The Buick LeSabre was a full-size car that was engineered first in 1959 and wasn’t retired until 2005. Of course, Buick really didn’t manufacture small or compact models, so each Buick produced in ‘61, including the highly collectible LeSabre Convertible, were all very large cars with very large engines. That tradition continued in the mid 80s when in 1986, the LeSabre was offered for the first time without a V8 option.
By the late 70s, Buick had already been moving away from offering V8 standard but hadn’t quite dropped the option from its lineup. In ‘77 the LeSabre began losing weight and shrinking in size. The length of LeSabres had been reduced by 8 to 10 inches and the LeSabre dropped over 700 pounds.
But ‘61 was a simpler time. Americans wanted big, bad, potent autos and Buick was more than happy to deliver.
The 1961 Buick LeSabre Convertible
In 1961, Buick had slumped in 9th place in the auto industry rankings. Throughout the ‘50s Buick had reached as high as 3rd on the charts. Buick sought a way to re-establish itself as a major player in the industry. That meant bringing in new talent.
Buick added Edward D. Rollert in 1959 who was determined to improve the quality of the manufacturing, which critics noted had been lax for too long. His next effort was to synchronize Buick with modern trends in auto manufacturing. In 1961, Buick produced its first compact car, the Special.
Still, Buick specialized in big, powerful cars and the ‘61 LeSabre Convertible was among the most stylish and impressive cars Buick produced that year. Of course, it was also an attempt to get Buick back on the map.
It worked. The ‘61 line of Buicks featured some of the company’s sweetest offerings. The LeSabre was offered standard with its 300 cu in Small Block V8. The car could be upgraded 364 cu in or 401 cu in Nailhead V8. Body styles included a 2-door sedan, hardtop, and convertible. There were 4-door sedans and hardtops available as well as a station wagon model.
Style-wise the LeSabre moved away from the land-shark styling of older models and scaled back the various fins that had gone out of style by the late 50s.
The change of direction paid off for Buick. By 1964 they were back in 5th place and would remain there throughout the 1970s.
Buick’s of this era were noted for their unparalleled “driveability” which is how Mazda markets itself today. The Buicks of this era featured their trademarked Dynaflow transmissions which were smoother than typical automatic transmissions.
Dynaflow was notable for transitioning smoothly, but it was extraordinarily inefficient in terms of gas mileage. Buicks fitted with the twin turbine transmission technology were known as gas hogs. During the 60s, being known as a gas hog was not a serious detriment to sales. Gas was cheap and Americans prized performance over economy. Buick once again was able to cash in on providing customers with high-performance luxury vehicles, and the ‘61 LeSabre Convertible is a testament to that effort.