Jonathan Lea just got back from a vacation in Colorado, where he and his brother visited a few junkyards. At one of them, the American car-loving duo from North Warwickshire spotted a 1989 Buick LeSabre — an achingly boring car, but one in such nice condition that Jonathan had to tell someone, anyone, about the pain he felt seeing the car on death row. That someone was me, and I’m not entirely sure what I can do to help Jonathan other than to relay his rather charming email to you all. So let’s look at a boring, but minty, Buick!
There’s something about a European coming to the U.S., seeing a car that many of us find boring/perhaps take for granted, and lamenting its doomed fate. In some ways, Jonathan is appreciating a car that hasn’t received enough appreciation over its lifetime, and I respect the heck out of that.
“I thought this was a bit too sad not to share,” Jonathan says in his email titled “Pristine Buick Lesabre I found in a junkyard.” He then explains that he and his brother spent some of their vacation in the U.S. hitting up U-pull junkyards in Colorado springs and Denver to snag parts for the imported American cars the brothers drive in the U.K. “At the yard in Denver, we happened across this sorry sight: A practically factory fresh 1989 Buick LeSabre,” concluded the intro paragraph.
Let’s See This Minty Buick
Let’s have a close look at this 1989 Buick LeSabre — a phrase most people haven’t said in many, many years. (Because the LeSabre has for years been a car that fades into the background.
Shoot — look at the paint! The body panels! The chrome bumpers! The wheels! Hell, even the whitewall tires! This thing actually is clean!
“The only thing wrong with it we could find was a small break in the grille, but otherwise it was like new. This thing is nicer than anything I’ve seen at car shows back home,” Jonathan wrote. “It’s not a car I even remotely care about, but to see something that nice waiting to die in the junkyard was such a shame.”
Oh and that red, wood-trimmed interior; this thing IS mint!
Sitting under the hood is the unkillable Buick 3800 V6, leading me to wonder what Jonathan was wondering: What’s this car doing in the junkyard?
This really is an injustice, and it doesn’t take a Brit who wears rose-colored glasses when it comes to American cars, which are rarer where he lives. Even I, a Detroit-based man with crazy access to much more interesting American iron, see the tragedy in this situation.
Jonathan and His Brother’s American Cars In The U.K.
Jonathan introduced himself a bit over the email, saying he works for 3M doing R&D work on abrasives, while his brother is an artist.
“Our dad kind of got us into American cars, he had a bunch of WWII surplus Jeeps back in the 70s when you could buy them for nothing, and completely restored a ford GPW in the 90s in the home garage while we were growing up. He had a Jeep XJ during that time which is probably what got us both into American cars,” Jonathan told me, clearly knowing how to win my heart. (I’m a big fan of flatfender Jeeps, and above all, the XJ).
“My brother’s first car was a Nissan D20, replaced by a 4 door Ford Ranger, then he had an ’88 S10 Blazer for about a year before selling it. My brother loves Jurassic Park, so he had a green ’99 UK spec Ford Explorer for a while, then bought his gold, US spec Explorer back in 2009 for £500,” going on to say that the two brothers from just east of Birmingham do much of the maintenance themselves.
“We drove [the Explorer] hours north to the Scottish border back in 2019, and the alternator quit as we crossed the threshhold of the place we were staying for the week. Bought a new one off Ebay and had it posted up to us and lowered the property value of the lovely holiday park we were staying at by wrenching on our junk out in front of the cabin,” he continued, pasting a photo of the SUV below:
“While we were in the US, my brother picked up a new turn signal stalk and the wiper motor/switch from the junkyard, as the UK spec ones are different and he never got around to importing one to fix his rear wiper.”
Jonathan has only been driving for the past five yeas, so back in 2017-ish he picked up a 2001 Suzuki Jimny. “It’s tiny, slow and awful and the clutch desperately needs replacing. The head gasket blew and warped the head about a week after I bought it, I bit the bullet and paid a shop to put a remanufactured head on it, but since then it’s been bulletproof,” he told me. “It’s been my daily driver for 5 years, and I’ve driven it all over the country filled with camping kit and other junk, including filling it with squarebody chevy parts one time and driving home with a fender grazing my head. It’s a POS, but I love it.”
Here’s the little Jimny in question:
Jonathan says he’d rather have bought an American vehicle, but apparently getting insurance for imports is nontrivial, especially for a brand new driver with less than a year of experience. “So, 365 days after passing my test, I bought [an American car]. It’s a 1990 Chevrolet S10 Blazer, 2wd, 4.3L V6. Not my first choice, but it was cheap, and my brother and I were already a little familiar with them thanks to the one he owned 10 years before.”
“It’s a purchase I often regretted at first, because when we got it home and got a good look at it, none of the doors would lock, the rockers and quarter panels are rust (poorly patched up with about 20lbs of bondo), the engine really needs new piston rings and consumes oil at an alarming rate, and the windscreen and some of the other windows leak quite a bit,” the email continued. “When I first bought it we had a mysterious problem where it kept sputtering and dying, in my naivety, I fired the RockAuto parts cannon at it. Turns out it was just the fuel pump, after fixing that, and replacing most of the ignition components that we probably killed starting it 9,000 times while trying to diagnose the other problem, it runs great. The 4.3 really needs a rebuild, but I don’t have the space to pull it and tear it down at the moment, so for now it just gets driven short distances and topped up when it needs it.”
Jonathan went on to describe all the work he’s put into the SUV. I’ll just block-quote this part, because apparently the S110 has been a bit of a heap:
I’ve replaced the fuel pump, all the rear brake lines, starter, most of the ignition system, replaced the valve stem seals, put in a new radiator, heater core, put in a new headliner and sound deadening (the old one was just… not there), replaced the radio and speakers, a bunch of other small jobs, the normal project car stuff. I learned to weld on this POS and have done one quarter and a rocker panel in the time I’ve owned it, it really needs both quarters re-doing but I’m saving to ship over some repair panels to make that job a lot easier. I work outdoors in a country where it’s constantly raining, so doing bodywork is a bit of a challenge. I used the Blazer for some camping trips, but have since relegated it to a summer daily driver where I don’t have to worry so much about the oil consumption.
“It’s a V6 and a car from the 90s, so it’s the ultimate ‘nobody cares’ car in American car scene here in the UK,” Jonathan went on. “It doesn’t sound good, it doesn’t look particularly exciting, but to me, it’s pleasingly square and retro and is a pleasure to drive compared to the Jimny. Being a ‘mini truck’ in American terms, it’s also pretty reasonably sized and fits into parking spaces with ease, it’s about the same size as most modern crossovers on the roads here.”
“The third vehicle in our lives is the 1984 Chevrolet K30 that we bought about a year ago. We call it… the Truck. I say K30, but it’s actually an M1008 CUCV, one of the military versions with the 6.2L Diesel V8. It’s been in civilian hands for probably close to 20 years and been through a few owners, so we have no idea exactly which base it came from, but the serial in the door suggests it’s ex-Air Force,” Jonathan told me. “My dad got us into military vehicles with his Jeep, and the guy next door to my grandfather had a yard full of squarebody Blazers and surplus stuff from the US air bases here in England, so we spent much of our childhood drooling over the fence at the big square trucks that lived next door. I’d known the guy who owned the truck for a while, and he listed it for a reasonable price in September last year, so my brother and I went halves on it. He wanted it so he could drive a big cool American truck, and I wanted it to take to military vehicle shows,” he explained.
“It’s suitably shitty enough to match the rest of our fleet, and shitty enough that it can be used as a truck without getting precious about denting it or damaging the paint. It’s the perfect vehicle. We’ve replaced the fuel sending unit and the glow plug relay, but that’s about it. The pile of parts in the back of the Jimny up above is a spare fender and the cut-up frame that holds the canvas cargo cover on the back of this truck. I welded that back together and painted it up last year to use it to sleep in.”
I love that Jonathan considers that “the perfect vehicle,” and then immediately goes on to write: “It only does 55mph, has the occasional death wobble when braking, and sounds like a school bus. It’s great.” (For the record, I myself consider my 14 MPG, 110 horespower, 1985 Jeep J10 the perfect vehicle. The layperson might consider the both Jonathan and me rather disturbed).
I asked Jonathan why he was so sad about the soon-to-be-crumped Buick. “None of our cars are particularly ‘cool’ (with the exception of the Truck, as people do like squarebodies), and so we have a bit of an affinity for boring 80s/90s American cars,” he replied. “While we were in the US for two weeks, we had a blast spotting cool, exotic stuff that we never got in the UK like the two door XJs, Jeep Comanches, and full-size Jeeps of all shapes, just as much as we had a fun time spotting mundane stuff like the Chevrolet Corsica we saw at the Grand Canyon, and the Ford Explorer Sport we found in the junkyard, too.
“We’re not Americans, but so much media gets imported from the US that we grew up watching cars like that in movies and TV shows, the cars from the 80s and 90s might not have the best styling or design choices, but they still conjure up nostalgic feelings for me. And as the proud owner of other horrible 1980s GM products, it just makes me sad to see something that nice just left to rot in a junkyard.”
Thank you Jonathan for what has to be the most beautiful eulogy that any Buick LeSabre has ever received, and for helping me (and hopefully some readers) appreciate the forgotten and under-loved Buick LeSabre. It really does have a bit of coolness to it these days, especially when it’s in good shape.
All Images: Jonathan