Amy Lowell’s poem “Patterns” has nothing to do with Buicks, and everything to do with the stifling societal restrictions that women have faced and a not so vague condemnation of war. Nonetheless, taken out of context, “I am very like to swoon with the weight of this brocade” sounds eerily appropriate when considering the upholstery pattern in a 1974 LeSabre.
This low-mileage Buick is, as of this writing, for sale on the Canadian equivalent of Craigslist, Kijiji. I noticed a link to the advertisement on a Buick forum I frequent, and I’ve immediately fallen prey to the 1970s charm of the brocade upholstery. Ah, the LeSabre. It’s perfect. It’s blue on blue on blue, and as clean an original sedan as one could find.
What’s more, the seller is asking $3900, and I assume that’s in Canadian dollars. I am not interested in actually buying a LeSabre sedan, but as I so often do, I have become hopelessly lost in 1970s love today.
It wasn’t too long ago that I paid no attention to 1970s cars at all, aside from a few early decade muscle car types such as Mustang Mach 1’s or Firebird Formulas. But since I bought my ’74 Firebird, my automotive interests have stretched homeward toward the present by about a decade, and I find myself more closely examining cars on which I never before would have wasted film or hard drive space. The decade’s lack of taste is ironically tasteful. For such a turbulent decade, it seems that the world refused to take itself seriously when styling its hair, wearing its clothes, or upholstering its cars.
In some ways, 1974 was the nadir of the 1970s: It was the last year before catalytic converters, so the engines suffered from dismal compression ratios, retarded cam and ignition timing, air pumps, and any number of patched up ignominies that caused poor running even when new. This Buick’s considerable heft blunted a once reasonably potent Buick 350, an engine that still produced 175 Net horsepower and 260 lb./ft. of torque, even in its emasculated form. If my Firebird is any indication, even a smogger V8 has plenty of torque for around town duties, but its shortcomings manifest themselves in the passing lane; the lung capacity just isn’t there.
Even so, corporate powerplants were still a few years off in 1974, and most Buicks still had Buick V8 engines under the hood, even though they would soon become early casualties of product integration, most famously in the Oldsmobile lineup, where many an unsatisfied customer bemoaned the Chevy engine where a “Rocket” engine should be.
As we put aside emissions tuning and corporate politics and focus on the car itself, it’s clear that the seller of this LeSabre has included a lot of the original paperwork in the sale, which is never a bad thing when one buys an old car.
The trunk is large enough for all kinds of activities, and it looks as clean as the rest of the car, even if it could use some light vacuuming.
The popular for about five years in the early-’70s “drivercentric” dashboard with faux-woodgraining remains nearly spotless. The original owner or ordering dealer chose power windows, which may or may not be a selling point in 2020, as complexity breeds trouble in old cars. In no way should something that trivial, however, stand in one’s way of what looks like a very appealing old car.
I’ll digress for a minute and say that someone will probably call this a “starter car” for a collector. I’ve always hated that attitude, because it assumes that a buyer automatically wants to “move up” to a Hemi ‘Cuda some day, and this is just a “toe in the water,” so to speak. That kind of elitism leaves me cold.
Regardless of one’s place in the collector car buying hierarchy, one could certainly do worse than buying this LeSabre. I have too much automotive responsibility as is, and border customs would make me nervous, but if I were buying another old car right at this second, this would be it. In every picture, it seems to say, “I too am a rare pattern.”