Curbside Classic Lite: 1967 Buick LeSabre 400 Sedan – That Does Not Mean a 400 Engine, Oddly Enough

When I first spotted this Buick sedan from some distance in a weedy empty lot outside Baker City, Oregon, on our recent trip, I though it might be a Wildcat sedan, what with those nice Buick styled road wheels. I have some fond memories of ’67 Wildcat, and I was hoping to rekindle them. But as I drove closer, I could see the distinctive three “portholes” on the front fender, a sign that this was not one of the top-dog Buicks. But it was worth stopping for. Of course the course the portholes weren’t the only give-away; the whole front clip on the LeSabre is shorter than the one on the Wildcat, which is the biggest difference between them, as well as their engines.

Speaking of, the LeSabre 400 does not have a 400 cubic inch Buick V8 engine, even though it existed. But it does have something else that has the number 400 in it.

The LeSabre’s optional “400” package was first offered in 1965.

Curiously, there’s no mention of it in the brochure that year, except this rather cryptic shot of the LeSabre’s interior with this on its front seat. Enough of mystery: the 400 package included the four-barrel version of whatever was LeSabre’s standard V8 (300 inch in the ’65; the new 340 starting in ’66) teamed with the Super Turbine (THM) 400 automatic transmission. The non-400 used the two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic, although it’s impossible to tell in the brochures, as both are simply called “Super Turbine” automatic.

The ’67 brochure does show the 400 package, as well as clarify that the non-400 Super Turbine is a two speed. Of course even the ST-300 wasn’t standard; a three-speed manual was. That even goes for the Wildcat and its standard 430 inch Super Wildcat V8. As was manual steering. But those were unicorns in the real world.

Good luck finding a full-sized Buick with the three-speed manual. Buick was an automatic transmission pioneer, with its venerable Dynaflow, which helped establish the tradition and image of smooth, seamless power. I see that this LeSabre with the 400 package, which only includes the engine and transmission, is a Custom, with an upgraded interior includes the deluxe door armrests.

Needless to say, the 220 (gross) hp standard V8 teamed with the two-speed ST-300 was not exactly one of the brisker big cars of the times, but then the kinds of folks who bought LeSabres weren’t exactly worried about performance. They tended to be pretty mild-mannered as well as on the older side.

These kind of folks, who have been buying Buicks for almost forever. The LeSabre was the Special of the 60s.

Of course some buyers were always ready to pay a bit more for a bit more chrome, nicer interior and in the case of the 400, a state-of-the-art three-speed automatic. Must have felt a bit strange to those moving up from an older Dynaflow.

The back seat shows the original upholstery and almost shows the 39.0″ of leg room. That’s decent, but hardly extravagant. In fact, it’s a bit modest for a 217.5″ long sedan with a 123″ wheelbase, but let’s not get started on the lousy space utilization of big American cars. And by the way, that’s a half-inch less than on a Chevy Impala, which sat on a 119″ wheelbase. Of course, thta menas nothing in term sof interior space, as these GM B-Bodies all had the same passenger compartment; the longer wheelbase versions just had longer front and/or rear ends. Pay more, get less, and it’s harder to park.

As an example, stepping up to the Buick Wildcat (bottom) with its 126″ wheelbase nest zero additional interior space. The Wildcat’s extra length was all in the front end; it shared a longer front clip with the C-Body Electra.

The Electra 225 sat on the same 126″ wheelbase as the Wildcat, and shared its front end, but the C Body had a different roof with a more vertical rear window (shared with the Cadillac and Olds 98), and its rear seat was set a bit further back, resulting in a more commodious 42.2″ of rear leg room. And its rear end was of course different too, with vestigial fins. But underneath, they were all essentially the same, except for bigger brakes and engines. Mix and match, the GM way.

These big swoopy Buicks speak to me, but it’s got to be a Wildcat in order for me to really hear it. I briefly had a girl friend in Iowa City who had her dad’s hand-me-down ’67 Wildcat, and that one really spoke to me, especially when I dropped the hammer at 65 or 70. It crisply dropped into second, opened its secondaries, and the resultant push of its big 430 four barrel against the back of the big bench seat was intoxicating. The girl was not for me and I walked away, but I sure missed that Wildcat.

Auto-Biography: Wildcat!