Motoring Trailblazers - GM Le Sabre

Tue 11th Sep 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

GM Le Sabre
Whether we include the Le Sabre for its futuristic design, or for the fact that for many it is regarded as the pioneer for the idea of concept cars, for a car that was considered the most important show car of the 1950s, it simply has to be included in this series.

The Le Sabre was conceived by GM’s legendary Art Department head, Harley Earl, a name synonymous with those fishlike tailfins which dominated post-war car design. Earl also inspired the Chevrolet Corvette and earlier in his career the iconic Buick Y-Job.

Harley Earl took his job title seriously, and many of his cars are made more famous for artistic design than engine performance. Inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1986, Earl loved his cars so much that he insisted that they were roadworthy, and the Le Sabre, like its predecessor the Y-Job became Earl’s own private concept drive.

So what made the Le Sabre so fantastic? Well it was inspired by the aerodynamic design of the burgeoning jet-engine designs and was built with similar styling and the very latest materials, including aluminum, magnesium and fiberglass. An ultra-light body, on top of a V8 supercharged 3.5 litre engine, which could run on both gasoline and methanol.

The Le Sabre also introduced a 12-volt electrical system, which helped power heated seats, a water sensor to activate the power top and innovative electric jacks, which decades later would be adopted by F1 teams to aid tyre-changes. The most recognisable element of the Le Sabre has to be the jet intake front bumper design, which tips a very strong hat to the jet engines of the time.