1951 Buick LeSabre…
Clearly showing aircraft influence in styling and engineering, the Buick LeSabre was constructed of aluminum and lightweight cast magnesium. Billed as a rolling engineering laboratory, the LeSabre had 12-volt electrics (most cars then were 6-volts), a torque converter automatic transmission with an oil cooler, fuel injection, a strong, chrome-molydenum frame, built-in hydraulic jacks, a rain-activated folding top, a jet-like air intake and prominent tail fins. It is believed the LeSabre cost between $500,000 – $1,000,000, the equivalent of ten times that today. The LeSabre served as an icon for GM’s cars for the remainder of the decade.
Designed by Harley J. Earl’s studio with styling cues from jet fighter planes and used by him for years as an everyday driver, the LeSabre offered a preview of the aircraft styling that followed in the 1950s. The 1951 LeSabre contained such technological features as a dual gasoline and alcohol fuel system and a moisture sensor which would raise the convertible top if it began raining when the owner was away from the car.
A clay vision of the LeSabre appeared in print in the fall of 1950 and the real thing was first shown to the public in July of 1951. It was not a Buick, although Buick picked up the LeSabre name for 1959. This example was the project of Harley Earl, head of GM styling. In essence, it was a replacement of the Buick Y-Job he used as his personal car and calling card for most of the 1940s. The LeSabre went on to be used for Earl’s new ride. It rides on a basic chassis with an aluminum super-charged dual fuel V-8 engine with rubber-based front suspension and a body that used cast magnesium body panels in many places. It is also equipped with hydraulic jacks on each wheel as just one of many innovations found on this vehicle.
Earl used aviation as an inspiration for many facets of his work and the LeSabre was a showcase. The name came from the Air Force Sabre jet fighters, the front jet-like intake held two headlights, the rear fins hinted at P-38 inspired Cadillac fins, and rear nozzle also was jet inspired. The instruments said aircraft in style and in the inclusion of an altimeter. Fuel tanks for gasoline and methanol were in the rear fenders and limited trunk space.