The Carchive: The '97 Buick LeSabre

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It’s Friday, it’s 13:30, it’s time to don our chainmail suits and leather gauntlets and venture into the dangerous realm that is The Carchive. Actually, scratch that, we can let our protective outfits rest in the wardrobe for another week.
Finding today’s artefact required no more hazardous operation than bending over to pick a bright yellow USPS marked envelope from my doormat. Yes; today’s blast from the past is kindly sponsored by Tanshanomi of this parish; it’s the ’97 LeSabre, and he mailed it overseas first class!

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For this ’97 brochure release, showcasing the first full year of the freshly facelifted version of the seventh generation LeSabre, it was all about the family. The Abruzzo family, specifically, Frank, Debbie, Nick and Joe of Schaumberg, Illinois.
“We’ve always had Buicks. We appreciate the quality service received from the Buick people”
How nice. But, disappointingly, this is all we get to hear of our new friends, the Abruzzos. We never get to see whether they traded their ’94 for a ’97, nor did we actually learn anything else about them. Dear readers, are any of you out there actually The Abruzzos? Please get in touch and let us know.
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“It has been said LeSabre’s purpose is to please America, six at a time”
Is it wrong that I first read that as “to pleasure America, six at a time?”
Yup. LeSabre offered a “gracious” six-passenger cabin with a wraparound instrument panel. Standard kit such as dual airbags, ABS, “comfortable” seating, “smooth” ride and a “powerful” Series II 3800V6 were on the roster with the aim of getting wholesome American families frothing at the mouth.
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“A special Seat Comfort Team, including a physical therapist, seating engineers and short and tall men and women tested these seats for over 100,000 miles”
It staggers me, if the above is the truth, that it took until 1997 before the industry thought to do something like that. I mean, what the hell had we been sitting in for all those years? Have I been doing untold damage to my spine and other cherished parts of my anatomy for want of a Seating Engineer? Surely cars shouldn’t have been put on sale in the first place until they gave you somewhere decent to sit.
Also (I feel a bit of a digression coming on…) why, when a car manufacturer produces a genuinely excellent set of seats, do they feel the need to replace them on the next model? When the Ford Sierra was finally replaced after a twelve year run, they’d got the seats pretty well spot on in the end. Its replacement, the Mondeo, came to the market with thinly-cushioned buckets o’ misery which gave me back ache. Anyway, GM ventures that the 1997 LeSabre “offers what may be the most comfortable seats ever to shorten a cross-country trip”
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“Award-winning LeSabres have always offered an abundance of family pleasing features”
Hmm. The brochure goes on to speak of ergonomically refined controls, effortless cruising ability and “the acoustic calm of a sealed cabin”. There’s no mention of driving excitement or the promise of fun, despite the extra power that the 3800 enjoyed after ’96. 205hp in all, not too shabby by the standards of the day. Perhaps the giveaway here is that “all occupants enjoy the legendary smoothness of DynaRide suspension”
A quick trawl of the forums seems to indicate that DynaRide was basically a trademarked translation of “really soft”.
I kinda get the feeling I’d enjoy this car.
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I find the back page of this brochure particularly interesting. On it there is a matrix of comparison values between the LeSabre and a number of its important Non-GM (of course) competitors. It cites the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler Concorde and Mercury Grand Marquis as the front-runners which is fasinating as I always thought the Mercury as being a much bigger car.
At any rate, on this list of values cherry-picked by the marketing people, the only measurement in which LeSabre was bested was in torque, inevitably being shown up by the Mercury with its V8.
Please, in the comment section below, regale us with your LeSabre stories.
And thanks again, Pete.
And the Abruzzos.
(All images are of original manufacturer’s promotional materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of GM. Let’s have some more random French-sounding car model names please.)

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.

10 Comments

  1. Most American LeSabre stories would end up somewhat abruptly as the storyteller inevitably fell asleep attempting to describe the car’s, uh, virtues. Still, this was an entertaining stroll down memory lane, and it’s always interesting to see how outsiders perceive even the most mundane parts of our car culture.
    Also, the seats were incredibly comfortable, as someone else has already said.

    1. But the LeSabre does have its virtues. I know – I drive one, and it’s not just comfortable seats, either.

      1. Those motors are amazingly economical for their size. In my experience, more economical than their smaller capacity supposedly higher tech OHC and multivalve competitors with their 3.0-3.5 litre capacities. That extra capacity makes them nice and torquey and gives me high hopes for my pretty much identical architecture stroked Rover V8 project

  2. Another splendiferous dissection, as usual, Rusty! Yep, it was another big, fat, floaty American boat for folks who liked exactly that. Though a little smaller and better put together than they used to be. But what can you do?

    1. They really aren’t fat. For what they are, they’re very efficient designs, esp with the technology available at the time. Floaty, yes, although there was a (slightly) firmer ride option.

  3. When these were new and showed up in my “Cars of the World”-catalogue, I was a teenager. I liked the conservative design so much, it instantly became a bestseller in my shadow new car market…weird kid.

  4. Family had a ’98 LeSabre (beige on beige, how exciting!) for years. The power (specifically torque) was impressive, and the gas mileage was astounding as well. Carefully driven on the highway, we once bested 34mpg on a tank of fuel.
    The front seats were passable, but the back was terrible. We took a family vacation when I was 13 which involved between 35 and 40 hours of driving total. The back seat was crippling. My lower back pain became so great that my mother and I took shifts alternating betwee the front to back seat. More than one hour was not tolerable and by the end of the trip both of us were having sleepless nights. It took some time to recover. now, 15 years later, I would still like to punch that physical therapist in the face.
    I remember this car for it’s noisy A/C compressor clutch, the smell of burning coolant from a melted EGR port on the intake manifold and walker-inducing back pain (even for a kid!)…If i close my eyese, I can still hear the cheap interior plastics creaking and groaning over bumps, or during any human touch on any surface.
    My Dad always loved the car, though. not sure why.
    Good riddance.

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