1979 Buick LeSabre (5th Generation: 1977-1985):
The 1977 Buick LeSabre and other GM B-body full-sized cars were considerably smaller and lighter than their predecessors to the tune of losing 700-800 pounds of weight and overall length of 10 to 15 inches (380 mm). The full-sized cars were the beginning of a "corporate-wide" downsizing of vehicles in order to improve fuel economy ratings following the 1973-74 energy crisis that would filter down to intermediates in 1978, personal-luxury cars in 1979 and compacts in 1980 with subsequent downsizings of each line of vehicles scheduled in subsequent years.
Though the '77 Buick LeSabre was considerably smaller on the outside, headroom, rear seat legroom and trunk space were increased over the much larger 1976 model. The engine lineup consisted of an assortment of engines including the standard 231 cubic-inch Buick-built V6 and various optional powerplants including a Pontiac-built 301 cubic-inch V8, 350 cubic-inch V8s built by both Buick and Oldsmobile, and an Oldsmobile 403 cubic-inch V8. The V6 was standard in base and Custom coupes and sedans, the 301 V8 on the new LeSabre Sport Coupe and the 350 V8 on the Estate Wagon.
Following a major downsizing and redesign, the 1978 Buick LeSabre received only minor changes including new grillework. Engine offerings were unchanged from 1977 on most models, but the LeSabre Sport Coupe was now powered by a turbocharged 231 cubic-inch V6 with a four-barrel carburetor.
Only minor changes including a new grille highlighted the 1979 LeSabre aside from the top-level LeSabre Custom of previous years being renamed the LeSabre Limited. The LeSabre Sport Coupe continued with the turbocharged V6 as standard equipment and a new option for this model only were Strato bucket seats with center console. This would be the final year for the Pontiac 301 and Oldsmobile 403 V8s on the option list.
New sheet metal highlighted by new swept back grilles/headlights, new taillights and revised coupe rooflines were among the changes to the 1980 Buick LeSabre aside from the complete disappearance of Buick's traditional portholes (The C-body Electra would retain them until 1984). The cars were also a bit lighter in weight for improved fuel economy along with the slightly more aerodynamic sheet metal which made the 1980 models look a little bigger than their 1977–79 counterparts but overall dimensions changed very little.
Engine offerings were shuffled a bit for 1980 with the standard Buick 231 V6 and optional 350 V8 carried over from 1979, with the Buick 350 making its last appearance this year. New options included a larger Buick-built 252 V6, an Oldsmobile-built 307 V8 and a 350 Diesel V8, also built by Oldsmobile. The LeSabre Sport Coupe continued with the four-barrel turbocharged 231 V6 as its standard and only available powerplant. The Sport Coupe was dropped from the line after 1980 along with the Turbo V6 engine due to slow sales, with the Turbo V6 continued on the Regal and Riviera.
Following the demise of the Buick 350 V8 after this year, Buick would only build V6 engines as a result of GM's emerging corporate engine policy dictating types of engines built by various divisions for use throughout the corporate lineup. According to the plan, Buick would build V6 engines, Pontiac would manufacture four-cylinder powerplants, Chevrolet would build four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines, and V8s for larger and higher-priced cars would be sourced from Oldsmobile and Cadillac. This meant that from 1981 onward, V8-powered Buicks would feature Oldsmobile engines, both gasoline and Diesel.
Only minor grille and trim changes highlighted the 1981 LeSabre, still offered in base and Limited models. The modified grille now had five (rather than four) rows of openings. Engine offerings included the 231 cubic-inch normally aspirated Buick V6 (standard on sedans and coupes although decidedly underpowered for a car weighing in at around 4,000 lbs.), or optional Olds 307 cubic-inch V8 (standard on wagons, optional on sedans and coupes) and the 350 cubic-inch Oldsmobile-built diesel V8 (optional on all models). All gasoline engines received GM's "Computer Command Control" system to control fuel mixture, spark advance, and emissions controls.
The three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was standard equipment with the V6 and the diesel V8. New this year was a Turbo Hydra-Matic 200 4-R four-speed automatic overdrive transmission paired with the gasoline V8 engine for improved highway fuel economy.
LeSabre and other GM cars for 1981 received new 35 PSI radial tires for improved rolling resistance and fuel economy.
Very few changes were made for the Buick LeSabre for model years 1982 and 1983 other than revised grilles and trim items. The base LeSabre sedan and coupe models were dropped for 1983 with the LeSabre Custom now the entry-level model and paired with the upscale LeSabre Limited models in both coupe and sedan models. Engine offerings in these two years included the standard Buick 231 V6 or optional 252 V6, or optional Oldsmobile 307 (gasoline) or 350 (Diesel) V8s.
New grilles and wider and lower taillights were among the appearance changes for the 1984 Buick LeSabre, still offered in Custom and Limited models. The 252 V6 was dropped from the option list but all other engines returned including the 231 V6 (standard on coupes and sedans), or optional Oldsmobile 307 gasoline V8 (standard on wagons, optional on sedans and coupes) and Oldsmobile 350 Diesel V8 (optional all models).
This would be the final year for the rear-drive LeSabre before another downsizing and conversion to front-wheel-drive for 1986 (sedans and coupes only; the rear-drive LeSabre Estate Wagon would soldier on unchanged a few more years). It was also the last LeSabre sedan and coupe to feature body-on-frame construction, V8 power and Buick's traditional all-coil suspension (the 1992–96 Roadmaster sedans would also be similarly built). The top-line LeSabre Limited became the LeSabre Limited Collectors Edition to mark the end of an era for the rear-drive sedan and coupe.
Engine offerings included the standard 231 V6 (sedans and coupes) or optional Olds 307 V8 (which came as standard in the wagons) and Oldsmobile 350 diesel V8 (available in all models). 1985 307s received roller lifters for reduced friction.
Production of this generation continued until 1990 in Estate Wagon form, as well as some reportedly found as hearse conversions.
Source: Wikipedia, 2013