Buy/Drive/Burn: H-body Hotness in 1999 - the Final-year Showdown
As we were rustling up commentary in the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, conversation naturally turned to other front-drive sedans available that same year. The discussion sparked the idea for another General Motors same-body showdown, like we saw previously with the luxurious C-body.
Today we’re talking H-body 3800 fun from Oldsmobile, Buick, and Pontiac.
By 1999, the long-lived H-body had run its course. Underpinning larger sedans since the 1986 model year, General Motors was ready to wrap it up. What we have here are the final, ultimate versions of H-body sedans.
We start off today with the least remembered of our trio. The 10th-generation Eighty Eight model debuted for the 1992 model year, in what would be its last iteration. Various trim shuffling happened throughout the years, as the Eighty Eight took over luxury duties for the Ninety Eight (which departed in 1996). The LSS maintained significance as the sporty Eighty Eight offering throughout the run. For the 1996 model year, the LSS switched to the supercharged Series II Buick 3800 V6, providing the sedan with 240 horsepower. LSS featured Aurora-inspired seating, shared similar wheels to the Aurora, and had a more modern overall interior look compared to the other trims. Unlike the luxury-oriented versions, the LSS had a center console. It was subtle sport from Oldsmobile.
Pontiac Bonneville SSEi
Pontiac’s long-lived Bonneville name entered its ninth generation with the other two H-bodies for the 1992 model year. Along with Buick’s LeSabre, it was granted a stay of execution, and would see its 10th generation fade from view after 2005. This ninth generation received more aggressive lower cladding, relocated fog lamps, and reshaped front and rear lighting for 1996. Like the LSS, the Series II 3800 was supercharged in the SSEi trim, and an option on the lower SSE version. The volume of buttons and the sculpted leather seats set the SSEi apart from any other H-body.
Buick LeSabre Limited
Last but not least, the least sporty of our H-body trio. Unlike the LSS, LeSabre would live on past its seventh generation, closing out the 2005 model year as Buick ushered in the Lucerne. The upscale Limited trim level netted buyers better alloys and a trunk pass-through from the rear seat. Like the other two, an engine upgrade for the ’96 model year switched the Buick 3800 from Series I to Series II. LeSabre gained 35 horsepower, for a new total of 210. No supercharger option on either LeSabre trim; Buick forced the upgrade to the larger, much more expensive Park Avenue Ultra. Subsequent cosmetic upgrades like a revised grille and gauge cluster waited until 1997. This is the H-body most likely seen in 2018, still puttering around town.
Firm, frantic, or floaty? Which final H-body sedan is for you?
JohnTaurus on Jul 27, 2018
Look at what just popped up on craigslist (I search a several hundred mile radius from me): https://jackson.craigslist.org/cto/d/1995-pontiac-bonneville/6655300042.html She's so purdy. Someone needs to make her a member of the B&B's fleet.
Lesabrefire on Aug 10, 2019
MRF 95 TBird T-Type indeed, had 3 LeSabre T's, very impressive handling, great aerodynamics, 3.8 engine lacked power though and an unreliable transmission for the late eighties, it was, though, fairly easy to work on, seen a few with a 3800 SC swaps and one with a 4.9 Cadillac. Were only made for 3 years though.
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