1951 Le Sabre Concept
Engine: 215 C.I. V8 (3.5L)
Horsepower: 335 @ 5200 RPM
Torque: 381 ft lbs @ 3650 RPM
Transmission: 4 speed automatic
Front Suspension: unequal length A-arms, torsion bars, tubular hydraulic dampers
Rear Suspension: DeDion axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, tubular hydraulic dampers
Weight: 3799 lbs
With jet propulsion technology becoming prevalent in the airplane industry, Harley Earl set out to create
a concept car which applied these advancements to a futuristic car. While the concept’s design and
engineering advancements were clearly drawn from jets, the Le Sabre was influenced by the North
American Aviation F-86 Sabre fighter more specifically. Earl’s 1938 Buick Y-Job, the industry’s first
concept car and his personal vehicle for a number of years, was beginning to look dated to him, giving
himHis design team began clay modeling a sleek and futuristic design, and GM’s engineering team began
to build technologies the public had never before seen on road cars.
Aircraft design elements are obvious at first look of the car, but many of these elements are indeed
functional. Front and center is the oval shaped jet intake, designed to resemble jet design and
functioned as the Le Sabre’s engine intake. Headlights in front were completely hidden, though at a flip
of a switch, grills flipped backwards to reveal the headlights. The wrap around windshield was another
nod to airplanes, as was the single tail light at the rear, which was designed to resemble a lit
The Le Sabre’s interior was as equally impressive. A rain sensor was connected to the car’s convertible
top; when it sensed rain, the top and windows were automatically raised to keep the occupants dry.
Heated seats were also installed, a feature which wasn’t implemented into production cars for at least
another two decades.
Futuristic technologies continued under the hood. Powered by a 3.5 liter (215 c.i) supercharged V8, the
Le Sabre used produced 335 horsepower and 381 lbs/ft of torque. With it’s cast aluminum engine, the
Le Sabre also used a unique dual carburetor design. One carburetor fed the engine normal fuel, for
general driving, and the other supplied methanol, to increase power under heavy throttle.
The futuristic advancements you couldn’t immediately see are perhaps the most impressive. To add
strength and save weight, body panels of the Le Sabre were made of cast magnesium, with the
floorboards made up of honeycomb aluminum. The Le Sabre also came equipped with a piece of
technology seen today only in the most advanced race cars. Underneath the car are four hydraulic jacks, used to change a tire or perform simple service, and it’s said that this technology was taken by Formula
1 years later.
The Le Sabre serves as a statement in design language, and also intuitive use of advanced technologies.
The car was finished as a fully functioning road legal car, which of course prompted Harley Earl to use
the concept as his daily-driver for a few years after its completion. Images surfaced of the Le Sabre and
Y-Job in Earl’s driveway, showing that he enjoyed them interchangeably.