The 1965-1966 Buicks were created when the company was in the midst of a renaissance. It was running a solid fifth in the industry sales race on the strength of steadily building volume, trends that would continue through the rest of the decade. Its product line had cars to cater to a variety of customers whose wants might include economy, passenger room, racy performance, or stylish luxury.
The basic LeSabre (this one is a 1966) four-door sedan was
Buick's full-size popularity leader. See more pictures of Buicks.
Of course, the notion of "renaissance" suggests a revival, a restoration of what was. Just a decade before, in the heady year of 1955, there was Buick -- decidedly medium-priced Buick -- all the way up to third in sales behind perennial mass-market leaders Chevrolet and Ford.
Nearly three-quarters of a million Buicks were produced for the 1955 model year, the crest of a wave that had been rising for several years. But it wouldn't last, not under the weight of questionable styling and dubious quality.
Then, too, an economic recession that began picking up steam in late 1957 kept many potential car buyers on the sidelines. Buick produced just 241,908 of its 1958 models, its slowest year since 1948, when it was still making warmed-over prewar cars.
Sales figures in each of the next two years were a bit better, but they weren't improving at the same rate as those of some other makes. In 1960, when it built 254,000 cars for the model year, Buick slumped to ninth, its worst industry ranking since 1905.
General Motors wasn't content to let its cornerstone division flounder. New managerial blood arrived in the spring of 1959 when Edward Rollert, who had an extensive manufacturing background, was named to head Buick. By 1962, production was up to 400,000 cars and Buick was fifth in sales. Two years later, output totaled more than 500,000.
Buick was accomplishing this growth with an expanding array of vehicles. As per industry trend, the product line began to diversify in the early 1960s. In 1961, the small-car craze of the day was addressed at Buick by the Special, one of General Motors' "senior compacts" that grew up into the new intermediate class for 1964.
Then, too, there was the striking Riviera that arrived in 1963 to enter the "personal car" field first staked out by the Ford Thunderbird.
But despite the rise of these and other new market brackets, the various divisions of the Big Three automakers still relied on their full-size "standard" cars to generate most of their sales. Buick was no exception.
More than half of its production in each model year from 1961 to 1964 was made up of the standard cars. This pattern was destined to continue into 1965-1966, when a beautifully restyled family of full-sizers was launched to offer Buick customers the choice of value, performance, or luxury they required. To learn about the first of these cars, the LeSabre, continue on to the next page.
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