Every once in a while, a custom license plate will grab my eye. I don’t remember seeing that many of them on the streets of the Rust Belt factory town where I grew up, so maybe their popularity has increased since the 1980s and ’90s. It’s also true that my life in Chicago, Illinois – the largest city in the Midwest and third-largest in the United States – has brought a host of things and experiences I just would never have had access to in Flint, Michigan. I’ve become somewhat accustomed to custom plates as they seem much more common in present day. Many featured words, phrases, acronyms and other combinations of alpha-numeric characters often appear as personal initials or to express sports fandom. And then there was this LeSabre.
Normally, I try to alter my photographs that accompany my pieces to obscure the license plate numbers, simply out of courtesy for the privacy of their owners or drivers. There’s no rule on CC, written or unwritten, that this must be done. However, being the somewhat risk-averse person I am, I sometimes project myself into a potential, unfortunate scenario in the future where someone’s actions or whereabouts as identifiable in one of my pictures might lead to unwanted consequences – for the owner, or for myself. I’m not super-paranoid, but you do see my point – right?
With that said, I found the custom plate on our featured car almost as intriguing as this classic Buick, itself – an example of the very last model year of any full-sized Buick convertible, ever. (I reflected upon such finality when taking these pictures.) “SHE LUV U”… Just what on Earth could that mean? Unblurred license plates be darned and without any Carfax-stalking, I knew I had to have some fun with this, just thinking about the possibilities.
Though the conjugative form of the stylized verb (lacking an “s” at the end) would suggest an urban, ethnic dialect, the pronoun in the license plate really doesn’t give a clue as to the gender of this LeSabre’s owner – especially given its location in the diverse area known as Lakeview, in this progressive, modern city of Chicago. There weren’t any clear indicators presented by the car itself that it belongs to a man or to a woman (which, I will concede, is of no importance). Aside from tomato-red paint that looked like a non-factory (but inoffensive) hue, this LeSabre looked clean. Even if it was slightly frayed around the edges, the body looked straight and rust-free. Perhaps this car was a gift from the owner’s wife / partner / girlfriend / special lady. Or…
Perhaps the “she” in the string of characters on the license plate refers to the car itself. (I really like this idea.) Many of us have assigned to cars we have loved both a proper name and a gender. Maybe this LeSabre’s owner feels the love of being perched atop all of that supple, white vinyl upholstery on the front bench seat, as he or she stares down that long hood at the stand-up ornament at its end. Two hundred five horses push over two tons of Buick from the rear wheels, while those torquey, four hundred fifty-five cubes burble quietly and smoothly away.
Girlfriend is thirsty, but true love can be blind to monetary costs and inconvenience (i.e. fueling up each and every day this vehicle is taken out for a drive). One of just 5,300 ’75 LeSabre convertibles ever built, she knows she’s rare, special, and worth everything it takes to enjoy her company. Her original base price of $5,133 translates to about $23,500 in 2018, though this is before many factory options which were both likely and necessary. By comparison, the ’18 Buick Cascada convertible starts at $33,065, but the newer car includes a host of standard features not figured into the ’75 LeSabre convertible’s base price, many of which were probably simply unavailable at that time.
Come to think of it, I could think of only these two, not-implausible scenarios with respect to the message on this car’s tags. It doesn’t really matter what I think, though. I imagine that part of the fun of driving a car with custom plates is the thought that others are left scratching their heads as you (or they) pass by. If anything, though, it’s great to see an expression of “LUV” anywhere these days – especially when attached to a beautiful, all-American, full-sized convertible. After all, sometimes love neither needs nor requires any explanation.
Wrigleyville, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
- From Paul Niedermeyer: Curbside Classic Capsule: 1975 Buick LeSabre Convertible – Own The Last Of Its Kind For 50¢/Lb;
- From Brendan Saur: CC Outtake: 1975 Buick LeSabre Convertible – A Topless Exit; and
- From Yours Truly: CC Capsule: 1975 Buick LeSabre Custom Convertible – Candy Apple Cooler.