Last week’s photo showed the front end of the 1959 Buick LeSabre, in this case the two-door hardtop you see pictured here. Many guessed other models of that year’s Buick, but all we needed was “1959 Buick.”
Several readers guessed the 1960 Buick. Although the two models were similar, the 1960 had softer, less-pronounced styling lines and the grilles were different. Moreover, the head lamps were horizontal for 1960 after being canted in 1959. Other readers guessed a range of Buicks, all the way up to 1963.
Chosen randomly from the correct entries was Jerry W. Murphy, of Augusta, who wrote: “This is the 1959 Buick. It was one of monster of a car. It looked very intimidating whenever one was driving toward you.
“There were four models for that year: LeSabre, Invicta, Electra and the Electra 225. It was certainly one of the most unforgettable. As a child, whenever I saw one I would exclaim here comes the ‘mad’ car because it looked like it was angry to me with those very angular molding and headlights.
“Over the years, there have been a few other car manufacturers that copied the ‘mad’ look to some extent certainly no where as scary looking.”
Murphy wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle. Other readers identifying the 1959 Buick were:
AUGUSTA: Lowell Fritsche said the 1959 Buick came in a number of models, ranging all the way up to the six-window Riviera: “Pretty elegant car.”
Gary Engen wrote: “My parents were in the market to replace their 1954 Oldsmobile Super 88 in 1959 while I was in high school. I tried to steer my dad to buy the new Buick Electra but he opted instead for a ’59 Olds Super 88. Although it had 315 horsepower (which I certainly had fun with whenever I got the keys) it was a rather boring body style compared to the big Buick that year.
“Buick had high hopes for the newly restyled 1959 model lineup and was looking to reverse a two-year sales slump. The style was low and sleek with the traditional Buick ‘portholes’ removed. The Buick model names were new with the LeSabre being their entry-level vehicle, the Invicta as the middle line, and the Electra 225 at the top. The ‘225’ was derived from the 225-inch overall length, the longest of all GM cars during that period. Powering these large vehicles were a 401 cubic-inch ‘Nailhead’ V-8 engine offering 325 horsepower.
“Unfortunately, a lack of demand sent sales down again for the 1959 model year as that was the beginning of the era for more economical cars like the Chevy Corvair that my dad purchased in 1960 as a second car.”
Also: Willie Thomas.
CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “As excessive as 1958 was with the chrome, 1959 was the crowning achievement for the fins. Whether tall or wide, never had they reached the proportions they did in 1959.
“My Buick materials refer to the styling as Delta Wing, and Chevrolet’s, which lay more horizontal, are referred to as Bat Wing. I have read and heard that both of these configurations at highway speeds actually provided lift for the back end, making them somewhat challenging to drive. I have GM literature and road test articles from the day that indicate the Buick delta wing actually provides stability at those speeds.
“I was only 5 years old in 1959, so I cannot explain why the styling for the model year is so appealing to me. From that Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, to the Ford retractable hardtop and even the orphan Rambler, I would gladly let those Barrett-Jackson hucksters keep those $100,000-plus, overinflated muscle cars to have a car collection of one of every American car made in 1959 as my Dream Car Collection.”
EVANS: Larry Heath wrote: “Buick offered only a full-size car in 1959, and this was available in 3 trim levels: the Invicta, LeSabre and top-of-the-line Electra. This was also the year of the ultimate tail fins for GM cars. In 1960, the tail fins began to decrease in size. This was also the era when cars were styled differently each year.”
Bill Harding wrote: “In 1966, I purchased my third vehicle, a yellow ’59 Buick LeSabre convertible, equipped with a 364-cubic-inch V-8 (derisively nicknamed “nailhead” because of the small size of its intake valves) and a Dynaflo automatic transmission.
“Although it was technically a two-speed if you started in Low, when left in Drive there was no actual gear shifting. Much like today’s continuously variable transmissions the engine revs didn’t rise and fall as the car’s speed increased. Unlike CVTs, the Dynaflo was not an efficient transmission, but with gasoline selling for under 30 cents a gallon in 1966, fuel economy wasn’t the concern it is today. For 19-year-old me, performance was the big thing.
“Sadly, that Buick could barely get out of its own way. Yet it was fun to drive with the top down – when Chicago’s weather would allow – with the AM radio tuned to WCFL or WLS. That Buick was very quiet, and the ride was quite comfortable, but handling and cornering were lackadaisical at best.”
Wayne Wilke wrote: “Following the 1958 model year, which most people believe was the ugliest Buick ever, the 1959 model was completely restyled, dechromed and rebadged. Big wings or tailfins were added. Model names were changed from Special, Century and Roadmaster to LeSabre, Invicta and Electra.
“These Buicks were big, with the biggest weighing in at 4,660 pounds with a 126.25-inch wheelbase and a 401-cubic-inch, 325-horsepower engine. All GM 4-door hardtop models had flat roofs, so a little new ugliness was added on those Buick models.”
Gerald Paul wrote: “This week I knew it was a Buick, late 1950s or early ’60s. Additional investigation showed it was a 1959 LeSabre.”
Also: Jim Williamson
GROVETOWN: Walter Evans wrote: “The picture shown is the 1959 Buick Electra, which came in both the hardtop and convertible models.”
FRANKLIN, N.C.: Dale Sanford wrote: “The picture is of a 1959 Buick Electra, which was the top of the line for a full-size Buick. The slanted headlights and the fins on the front and back were the distinguishing style designs for 1959. They seemed to be huge-size cars even back then.”
KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner wrote: “Fins were in, and 1959 Buicks had them front and rear. Weighing well over two tons, this could be an Electra, LeSabre or Invicta. Power supplied by a 401-cubic-inch ‘nailhead’ engine, this was a true land yacht.”
LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert
MARTINEZ: John Hayes said: “It was a more radical change from the prior year, and I remember hitchhiking when I was in the Navy and getting a ride in one. I thought I was in high cotton.”
Dan Vanbrackle said: “My dad had one.”
Jeff J. Miller wrote: “I believe these Buicks came with 364 CID V-8s.”
Jim Muraski pointed out that “the newly named Electra 225 replaced the Roadmaster. The Electra 225 was so named for its length of 225 inches. Features included power brakes with unique 12-inch finned aluminum drums. Nicknames for this car included ‘the delta winged warrior’ and the ‘deuce and a quarter.’ ”
NORTH AUGUSTA: Don Ash said: “It was the same car I had in our wedding, so I’m pretty pretty sure.”
Carroll H. Camp wrote: “The car is a 1959 Buick Electra, similar in style to the 1959 Oldsmobile. I was just 12 years old when this luxury cruiser was brand new.”
PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “They changed the names of their models that year to include Lesabre, Invicta, and Electra for the first time. They did not have the traditional portholes that had become the Buick trademark. They resumed the portholes in ’61, also had a Wonder-bar Radio (like a ‘seek’ feature), which was advanced for ’59, along with a 401-cubic-inch V-8. One feature was unique: the starter was under the gas pedal; to start the car you turned the switch on and pressed the gas pedal to the floor.”
TRENTON, S.C.: Linley Montgomery Sr.
WATKINSVILLE, GA.: Joe Arp wrote: “The era of the massive automobiles!”
NO CITY LISTED: Shirley Serrano wrote: “This has to be a 1959 Buick Electra 225, which was the first ‘deuce and a quarter.’ ”
David A. Clark wrote: “For those of us who remember the early days of MTV when they played music videos around the clock, a convertible version of this car was used in the video for the song Our Lips are Sealed by the Go Gos.”
Also, Gary Pullard.