38k-Mile Turbo: 1978 Buick LeSabre Sport Coupe

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You’re looking at a rather oddball car here. It’s a 1978 Buick LeSabre Sport Coupe. No, it wasn’t fast, nor did they sell very many, but it did finally prove that a turbocharged 231-ci (3.8L) Buick V6 could work after the mid-1960s experiment flopped. This particular one is nearly identical to my first car and it’s listed for sale here on Autabuy.com out of Nebraska. Interestingly, we featured this car back in November of 2018 when it was for sale in New Jersey, having come East from Nebraska. Now, only a few short months later, we see it again up for sale, although at a bit of a discounted asking price from before…

As for the model itself, a handful of articles and retrospectives have been written over the years, namely one here on Curbside Classic, as well as one here and one here on Hemmings, explaining the cars and their limited run. When I had mine, it was”Just another old red Buick” and worth nearly nothing except scrap. Nowadays, the asking prices are in the thousands.

We’re not treated to any underhood or interior pictures in this listing, but from the description and exterior shots, and the pictures from the previous article, it seems as though this car is in good condition overall. If the low mileage is true, this is a super-rare example of an already limited-run car. The seller tells us that it has power accessories and leather interior, as well as AC, cruise, tilt wheel, no rust, and a clean Nebraska title. Quick research turned up information that only about 9,600 of these were produced, the engine output is about 160 horsepower and about 260 lb-ft of torque, and it weighs in at around 3,500 pounds.

While it is true that rarity does not necessarily equal monetary value, these little-known cars played a significant (if obscure) role in helping the T-Types and Grand Nationals become reality a few years later. It’s rumored that these were the test-beds for the famous 3.8-Liter V6s which propelled the aforementioned turbo cars to fame, but few humans will ever sing the praises of a Malaise-era Buick. For what it’s worth, my first car was one of these, but mine had the all-red velour interior with bench seats, column-shifted automatic, landau half-top, AM/FM/CB, and 140,000 miles when I got it from my father. These boxy B-Body boats truly hold a special place in my automotive heart, but what do you think of these Buicks?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. redwagon

    Looks better to my eyes now than it did 40+ years ago.

    Like 10
  2. HoA Howard AMember

    Here’s a car with an identity crisis. Buick was riding high in stock car racing, but was still considered an old mans car. I think GM people knew, buyers would eventually outgrow the Grand National cars, so they spruced up the full size cars. Plan kind of fizzled, as old men still bought LeSabres, and performance was the last thing on their minds. Very nice car, though.

    Like 3
    • MarkM

      Actually Buick was just getting into NASCAR in 78-80. The stock cars were still running on a 115″ WB, & NASCAR had just approved the SBC as the GM corporate engine, so a few teams were experimenting with the 76-77 Regal bodystyle with little success.

      It wasn’t until NASCAR downsized to the 110″ WB for the 1981 season that the Regal, & Buick became a major player in NASCAR.

      Like 6
  3. Blueprint

    Funny, the Chevy Bolt I reviewed two weeks ago weighed more than this! I believe the name was actually “Turbo Coupe”? I owned a ‘78 sedan in stripper specs except for a 350 under the hood. A beater for a summer job on road construction sites, barely got 12 mpg. Always found the big coupes elegant.

    Like 2
  4. Rhett

    Drove many of these back in the day -the hot air V-6 performed much like a low-compression, non smog Buick 350, which was no slouch. That performance was great in the Regal, but a bit muted in the LeSabre.

    On the positive, these cars were great riding and handling vehicles, with proven components, good corrosion protection and durable construction (headliners aside).

    From my perspective the front end styling was spot on, but the rear roof, quarter and quarter extensions on the coupes seemed to droop, unlike the Impala/Caprice that came to a cool little Kamm tail.

    Still I’d have one in a heartbeat.

    Like 4
  5. Nick G.

    I wish someone would put a T-Type engine, badges, turbine wheels and two-tone paint job on one of these. Or maybe someone could even find a GN parts car and transfer the parts onto a big Sports Coupe with a black paint job. I just want to see what one would look like.

    Like 5
  6. cold340t

    Usually Mopar or No car. But, I like this! Up the Boost and Go! Nice.

    Like 1
  7. Pete Phillips

    Seller claims it has a leather interior. These never came with a leather interior. Very nice, rare car, though. I owned one briefly. The extra plumbing of the turbo-charger makes working on the engine very difficult. Changing the leaky valve cover gaskets was nearly an all-day job.

    Like 1
  8. Eric

    We had a 1979 LeSabre Sport Coupe bought new. It was a real looker with a camel top and interior over a metallic red bottom and the blacked out trim. The only issue was the turbo-charger. In ’78 and ’79, they were oil cooled so you couldn’t really just turn the car off after a long run. The oil temp needed to drop otherwise the turbo bearings wouldn’t gunk up. It really didn’t make much difference as they would go bad anyway. During the warranty period we had the turbo replaced three times. The Regional Buick rep in Chicago tried to get GM to retro fit to an ’80 turbo which was then cooled via the engine cooling system. No luck. In ’84 we sold the car to a Buick mechanic who did just that. It looked as good a the day we drove it out of the dealer. (Had Rusty Jones rust proofing) Even with all the turbo issues, we all loved that car. And when the turbo was right, it was a real sleeper.

    Like 3
    • Dave

      The way to fix the coked bearings is to run Delvac or Rotella oil, 15W-40. I ran it in my 2000 4.7 Dodge sludge maker for 100,000 miles with zero sludge.

      Like 1
  9. J.B.K. from Lancaster Co. PA

    I’m liking this better now than when they were new. I believe I would enjoy this as a daily driver. Not sure if it’s just my eyes deceiving me, but I can’t help but think of the ’79-’83 Dodge Mirada in the front.

    Like 1
    • SAM61

      Don’t forget the open wheel Indy car Buick turbo 3.8’s…back when Indy car was more interesting with different engines, chassis and pop-off valve.

      Like 1
  10. James Martin

    Like the look of the car and the color is sweet. Better than the tan ones that are usually a car Color of this era. Not a fan of the 231 rod knocker. Every car I had back then with this motor eventually went rod knock knock knock.

    Like 1
  11. Dan D

    I love the stance of the car, and the interior (in one of the links) is really sharp looking as well. The design makes it look very light, although I’m sure it’s probably fairly ponderous handling. But I’ve always liked a big 2-door coupe (as a past owner of a ’73 Chevy Impala 2-door; now THAT was big…). Sharp car.

    Dan D

    Like 1
  12. Ben Volker

    “…but few humans will ever sing the praises of a Malaise-era Buick…” That’s a bunch of hooey. My ’77 Electra Limited was the best car I ever had. The old 403 hauled… Rode like a Cadillac… Built like a Sherman tank.

    Like 2
  13. Chris In Australia

    Anyone else see Fiat 130 Coupe in the C pillar? I’ll take mine with a Buick 350 or better yet a 455.

    Like 0
  14. frank

    Since when is a Buick an Oddball? I can understand a Simca or Renault as an Oddball, or a Trabant or a Isuzu diesel…..but a Buick? Oddball?

    Like 0
  15. Anthony Wesolowski

    I’m a lucky dawg. I have always been a fan of the 455 and 350 buicks. I just picked up a 1978 La Saber with 043044 original miles. It’s an amazing car.

    Like 0
  16. Glenn Weisel

    I always loved the mid and full size classic GM cars. In mid size , I had a ’78, ’79 and ’84 Regal . The ’78 was passed around in the family til I finally sold it 15 years later. The ’79 met its demise up a utility pole in ’83. And the ’84 was just an OK car that I traded on my first full size GM coupe. This one was a used 1980 Olds 88 diesel coupe with only 30K . I heard all of the diesel warnings but decided to buy it anyway as an experiment. Well, I drove and loved that car until hitting a pole and it was totaled at 98,000 miles. The next was a ’84 Olds 88 brougham coupe , burgundy with matching velour interior, beautiful. That car was another family favorite for the next 8 years. My parents always had the big GM sedans starting with a 1962 Impala , then 1973 Impala , I984 Olds Ninety Eight , 1992 Olds Ninety Eight , and finally a 2002 Buick LeSabre . We were truly a GM family and many of these are desirable classics today. I also had a 1977 Riviera which still stands as one of my favorites along with the two Olds 88 coupes. These were truly cars with personality and integrity. I like my new car today but it isn’t even close to being in the same league with these old GM classics.

    Like 0
  17. Terry Monroe

    I owned ’78 LeSabre Turbo Sport Coupe the same color as in the sales brochure. Mine had the 4 barrel carb. Light metallic blue with blue cloth interior. There were way less than 9k of these awesome Buicks made, just a little over 2,500 made. The quick ratio steering and sport suspension made it a dream to drive. Miss that car. A lot of good memories.

    Like 0

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