WOULDN’T YOU REALLY RATHER HAVE A BUICK?
Buick never entirely gave up on performance models. In the late seventies, it launched its turbocharged V6, which ultimately spawned the fearsome Regal Grand National of the eighties. There was a sporty S-Type Riviera in 1979 and 1980 and by 1983, Buick, now under the leadership of Lloyd Reuss, had launched performance-themed T-Type versions of most of its lineup. Buick also made a new assault on NASCAR in the early eighties with considerable success.
A corporate reorganization pushed the division back toward family cars in the late eighties, but the Gran Sport badge returned in 1991. If the supercharged, FWD Regal Gran Sport of the late nineties and early 2000s was not exactly a muscle car, its performance would embarrass a fair number of its A-body predecessors. Despite all that, when the division recently floated the idea of an all-wheel-drive Regal sports sedan with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, many observers still wondered if it were too sporty to be a Buick.
If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that branding matters. Pontiac spent decades saying that it built excitement, and many people believed it, although Pontiac built more than its share of underpowered and forgettable cars. When that division’s epitaphs were written last fall, fans remembered the Gran Prix, GTO, and Trans Am, not Pontiac’s staid early-fifties cars or half-baked modern efforts like the Daewoo-engineered Le Mans. Conversely, for all the Grand Nationals and Gran Sports that rolled out of Flint, the image most people still have of Buick is of wafty Roadmasters and block-long Electra 225s.
Some days, life just ain’t fair.
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NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources for this story included the 1970-72 Buick GSX Registry, c. 2008, www.buickgsx. net/, accessed 28 June 2010; the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1965-1967 Buick Gran Sport,” HowStuffWorks.com, 25 September 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1965-1967-buick-gran-sport.htm, accessed 21 June 2010; “Autos: New Driver at Buick,” TIME 27 April 1959, www.time. com, accessed 21 June 2010; Arch Brown, “1970 Buick GSX Stage I: The Velvet Hammer,” Special Interest Autos #146 (March-April 1995), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Buicks: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001), pp. 110-117; “Buick Wildcat History and Information,” Timeless Rides, n.d., www.timelessrides. com, accessed 28 June 2010; “Car and Driver Road Test: Plymouth GTX,” Car and Driver November 1970, reprinted in Plymouth 1964-1971: Muscle Portfolio, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2003), pp. 123-127; Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gustin, The Buick: A Complete History, Third Edition (Kurtztown, PA: Automobile Quarterly, 1987); Jim Dunne and Jan P. Norbye, Buick 1946-1978: The Classic Postwar Years, Second Edition (Osceola, WI: MBI, Inc./Motorbooks International, 1993); John Ethridge, “67’s vs. 66’s: Engine Evolution Typified by Buick’s New V-8?” Motor Trend Vol. 18, No. 9 (September 1966), pp. 30-32; Craig Fitzgerald, “1973-1974 Buick Gran Sport,” Hemmings Muscle Machines June 2004; John Gunnell, ed., Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, rev. 4th ed. (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002); Tim Howley, “1962 Buick Wildcat: A Buick with Bite,” Special Interest Autos #144 (November-December 1994), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Buicks, pp. 86-93; Pat Harmon, 1973-1975 Buick Century Gran Sport Registry, 19731975centurygsregistry. freehosting. net, accessed 28 June 2010; John F. Katz, “1967 Buick GS 400: The Image Changer,” Special Interest Autos #172 (July-August 1999), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Buicks, pp. 101-109; Richard M. Langworth, “Something Ventured, Nothing Gained: The Story of the 1957-58 Buick,” Collectible Automobile Vol. 17, No. 5 (February 2001), pp. 8–21; Richard M. Langworth, James M. Flammang, and the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Great American Cars of the ’60s (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd., 1992); Terry McGean, “1967 Buick GS-340,” Hemmings Motor News May 2009; “Munson Medical Center Receives $500,000 Gift: Helen Rollert-Riordan makes gift in memory of late husband Edward D. Rollert,” Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation, Spring 2004, www.munsonhealthcare. org, accessed 27 June 2010; Tony Nausieda, “History of the Buick Nailhead,” Car Craft February 2009, www.carcraft. com, accessed 21 June 2010; George Nenadovich, “1968-9 Skylark/GS Buyer’s Guide” and “1970-2 Buick Skylark/GS Buyer’s Guide,” Buick Performance, n.d., www.buickperformance. com, accessed 21 June 2010; George Nenadovich and Dave Knutsen, “455 Head Comparison: Regular 455 head, Stage 1 and Stage 2 heads,” Buick Performance, n.d., Buick Performance, www.buickperformance. com/ 455hdcompare.htm, accessed 21 June 2010; Peter C. Sessler, Ultimate American V-8 Engine Data Book: 2nd Edition (Motorbooks Workshop) (Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1999), pp. 6-19); Jay Storer, “Vintage Buick Nailhead Engines – Buick Nailheads,” Street Rodder, streetrodder.automotive. com, accessed 21 June 2010; Daniel Strohl, “One of…” Hemmings Muscle Machines #17 (February 2005); Jeff Tann, “Building a Better Buick: Performance-Rebuilding a Buick Nailhead,” Rod and Custom May and June 1999; Rich Taylor, “PM Comparison Test: Muscle Then and Now,” Popular Mechanics November 1985, pp. 76-79, 165-167; Joseph D. Turlay, assignor to General Motors Corporation, “Engine,” U.S. Patent 2,856,909 A, filed 12 November 1952, issued 21 October 1958; C. Van Tune, “Retrospect: Buick Gran Sport 1965-1972,” Motor Trend Vol. 46, No. 12 (December 1994), pp. 102–105; and J. Patrick Wright, On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors: John Z. DeLorean’s Look Inside the Automotive Giant (Chicago, IL: Avon Books, 1980).
We also consulted the following period road tests: Griff Borgeson, “Buick’s New Century,” Motor Life April 1954; Jim Lodge, “Road Test: ’56 Buick Special and Century,” Motor Trend June 1956, “Road Test: Buick Century,” Motor Life March 1955; “The 1956 Buick Century,” Motor Life May 1956; and Jim Wright, “A Wildcat from Buick,” Motor Trend August 1962, reprinted in Buick Performance Portfolio 1947-1962, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000); “1964 Buick Wildcat: The Executive Hot Rod — Just the Thing for Tired Blood!” Car Life April 1964; “Buick GS 350,” Road Test June 1970; “Car Life Road Test: California GS,” Car Life June 1967; “Car Life Road Test: Buick GS 400,” Car Life March 1968; “Car Life Road Test: GS 400,” Car Life January 1967; the Cars Staff, “Cars Road Test: Stage 1 GS-400: The Adult Supercar,” Cars July 1969; the Cars Staff, “Cars Road Test: The Electric Banana,” Cars October 1970; Eric Dahlquist, “‘When Better Cars Are Built’…The GS400,” Hot Rod January 1968; “Freeway Flyer: Buick GSX-455 gives performance where once only austere roadability prevailed,” Road Test September 1970; Steve Kelly, “2 Skylark Gran Sports Road Test,” Motor Trend July 1966; Steve Kelly, “Mister Muscle of 1970,” Hot Rod November 1969; Steve Kelley, “Road Test Skylark & GS 400,” Motor Trend April 1967; Steve Kelly, “Stage Left,” Hot Rod February 1972; Bob McVay, “2 Buick Wildcats Road Test,” Motor Trend June 1964; Bob McVay, “Skylark Gran Sport Road Test,” Motor Trend May 1965; Tom McCahill, “McCahill Tests the Buick Wildcat,” Mechanix Illustrated June 1963; “The Feel at the Wheel: A Brace of Buicks: Skylark vs GS 455 Stage 1,” Motorcade March 1970; and Jim Wright, “Buick Skylark Road Test,” Motor Trend December 1963; all of which are reprinted in Buick Riviera 1963-78 Performance Portfolio, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000); “6 Super Cars!” Car and Driver April 1966, and “The American Muscle Car,” Road Test June 1967, reprinted in The Great Classic Muscle Cars Compared (Muscle Portfolio), ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1999); “Car Life Road Test: Buick Skylark & Gran Sport,” Car Life Vol. 13, No. 3 (April 1965), pp. 45–50; John Ethridge, “Ferocious GTO,” Motor Trend Vol. 17, No. 2 (February 1965), pp. 28-32, 52; and “Buick Wildcat,” Car Life Vol. 9, No. 6 (July 1962), pp. 50-53; and Bill Sanders, “Without a Taste of Geritol,” Motor Trend Vol. 22, No. 1 (January 1970), pp. 66-68.
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