By on September 19, 2013

vojtabuick

Malaise era. Supposedly the time when cars were the worst, and especially the American ones. Compared to the glory days of the 1960s, when the gas was cheap, horsepower plentiful and cars the most beautiful ever, the 1970s are considered to be dark ages. Emission-strangled engines with pathetic power-to-weight ratio, huge and hideous bumpers, as well as floaty suspensions with not even a pretention of “sportiness” or “handling”, traits so popular with modern car enthusiasts.

But, was it really that bad? I had a chance to find out.

Recently, I offered a friend of mine, who makes a living by importing classic American cars and parts, to write some advertising copy for his website. This means I have to check out his new arrivals, and to get a feel for them, I have to drive them, at least a little. And since we’re in Czech Republic, which is not exactly the richest of European countries, most of the cars are classic landbarges from 60s or 70s – it’s not like no one wants muscle cars over here. Just the big ones have more of a novelty (imagine driving a 18-feet long car in our narrow streets) and, what is maybe more important, even people who would like to have a muscle car usually can’t afford one and have to settle for a four door fullsize sedan. You have to bear in mind that average late 60s – early 70s landbarge in nice shape, the kind of car that can be had in US for, say, three to seven grand, will cost more like twelve to eighteen thousand bucks, after shipping, handling, custom duties and, most of all, the dreaded VAT, are counted in.

IMAG0659

But I digress. The first new arrivals I got to check out and write about were, by luck, two Buicks. Both in extremely nice shape for their age, and both great examples of their respective eras. Let’s begin with older one – a dark green 1965 Electra four-door hardtop, with a 401 Nailhead engine and not much else when it comes to options. A typical old man’s car, kept by original owner until 2008, when it still had under 30 thousand miles on the odo. After the second owner daily drove it for a while, it has 31 thousand, but it still looks pretty much like new, and even very drives so for the most part. Basically, the thing needs just a new set of whitewall tires instead of the worn and unbalanced winter ones, fixing the upholstery on the driver’s part of the front bench, and some suspension work.

1965 Buick Electra 01

The second one is a 1972 LeSabre, also a four-door pillarless hardtop, but this time powered by emission-choked 350, offering just 160 horsepower (although if we count in the difference between post-1972 SAE net horsepower and older SAE gross horsepower, it may be much less a difference than it seems). Also a one owner for much of its life (until 2011), this one is a bit less original, with the rear of the car having a respray after an accident a few years ago, but mechanically, it works just like new. No play in the steering, taut suspension… I imagine that the sucker drove just like this when it drove out of the Taylor Motor Company in Waynesville, NC about 40 years ago.

1972 Buick LeSabre 01

Although I drove them in opposite order, I will start with the older car first. the Electra was one of my first experiences with 1960s GM fullsize cars, with the other being just a really short drive in a much more “muscle car like” 1968 Catalina. But I owned 1960s US cars, and in my days as independent car importer, I got behind the wheels of about a dozen more, so I kind of knew what to expect. As I mentioned in my earlier review of 1988 Caprice, these things are just wonderful as toys – driving really brings you back in time – but as a real-world cars, they tend to suck quite a bit. While the comfort and style of a 1960s land barge can be hardly matched by anything else, all the prejudices about the old US metal come true here – with some more added to the mix. The cabin is not only extremely light any airy, but also wonderful to look at. But the instant you try to reach for anything on that beautiful, flat, jet-age designed dashboard, you realize why modern cars do not have flat dashboards. The suspension will have the car gliding over the railway crossing like there’s nothing there and over-assisted steering lets you drive with just a finger. But once you have to change your direction swiftly, the whole thing starts to wallow and keeping it on the narrow road at quicker pace is quite a challenge. You know nothing about what’s going on with the front wheels, everything is imprecise and you can feel that once you would start pushing a bit, the tires’ would lose traction and the front end with heavy engine would wash wide. And some hub caps would probably fall of, like in an old time movie. In short, it’s everything you expect from 1960s American car. Comfortable, torquey and fast in a straight line, but lacking even the slightest notion of road feel or handling.

IMAG0657

And if the car from the heyday of American carmaking, the height of the performance era, is lovely to cruise, but terrible for any other kind of driving, how bad must the Malaise era beast be? Every time we read about Malaise era American cars, we hear about absurd outside dimensions, mushy suspensions, comatose steering and terrible, castrated engines. I didn’t have much experience with 1970s American cars before, although I have driven more than my share of earlier and later ones.

IMAG0658

So I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to find out how they really were with this gold LeSabre. Being a ’72, it represents the very beginning of the Malaise era cars – it’s already built on the new generation of ´GM’s B-body platform, which lasted until 1976, and it’s the first model after the biggest horsepower drop (or perceived drop), but it still retains sleek shapes, unmolested by large, federal mandated 5 mph bumpers. In fact, it looks surprisingly sleek and elegant from the outside – and it seems quite a bit smaller than it actually is (especially parked next to the humongous Electra). And the line flowing from the hood to the rear quarter panels is just amazing.

IMAG0655

But maybe even bigger difference can be seen, and felt, when you sit inside. Unlike the Electra, with its flat dashboard, full glittery bits and with controls laid out with design in mind, instead of ergonomy, the LeSabre has a then-modern “cockpit” style dash, wrapping around the driver, a little bit like in the 1990s BMWs. These’s much less shiny stuff and on first glance, the interior looks quite a bit less interesting for it, but it has its advantages. Like the fact you can actually reach things without leaning forward in your seat.

1972 Buick LeSabre 04

But enough with interior, however beautiful it may look after just a little over 30 thousand miles. Let’s see what that 350, fed with measly two-barrel carburetor and choke with the first round of emission standards, can really do. While the Electra offered 325 SAE gross horsepower (which should be something between 250 and 300 of “modern” horses), the LeSabre must make do with just 160 hp (SAE net). Which seems like awfully little, considering that this car is about a foot longer than current S-class Mercedes. In the LWB version at that. But it’s lighter than you would think – probably under two tonnes – and with the kind of driving its handling inspires, the power is in fact quite adequate. It won’t win any drag races, it will probably have a hard time doing a burnout, but it’s powerful enough for overtaking and it chirps the tires under acceleration, which is enough to make you feel like you’re Clint Eastwood or Telly Savalas.

1965 Buick Electra 03

But back to the handling. Because, surprisingly, here lies the biggest difference from the previous generation of the B-body and, in fact, most 1960s American cars I have ever driven. While part of it may be caused by the fact that this car is in unbelievable shape and really drives “like new” (and it should, with 36 thousand miles on the clock…), it’s still surprising how stable and even taut the thing felt on the road. While the big Buick is definitely not a sports car, and it still glides over the road surface, instead of following it, there’s something very different to the older Electra. The steering wheel still has no feel, but it’s much firmer, and the suspension seemed to have much better balance between comfort and handling than the older car. I drove about 20 miles, mostly on tight European back roads, and the LeSabre dealt with it was surprisingly similar to the way my friend’s old Mercedes W124 does. There’s the same, strange same of stability and control on top of the dominating suppleness – like car was stiff, but gliding just above the road, or the soft springs were underneath the stiffer ones. It’s surprisingly vast difference compared to the older car, and it makes the newer LeSabre actually quite useable on twisty roads. You still won’t break any records, but the suspension will keep up in any speed you may reasonably expect from a land yacht – or, in fact, at any normal speed at which people usually drive.

1965 Buick Electra 02

So, what does it all mean to us, classic US car enthusiasts? What I took away from this wonderful afternoon is that we shouldn’t underestimate tha Malaise Era cars just because they’re low on power and maybe a bit bloated. Between the suspension improvements, better soundproofing and more ergonomic interiors, they can, in fact, be much nicer to drive in any other way besides the engine. The ’72 Buick was much closer to the ’88 Caprice I tested recently than to the ’65 just eight years before it. Both the improved handling and comfort (important to take it as combination – 1960s cars can be made to handle, but you will sacrifice any comfort they had before), and those little details, like easy-to-reach controls, make driving experience much more bearable. While I would absolutely love to have the Electra as a weekend cruiser, I would probably start to hate it after more than a few thousand miles a year in it. The LeSabre I would be happy to drive daily from spring until fall. And, since the shortage of horsepower is probably the easiest fault to remedy in old American cars, I may even prefer it as a toy.

Now, please excuse me. I’m off to search the ‘net for some GM Colonnade car and a big block engine…

 

Both cars, and a gallon or two of gasoline, were kindly provided by www.ameriky-hk.cz

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98 Comments on “A Tale of Two Buicks...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “The suspension will have the car gliding over the railway crossing like there’s nothing there and over-assisted steering lets you drive with just a finger. But once you have to change your direction swiftly, the whole thing starts to wallow and keeping it on the narrow road at quicker pace is quite a challenge.”

    The first sentence describes exactly what was desired of these vehicles.

    The second sentence describes what their owners would never willingly do.

    Truly, nobody under 50 years of age should ever review our land yachts. These cars were for people who’d already gotten their ya-yas out.

    And, by God, that Electra has authori-tay! It should receive new blackwalls as they better fit the sobriety of the whole package and beautifully balance the chrome.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      These things are great, even for the enthusiast under 50. The entry fee is incredibly cheap for a 4-door, non hot rod. If you can have 3 cars, it would fit well. Say a work truck or daily driver car, sports car (I wouldn’t say old muscle car, as it would be redundant), and one of these.

      It’s A floaty time machine that you still would want to take to work.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “even for the enthusiast under 50″

        Truth… some of the B&B have made it clear that they are wise beyond their years and cherish their old floaters.

      • 0 avatar
        lojak

        My first 2 cars, in high school, were a 67 Riviera GS with a 430 and a 72 T-bird with a 460. Most of my friends drove Mustangs, Camaros and assortments of A-bodies. Sometimes they laughed at me. And then when I was trying to get laid in the back seat, I’d laugh back. Because even at 17 you’re not limber enough to do it in the back seat of a Camaro or Mustang.

        Still love my giant, torque-filled luxury cares and it probably has as much to do with my early sexual adventures as anything. Whatever. I still contend that from 63-73 there was never a more beautiful line of cars than the Riviera.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      I disagree. I am 29, I have owned quite a few landbarges in my time, and I have driven many more. And I really loved them – I would daily-drive that LeSabre in a heatbeat.

      But, as a road tester, I HAVE to find out how the car works even in non-standard driving situations…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Truly, nobody under 50 years of age should ever review our land yachts. These cars were for people who’d already gotten their ya-yas out.”

      The demographics of people who would buy a big American car have changed in 40-50 years. Back then, that LeSabre would have been very appealing as a family car, and my father had a ’65 or ’66 full size Buick (can’t remember if it was an Electra or LeSabre) while he was still in his twenties. He bought his first Caddy when he was in his early thirties.

      I suspect if people in their twenties got the chance to drive these cars, they’d catch the car bug.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        +1 I’m 29 and would be excited to rock either of those cars as a daily driver — though maybe not the ’65 if it still has its jam jar master cylinder and mechanically assisted brum brakes. Owned a similar one as my first car and it left me with a turtle head poking out several times during panic stops…

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Wow quite a collection in the old Republic. Impressive work.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I once drove a friend’s ’72 Electra with the 455. I loved it. We live in an era when we expect cars to to everything well and, to be sure, most of them do. This car was different and that’s what makes it special.

    The Electra was a no compromises car. It did what it was designed to do which is waft along and provide a sense of being above it all. It was elegant and comfortable. With the 455, it also had huge amounts of torque which was available at the slightest touch of the undersprung gas pedal. Few cars epitomized what it meant to be an American at the end of the 1960s like these top-of-the-food-chain sedans. They were both affordable and blatant and the people who bought them had no doubt that they had earned the right to ride in comfort and style.

    Despite being a fan of performance cars, I would love to own a ’72 LeSabre or Electra. I think they are beautiful and deserve to be preserved and driven as they were meant to be with one finger on the wheel and a sense of owning the road.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    pity anyone who gets T-boned in one of those things.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    You sure that LeSabre’s got a stock suspension?

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Totally sure. It’s absolutely stock, inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      Siorus

      I’ll vouch for Vojta on this. The early ’70s GM full size cars are not the wallowing pigs that people like to make them out to be.

      I’ve got a ’73 Buick Riviera, a ’69 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and a ’60 Buick LeSabre. For what they are, they handle very well, particularly the ’69 and the ’73. They are never going to be sports cars, or even sporty cars. That isn’t part of their design directive. But they are not floaty, poorly-engineered boats either.

      A hard stop doesn’t have them bouncing around like a kayak in 30ft seas-something I cannot say holds true for the various Lexus LS400s and 430s I’ve driven-and the Riviera at least will stop faster from 70mph than a Lexus LS460 (seriously; 210ft from the Lexus from a C&D road test, 202ft for the Buick).

      They do exhibit massive body roll. No question about it. And they have no steering feel. It is *literally* possible to parallel park any of them using the tip of your little finger to steer. But they are predictable and well-behaved when pushed, and while they tend to default to understeer, if you really get on them hard the back end will (very slowly) come around. Aside from the steering effort, they are indeed very similar to the W124 Mercedes-although they are closer still to the W126 or the W116. And that’s no faint praise-especially for something with a solid axle in the back.

      Here’s a period road test of a ’72 Riviera with some slalom and track footage:

      Like I said; not a sports car. But for something that is longer than a Suburban, weighs nearly 5,000lbs, and is running bias-ply tires, it’s not embarrassing itself any.

  • avatar
    Crash80

    I remember when my grandparents rolled up in a LeSabre just like that gold one in white with a black top. It was a massive hunk o’ machinery with a hood that went on for miles, it seemed to a then 6 year old boy.

  • avatar
    probert

    “which is enough to make you feel like you’re Clint Eastwood or Telly Savalas.”

    This is a recipe for cognitive dissonance:

    “Do you feel lucky baby. Guess who loves you punk.”

    “Are you going to shoot me or is it drinks and dinner?”

  • avatar
    NN

    I bet these cars just look cool as can be in the Czech Republic…with your fairytale old architecture and cobblestone streets, something like this just really stands out amongst the Skodas.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      I didn’t have time to make a proper photos this time, but I promise that next time, I’ll get pictures of something old and American in some pictoresque Czech background ;)

  • avatar

    Great piece, but it’s worth noting that 1972 was positively rosey compared to just five years later, after the cars were burdened with cats and all manner of horrible carburetion issues; they continued to slide downhill well into the end of the 70′s. Trying to buy a new car in 1975, I finally ended up with a lightly used ’74 Mazda Rx-4 – compared to the V8′s of 1975, the performance was positively sparkling.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “Cats” cleaned the air, and cars performed well with them, once EFI came in. I’d take a 1992 Mustang 302 with EFI, cats, and better brakes, over a 60′s muscle car with 8 mpg and 4 wheel drum brakes.

      Air pollution needed to be addressed, get over it.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Actually, the cat made 1975 cars run better than the rats’ nest of tubes and add on junk that was the norm in 1974. It is only when the standards got tighter that you had restrictive cats and all that add on stuff. Fuel injection made all that go away, and newer cats added very little restriction. Had Detroit gone EFI six years sooner people would have different memories today.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          The low point for GM drivability was 1974. Catalytic converters perform about 90% of tailpipe emissions reduction, and allowed better pleasability starting in the ’75 model year. Fuel injection and much greater processing power were necessary to really get performance and drivability back.

          The GM move to Computer Control in ’79-’80 required manufacturing breakthroughs to allow sensors, that would have been lab quality at the time, to be produced at reasonable costs. There were a lot of technological developments required to enable the control systems we have today.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Its nice to see that someone out there is willing to make due with 4-doors just to get their hands on a classic.

    While I do like having some feel for the road I for one think that pseudo-sporty suspensions are overrated, if someone wants “sporty” there are a number of fine real sports cars on the market.

    At the same time, after driving a 90′s box Panther I’m not sure if I really like the float and indecisiveness of older yachts. at the least it had real bumpers just in case.

    • 0 avatar
      Siorus

      You’d think the Panther would be comparable to if not better than a similar car from GM or Chrysler that’s 20 years older. It’s not.

      The ’87ish LTD I drove was one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven. The late ’60s/early ’70s GM full size cars are soft, but they’re not a wobbling, jiggling, teetering bowl of jello the way the LTD was. Think slightly softer s-class (we’re talking ride and handling only here, not build quality), not fishing trawler in a tsunami.

      Also, am I the only one that *likes* 4 doors? I actually went and bought the 4d version of a couple of my cars specifically because I prefer a 4d pillarless hardtop to a coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I like the look of the pillar-less 4 door sedans from the late 60s/early 70s. Good looking cars worthy of restoration even if they have too many doors. However the 72 in the article and the ones I like are before Malaise Era pollution control and 5 mph bumpers. A 1967 Impala 4 door was a big part of the TV show Supernatural.

      http://supernatural.wikia.com/wiki/The_Impala

      That big trunk comes in handy transporting a large arsenal.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I’m not the biggest fan of pillar-less hardtops, they look cool but the roofs lack re-enforcement, making them very vulnerable to hail and branches.

        At Siorus: I’m glad that I’m not alone on this, too often I hear people say that the Panther is a remnant of 60′s American cars, in reality its a “diminutive runt” if I’m honest. The key issue with the Panther is that its a 60′s design thats been shortened quite a bit without much work to address the inherent lack of stability from being shortened, this also explains the poor rear leg room.

        In the 90′s I’m sure they fixed some of this, but then you had to make due with a car that was basically a huge tough Taurus with an awkward interior.

        I’ve driven some crude cars including a 2 cylinder Honda Z600, but the scariest was a late box Marquis that just at 20mph sagged and leaned anywhere, couple this with a steering wheel that seemed attached to nothing. Normally American cars are great at going straight, but this was an exception.

        • 0 avatar
          Siorus

          A number of years ago I rented a 2011 Grand Marquis for a couple days, just to see if I might want to buy one.

          It rode fine, it was comfortable enough, and I managed to pull 26mpg out of it on the freeway. I also found that with some brake torquing and a decent launch 0-60 in about 7 flat is doable, which is about what I’d expect to see out of it (versus the 8+ that all of the magazines always seemed to get) based on its power, weight and gearing.

          The handling, however, was crap. I took it for a ~50 mile drive on some mountain roads around here-the same roads that I flog all of my cars on. It took forever to settle down when pushed into a corner, and once it had, ANY kind of change upset it. A (tiny) midcorner camber change or (small) pothole was enough to have it wanting to head for a ditch. And I wasn’t exactly pushing it that hard; I wasn’t even getting tire squeal out of it most of the time.

          I realize it’s got a solid axle in the back, but that’s not really a good excuse… I’ve had other cars with solid axles that handled the same roads just fine. I had a Suburban up there at one point and even that was happy being driven MUCH faster than I was driving the Ford.

          None of the GMs or Volvos I’ve driven with solid axles do the sideways-wobble thing over speedbumps that the Panthers do, either.

          *shrug* If I had more garage space and disposable income than I do, I’d add a late model town car to my (already too large) collection. But from a handling perspective, panthers at both ends of the production run have been some of the worst cars I’ve ever driven. Supposedly the police interceptor suspension gear helps a lot.

          • 0 avatar
            Compaq Deskpro

            Speaking from ownership, the Police Interceptor has excessively stiff springs that dive in and out of potholes rather than absorbing them. (I read the LX sport or HPP springs have a good balance between squish and rockhard.) Add the lack of a carpet, and the PI is a harsh noisy rough riding car. While the handling is much better than what you are describing, what you end up with something that drives like an old truck, not a sports car. (I still love it.)

            Note that the Grand Marquis do not have a rear sway bar. (This is a typical cost cutting move by Ford when their cars are only going to fleets, the Taurus did the same in 2003.) Adding thick Addco sway bars and very expensive (~$600) Heinous rear control arms will force down the tail wag. I have stock control arms and rear sway bar, so I still get some sideways wobble when it recovers from handling maneuvers, but the stiff springs keep it in line. A stiff boat is still a boat.

          • 0 avatar
            Siorus

            Interesting. I wonder if there are any differences between the P71 spec Crown Vic and the Grand Marquis that would effect NVH besides a lack of carpet in the PI.

            I have a friend that had a Grand Marquis that he stuck the P71 gear on, and he didn’t have any NVH complaints afterwards. I’m curious if he just doesn’t care, or if the GM has additional sound deadening or softer bushings or something that made up for the increased NVH to some extent.

            No rear sway bar would definitely explain a lot of my experience with the one I rented. It is definitely a boat, like you said, but if it’s a well-behaved boat there’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, I measured the center vent temperature with the a/c set to max. at about 15*F on a 90* day. Hard to argue with that.

            Personally, I’d like to see a Town Car with a built 5.4 out of a lightning and a T56. I know people have done both to the Crown Vic, but the world needs a Lincoln with a blower sticking out of the hood. Maybe after I get caught up on some of my current projects.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I looked up newer Panther accidents just to see how safe they were, as safe as they are many of them started with “The driver lost control”, and several of these were police cars.

            Granted, police cars go pretty fast but you’re right in saying that they have some hefty handling issues with later models, I’m thinking it could be the BOF construction, or good ol’ Ford cost cutting.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In order to really draw a conclusion you’d have to have data going back through the various Panther iterations. I would hypothesize handling may always have been an issue going back to the beginning, but was exacerbated by Ford cost cutting in the last generation.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I agree with Compaw, the P71/P7B Panthers actually handle really well. Their suspension and brakes are quite different than the non-handling package cars. The base model units do handle just as grandma intended, though.

            As a side note, I have exerienced a scary high speed stability concerns in the ’03+ cars when the VAPS (variable power steering assist) solenoid fails. Any touch of the steering wheel at high speed jerks the car all over the place.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            At Danio: That or according to a recent recall by Ford a control arm or something could break, causing the driver to loose steering.

            Its stuff like this that makes me beleive that Panthers are very long living cars…if you have a garage with a special team that regularly replaces the cheap components, aka fleet service.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The dash in that ’65 is AWESOME.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I’d call 1965-67 Peak Years for American car design. There was still a lingering of the clean simplicity of early ’60s cars occasioned as a reaction to ’50s excess. But it was uniquely mated to some exciting angularity and relative leanness that would become rounded and obese by the end of that decade.

      Yeah, I love the looks of this Electra.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Maybe ’62-’69 for me with the Falcon being pretty nice at first, I never did understand why US carmakers in the 70′s tried to push “Low, Wide, Long, tastelessly European ish, and FAT” as being the thing, its not different than what happened in the late 50′s nor is it really that different than whats on on currently.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        When I turned 16, I wanted a ’72 Riviera just like my mom had when I was little, but nothing showed up in the papers, and then my dad saw an ad for a ’65 Buick Wildcat. I was skeptical, until I drove it.

        Now I think 1965 was a high water mark for GM design.

  • avatar

    I’d think a new set of radials and whatever suspension work the ’65 needed would make for a closer comparison.

    Also the GM full-size vehicles should only be thought of as typical for the era to the extent that so many were sold they dominated the US landscape. Yes, they found their handling prowess with the ’71-’76 models but a ’69-’70 with the right options did just as well in a better built package.

    1969-1970 was a high point for GM except for Cadillac which was chasing volume after 1965.

    Your opinions about roadability may be different with a comparable FoMoCo or Chrysler product. MoPars were known for their handling in the 60′s thanks to standard torsion bar suspension but as they sought to soften the ride after 1968, the handling suffered, especially after the cars put on weight in the 70′s. Fords just wallowed like a pig all over the road, whether a Granada, Torino or LTD, until all-new platforms like Fox and Panther appeared at the end of the 70′s.

    Bottom line: I’d take the ’65, fix the suspension, put a new set of radials on it, then put a set of sway bars on it front and rear. I’d bet then it handles just as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      The Electra was still pretty good for 40 year old car standards, and I don’t think that fixing it would wipe out the differences. The LeSabre was really surprisingly good.

      And as for other makes – I don’t know how the 1970s Fords handled, but I surely hope they were better than 1960s ones. I used to own a 1968 Galaxie 500, and it was UNBELIEVABLY bad.

      On the other hand, all the Mopars I have ever driven (which includes several B-bodies, C-bodies and two Imperials) handled pretty much like on rails, but even the Imperials weren’t as comfortable as the Buick. That LeSabre really surprised me with it’s balance of handling and ride quality, it was much better than I expected it could ever be.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “I used to own a 1968 Galaxie 500, and it was UNBELIEVABLY bad.”

        Heh… I think I take curves like a granny today because I had a ’66 Galaxie in high school. It rewarded only gentle, smooth driving and ended up getting totaled when the rear end came around on a STRAIGHT patch of downhill snow & ice after I ever so gently applied the brakes.

        • 0 avatar
          Vojta Dobeš

          And I should add that it was “unbelievably bad” compared to the 1967 Coronet I owned at the same time. Or a friend’s 1966 Chrysler Wagon… or just about anything else.

          • 0 avatar
            Siorus

            I haven’t driven anything from this era built by Ford or Chrysler, but everything I’ve read and everything I’ve been told has been that Ford’s cars were markedly worse in the ride/handling/braking department than either GM or Chrysler was at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The Fords were worse in the handling department, primarily because they were tuned for a soft ride.

            In braking, however, Ford was good. Ford was an early adopted of disc brakes (standard from 1965 on the Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental and the 1966 Galaxie 7-Litre, and optional on the 1965 Mustang). Ford’s disc brakes were quite good by the late 1960s.

            Chrysler offered disc brakes on its cars (and made them standard on the 1967 Imperial), but didn’t always include a proportioning valve, which made for some scary panic stops.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I did some upgrades to my 72 Fury that made a world of difference. Addco rear bar, Polygraphite bushings from Just Suspensions, KYB shocks and Goodyear Eagle GTs. I took curves back in the day that were at serious speed. Had i went for stiffer torsion bars that would have made things even better.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      My 79 Town Car is a very good handler. It corners flat, is nonplussed by atrocious Saskatchewan roads, and is reasonably composed over frost heaves. It doesn’t even brake-dive to any great extent considering the weight forward of the front axle.

      I remember reading that Ford put a great deal of effort into matching the composed “Cadillac ride” in their 70s Continentals and seem to have succeeded in the attempt.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    It’s certainly possible that the significant difference in handling you observed could be the result of the condition of the shock absorbers and also the tires. Regardless of the number of miles driven, the effectiveness of shock absorbers this old has to be questioned. And, if the previous owner replaced them . . . well, who knows what was replaced, an OEM or a somewhat stiffer Bilstein or Koni? The typical U.S. car shock absorber at that time should have been replaced at 40,000 miles. In addition, the 1965 car suspension was definitely designed for bias-ply tires; in the U.S. the only radial available in the late 1960s was the Michelin-X and it may not have been available in this size. Besides that, the Michelin X was not intended to be driven at sustained speeds over 75 mph, which some owners discovered the hard way when the tires blew. On the new Interstates people did drive at 70 mph or more in the 1960s. In fact, on most of them the speed limit was 65 or 70, until the idiots in Congress decided that 55 mph should be the new standard to “save gasoline” in 1974. As a person who started driving in 1965, my experience with Detroit iron was that there were no significant handling differences between mid-60s cars and early 70s cars, as a group. As others have noted, there were differences between makes, with Chrysler products being generally more “competent.” The really scary part about these cars is the brakes. Drum brakes are self-actuating and really don’t need a power assist. However, Detroit sold the public on the “luxury” of power brakes. As a result, the vacuum-assisted brakes of the time would brake increasingly hard with constant pedal pressure, as a result of the drums’ self-actuating nature. Obviously, this made control in slippery situations difficult. The other problem with drums is their limited heat dissipation ability. Drum brakes were good for about one hard stop from 70 mph. If they weren’t allowed to cool for a considerable time, the second stop from that speed took much, much longer.

    As another poster said, the driveability issues that characterized the cobbled-together, de-smogged, carburetted engines did not really appear until the mid-1970s, getting progressively worse through the rest of the decade until throttle-body fuel injection began to appear in the early to mid 1980s on US-built cars.

  • avatar
    daviel

    terrific piece! The cars are even malaise colors. My father favored the luxury coupes, Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles (Toronado). That took me back. Thanks!

  • avatar
    86er

    I think it’s impossible, without a time machine, to accurately compare vehicles from 40 years ago, but I appreciate the effort all the same.

    40 years on, there’s much to be said for the experience of getting behind the wheel of “time capsules” such as these.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    “My” first car was Grandpa’s low-mileage 1970 LeSabre 350CI hardtop sedan in brown with a darker brown top and tan interior. Gobbled the gas (leading to it’s departure in ’76) but wow what a beauty to take to college. Room for the whole dorm, it seemed. And though it would have been a tragedy / travesty, I almost got talked into cutting a hole behind the rear armrest for a pass-through beer tap with the keg in the trunk.

    Wiser heads prevailed.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I love me some pillarless hard tops. Nice review, as a malaise era car owner myself, I agree that there were many very good cars in that day. Unfortunately many proved to be bad that tarnished the reputation of them all.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I once drove a 74 Olds ’88 from Houston to St. Louis. Hard to believe the Electra could have handled much worse than that boat did. That said, I’m glad I had that experience.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Freed Mike, I totally agree.

    These 2 cars signify that GM was fully into decontenting their cars by the early ’70s.

    The Deuce and a Quarter has the twin gauge pods that were a nod to the Riviera, in a way that the owner of the 225 could look past the steering wheel every day and know that Buick’s halo car shared some of its style with his ride. It gave you a sense of more worth/value than it actually cost the General to do that trick.

    Fast forward to 1972.

    I can’t say for certain, but it appears the ’71-’73 boattail Rivieras no longer had a unique dash, but that it was shared across the entire Buick full-size platform. As well executed as that instrument cluster and pod was, (and I drove a ’71 Estate Wagon halfway across Texas once) the Riv had by now lost a lot of its uniqueness.

    Definitely the mid-60′s were the very best times for GM interior styling. The 225 is actually pretty radical, nothing else like it was available the had that understated look. And yet Pontiac had a completely different design (linear speedo +3 gauge pods high in center of a dash with real wood veneer and a grab bar).

    It was pure die-cast, chrome plated wonderfulness.

    • 0 avatar
      Siorus

      “I can’t say for certain, but it appears the ’71-’73 boattail Rivieras no longer had a unique dash, but that it was shared across the entire Buick full-size platform.”

      Correct. And it’s not a very nice dashboard, either. It does, however, make it utterly impossible for the passenger to change either the HVAC or the radio settings.

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      Actually, the Wildcat and LeSabre shared the same dash, just without the faux wood on the deuce-and-a-quarter. The Special/Skylark design lacked the ‘pods’ from the Riv and the full sizes.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Great read. I agree it is hard to compare apples to apples here as so much has changed EVERYWHERE. Fuel is expensive, we spend more time in our cars (traffic, congestion etc) and economically, these cars don’t make sense in today’s world.
    At one time they did though, so the glaring shortcomings noted here didn’t appear to be as bad when cars in general were slowly getting better (Malaise era and beyond).

    I love nostalgia and the oldies but nothing beats the refinement of today’s vehicles (hard plastics and all). My dad tells he had to place a light bulb next to the carburetor and leave it there all night so the carb and fuel would be warm enough to start the car in winter. This was a brand new Chevy Bel-Air mind you!

  • avatar
    GS 455

    My father had a 66 LeSabre 340 4 barrel 260 HP wich he sold to me when he got a 75 LeSabre 350 160 HP. The differences noted in this review correspond to my experience with out cars. The power of the 66 LeSabre (365 ft/lbs torque) made it a lot more fun to drive and in the late 70s early 80s it was one of the faster cars on the road. The handling and braking of the 75 felt more modern but I remember feeling very dissappointed by the newer Buick. In 10 years and 120,000 miles of use the 75 LeSabre did not have one single thing go wrong with it. He sold it because it had a bit of rust on the lower quarter panels but the interior was perfect. In 80 years of combined driving between my dad and myself the 75 LeSabre was the most reliable and trouble-free car we’ve had. I can’t say that about any of the BMWs and Mercedes I’ve leased.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a ’79 or an ’89 (which I do own) over either of these. Especially the parade floats of ’71-’76.

    The ’65 is pretty though.

  • avatar
    waltercat

    Oh, boy – that ’72 brings back memories of my old ’73 Delta 88 convertible. Cranberry with white top and interior, 455, and just about every option that you could order in ’73 (AM-FM-8-track, anyone?) I bought the car used, cheaply, in late 1975 and sold it ten years later, having just broken 100K miles.

    I can’t honestly say that my old Olds handled in any modern sense of the word. You could drive it fairly quickly on secondary roads, but it took a lot of room and it was anything but tidy. A set of radial tires and Monroe heavy-duty shocks helped a bit – but, as you say, steering feel was completely absent. And, as a convertible, you can just about imagine how flexible the body structure was. And heavy? I recall 4700 pounds, but could be wrong about that.

    But boy, could that thing cruise – the 455 sounded great and had a ton of torque just above idle, and its strength was interstate cruising.

    Alas, time took its toll. What you’ve been led to believe about malaise-era workmanship was certainly true for this car – fading paint, non-working accessories, one memorable wiring fire, rot in the rear quarters, water in the interior and trunk, mysterious overheating events, spotty A/C, oil leaks… at 12 years and 100K miles, the old girl was worn out. And, at the time, my new bride hated the car, because I was too insistent on top-down driving. (My bride of 32 years hates my Miata for the same reason now, but – tough luck, the Miata stays.) So the Olds was sold to an Olds collector who wanted to restore it, and I moved on to a malaise-era Caprice, which was worse than the Olds in every conceivable way.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Great article Vojta.

  • avatar
    Monty

    I had that EXACT LeSabre, but in blue, with the blue interior. Same wheels even! Mine had the 350 4BBL and a positraction diff.

    The difference is that I owned mine 30 years ago, when it was just a used Buick. I wish I had it back.

  • avatar
    afflo

    This reminds me of driving a friend’s restored late 60′s Cutlass.

    That was the day I decided I did not want a classic car. I found nothing pleasurable about it. THe car was beautiful – I could sit and look at it all day long. But to actually drive it? Those little things you notice that have incrementally improved with a new model year or body style really add up over 35-40 years!

    It was a bit scary to drive – I didn’t feel as if I had the ability to swerve and avoid a crash, the brakes weren’t confidence inspiring at all, and there were lots of hard points on the dash and windshield frame begging to have a go at my face! I wish I’d never accepted his offer to let me take it for a spin – it definintely tainted my appreciation for a beautiful machine.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    GM’s full size car line from the 71-76 period and especially in downsized 77 on-wards trim were always my favorites and it always amazed me how much more competent they drove than there 60′s for-bearers. The trick with the 71-76 cars was to get a 4 BBL equipped V8 and bypass the 2 bbl setups. The quadrajets would actually see better fuel mileage in cruise conditions and extra power was there when needed. Eliminating some of the cumbersome emissions devices helped in this regard. The 77 on up GM full size cars drove, rode and handled better still and were at the time very space efficient. With weight reduced to 3500-3600 LBS on average(more for the larger C-bodies and Caddys) the Olds/Chevy and Buick 350 4BBL engines were perfectly at home and brought back much of the lost power of the 74-76 de-tuned engines and returned up to and over 20 MPG on the open road versus 14-16 with the 71-76 cars and 60′s fuller size models. My 1979 Olds Cutlass Calais also proves how much superior the so called malaise era late 70′s downsized coupes drove compared to the 60′s mid sizers. There is not one aspect of the 79 that is worse save the fact that not one of the 79 engine options resembled anything approaching performance. Everything else is vastly superior from comfort, to ergonomics to ride/handling to back seat space to mileage and braking.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I well remember both of these cars when new ~ to me , Buick meant a rich man’s ride , I could only dream of .

    My close friend Leslie in Boston , Ma.’s dad was a Buick Man from WWII on and has always had a 3 to 5 year old Buick four door sedan as he had a family to haul around , three kids & SWMBO .

    Nice cars , not quite my style .

    I laugh every time I read the complaints about GM’s notorious
    ” Saginaw Squish ” power steering ~ make no mistake about it because GM surely didn’t : it was *exactly* what the buyer wanted and helped to sell millions of cars .

    My 1969 Chevy C/10 pickup truck is so equipped and I love it for the reasons described here : just one finger will do and after working in the Mojave Desert , that’s what I want in my Shop Truck .

    I hope ever more of these old Land Yachts are saved , they turn up all the time in my local Pick-A-Part , little old man’s cars nobody wants , dusty but near perfect with low miles .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “” Saginaw Squish ” power steering ~ make no mistake about it because GM surely didn’t : it was *exactly* what the buyer wanted and helped to sell millions of cars .”

      How right you are. Back then people didn’t want to feel the road through the steering wheel, that brought back memories of manual steering, and that kind of work while driving was for poor people.

      My grandmother was somewhat of a car enthusiast, but for cars of the Riviera, New Yorker, Continental type. She knew quite a lot about them and knew what engines they had. I remember she got her Riviera because it still had a BOP engine insead of the Chevy engines that other Buicks were getting.

      I remember bringing over sportier cars for her to check out and she would always remark how heavy the steering was. “I don’t want to have to work to turn the car”, she’d say. Her final car was a silver Grand Marquis.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    You can ask Murilee Martin, since he has some obvious expertise on the subject of the “melaise era,” but I think that your ’72 would be considered to be among the last pre-melaise cars.

    The early catalytic converters were a large part of the problem, and those entered the market around 1975. The automakers were not well prepared for those.

    Then there was the OPEC oil crisis, which began in late 1973. Fuel prices shot up, which made fuel efficiency a priority, while the feds responded with a 55 mph speed limit that took the fun out of driving.

    The GM B-body that followed for the 1977 model year was typical of the melaise era. This guy likes them; personally, I don’t get it: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/the-gm-b-body-a-love-song-in-b-major/

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The downsized B-bodies were a huge improvement in ride, handling and ergonomics over what had come before. My parents had a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Holiday sedan. It was reliable, but not particularly roomy given its huge size. The Rocket 350 V-8 wasn’t particularly fast, and we were lucky to get 16 mpg at a steady 55 mph. I remember driving over bumpy country roads and watching the fenders and hood flap like the wings of a 747. And the car was NOT junk by that point.

      They traded the 1976 Oldsmobile on a 1982 Delta 88 Royale sedan, and the latter car was a huge improvement in every way.

      In the early 1980s, the Japanese entries from Honda, Nissan and Toyota were still too small for many Americans, and their dealer coverage was still spotty beyond the major metropolitan areas.

      The Germans, aside from VW (which had its own issues at that time), were very expensive, and didn’t offer reliable, effective air conditioning. French, British and Italian cars already had a reputation for terrible reliability and lousy dealer service.

      The downsized B-bodies may not look like much from today’s perspective (plus GM neglected to update them during the mid- and late 1980s), but when new, they were a big deal and a big improvement over what we had been getting. The next big advance in the family sedan market (for the domestics) would be the 1986 Ford Taurus. By that point, the Malaise Era was truly finished.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    By the time I was old enough to drive in the late sixties the old man had long been buying only intermediate size cars so I had very little experience driving the Land Yachts except for the occasional friend / relative’s cars . When I was in college in the seventies knew a guy who had inherited his father’s 1965 Electra hardtop sedan . Like me , he was from Houston and I drove back there from Austin with him a few times on weekends . We always went with two or three women who lived in the same dorm as he . He didn’t much want to drive and neither did the girls , and as he didn’t demand gas money from any of us for the premium gas it took I figured the least I could do was drive . I recall being very impressed with the Electra , which had been well maintained – a real doctor’s car , which his father actually was . Not expecting it to be a good handler , I didn’t expect much , and it far exceeded my expectations. But for a 9 or 10 year old car , it was in beautiful shape . The leather interior was in perfect shape and the A.C. blew cold air and all the power controls that my father was always too cheap to buy for his own cars – seats , windows , etc. – worked flawlessly . I recall thinking that the interior was actually nicer not only then the Cadillacs of that era that I’d ridden in but also later model ones , as well as the 1973 Buick Electra 225 Limited that an uncle owned . I remember wondering why anyone would prefer a Caddy over the Electra .

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    It’s not a fair comparison, between top line Electra with 401 and entry LeSabre with 350. Try a 1965 LeSabre with a small cube [I did not say block] motor.

    And God, I am sick to death hearing confusion abut 1972+ SAE Net HP #’s being so low. They are realistic! For 41 years, heard unknowledgeable old ‘car guys’ whine about the “big HP cuts”. DUH, it was the measurement systems!

    And put the overused ‘malaise era’ to sleep. New muscle car sales tanked from high insurance, and the huge supply of used 60′s cars. And in 1972, OPEC was unknown to average Joes. Stop assuming ‘Malaise’ started at the stroke of midnight on 1/1/70!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There was some truth to a drop in performance in the early ’70s. With leaded fuel slated for extinction, compression ratios dropped precipitously and the solid lifter, high rpm versions of various V8s went away. Even without emissions controls, power was reduced from its peak in ’69-’70. The videos have been taken down, but there was an entertaining car program from the era that had road and track tests of many of the cars we discuss here. By ’72, the question to be answered by track testing was how much slower each car was than the last version that had been tested. It may only have applied to the cars that had actually been quick though, as IIRC, a ’69 Impala with a 265 hp ’396′ took over 12 seconds to reach 60 mph. http://jalopnik.com/5618925/69-impala-road-test-the-396-cant-punch-its-way-through-a-wet-kleenex

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I remember watching all of those Car and Track episodes when the re-aired them on SPEED about 10-13 years ago. Man were they great. From the first episode to the last you could watch the malaise era of automobiles begin. And they were vocal about it.

        In the early episodes they were track testing KR Cobra Mustangs, W30 442s and 440 Chargers smoking the tires all the way. By the end they were hustling Colonnades, Matadors and Dashers through the course and bemoaning how slow they were compared to their predecessors.

        Here’s a link to a good number of them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbzrxowPjZw&list=PL3F0B53ACC61BD286

        • 0 avatar
          afflo

          http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=TOoznqDjajc

          I like that one… they’re raving about how body roll is minimal and it handles well through the slalom. Meanwhile, the pimp-wagon sloshes around like Honey BooBoo’s mom on roller blades!

          Dad still talks about his ’74 Cutlass Supreme. Unfortunately, it was starting to get rust-bubbles around the rear window, so he traded it in ’78 for an El Camino. He said it was just accepted that your car would get “GM Cancer” at the time. We’d lose our cool over ANY sign of rust in a four year old car, let alone bubbles of rust!

          (The car lived it’s whole life in Florida, inland, so no road salt or long term beach life)

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            It is funny to hear their remarks about “good” cornering when the car is wallowing through the turns, body leaning and tires smoking. I guess it’s all relative because watching the ’69 Impala test that CJ posted makes you realize how truly poor handling many of the cars really were.

            I love the reverse 180s they do in their tests.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z96M_b290g‘

            This ’72 Centurion is a lot closer to what Vojta drove. And yeah, Bud Lindeman is pretty hilarious. He practically creems himself in praise of Buick’s engineers and makes it seem like a Mercedes. I especially love his raves about the 455 “banger” — in other tests, he called the engine a “mill.”

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            In fairness, I do think that Bud provided reasonable perspective on which cars were setting the standards of the day. I don’t have an infinite amount of classic car experience, but I did try to ring the maximum out of a number of cars from the peak of US cars’ prominence, starting with a 1958 Edsel Ranger and ranging through various malaise cars. I drove them all to the very limits of their capabilities, and I didn’t let my brand preferences eliminate my enjoyment of any particular car. I will consider the idea that my early Mopar experience shaped my perspective, but I certainly measured each car on its ability to cover ground at its limits.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    One other thing about the 60′s “glory days”, most of the cars had outdated 4 wheel drum brakes, and dual mater cylinders didn’t come until 1967ish.

    Sure, they are “beautiful”, but they couldn’t stop well, and led to teens crashing their new GTO’s often, and skyrocketing insurance rates.

    We’ve had new 300 hp cars for over 10 years now, and no surcharges and lobbying to kill them off.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    IMHO the malaise era began with the stock market downturn that began after Nixon was forced from office , accelerated during the Jimmy Carter era and ended late in Reagan’ s first term . Of course a lot of awful cars were built before , during and after this period . And the whole country wasn’t affected equally . Here in Houston the “gas crisis” of the late seventies brought a period of prosperity- during this era Houston was called ” Boomtown USA ” and people flocked in from the Rust Belt .But by Reagan’s second term the price of oil started slipping, the questionable – often illegal – practices of real estate developers and Savings and Loans started coming out and the Sun Belt , oil dominated cities like Houston started eating s**t while the rest of the country started recovering . At the time I was working for an oil company that had predicted in 1980 that by 1985 , that oil would be a minimum of $ 100 a barrel by 1985 . Instead , by 1985 oil had slipped to $ 9 a barrel , and the entire local economy tanked .

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Malaise Era started around 1973. That is when emissions controls were really hurting performance, gas mileage and drivability. Quality control was in the toilet, and Detroit was taking costs out through the use of cheaper materials as fast as it could. The 5-mph bumper standards, which took effect for the front bumpers in 1973, ruined the styling of most cars.

      The 1974 model year was when mileage, performance and drivability hit their low points. Cars were slow, and some of the big boats were failing to record gas mileage in the double digits!

      That was also the year when the infamous ignition interlock system was mandated for all new cars. The car wouldn’t start unless the seat belts in the front seats were buckled. The reaction from buyers was so furious and vocal that Congress quickly abolished this mandate for the 1975 model year.

      The catalytic converters adopted for the 1975 model year did help drivability, fuel economy and performance, but, in the wake of the first fuel crunch, manufacturers were tuning cars for economy, not performance. GM, in particular, began offering smaller engines in cars that had not yet been downsized, with the inevitable effect on performance. Buick, for example, offered a revived 231 cubic inch V-6 in a LeSabre that was heavier than the 1972 model featured in the article!

      The Malaise Era ended around 1982-86. That is when computerized engine controls allowed auto makers to improve performance and economy while meeting emissions standards. Ford brought out the aero-look Thunderbird and Cougar for 1983, followed by the Taurus and Sable for 1986, all of which were huge advances in domestic car design. Ford also revived the performance version of the Mustang for 1982, and steadily improved it through 1988.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Since I’m actually old enough to remember the era, I recall in a Time Magazine article one guy who bought three ’73 cars, saying the ones that will follow will be dogs. I owned a ’68 midsize and drove a ’73 midsize for work, and I think he was five years too late. All the ’68 needed was disc brakes. And electronic ignition. And fuel injection. And a modern stereo.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I worked for a couple of oil companies in Houston as well from the late 70s thru the early 80s. The oil industry was booming in the late 70s but after the price of crude was deregulated in 1981 many independent oil companies started to suffer.

    As for some of the 70s cars the early 70s were much better than the mid 70s. My mother had a 72 Cadillac Sedan Deville with the 472 cubic inch V-8 which was a solid engine with excellent acceleration. I had a 73 Chevelle Deluxe with a 350 V-8 2 barrel which I bought used in 1975 for $1,400 which had been an oil service car. The Chevelle was one of the best running cars I ever owned, much better than my 77 Monte Carlo that I bought new with a smogged and leaned down 305 2 barrel V-8. The Chevelle actually handled very well with little body lean compared to its bigger brethren. The GM cars of that era are much better handling vehicles than the Fords or Chryslers. All of the cars today are far superior in handling and finish than any of the 70s cars.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Did the 1973 Chevelle still have its emissions control equipment attached and operating when you bought it? In those days, before annual emissions inspection requirements, it wasn’t uncommon for people to simply remove the emissions control equipment. This was before the advent of computerized controls integrated with the engine, so removing the equipment was very easy, and usually resulted in a better-performing car.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I did that with my 1968 Montego in California, WITH annual inspections. I’d put all that junk back and readjust the timing and carb, pass the test and take it all off. That junk cost me 4 MPG, and about 3 seconds 0-60. I actually cared more about the MPG, since by ’74 the price of gas had ballooned up to 55 cents/gallon.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Yes it still had the emission equipment still operative. It would burn rubber. It was an early 73 model produced in Oct 72. It had been a Baroid service vehicle (drilling mud company car) so it was probably broken in on a road in West Texas above the speed limit. I took that same car out West with my older brother in the Fall of 1975 after graduating from Baylor. That car would go just past 110 mph and ran much smoother at above 55. It still had a regular distributor and not an electronic ignition, but it would have run just as well regardless. It did not have a catalytic converter nor was the carburetor leaned down as they were later. The 350 was very quiet and smooth.

  • avatar
    SilverBullett

    What a couple of beauties there. I will never forget the first car I learned to drive on when I was 16 in 1993, a Brown 1974 Buick LeSabre 4 Door. My parents paid $500 for it in 1993 with 70K miles (or maybe 170, since the odometer was one digit short, but not likely that high)and did nothing but change the oil on it for 4 years. As many will know it had a 455 engine – a 7.5 L engine! To this day, it was the most quiet and smoothest car I have driven. They sold it to a friend for $500 and drove it cross country from WA to GA and drove it a couple more years.
    My parents came across a 1964 Buick LeSabre 4 door in 1988 (low miles) for $500 as well, in excellent condtion. Same thing, just oil changes. They had to depart with it as we had to move and thought it wouldnt make it across the country to good ol’ Snohomish, WA. (where the editor in charge of this website mention he lived)

    I miss both these cars still, especially the 1964 LeSabre.

    http://www.generationhighoutput.com/1974-buick-lesabre-4-door-sedan/


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