Comment Classic: I Grew Up With Two 1976 LeSabre V6s and Survived Their Slowness

(Every so often a comment gets turned into a post. This one was left by andrew911 at the 1976 LeSabre V6 article)

I am familiar with the 1976 V6 LeSabre…because our family had TWO of them!! I was young at the time, but my grandfather purchased one for himself and one for my father from Justus Buick in New Jersey.

My grandfather’s was the nicer of the two as it had the options of: A/C, AM/FM and the speed warning indicator (you set a max speed on the dash and if you exceed the speed it makes a buzzing noise). My dad’s was more basic, with no A/C and an AM only radio and with dog-dish hubcaps. Both cars had manual windows and door locks.

As a child my dad drove the car into the ground, probably got over 100K miles out of it and about 6-7 years of use before it died. My grandfather traded his in on a 1982 regal, so he probably had about 70-80K on his and it was still running.

Some memories are:

My father would come home from work and his car would keep stumbling after he turned it off (dieseling). I remember him getting out of the car tired from working all day and having a long driving commute (with no A/C, AM radio, manual windows and a very slow car mind you) walk a few steps towards the house, his shoulders would slouch and he’s turn around to get back into the car to push the gas pedal to get the car to finally stop running.

My father has always been a fairly slow driver, and driving a V6 full sized Buick in the 1970’s meant he was in his element. What I remember is going 56 MPH down the garden state parkway to get to the shore area with the windows down for the weekend/vacation, listening to 1050 WHN (AM radio- country/rock crossover that was popular in the 70’s-80’s), and if it was raining out hearing the static each time the windshield wipers passed over the embedded windshield antenna. I’m not into country music, but at least with the “crossover” they played the Eagles, and some other decent music (Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash…70’s Elvis!)

Anyway, we’d be driving on the highway at 56-57 mph the whole way and even in those dark energy crisis/jimmy carter/55 mph national speed limit days, cars were going past us at probably 65 mph (nowadays if traffic isn’t bad people are all going 80-90 on that same highway)- but going that slow highway speed and with traffic constantly passing, and just wanting to get to the shore/beach frustrated me as a child. Hills were also a challenge to get moving at a decent speed in that car. As a result I love fast cars and have had/and have several. My need/desire to speed/drive briskly is from the pent up frustration of riding in that V6 all those years!!

It wasn’t until years later that I learned my grandfather purchased the car as a gift for him- he probably worked “a deal” with the Buick dealer to purchase 2 of these at once, meanwhile the salesmen were probably having a laugh that they were able to unload two of these things and get them off the lot!!

Now some info from what I have seen/heard:

People are correct that the 1976 Buick brochure doesn’t mention the availability of a V6 in the LeSabre- I believe it is likely correct that Buick decided to add it for that model year after the brochures were already printed up. Clearly it was offered during the 1976 model year as we had two in my family!

The actual power of the 3.8 in 1976 I believe was 105 net HP (vs 110 of the later 3.8), with 185 lb/ft of torque. Awful for a car of this size/weight!

They improved the 3.8 the following year, making the motor an “even-firing” V6, which period road tests of Buicks with this motor noted as being significantly improved (and as we know, the 3.8 went on to be one of GM’s finest motors several years later, like the ’87 Park Ave my grandfather bought after his ’82 regal- a very smooth motor with ample torque for the time and excellent highway mileage to boot). You can almost think of the ’76 application of this motor in cars like the LeSabre as being the real world beta testing of what was a crappy motor to make it a little better for ’77 and continue refining it in subsequent years, in the face of the fuel economy and emissions challenges of the period.

I remember reading an interview with a GM engineer who was talking about the 3.8. He said the focus of their buyers was to have easy power to get through an intersection, which even in the ’76 guise the 3.8 likely had as peak torque is probably around 2,000 rpm. It’s what happens after that where there is an issue (i.e. when you are trying to accelerate with traffic after 15 mph 🙂 )

Anyway, if anyone has a survivor V6 Buick LeSabre I’d love the see pictures of it! A rare car (but rare for a reason- ha!!)