Buick’s Own Super Sport: Jim Horn’s ’62 Buick LeSabre

Black, red, and chrome are a clean combination on just about any car. Jim’s LeSabre puts that theory to the test, and proves it right.

In the early ’60s, muscle cars burst onto the scene and caught the fancy of many a young man. Although the term “muscle car” hadn’t been coined, and “pony cars”– the likes of the Chevelle, Camaro, and Mustang– hadn’t been born yet, thousands of powerful, full-sized cars were being sold to those wanting more than the staid sedan– they wanted features like bigger engines, 4-speed transmissions, and in some cases, sporty bucket seats with center consoles.

One of the most popular vehicles in GM’s lineup was the 1962 Chevrolet Impala, of which there were 323,427 produced. Among those were 99,311 Super Sport models. In ’62, GM’s design studios incorporated a “convertible style” steel hardtop in its new model line-up. The base models with the unique top were the Chevy Impala, Pontiac Catalina, Oldsmobile Dynamic 88, and Buick LeSabre. High-end models with the roof included Chevy Super Sport, Olds Starfire, Buick Wildcat, and Pontiac Grand Prix

The Buick LeSabre was first produced in 1959. By the time the 1962 models rolled out, the LeSabre was Buick’s best-selling full-size car. Of the four nameplates introduced in 1959 (LeSabre, Invicta, Electra, Electra 225), the LeSabre lasted the longest.

A big Buick looks good from any angle.

From 1959 to 1971, a three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment on almost all LeSabres, but rarely ordered. Far more popular was the Turbine Drive automatic transmission, known as the Dynaflow. Other popular options included power steering and power brakes. Production figures on the LeSabre two-door hardtop (compared to the Impala and Super Sport) were a measly 25,479, making this model rare these days… and yes, this writer knows Buick didn’t produce a “Super Sport” as the title of this article implies. Rather, it alludes to what would equate to a Super Sport for Buick.

Jim’s LeSabre has been fitted with Torque-Thrust wheels all the way around. Falken tires add to the look.

Jim Horn of Westminster, Colorado, found his 1962 Buick LeSabre at a swap meet in Denver, Colorado. Believe it or not, the car was painted yellow with a yellow and brown interior when he got ahold of it. The engine was the 401 nailhead backed by a Dynaflow transmission. Requiring little more than a new paint job, Jim could see the potential for a one-of-a-kind street car. On the way home, he drove it into a quarter car wash bay. When he left, the yellow paint was in the drain and the majority of the car was now an original light gray color. He knew right then, that was not the color the car needed to be.

Four headlights outlined in chrome are a style-staple of the day, and it’s a look that never gets old.

Later, Jim found out that the 401 powerplant wasn’t as good as the seller originally let on. In a matter of weeks, that engine came out and a 396 big-block Chevrolet was put in its place, along with a turbo 350 transmission. That combination stayed in the car for 2 years while Jim did the body–not that it needed much since it was a rust-free Arizona car. He also pulled the bumpers and had them rechromed by Denver Bumper, and removed the all the stainless bits from the hood, trunk, and sides for a cleaner look.

Once Jim was done with the bodywork, it was painted black by Albin’s Performance in Arvada, Colorado, using PPG’s base coat/clear coat. In the meantime, Jim bought another car that had a built 454 big-block in it. He decided to put that engine in the Buick and pulled the 396. Jim told us– The car that had the 454 is set aside right now waiting for an LS1, and the old 396 is on an engine stand in the garage.

Dual Edelbrock four-barrel carbs add an impressive look to the big block. Behind the 454 sits a turbo 350, running into a stock rearend.

Jim did all the engine work on it as well. The 454 has roller rockers, a 280 Comp Cams roller cam, flat-top pistons, ported and polished heads, and of course, the centerpiece of the engine-bay, the dual four-barrel Edelbrock carbs. Jim also added a Vintage Air unit to the car along with an aluminum radiator to keep things cool.

The Big block Chevy looks right at home in the engine compartment of Jim's LeSabre.

Once Jim had the Buick running well and the car was resplendent in its new glossy black paint, it was time to have the interior done. The stock yellow and brown interior just wasn’t going to cut it. Jim’s uncle had taught him how to do upholstery back in the ’90s, so he bought an industrial sewing machine and decided to do a bright red interior that would really set off the black body. The stock bench seat was used and Jim kept the pattern simple, using perforated vinyl inserts, and the result is quite stunning. The door panels, kick panels and dash pad were done in the red vinyl as well, while black carpeting covers the floor.

The interior is Jim's own DIY upholstery. Red perforated vinyl highlights the seats and black carpeting covers the floor.

Bucket seats weren’t an option for ’62 LeSabres, so Jim stuck with the tried-and-true bench seat. He even covered the dash and door panels to match.

In the trunk, Jim fashioned a false floor to hide the spare tire and his tool box but trimmed out a small area for a cooler. The compartment keeps the cooler upright and prevents it from spilling. What a great place to cool off your beer, right? Nope, you’d be wrong as Jim keeps his cleaning supplies in there!

The false floor hides a spare tire and tool box, and surprise! The cooler doesn't hold beverages, it holds cleaning supplies.

Jim puts about 10,000 miles a year on his Buick, and never fails to get tons of looks at cruises and events. The really great thing about his LeSabre is that it’s close to one-of-a-kind these days. Jim’s ’62 is a great homage to what might have been, had Buick ever made a Super Sport version of the LeSabre.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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