COAL: 2000 Buick LeSabre Custom – The 3800 Legend Continues

Note: These pictures are of the actual car

When my wife’s 1992 Pontiac Bonneville was totalled by the insurance company, we started to look for a replacement car.  Since the Bonneville was going to be replaced with a new version for 2000, we decided to check out the new model.  Problem was that the 2000 Bonneville was going to be a late introduction, with the Buick LeSabre beating it out of the gate.

So, we decided to check out the new LeSabre.  The local dealer had only one in stock and let us test drive it.  We were impressed with the power and overall layout of the car, so we decided to order one to our specifications.  It was ordered in Titanium Blue with cloth seats, power windows, A/C, and a center console.  It took about 4 weeks for delivery and everything was good.  We decided to bite the bullet and lease the car for three years.  The money I would have spent on the car went, instead, into a mutual fund that was paying a decent dividend.  This covered the lease payments, however, at the end of the third year we looked at the new LeSabres and couldn’t tell much difference.  So we bought the car off of the lease at a nice discount.

Note: Not from the actual car, but illustrates the center console

Our car had bucket seats as opposed to the standard bench seat.  In the middle was a console that had a deep center storage compartment.  It also had a novel cup holder arrangement in the front.  The front section would rotate forward 180 degrees and had handy space for two cups.  We thought it odd that the transmission shifter was on the steering column, but the cup holder more than made up for the difference.

The trunk was even larger than the one in the 92 Bonneville, had a more generous opening, and also had a low liftover height.

The engine was the familiar 3800, but now in Series II configuration.  It was very smooth and had ample power while returning 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.  We only encountered two issues with the engine.  The starter failed intermittently, usually when my wife was driving.  A new starter cured that problem.  There was a coolant leak at the junction of the upper and lower intake manifolds.  This didn’t show up until 2016.  It required the intake manifold to be removed for installation of revised gaskets.

The revised gaskets were made from aluminum instead of the plastic used on the original car.  They are shown here attached to the engine block.  The only hard part of this job was that there was a plastic coolant elbow that attached from the lower manifold to the water pump.  To install the manifold with damaging the elbow, you had to install the elbow in the manifold, rotate it counterclockwise 90 degrees, and carefully insert the other end of the elbow to the water pump.  I’ve seen a newer version of the elbow that is made from aluminum, which lessens the risk of damage when doing this installation.

The front brakes were finally replaced for the first time at 125,000 miles.  The pads still had some life left in them, but the rotors were not long for this world.  The rear brake pads are still original to this day at 144,000 miles.

My favorite part to replace on this LeSabre was the window regulator assembly.  The cable would break, causing the window to drop down into the door.  Not hard to replace once you figured out where the hidden fastener in the front door panel was.  I had to replace three of the four units over time.

The air conditioning worked flawlessly from 1999 to 2016, when the condenser gave up the ghost.  This was tricky to replace, as there were a couple of stiffeners between the grille and the condenser that had to be removed in order to get the condenser out.

The only issue with the body was the occurrence of rust just below the filler door.  I haven’t seen too many of these cars, including the Pontiac Bonneville, that didn’t have this issue.  Repair was simple, as I attached some new metal to the hole, applied some All Metal aluminum epoxy filler, sanded it smooth, and applied base/clear coat paint.

When we reached the odometer reading you see above, we decided that maybe after 17 years that we needed something newer with less miles.  Looking at the pricing of similar LeSabres on the internet, we decided to ship the car to Florida for use during our annual vacation.  Why not?  We knew the history of the car and loved the way it drove and handled.  The car it replaced was a 1988 Plymouth Reliant, which is the subject of a future COAL.

As you can see in the picture above, the replacement car is in the garage ahead of the 2000 LeSabre.  Anyone care to guess what we bought?