By on March 26, 2015

02 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe traditional full-size Detroit station wagon was in trouble by the end of the 1980s, thanks to the rise of the minivan. Increasingly car-like SUVs would kick the other leg out from under big rear-drive wagon sales during the 1990s, and so this great big GM B-platform wagon is one of the last of its type. Look, it’s even a woodie!
04 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Estate name goes way back in GM history. The version we’re looking at in this Northern California wrecking yard is from the final generation of the Estate Wagon, built on the downsized B platform for the 1977 through 1990 model years (after that, you could get a Roadmaster Estate).
09 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe “wood” on this car isn’t particularly convincing.
11 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe cassette deck came with auto-reverse, still a futuristic technology in the eyes of Buick customers in 1989.
14 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe non-wagon LeSabre had gone to the front-drive H-body platform by this time, which must have been a bit confusing for Buick shoppers.

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96 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This thing lives on as the Suburban

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Speaking of which, I’ve often wondered why they don’t do a Buick version of the Tahoe now. People would buy that, call it the Encourage or something.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        There is a Buick version, it’s called GMC.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          No!

          • 0 avatar
            Roberto Esponja

            Carlson Fan is pretty much right…back in the good ol’ days of mighty GM, Chevy dealers had both cars and trucks to offer, but stand-alone Olds, Pontiac, Buick, and (occasionally) Cadillac dealers which also wished to offer trucks would dual-up with GMC (as in, Veeblefetzer Buick-GMC, for example). Nowadays with many (most?) GM dealers offering all brands that point is sort of moot, but…

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          Carlson Fan is right because when I bought my new GMC PU I could also buy a new Buick at the same dealership. That’s the whole point of GMC.

          Most don’t realize how many people buy new cars based on the dealership, not the make. This is especially true in small towns/rural areas.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yuck at a third person reference. But my point is:

            You can pretty much buy a Chev/Buick/GMC/Cadillac of every SUV they make, except for a Tahoe version from Buick.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            I don’t know. Is there a Buick version of the Terrain? Or a GMC version of the Encore?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I don’t know. What does pretty much mean?

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        The Buick Exhume

        They could mount a bell on the hood in place of an ornament, in case you’re accidentally interred into the driver’s seat while still alive.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      This lives on as the Enclave. The Suburban has always been a pickup truck with bells on. Not that I don’t love them, I took my driver’s test in an ’84 diesel 4×4.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I used to hate losing to these on the daily stop light Gran Prix while driving my 103HP “sports sedan” in the 80s.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      If you’re not gonna tell us what it was, what’s the point!

      • 0 avatar
        cgjeep

        Sorry 84 VW Quantum. But the point was that 80’s BOF cars with V8s would humble most European cars with sporting aspirations in a straight line. Once the first turn came it was another matter. But stoplights matters when you are 16. There were a lot of these wagons in the DC suburbs in the 80’s as minivans were thought to be for the prols so it happened a lot. Oh and Jeep Cherokees with 4.0 would leave you in the dust too.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Did the Quantum have sporting aspirations? I’ve seen the two-door wagon version, and it weren’t none too sporty!

          If were in the suburbs in the 80s, I probably want one of the following for the family:

          -Suburban, complete with the up-down letter scheme on the back and two-tone.
          -Range Rover SWB
          -Grand Wagoneer
          -Audi 5000

          -House that looks like this:
          http://cdn.decoist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/garfield-26.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            cgjeep

            I did put sports sedan in quotes. The Quantum had the Audi 5000 5cly engine with an Audi 4000 like body. On par performance with Saab 900 (non turbo) and BMW 318/325e and the like. Better than average handling with the 3 wheel VW stance. Plenty for a dumb 16 year old. Any more engine or worse handling and I wouldn’t be alive today. Mine looked just like this:

            http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volksawagen_Quantum_GL5_1985.jpg

            They were called Passats in Germany. Jack Baruth had one as his first car too but I think he had an earlier 4cly coupe version.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            cgjeep, we had a 1982 Quantum 2-door Coupe bought brand new that had the 1.6L 4-cyl and a stickshift, and was fully popped out on options. The 4-cyl was an Audi engine because all the belts, hoses, and everything else had Audi’s interlocking rings emblem on it.

            It was my wife’s DD to get to and from college in Las Cruces 5 days a week, a 150-mile roundtrip.

            There was always something wrong with that VW. If it wasn’t the O2 sensor, it was a fuel injector, or the AC wouldn’t cool, or the Service Engine light would come on out of schedule.

            Soured us on VW products forever. Too many other, better choices out there.

            These days we’re Toyota devotees.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Note the lack of head liner. A previous owner must have ripped it out instead of trying to re-attach it.

    I’m amazed how little difference there is between this car and my dad’s 78 Caprice wagon.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Elisabeth Shue drove one of these in Adventures in Babysitting. But not even Thor could fix this ugly mess. Ugh!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Considering how much I dislike driving big BOF cars , I sure do miss these Land Yachts .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    I’ve owned 2 “b” bodies from the General. The first was an ’81 LeSabre sedan and the second was my ’93 Roadmaster Estate wagon. That ’81 was a slug but the Roadmaster was a great driving car. I’d buy this one if it weren’t in a scrapyard.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      This is what I totally grew up in. There were two of them, the first I’m guessing was a late 70s that was eventually used to turn a conversion van into a letter U after my mom t-boned it, it’s replacement was identical except for that it was purchased in 83. The later one was an Electra that had the then-futuristic climate control system which was a huge panel with a row of lighted dots that represented the temperature. I still remember the day we picked it up at Joyce Buick and that the tech had to remove some ink from the 3rd row seat with thinner (vinyl seats FTW). Eventually my dad got one so I was never without the ability to ride in style!
      Many years later in college, I inherited my dad’s old wagon which by then was in pretty sad shape as I’m assuming that the odo had been rolled at least twice if not three times.
      My least favorite memory is driving from Virginia to Ohio being sick with the flu after vacation and having to puke out of the rear window most of the way home. I can only imagine what the cars behind us were thinking as an 8-year old stuck his head out the window to evacuate used cheeseburgers. the bumper was pretty crusty by the time we made it home–thankfully my brothers had to clean it off so that made up for it a little.
      I still occasionally look for these, but if I were to buy, I would consider final run Roadmaster instead. This generation of boats were big, but not terribly fast. Of course, I was born in a clamshell Century, so I guess I have an odd attachment to these beasts.

    • 0 avatar
      boozysmurf

      Same here: The first car I bought was an ’80 Pontiac Parisienne sedan, which I followed up with an ’88 Pontiac Parisienne Safari Wagon (and an ’86 safari wagon parts car).

      I’d still have one again, in a heartbeat. There’s both nothing, and everything, good about them, simultaneously.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        “There’s both nothing, and everything, good about them, simultaneously.” Agreed. I knew several families who had one, including an ’85 that did yeoman’s work for the remainder of the century.

        A good high school friend is about six months younger than I am. About a week after my 16th birthday, his mother had a eureka moment that, hey, I could do errands for her. As a result, I got to accompany her to a BMW dealership so that I could ferry her LeSabre wagon home while she drove her just-serviced E23. (This was in the era before luxury dealers got smarmy and started ferrying customers around.) The return trip was on one of our area’s busiest roads during the teeth of rush hour. I’d only driven a driver’s ed Escort and my parents’ E28 at that point, so captaining the USS LeSabre in bumper-to-bumper traffic was a bit of a white knuckler. The memory makes me roll my eyes whenever a certain TTAC commenter trots out his tendentious claim that the E28 was “a German Buick.” (And while the LeSabres I knew lacked the E28’s nimbleness, they also lacked its stratospheric ownership cost – another point of distinction.)

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The e28 528e was a German Buick. No sporting pretense at all, just an upper middle class nice car for the professional set. Quiet, comfortable, smooth, rather slow – this is the definition of a Buick, no? My Mom loved her ’83 528e for many, many years. The e28 535i was something altogether more interesting, especially in stickshift form, and I loved both of mine.

          I would not call the ownership costs of an e28 528e stratospheric, considering my stepfather then her had the thing nearly 25 years and better than 250K miles. It needed plenty of maintenance over the years, as all cars did back then.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            I guess we’re defining our own terms, so we’ll have to agree to disagree [shrugging]. I’ll point out that:
            – all E28’s had sporting pretense relative to the contemporary North American market. Yes, the 528e had less than its siblings, but less does not equal none.
            – 528e’s weren’t slow relative to the contemporary North American market. No, they weren’t fast, being on par with, say, the (optionally) V6-engined GM A-bodies. But again, faster than the base-engined sedans of the era does not equal slow.

            Not that anyone ever cross-shopped them, but I suppose you could compare it to various sporty Buicks: the Century of way back when, various T-types, or the turbos of today. But not to a LeSabre wagon, which is a stereotypical Buick as most people would define it.

            I’ll clarify my stratospheric ownership remark with as “high purchase price combined with potentially stratospheric out-of-warranty ownership costs.” I realize your family apparently got the best example ever made and mine apparently got the worst, so you’ll have to cut me some slack. Ours racked up over $7,000 in warranty repairs (in mid-’80s dollars, mind you). And these were actual problems, not a stealership’s recommending a refill of the blinker fluid reservoir. To their credit, BMW and the dealer were very good in honoring the warranty; it didn’t cost us anything apart from major inconvenience. We ditched it as soon as the first out-of-warranty problem arose; it was leaking oil to the tune of one quart or more for every tankful of gasoline burned. (I suppose that was orderly and convenient in a certain way.) This was with about 65,000 miles on the odometer.

            None of the people I knew who had contemporary Buicks had ownership costs remotely on par with it. My neighbor’s Century Wagon seemed to churn through alternators, but not so often as to be a financial hardship.

            So was the 528e a German Buick? Not in my experience.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’m not saying the 528e was LITERALLY a Buick, rather, it occupied the same relative market space. A Dr. in the Midwest might buy an Electra, same Dr. on the coasts would buy a 528e. Or a San Francisco based graphic designer like my stepfather. Comfortable, not sporty, upmarket, but ultimately just a nice car. Expensive but not shouty. Nicer than a Chevy (VW, Volvo, Audi), not as nice as a Cadillac (Mercedes, better BMWs). Not sporty like its other sisters in the BMW showroom. And not at all luxurious in basic 528e trim other than the luxury of being built out of nice materials properly screwed together. Which of course the Germans did much better than any of the Americans in those days.

            Off in the corner were the much more sporting BMWs like the 533i/535i/M5 – THOSE are the cars people think of when they think “BMW” back in the day, along with the e30, not the soft and slow 528e. My ’86 535i’s were absolute rocketships in comparison, and much, much better handling cars as they had far firmer suspension than the wafty 528e. This is why I find it funny when people rail on the current 328i and 528i – they are absolutely the decedents of that old German Buick, and just like that car are the volume sellers. Just a nice quiet comfortable efficient car for people who like an upmarket but not really sporty car. Anyone who bought a 528e thinking they were buying some sort of sports sedan was delusional. That mission required forking over an extra big pile of cash for the one without the “e” in the badge.

            Not sure why your car was a POS, was it bought new or used? 528e’s have a reputation as being about the most bulletproof car BMW ever made. As well it should be, not a whole lot to go wrong with them, it’s a very simple car, and that engine sure is not stressing the rest of the driveline. Do the scheduled maintenance (of which there was a lot in those days), and they run forever. I can’t fathom how you would have $7K in warranty repairs back in the ’80s. That would have been nearly 1/3 the price of the car, and the warranty was only 3 years 36K back then.

            I would call ours a normally reliable car. Nothing extraordinarily bad or good. It needed a transmission rebuild at about 150K. Had a radiator or two replaced. A couple starters, a couple alternators. A sunroof motor, maybe a window motor here and there. Pretty sure a new cat while it was in California. Some A/C work a few times over the years. Suspension and subframe bushings and shocks at least twice. A driveshaft rebuild in later years. I replaced a few plastic interior bits for them that broke over the later years. Stuff wears out over 250K and 25 years. And lots and lots of scheduled and routine maintenance. Dealer in the early years, good indy shop in the later ones. I have no doubt at least the original price was paid in repairs and maintenance over the years – I used to have all the service records, probably still do around here somewhere.

            It was still a reliable daily driver with 250K+ on it when we sold it. Still looked nice too, though the Baltic Blau paint was a little dull and it was starting to get rusty underneath. Interior was mint other than the usual e28 discolored headliner issues. Still drove fine, probably could have used a new steering box at that point. The first 10 years were in the Bay Area, the last 15 in NH and ME, which is why the rust wasn’t terrible. A dull but worthy car. Will be interesting to see how my e91 goes in comparison, I hope to have it just as long. It certainly needs a lot less scheduled maintenance, and no timing belt or valve adjustments. And it probably won’t rust.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Even the eta BMWs were RADICALLY better road machines than any Buick of the time. The BMW chassis DNA was there – they were just down on power.

          • 0 avatar
            cbrworm

            It was luck of the draw. We had a 528e and a 325e that were both relatively bulletproof. The 325e was still daily driven until just a few years ago. The odo had stopped at 180Kmiles in the mid 90’s.

            A good friend of mine had a one year older 528e, optioned similarly, that was so unreliable that they did not even keep it through the warranty period. Their daily commute was about 15 miles each way and it was unlikely that they could do it everyday for a month without incident – no exaggeration.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          I had an ’85 535i from ’89 to ’99. It was not particularly expensive to own until the very end. Just minor things – the “nitrogen bomb” that acted as the pressure reservoir for the hydraulic power brake system would go every few years, the A/C system would lose increasingly expensive R12, things like that. Nothing super expensive. The engine was bulletproof. However, these cars had a known weakness in their automatic trans. which finally killed mine at 130K miles. If had been a manual I would still probably have it. All in all, cheaper to own than the Audi A6 that replaced it. A great car for its time – miles ahead of a Buick. They were very spare in the interior (leather seats but no wood or chrome)but boy could they go – perfectly balanced on a winding road – you really felt connected to the steering wheel. It was a tactile thing, not easy to express in numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      I always preferred this bodystyle to the newer round wagons.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I do have a soft spot for these. At one time or another my parents’ driveway held a Ford Country Squire (’69) and later a ’79.

    Wish we knew how many miles were on this vehicle. Sure the headliner is gone but look at the condition of those seats! GM upholstery seemed to last forever.

    But in reality the minivan is a far more practical vehicle. Easier to load infants into and out of. No back ‘jumper’ seats, easier to park.

    Just wondering if all those boomers who got used to the higher ride height in Caravans and Voyagers became the driving force behind SUV’s? Is the minivan responsible for this ‘height war’?

  • avatar
    ajla

    In decent condition these box-body wagons are starting to get pricey.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    The one interesting thing I Remember about our ’78 Bel Air wagon (besides the fact Chev offered both a Caprice and Bel Air) was the tailgate would swing open like a door, or if you lowered the window you could drop it like a tailgate. The Buick above looks like it has the same set-up.

    My friend’s dad had the Roadmonster, uh I mean Roadmaster version of this thing with the Corvette 5.7L. Would smoke the tires if you launched it right.

    • 0 avatar
      Andrew717

      I learned to drive in the 1990 version. And the Roadmaster was a beast in the right conditions. Loved the look on people’s faces when I’d crush their V6 Mustangs away from the stoplight while hauling around six or seven of my friends. Thing had God’s own torque.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Ford first came out with the combination door/tailgate in 1966; and called it the “magic doorgate.”

      I had five siblings, so Dad always owned either a station wagon or van. I can still remember the first one he bought, it was a Chevy Greenbriar, the van version of the Corvair; like the VW van, it had a table in the middle with both bench seats facing it and no seatbeats.

      He then bought a 1967 Country Sedan wagon with the “magic doorgate.” I think it was his favorite; he had the front seat recovered, and kept it into the 1980s.

      He owned a Cheverolet Celebrity wagon when this car was out in the late 1980s; followed by the Taurus wagon. He handed them both down to us as they reached the 70K point. He then bought Mom her last wagon, a Saturn SL.

      I have kept the Taurus wagon for same sentimental reasons expressed by others here; there were a couple of times I could have sold off for scrap; but both the interior and the exterior were in excellent condition; so I had the motor replaced and then repaired instead. It has some damage to one corner now; but is still fully functional and otherwise is still in good shape. Funny how we get attached to things like this; we let the kids borrow the Durango on our 24th anniversary; and as we were driving it to dinner; my wife said “I wish Mom and Dad were here.” I did too….

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        My dad had a Greenbriar too. Didn’t last long, an air-cooled six is not ideal for hauling the family over mountain passes on hot summer days. Replaced it with a Chevy camper van, then a ’72 Suburban, which outlived him.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I always liked the Safari Estate name better. What was the Olds model called at this time, still Custom Cruiser? Now there’s a rare later B-body. 92-93 only I think.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Yes, Custom Cruiser. The final Custom Cruiser was built in 1991 and 1992 only, though I suppose some may have lingered on dealer lots until 1993. It was not a strong seller.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I was thinking the MYs on them were 92-93, yeah? Since they’re all 92-96 for that B-body.

        • 0 avatar
          Marko

          Hmm…Wikipedia claims “model years 1991 and 1992” with production ending on June 5, 1992.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          MY91-92 only.

          “Sales did improve over the 1991 model year, with some 7,663 Custom Cruisers sold for the 1991 model run. Sales slipped to just over 4,300 in 1992, however, and GM discontinued production. The 1992 model year offered a 5.7 L (350 in³) Chevrolet V8. This engine was also equipped with throttle body fuel injection and was rated at 180 hp (134 kW), and 300 lb·ft (410 N·m) of torque compared to the standard 305’s 170 hp (127 kW) and 255 lb·ft (346 N·m) of torque. This generation was not sold in Canada. The last was assembled on June 5, 1992”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldsmobile_Custom_Cruiser

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha!

            Okay, so 91 wagon B-body models only plus Caprice sedan. 92-96 wagons and sedans.

            I knew there was no 91 roundy Fleetwood and Roadmaster.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            If you look at the final Caprice wagon, Roadmaster Estate and Custom Cruiser, they really are identical except for the grilles. When the Roadmaster sedan came out in 1992, it had its own unique front end that it never shared with the wagon. The final sedan to debut was the Fleetwood for MY 1993, which was also the year that the Caprice sedan lost its fender skirts.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            As far as trims are concerned, I think the Vista Roof was not available on the Caprice, only the Roadmaster, and maybe rarely on the Custom Cruiser. IMO the Roadmaster Estate looks more modern in the front end than the sedan, but maybe that was the point.

            So you could get a Fleetwood / Fleetwood Sixty-Special FWD in 1993, or the RWD Fleetwood Brougham. I’d be interested in the price differential between the overpriced limited-release Sixty-Special and the Brougham.

            We’ve had the discussion on the fender skirts before (I can’t recall where it was – couple months ago), and I don’t think that’s the correct claim on the Caprice. It seems to vary between trim levels, no matter the time made.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Vista Roof” I believe was only an option on the Olds Wagon.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Did it have a different name on the Buick? I know I’ve seen them with that roof option.

            http://www.mcsmk8.com/94-ROADMASTER/HR/CARS-11.JPG

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s news to me, I wasn’t aware of it being offered on the Roadmaster. I am either wrong or it used a different name.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            The Olds and Buick had a glass roof, while the Caprice did not. When I said “identical,” I didn’t think about that. What I meant was, I think you could take a door or fender or headlight from one and put it on any of the others.

            I’m going to have to look at my Buick brochures later to find out if they officially used the “Vista Roof” terminology, or if that was just an Olds thing.

            Regarding the Caprice sedan’s fender skirts, funny you should mention the previous discussion. I tried to comment on that one, but my comment was “eaten” and I didn’t bother writing it out again. The skirts were definitely on all of the 1991-92 models regardless of trim level, and then removed from all trim levels for 1993 on. Also, for 1995-96, they changed to a “dog leg” roof pillar to match the Impala SS styling cue.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            So they dumped them off the Caprice when the Fleetwood became available and had them.

            Yet they were kept on the Roadmaster Estate.

            Interesting.

            EDIT: Question: Was leather available on the Custom Cruiser? I’m thinking no.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @r129

            That’s exactly what I thought for the Caprice.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            The Caprice sedan’s styling was heavily criticized at the time for being “bathtub” like. Removing the fender skirts was an attempt to remedy that (whether it worked is up for debate).

            I think the skirts worked better on the Roadmaster and Fleetwood because they had a more formal appearance with their more upright rooflines and prominent grilles.

            I have a distinct mental image of a Custom Cruiser brochure photo with a blue leather interior. I just Googled it, and I found an example with red leather.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @R129 Idle speculation, but I can imagine fleets wouldn’t have loved the fender skirts. Might be another reason.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think I theorized when we first had the discussion GM dropped the fender skirt on Caprice only for fleet/taxi reasons.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            The police and taxis probably didn’t care for the fender skirts, and that could be part of the reason why they were eliminated.

            At the same time that they removed the fender skirts, they also widened the rear track and modified the tail lights.

            I have looked at my Buick brochures, and the Roadmaster Estate’s roof was officially called the “Vista Roof.”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks, good information. The Caprice’s look was very improved in the versions without the fender skirt. And I can’t imagine the Fleetwood without them.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            The ’91 bathtub Caprices were hideous on day one and day last. Houston Police Department got a fleet in to replace their aging ’85 Impalas, and everyone hated them to the bitter end.

            The final SS version was lipstick on a pig; still too large and ungainly looking.

            The Buick and Cadillac? Totally different clientele – last gasp of a dying market.

  • avatar
    mjal

    Those ribbon ads or whatever you call them below the photos are becoming unbearable. You can’t X them out any more.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Wouldn’t it be nice to drive it around and say to people, look I’ve got a woodie?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Surprised this didn’t end up in a demolition derby in a rural midwestern county fair. I suspect that’s where many of them rolled their last mile.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    The company had a 1980 Chevy Caprice wagon with the wood grain siding. I drove it quite a bit on trips. I believe it was the first year for a lock-up torque converter on the Turbo Hydramatic 350. The thing locked up at about 40 mph and jerked and jiggled all the time going down the road. It was mated to a very weak 305 small block chevy. The thing was huge and, keep in mind, this was downsized from the ones in the mid-70’s.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Believe it or not but that 305 4BBL for 1980 was actually one of the stronger V8’s on the market. The Olds 307 made but 140 horses, most Ford 302 made between 130-133 HP and then you had Chrysler’s powerhouse 120 HP 318 powering 3800 LB New Yorkers and St Regis sedans. The lockup torque converter was smoothed out quite a bit the following year when GM moved to it’s C3 emissions system and the 200R-4 overdrive unit came out which has lockup in all 3 forward gears. Those are much smoother than the 1980 hydraulic setups.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I owned one of these, I think it was a 1981, which I bought used in 1986 and kept till 1988 when I sold it because I was moving overseas. I really liked it. Mine was pretty much like this one, except for the seats. Mine had the same seats as a Park Avenue’s, this one has really putrid seats, had never seen those on a Buick of this type.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Wait, now I remember. My wagon was identical to this one but was badged Electra Estate Wagon (the name used for Buick’s flagship prior to Park Avenue). That may be the reason for the much nicer interior. If I remember correctly, LeSabre wagons of 1981 vintage weren’t available with woodgrain exterior and had a slightly different front fascia.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Electra and LeSabre are two names Buick needs to go back to. Electra for a fancy Volt; LeSabre (or even Wildcat) for a sporty coupe or sedan.

        WTF’s a LaCrosse?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I always felt the LeSabre Estate was the best looking B-body wagon in wood (especially with the Buick turbine wheels) and the Pontiac Parisienne was the best looking minus the wood. White looked good on the Buicks while the sky blue metallic looked best on the Pontiacs.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Okay, so what was Bi-Level Air conditioning? I never understood that one. Was it floor and dash?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    One of these for $600 would make for a good truck alternative for hauling scrap, as a daily driver they’re a bit of a handful.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      To floppy and barge-y, and hard to park?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Floppy, barge-y, eats up space on the driveway, but surprisingly not that hard to park as long as you pick a good spot.

        I had the good fortune of parallel parking an ’84 Marquis once, despite the dinky mirrors it wasn’t that hard, though its still not fun spinning the wheel like mad. Big cars aren’t that bad to park.

        That being said unless if you can get an old BOF wagon for $600, you’d be better off with an old Volvo wagon.

  • avatar
    mr.cranky

    The ’88 Yellow Chevy school buses that my private school used had the exact same auto-reverse tape deck as this wagon. Used to sneak my cassettes on long distance trips. Best we got was some Cypress Hill.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Such luxury. The fleet spec Chevy wagons my college motor pool had came with the AM-only radio option. And no A/C – not too much of a hardship in Eastern Maine. And crank windows. State cop metallic blue paint on navy blue vinyl. And definitely NOT the cop motor, cop brakes, and cop suspension sadly. They were about the same vintage as this, the newest ones were still square but had the glass brick aero headlights. I was there ’89-’93.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Ah…the best of GM’s 77-90 wagons. It actually had a dramatically different front end, unlike all the other versions which just looked like grille swaps with the same headlights.

  • avatar
    NJRide

    I like these. My dad had an earlier one, a ’79 Custom Cruiser. The Enclave seems closest to the modern version of this concept but I wonder if we will ever see the large wagon make a comeback.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    I just purchased a 1988 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser with 87,455 miles and in near-mint condition.
    Nothing like a low-end torque 307!
    Plus style and Made in the USA!!
    It will look great next to my Buick Terraza!

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Nice. I had one of these, in sky-blue metallic with no woodgrain. Great car, when I sold it a mortician bought it. He was going to use it for body transport, seriously! :-D

      Mine looked just like this one:

      http://www.jeff-young-design.com/WorldWideWagons/Images/1986-Oldsmobile-Custom-Cruiser.jpg

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Delco Dolby sound! Bi-level mode AC! A Big Ben sized fuel gauge!
    Genuine Corinthian Simul Veneer wood paneling!! (ok, that’s a bit much)
    All of this and more!! But… Bench seats and a column shifter!! This is the grocery getter/soccer mom ride you want!

    And all of the glory and esteem of “Estate” in the name.
    Nope, they don’t make them like they used to.

    What a damn shame.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Wow….that interior didn’t change much since what, 77? 78? My Dad’s old 79 snot green LeSabre sedan looked very similar inside.

    On another note someone is floating around the SE side of Chicago in a MINT Caprice Wagon (it’s probably a 95)…with Elmo strapped to the roof rack.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    Have to love the “ergonomics.” If the rear defrost switch were much further to the left, it would be operable only by the passenger.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Brings back memories of my first car, a ’75 Olds Custom Cruiser…455 V8 with all the emissions controls removed (they want bad and Dad used to pay the guy at the service station to look the other way come inspection time). You’d be amazed how fast that thing was.

    And no Posi-traction, so it was an absolute beast for lawn jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Yup! Brings back memories of our brand new 1972 Custom Cruiser, 455 V8, huge 4bbl carb, we took overseas to Germany with us.

      It gave new meaning to “Yank Tank.”

      But it served us long, and it served us well.

  • avatar
    Garak

    These huge US tanks were surprisingly popular in Finland back in the day. Probably had something to do with tax loopholes. You still see occasionally one of these lumbering around, they’re like dinosaurs from a completely different era.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    That thing looks so clunky and ’70s compared to the ’86 LeSabre ‘T-type’ I used to own. It’s hard to believe it’s newer, not older than what I had.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    So buick was selling the lesabre estate and the roadmaster estate at the same time?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I really like when these cars come up in TTAC articles. As the owner of a ’79 Impala wagon for 11 years, I’m going to post a bunch of trivia about them. Most of it I’ve posted here before, but not in one place.

    A design goal was to hold a 4×8 sheet of plywood flat in the cargo area. To do this, the body was widened at the back. But because the cars used the non-wagon front ends, the sides had to be adapted. For the ’77-79, the rear doors were awkwardly angled out, while the next generation had a rear door with a gentle S-curve in it. You can see this by sighting down the sides.

    To maintain stability and make the rear wheelhouse look right, the rear axle was lengthened. Since a lot of these also had Positraction, they became a target of people building race cars. On the other hand, the Ford/Mercury wagon somehow got away with the standard sedan rear axle, but still had the wider rear body. The result was they appear to overhang the rear wheels to the sides, and look ungainly. The other result is the Ford wagon’s rear axles are not a prized find for customizers. The longer GM axle meant the front and rear tires followed somewhat different tracks, which could be a problem driving in slush.

    Someone commented that the final version of the sedan, without the wheel skirts, used the longer wagon axle. I’d assume the problem was that the rounded body caused the rear wheels to look too far set in from the sides, and using the longer axle made it look right.

    These wagons were a favorite for painters. They needed a large flat surface for paint cans, and a low lift height for putting ladders on the roof.

    There used to be fleets of these wagons in Hawaii, where they were lengthened by 2 seats and 2 more doors on each side.

    There is a club in Finland devoted to these wagons.

    There were businesses that grafted the wagon rear ends onto Cadillac bodies to create Cadillac wagons.

    As they aged and rusted, they would start flexing over the rear axle. This sometimes caused the body to crack open up on the sides of the roof above the “C” pillar.

    While the back seat was simple to convert from seating to cargo use, it was not split and so you lost three seats when you wanted to carry something long. There was lots of space to sleep back there, but the low roof was a nuisance for living in it.

    The Buick had a lengthened nose, like Cadillacs. They must have had a lot of wasted space up there, since the Chev etc. already had over 18″ of unused length between the engine and the grille.

    I had the 350 V8 with 4-bbl Rochester carb and Positraction. It just loafed along at high speeds. It could also climb and plow through snow, as long as there was lots of weight in the back. Without anything in the back, grip was almost non-existent. To avoid the comical “rear bumper dragging”, I added air shocks.

    The car was an impressive combination of limousine and pickup truck, and it was capable of 20mpg (Imperial) on the highway fully loaded.

    It was relatively easy to park because the front wheels could be turned very sharply and so it had a good turning radius. It was reasonably reliable, but the metallic paint was a disaster.

    I thought the most handsome version of these wagons was the ’80+ Chev. They looked dumb without the factory roof rack, and very nice with it.

    The bi-level a/c had lower vents positioned on the dash such that we called them “groin coolers”.

    Besides the large cargo area, there was a huge bin under the cargo floor (if you didn’t have the third seat) and also a waterproof bin in the driver side that could be used as a cooler. The spare went vertically in the passenger side of the cargo area.

    The 2 front headrests were a joke, and the rear seat had none.

    The 3-speed automatic was the best automatic I’ve ever had in terms of being in the right gear. It never “hunted” on long hills.

    The ‘gangsta scene calls the earlier ones “boxes”, and the rounded ones “blimps”. I think they call the pre-’77’s “donks”.

    I think these wagons could have lived longer if they’d evolved into the layout of the Ford Freestyle. But the makers didn’t bother to cut down on the surplus width and length, and add a bit of height for functionality.

    I really enjoyed all the comments contributed about these cars. Over the years of owning cars, that wagon is the one that most often shows up in my dreams.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I was always bemused that these full-sizers were still carbed while smaller GM A and J cars of the same era were fuel injected.

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