Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The perfect blend of luxury and crushing brutality

I was gazing out the front window of my shop when this improbable vision presented itself:
Yowza! This is a 1971 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 GSX 455 in Apollo White with a Red stripe. The name is a mouthful but suffice it to say that each major option added another title to this ride. 
Basically this is a Buick Skylark body (the sibling to the Chevelle, LeMans/GTO, and Cutlass/442). If you really wanted brute power you upgraded to the Gran Sport which came standard in '71 with a 455V8. If somehow that wasn't enough and you were trying for the Most Powerful Muscle Car on the Road you had to throw an astonishing $1,100 on top of the Gran Sport option for the GSX Stage 1 Performance and Handling package. Very few were built and fewer remain but get this: the '71 GSX outperformed the HemiCuda! Blasphemy they say!
That's right. The whopping 360 horsepower and 510 lbs of torque this setup produced helped the GSX outperform both the 454 from Chevy and the mighty 426 Hemi. The 455 block weighed approximately 150 lbs less than the Hemi which made a huge difference. In fact the GSX held the record for highest torque rating of any American performance car for 33 years until the V10 Viper came along. 
Keep in mind that this is a Buick; second only to Cadillac in the GM hierarchy. Unlike the miserly list of delete options the Mopar Hemis sometimes required you could get your Buick fully outfitted in creature comforts. You'll never see a GSX with a factory delete rear seat or heater, and the body parts are all regular steel.
I barked out to this guy "is that a '71 Stage 1?" and he yelled back "yup, with the 455!". Then he proceeded to light up the tires for me as much as he could in heavy traffic.
I love the idea of a Buick walking into the final round at the muscle car table only to drop a royal flush and walk away the victor. The value is plenty strong with auction prices for these getting close to $200,000 for numbers matching examples. However it is still a Buick so fit and finish were excellent and the non-performance parts are widely available. This is the perfect example of a car that can be eviscerated with rust but still worth your while to restore as long as the drivetrain, vin number, and build plate are intact. 

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