Timeline of the Buick GS: Buick’s Muscle Cars (Part 2)
In last week's issue, we ran part 1 of this story, profiling Buick's Muscle cars through 1969. This week we conclude our story beginning in 1970.
1970: The greatest Buick GS ever
For 1970, Buick released what was known as the greatest GS ever. Perhaps it was the amazing, powerful 455-cubic-inch engine. In recent models, Buick had a corporate ban on engines that were larger than 400 cubic inches for its intermediate-sized models. But this year the ban was lifted, making possible the flexibility Buick was looking for - and its customers.
This powerful engine had bigger valves, a hotter cam and more displacement when compared with the previous 400 engine. It also had the standard cold air induction with functional hood scoops. Horsepower was rated at 350 with 510 lb-foot of torque. Now that's stump-pulling power. It had the highest torque rating of all production engines with the exception of the Cadillac 472 and 500 V-8 engines. To top off the year, the Stage 1 package offered bigger valves, a hotter cam and a newly revised carburetor. Though Buick stated the horsepower rating at 360, many testers believed it had around 400 horsepower.
Buick really went all out when they offered a GSX appearance package. It was available only in Apollo White or Saturn Yellow, and had spoilers at the front and rear. Its big tires, unusual body stripes and hood tach really made it stand out. It also had a heavy duty suspension. It was the ultimate "muscle car" for Buick.
Also that year, the California GS was not available, but the GS 350 was with increased power to 315 horsepower. Production numbers were back up again at: 9,948 GS two-door hardtops, 8,732 GS 455 two-door hardtops and 1,416 GS 455 convertibles.
1971: Dropping the power for better fuel economy
By 1971, the muscle car era was coming to an end due to government pressures over fuel economy and cleaner air. Insurance premiums increased, and so did gas prices. GM decided it best to run all engines on low-lead gas, dropping the compression ratios and power ratings. The 350 engine was down by 55 horsepower at 260. Stage 1 engines were down by 156 horsepower at 345.
The GSX package was also available that year in a broad range of colors, including black and red. Production numbers for the GS two-door hardtops were 8,268 and for the GS convertibles, 902.
1972: Skylark-based GS phases out
With continued pressures about fuel economy, the Skylark-based GS would see its final year in 1972. Horsepower was dropped even more, with the standard GS 350 being dropped to 195 horsepower and the 455 Stage 1 being dropped to 270 horsepower.
A change was made to the air induction piece on the GSX models, with it now having one triangular and one square piece instead of the previous two square pieces. Production numbers that year were 7,723 GS two-door hardtops and 852 GS convertibles.
1973: GS option on the Century Coupe
Though the Skylark-based GS models were dropped, the GS banner was still offered on Buick Century coupes with the 112-inch wheelbase. These had discreet decals, fat wheels, a manual transmission option (the only one in the Buick line that year), and blacked-out headlamp surrounds and grille.
The engine options went from a 350 V-8 with 150 horsepower to a 455 V-8 option with 225 horsepower. The powerful 455 was available on any of the Century coupes. However, a 455 Stage 1 with 270 horsepower was available only on the GS-labeled Century. This special engine had carburetion, camshaft and air cleaners. It also had a standard Posi-Traction limited slip rear end. There were very few cars that could beat a Stage 1 that year. This proves that performance had fallen tremendously for all car makes - not just Buick. There were 728 of the Stage 1 models sold that year.
1974: GS moved to Apollo platform
In 1974, the GS name was used on the Apollo platform, and its powerful 455 V-8 engine was dropped. A GSX package was available with a Rallye steering wheel, power front disc brakes, sport mirrors, unique side molding and a trendy stripe package. It also came with styled wheels and special suspension. The available engines were the two-barrel 350 V-8 with 165 horsepower and the four-barrel version with 175 horsepower. There were 1,562 GSX models produced that year.
1975: GS on Century again
The GS name was placed back on the Century platform in 1975. It was basically a shell of the former glory it had enjoyed in the past. The production of real Buick GS models had ended in 1972. The next go around with turbo-charged models would start during the 1980s. For almost a decade, the Buick GS models proved to be powerful at times, and very attractive to a niche of consumers in the auto market. Hot rodders today still enjoy seeing these cars and engines from the past as they reminisce of those well-remembered "muscle car" days.