Following the discontinuation of the Centurion from its lineup, Buick only had one full sized “B-Body” car, the LeSabre. Replacing both the Centurion and Custom, the LeSabre Luxus was the ultimate expression of Buick’s idea of mid 70s luxury.
Although it was available as a four door hardtop coupe or sedan, the LeSabre Luxus really stood out when optioned as a convertible. Returning after a one year absence, the lengthy ragtop was Buick’s only convertible option, and these days that makes them slightly more valuable than their no fun, fixed roof counterparts.
Further changes from the ’73 to ’74 LeSabre models came in the form of a new grille, updated taillights and a new 5 mph rear bumper. For those unfamiliar with history of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 215 (FMVSS 215), here’s all you need to know; The United States Government is to blame for a whole lot of unattractive cars. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I wouldn’t be writing these articles if I didn’t find something about Malaise Era vehicles strangely appealing. In the case of the LeSabre Luxus, it was the rarity of the nameplate, and the dashboard design that caught my attention. The Luxus trim was available for 1974 only as Buick decided to bring back the Custom for 1975. The ’74 models were also the last LeSabres to feature the driver focused dashboard, a setup that I think is pretty cool. A passenger could still mess with the radio, but the driver is in complete control of the climate given that the HVAC settings are to the left of the steering wheel. If being in control of your co-pilots comfort isn’t enough incentive for them to not touch the dials, I don’t know what is. Performance wise, the LeMans Luxus was par for the federally maintained course. Buick offered LeMans Luxus buyers three V8 engines, the ’73 carry over 350 four barrel and 455 were revised from 1973 to meet new emissions standards. The 350-4 V8 was standard, but the one you really wanted was the 455-4 with the Stage 1 performance package. This package added suspension upgrades and dual exhausts, the latter bumping horsepower up from 210 to 230, and torque from 335 to 355. Given that the LeMans Luxus tipped the scales at 4,663 lbs, I’d say the dual exhaust was a no brainer.
When looking at GM B-Body cars of the Malaise Era you have a variety of choices, and the more you search, the more they all begin to blend together into one big gaudy mess. I recommend looking for model years when vehicles either saw significant positive changes or preceded bad ones. I think the 1974 LeMans Luxus hits both of these as it featured GM’s new High Energy Ignition, a low fuel warning light, and was the final year of GM’s MaxTrac electronic traction control system. Those features, in addition to the Luxus being a one year only name plate, make the car rarer than ’75-’76 models that closed out the 4th generation LeSabre run.
If you’re not interested in the rarity of the Luxus nameplate, look for a 1971 LeSabre Custom 455. Though redesigned, the ’71 cars still carried some of the classic Buick design as they were not subjected to government mandated changes. There is no doubt that the ’71 LeSabre is a better looking car than the ’74, but I’d still go with the latter because of the aforementioned features and the name. Luxus is perhaps the most era appropriate designation out there and I think it’s more fun to say than Eldorado, don’t you?
*images courtesy of All American Classic Cars