Is traditional American luxury dead? Not at here! Having spent the early years of my driving life behind the wheels of various Cadillac's, Lincolns, and full-sized Pontiac Catalina's, I'm a fan of cushy, insulated rides that float down the road like hovercrafts. There's a feeling of isolation in '70s and '80s GM hardware that not even Lexus has managed to bring into the 21st Century, despite all their attempts to separate the driver from the road. Case in point? This 1981 Buick LeSabre Limited with just 13,850 original miles. Traditional American luxury at its finest, to be sure.

You don't often see 2-door LeSabre coupes, usually 4-door sedans. The body lines on the coupe, while similar, are different enough to give the car an entirely unique look that I like. The proportions of the hood and deck are slightly different, giving the car a long, low appearance that belies its luxury car mission. Sporting a non-OEM coat of metallic navy blue paint, this car looks spectacular in the sunlight, and the dark color really emphasizes the formal nature of the car. The work was done by pros, and thoughtful touches abound, touches such as the body schutz along the rear fender line to prevent chipping (this was a long-standing Buick design cue, with rubber fender guards on the leading edges of the rear fenders to protect the paint from stones kicked up by the front wheels). Panel gaps are good, and I can't see any evidence that this car has ever had any significant body surgery anywhere. I'm guessing that the repaint was more due to the quality controls (or lack thereof) from 1981 General Motors, particularly the blue paints, which had a tendency to peel off in large sheets.

After the paint, all the original emblems and trim were reinstalled, the side moldings were aligned well, and the bulbs and other brightwork are clean originals. The stainless rocker trim still shines like a mirror, and there's no sign of road rash or tar like you often find on cars that are driven daily. The glass is most likely original stuff, too, and it features a defroster in the upright, formal rear window. Bumpers and the grille were freshened in 1980, and look to be in excellent condition on this '81. And although portholes are making a big comeback here in 2010, in 1981, they were sadly gone from the flanks of even the senior Buicks. This car also features a factory padded roof, which is in excellent condition with no tears or fading.

Under the hood you'll find Buicks own 4.1 liter (252 cubic inch) V6 engine, the 3.8's bigger brother which was designed to power the big luxury cars for buyers who didn't feel like feeding a thirsty V8. Interestingly enough, it sports a 4-barrel carburetor, and was used for several years for Indycar racing. Smooth and definitely worthy of powering Buicks (and even Cadillac's), it is a reliable partner and moves the big coupe along confidently. It is happy to settle into an all-day cruise at 80 MPH, or to idle through a traffic jam while you are surrounded with silence and Buick luxury inside. Even gas mileage is better than you would expect from such a big car, with many owners reporting more than 20 MPG from their 4.1-equipped full-size Buicks. The engine bay is more evidence that this is a low-mileage car the only glaringly non-OEM part I can see is the battery. Otherwise, everything is pretty much as the factory did it, including the hose clamps, wiring, and all the decals. Bare metal parts are still bright and shiny, and there's no corrosion on the cast aluminum bits, which means this car has never seen salty winter roads.

Underneath, it's solid, with the Tuff-Kote Dinol undercoating still intact, as it was applied April 10, 1981 when this car had just 58 miles on the clock (remember that in 1981, undercoating was a big profit center for dealerships, and without modern galvanizing technology, probably helped a lot of cars live longer lives). No, it's not show, but it is very authentic and original, and again, the overall condition proves that this car has led an easy life. The traditional Buick 4-wheel coil spring suspension produced that famous Buick ride, no doubt helped by shocks with soft valving and modest sway bars. Wheels are stylish Buick road wheels wearing 205/75/15 whitewall radials for a sporty, yet traditional, look. If I were a gambling man, I'd say these are probably only the second set of shoes this Buick has ever worn.

Be prepared to be surprised by the interior. Not only is it very attractive, but it's comfortable and functional as well. The pillow-topped bench seat is all-day comfortable, with plenty of stretch-out room fore and aft. The material is in excellent condition with no major wear, and retains its deep, rich coloring (which proves that this car was stored indoors and away from the sun). I really like the light-colored burled wood trim (simulated, of course), and the round gauges set into the dash ahead of the driver, with a matching round clock on the passenger's side (just like on my '41 Century, a nice retro touch before retro was a styling movement). The steering wheel doesn't have any cracks, the pedals aren't worn like a high-mileage cars might be, and the door panels are excellent, including the pull straps. Note that even on Buicks high-end Limited models, things like power windows and locks were extra-cost options, which is kind of interesting. By 1981, A/C was standard on Buicks, and there's an AM/FM stereo radio front and center, still delivering the entertainment. Say what you want about 1981 Detroit, but this is one handsomely styled interior that has aged incredibly well. The trunk still carries the original space-saver spare, jack, and wrench assembly.

We are also including a lot of paperwork with this car, including the original order form, invoice (from Cobbledick Buick of Shaker Heights, my home town), the aforementioned Tuff Kote-Dynol receipt and warranty agreement, the new car warranty booklet, Owner's Manual, maintenance schedule, and tire information for the original Uniroyals.

This is the kind of car that's easy to overlook on paper, but after you see it in the flesh, you'll be thinking differently. Not only is it an awful lot of steel for your dollar, it's a reliable, comfortable, luxurious cruiser that is eligible for all kinds of vintage events, including the AACA (Antique Automobile Club or America) now that it's more than 25 years old. There's also a fairly substantial culture of car guys out there who definitely appreciate this kind of luxury and don't care one whit for the European version of it. This car is unabashedly American, and happens to be very attractive as well. If traditional American luxury is your kind of luxury, call us now!

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1981 Buick LeSabre Limited

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