Most days, I honestly don’t feel like I’m in my late forties. I’m reminded of this, of course, when something on my body pops or snaps, say, when I’m getting up from my seat on the morning CTA Red Line train to deboard. Or when I have no idea what song is playing in the background in a store or on the radio. I’m not talking about deluding myself into thinking I’m thirty, but more that I can’t believe I’m the age I actually am.
There’s this great scene in the movie Heathers (an evergreen favorite of mine) where Winona Ryder’s character of Veronica Sawyer breathlessly declares, “I can’t believe this is my life.” This is sometimes me when I’m having one of those periodic “don’t look down” moments when I realize I’m actually doing adulthood, and doing pretty well at it. I had no frame of reference as a youth as to what this time of my life was going to look like, aside from wanting to be a homeowner. Neither of my parents was going to be an effective template for me, nor were any of my aunts or uncles. Dad was an immigrant professor with dual doctorates, as well as a family man. I was going to be none of those things.
Years back at CC, I had made reference to having taken drivers’ training on this generation of Buick LeSabre, many of which were built right at home in Flint, Michigan, at the sprawling Buick City factory complex that no longer exists. These cars were acclaimed, starting with winning an award in ’89 from J.D. Power & Associates for being highest in initial quality in their class. After a bleak ’80s decade for GM which would see its fortunes and market share fall (in tandem with the employment numbers and financial situation in Flint), these LeSabres had shown brightly as evidence that a domestically designed and built family sedan from GM could excel. I remember thinking as a teenager that whatever was working so well at Buick City should be replicated at all of GMs other factories, pronto.
About the car, I remember forgiving its boring, staid, zero-cool-factor styling because of its general excellence which was factually proven and recognized. Without recycling my earlier LeSabre essay, suffice it to say that I had hoped to take drivers’ ed in something targeted at an age demographic that was at least a couple of decades younger than that of the LeSabre. I mean, I was fifteen. I didn’t want to be learning how to merge, brake, and signal in something identical to what some of my teachers were driving.
Now, I’m the age that many of my teachers were at that time. In fact, I’m now significantly older than at least of few of them were back then. Should this navy LeSabre should appeal more to me at this age? Aside from the fact that it’s thirty years old (and in remarkable, lived-in shape – probably a hand-me-down from Grandpa), this is the kind of car that successful, middle-aged men and women across middle America had aspired to own. I guess that one crucial decider would be whether said middle-ager would have a family, which I don’t. Still, I remember single adults owning and driving four-door cars.
Ninety-one was the last year of this design before the LeSabre moved to a curvier aesthetic, but on the same 110.8-inch wheelbase. This example in Midnight Blue metallic was one of about 33,300 Limited sedans built, out of about 90,800 LeSabres produced that year. The slightly more basic Custom sedan was the more popular choice, finding 56,200 buyers who had opted to save the extra $1,350 (at $17,080 vs. $18,430). That was the last year for the coupes, of which only about 700 Customs and 500 Limiteds were signed for. All were powered by the 165-horse 3800 V6. The redesigned ’92s would show a sales increase of 89%, to 171,600, with the lion’s share of those being the Custom.
According to a license plate search, this car was actually built in Flint. The sight of this LeSabre is both a comforting reminder of my youth and a sobering reminder of the passage of time. When I looked at it, I could almost smell the lovely new-car aroma wafting about its soft, accommodating, velour-covered interior. I’m not a kid anymore. Heck, I’m not even a “young professional”. Don’t look down, Joe, but you’ve been an independent, working adult for decades now. You’re doing this “life” thing just fine. Maybe I needed to see this dark blue LeSabre that day as a reminder of this.
West Ridge, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, May 29, 2023.
The brochure pages were sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.org.