Fred and Melanie Orr’s ’60 Buick LeSabre may very well be the gold standard of contemporary custom convertibles.
The Redlands, California-based couple has been involved in the old car hobby for years, and when Melanie decided she wanted a car of her own she found the drop-top LeSabre on eBay. After enjoying the convertible in mostly stock form for a few years, the Orrs teamed up with artist Keith Kaucher to design a custom that would take the Buick’s already flamboyant lines a few steps further into the cool zone.
The big Buick project stalled out with several initial builders before being refined and completed by the team at JH Restorations. The extensive list of body modifications includes a lengthened hood and upper fenders, molded and extended headlight housings and a custom floating grille bar. Molded portholes accentuate the front fenders, while custom trim pieces from Red Lizard Molding Company adorn the deck lid and interior. Custom-made taillight lenses are tunneled deep into the rear quarters, with exhaust ports vented in the reworked rear pan. Doug Starbuck applied the glorious, custom-mixed House of Kolor gold paint.
The smooth and sculpted body rests on the Buick’s original frame, which has been updated with dropped spindles and RideTech air springs in front, and a triangulated four-bar rear suspension with another pair of air springs supporting the 9-inch rearend. Four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes are covered with a quartet of spectacular-looking 18-inch wheels custom machined by Mike Curtis to emulate the original Buick hubcaps. Power comes from the original 401c.i. Nailhead V8, updated with dual four barrels, a March serpentine front drive system and untold amounts of polished aluminum and chrome under the custom air cleaner.
Putting the top down allows for a perfect view of the completely redesigned interior, which features T-bird front seats and custom rear buckets, all bisected by a sculpted steel center console painted body color. Ron Mangus stitched the upholstery, accenting off-white pearl leather with gold suede. The original gauges and steering wheel were wild enough to leave stock, but Vintage Air was added to keep things comfortable when the top is up.
Combine these well-designed and impeccably executed custom elements and you’ve got one elegant convertible cruiser. The low-down LeSabre earned a Goodguys 2017 Custom of the Year finalist spot at the Goodguys All American Get-Together in March and shined bright enough to have us thinking we’d struck gold.
Photography by Mike Harrington