Curbside Classic: 1961 Buick LeSabre Sedan – Aqua Time Machine

(first posted 4/29/2013)    I for one am glad to see Buick return back to what it did best–stylish transportation for folks who wanted a premium car but not the flash of a Cadillac. With cars like the Rendezvous and final-gen LeSabre, Buick was fast becoming the new Oldsmobile–not a good thing, despite my love of Oldsmobiles. But back in 1961, no one would have considered Flint’s finest as nothing but little old lady mobiles. They had style! Indeed, the 1961 big Buick–any model, I’m not picky–is one of my favorite Sixties Buicks.

The 1961 Buick was a breath of fresh air for the nearly-new decade. The parade-float 1960 was replaced with a trim yet stylish new body. About the only exterior styling cue that carried over were the trademark Ventiports, which had been on Buicks since 1949.

The top of the line was the “deuce and a quarter” Electra 225, available only as a four-door hardtop and convertible coupe. Unusually, the four-door was the most expensive Buick of the year at $4350; somehow the drop-top was a bit less, at $4192.

Just below the 225 was the plain ol’ Electra–still quite a nice ride, but not quite as luxy–or gadget-bedecked inside–as the Deuce and a Quarter.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the LeSabre, the least dear big Buick. Despite having the least amount of exterior chrome trim (just a narrow band on the upper body, following the curve of the bullet-shaped front fender), they looked just as good as the rest of the line, thanks to Bill Mitchell’s careful attention to detail and sheetmetal sculpturing.

For those of you who thrive on such trivia, the least expensive full-size Buick was the humble LeSabre two-door sedan (seen upper right in the picture above). Also available in the LeSabre line were two- and four-door hardtops and a convertible. The $3228 pillarless sedan was the best selling LeSabre, to the tune of 37,790. Our featured CC, the four door sedan, was right behind it.

Of course, LeSabre Estate Wagons were available too, in 6- and 9-passenger models. The three-seat wagon was the scarcest ’61 LeSabre–only 2,423 found buyers. No Di-Noc woody trim graced any 1961 Buick wagon–that would come later.

About that front fender: it was one of the most prominent Jet Age styling cues (save the ’61 “Bullet Bird” T-Bird’s flanks and most Ford cars’ jet-tube taillights) found on 1961 U.S. cars. I don’t use the oft-repeated “moving when standing still” line, but on these Buicks, the shoe fits, even on a four-door pillared sedan.


I would love to be able to say I discovered this Buick (wouldn’t you really rather have one?) but it was our own Richard Bennett who took the pictures. And what fine pictures they are!

LeSabres came with standard Turbo Drive automatic and a 364 CID V8 engine with 4 BBL Carter carburetor. This engine was good for 250-hp at 4400 rpm. It was only available in the LeSabre; fancier Invictas, Electras and Electra 225s getting the 326-hp 401 instead. This was a lot of car for the money, as a LeSabre sedan went for $3107 before options. 35,005 of the 4102-lb. sedans came off the line at Flint between September 1960 and early summer of 1961, all more than worthy of gracing your suburban driveway.

I love aqua cars, and this one is even better with matching interior! I love the instrument panel on these Buicks too–especially that lovely Jetsonesque clock perched in the middle of the dash. Yes, the LeSabre was the entry-level full-size Buick, but it was still a Buick, dagnabit! No Biscayne-grade interiors here. And really, why can’t we have colors like this anymore? What’s with the institutional color palette on most modern cars today? I am tempted to get a 2013 Chrysler 300, as they can now be had with a red leather interior. So can the Challenger, Charger, Cadillac ATS and others. Please, please manufacturers, keep it up. And let’s add an aqua interior too, OK?

No shortage of space, either. Just look at that back seat! Plenty of room to stretch out. And, as I have previously mentioned in previous CCs, there was no risk of depression when riding in such a bright, cheerful–and comfy–interior. Unlike many of the light gray, dark gray and medium gray interiors in modern cars.

All in all, a lovely car. I am very grateful that Mr. Bennett stopped to record this survivor. If you want to experience a bit of what the Sixties are like, you should have a car like this: A time machine you can drive for fun, to the bank, or to the grocery store. And you can take five friends with you too!

I’ve always loved the 1961 Buicks–they just might edge out even the 1961 Cadillac as my preferred 1961 GM car. And for those of you who are wondering about the nice ’58 Olds next to it, here’s a picture. Amazing how much cars changed between 1958 and 1961, isn’t it?