoying it.

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