Rare Rides: The 1988 Buick LeSabre T-Type Coupe

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1988 buick lesabre t type coupe

Today’s Rare Ride is just one of the many attempts General Motors made throughout the 1980s and ’90s to chase after those youthful customers who ate dinner after 5:15 p.m.

It’s an aggressive Buick LeSabre T-Type from 1988.

By the early part of the 1980s, BMW’s offerings had become the sports and prestige motorcar signal in America. High-interest loans were taken on cars of 3 and 5 Series varieties, and American manufacturers were green with envy. They had nothing to offer these people who desired European, international flavor in their cars.

General Motors’ first attempts to spice it up in the new decade brought us the T-Type Riviera and Eldorado Touring Coupe. Later in the ’80s, GM tried more refined ideas and released modern (less boaty) cars — like the International Series from Oldsmobile and this T-Type LeSabre from Buick.

The LeSabre was all-new and front-drive for the 1986 model year, built in the environmental paradise of Flint, Michigan. LeSabre maintained its coupe and sedan body styles, but lost the wagon with the move to front-wheel drive. New, slick styling accompanied the model’s downsizing, and now the hood was hinged at the front like a Bavarian car.

Three different engines were offered in the sixth-generation LeSabre. Basic power was provided by a 3.0-liter V6, but most models used the Buick 3800 in either 150-horsepower guise, or with 165 horses for 1988 to 1990. For the generation’s final year in 1991 GM added Tuned Port Injection, which upped the 3800’s power figure to 170.

At the beginning of the run, a very limited edition LeSabre wore Grand National badges. Available in 1986 only, around 112 were made. The following year, LeSabre’s sport coupe offering became the T-Type, borrowing some styling cues from the Regal Grand National and T-Type cars. It was by far the most affordable of the three.

Visual changes for T-Type started with a special two-tone black and grey interior color scheme. Around the exterior was blacked out trim, a unique grille and tail lamps (with amber indicator lenses, like European cars), an extended front air dam, a smattering of T-Type badging, and blacked out Buick logos that replaced the traditional hood ornament. The overall effect was considerably more sporty than the standard Early-bird Special LeSabre Coupe, and said sportiness was reinforced by a Gran Touring suspension.

Sales were never blazing hot for the T-Type LeSabre, but then again, the variant wasn’t given much time. On sale from 1987 to 1989, it was axed when Buick’s branding was adjusted for the 1990 model year. All T-Type offerings vanished at that time, as Buick relabeled itself as a premium maker rather than a sporty one.

And that strategy continues to work well today!

Today’s Rare Ride is a low-mileage example in New York state. In excellent condition, the T-Type asks $6,495.

[Images: seller]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 19, 2020

    It looks nice even today. I actually like gauge cluster from picture at least. But seats look too soft for comfort.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 20, 2020

      Appearances can be deceiving. It was a very comfortable car to drive... not too soft, not too firm. And believe me, my back knows the difference. I could sit in the LeSabre for hours, I couldn't say the same for an Electra 225 I drove about 20 years earlier.

  • Gtem Gtem on Apr 20, 2020

    Just look at those velour seats. Can't find anything that nice at ANY price anymore.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?