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1970 BUICK GSX Stage 1- Bill Sales PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 12 April 2012 09:24

1970 BUICK GSX Stage 1- Bill Sales

oneownercollectorcar.com

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Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown, except for advertisement from CAR AND DRIVER which is copyright GM.

A carefully built up refined corporate image slowed Buick's entry into the muscle car waters. The GM pecking order in the 1960s began with Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and then Buick which preceded Cadillac. Loud aggressive cars were completely at odds with the Buick smooth upscale style. When Buick realized that sales were being lost they got into the supercar wars. Buick duplicated the Pontiac Tempest GTO supercar formula of a large engine in an intermediate "A" body with the Buick Special GS. GS was short form for Grand Sport. Despite being a nice car with decent power the GS didn't sell like the GTO. Aside from the image clash of musclecar versus luxury, the Buick was the most expensive of the four GM divisions fielding musclecars. An important factor in the GTO 'musclecar formula' was cost effective speed.

Buick also suffered a perception problem. Performance nuts dismissed the Buick engines, naming them "Nailheads" in reference to the small intake and exhaust valves: not much bigger than nails. Buick engines were known for an idle smooth as glass and tons of torque which can be felt in street driving off the line response. Performance guys only cared about big horsepower numbers which come into play as you near the close of a quarter mile. Torque ratings weren't of interest to them. Ironically, nowadays street rod builders seek out the old 'Nailheads' for their projects.

Even when Buick engineers gave the Buick GS a shot in the arm in 1967 with the new 400 featuring bigger valves and better flow than the old 401 "Nailhead", sales didn't appear. Buick's sedate image vaporized in 1970 when GM lifted the 400 inch ceiling off intermediate cars. Buick was prepared for this move and unleashed a flat out ferocious 455 monster. The icing on the cake was that the Skylark body shell used for the GS model was now sporty looking. The rear wheels were exposed which transformed the lines of the car into a very taut powerful design. This aggressively styled GS plus the Godzilla 455 would have been sufficient to convince most buyers.

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Buick didn't stop at 'sufficient'. They took the GS and created the ultimate musclecar: the GSX. Buick added a body length black stripe bordered with a thin red pinstripe. The stripe wrapped right around the back of the car by blending into a rear spoiler.

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The GSX has a matching black accent colors on the front spoiler and wide black hood stripes enveloping a hood tachometer.

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Sport mirrors and 15 inch 'Magnum 500' type mag wheels cap the all out power statement as well as providing excellent handling. Musclecar tester Joe Oldham of CARS magazine declared that the suspension and tire combination of the GSX made it the best handling USA car, period. Meanwhile MOTOR TREND Jan 1970 pronounced a Stage 1 455 Buick GS the fastest car they had ever tested with its 13.4 second quarter mile run at 105.5 MPH.

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A black bucket/ console interior with a fat sporty steering wheel complemented the blacked out exterior accents. The stunning Buick GSX was packaged in two colors: Saturn Yellow or Apollo White. The GSX could be notched up one step further with the Stage 1 package. To this day Hemi guys and Stage 1 guys fight it out for supremacy on drag strips.

The GSX was introduced Feb 9, 1970 at the Chicago Auto Show. The show car had a much different interior and some exterior details that didn't appear on the production cars, but the essence of the show car was preserved in the production version. The GSX seems to have a huge impact on people when they first see it.

See the story about another Stage 1 Apollo White GSX also owned by someone named Bill. This Bill's all consuming fever to own a GSX from the instant he first laid eyes on one is recounted in the ONE OWNER section.

I remember that I, too was blown away by the GSX the first time I was exposed to it. I can thank a very old lady who died a long time ago for my first glimpse of a GSX. That very old woman was my babysitter. Her adult son had left home long ago and she was all alone. One day she came over with a stack of old magazines. Like all mothers do, she cleared out her son's magazine collection. In a worn copy of CAR AND DRIVER I turned to this ad below and saw my first GSX.

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This car knocked me out. I never saw one in real life back when they were first released which isn't surprising since only 678 of the 1970 model were made between February and June of 1970. A solid 400 of those were Stage 1 equipped.

The 1971 and 1972 versions were available in nine colors which on the one hand made for some beautiful cars but on the other hand diluted the exclusive image established in 1970. These later GSX cars also lacked cohesive identity due to a range of drive train combos starting with a base 350 engine. Various interior combinations further broke down the GSX image. With each successive year, fewer GSXs were purchased; a reflection of the atrophy of the musclecar market. By 1972 only 44 were made and 16 of those cars had a 350 drive train.

The OOCC GSX is from the 1970 batch of cars that share solidarity of a similar identity. Any 1970 GSX packs 455 cubes. The OOCC GSX is at the top of the heap with the Stage 1. It was built at the Flint, Michigan factory and shipped to the Jacobs Twin Buick Inc. car dealership on 6750 Grand Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. See the story of Jacob's Twin in DEALERSHIPS on this website under ILLINOIS/ CHICAGO.

The window sticker for the OOCC GSX has the sequence portion of the VIN removed. The start of the VIN decodes as follows:

4= Buick
46= GS 455 (there was no separate VIN code for the GSX)
37= Two door hardtop
0= 1970 model year
H= Flint, Michigan factory.

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Looking at the window sticker shown above, it becomes apparent why so few people purchased the GSX. The GSX was a scarcity on the street because of the incredible expense of the GSX option: $1,195.87. That was the cost of an economy car in 1970. It was good value if you wanted a unique looking car with performance to back it up. Otherwise it would be wiser to add individual options onto a GS and forget about the dramatic appearance. On the other hand, the Stage 1 engine option has to be the bargain of the century. For a mere $113.75 above the base 455 price you entered Hemi territory.

The OOCC GSX was the first GSX delivered to the Jacobs Twin Buick Inc. dealership on Grand Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. The staff that was normally blase about new cars being unloaded were galvanized into action by the appearance of the GSX, the first one anyone had seen. The brand new OOCC GSX was barely off the trailer before it was laying rubber. The GSX left a lasting impression on a Jacobs Twin mechanic from 1970 who recalls that "every employee had a change to abuse the GSX".

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The photo above shows the number codes written underside of the hood. "3-49-20" meant that mechanic number 49 completed his dealer prep on the car March 20, 1970.

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On April 13, 1970 the GSX was sold to a young 'hippy guy' named R. Novak of 6740 W Diversey, Chicago, Illinois. The description of him as a hippy probably refers only to his long hair and non conformist clothes. The hippy uniform of the day had seeped into mainstream style. It's hard to reconcile the hippy philosophy with the ultimate musclecar. A lot of hippies of the era were eschewing any form of power because of its association with military might and corporate profit mongering. Hippies loved VW bugs and buses and other 'anti-status' vehicles. But the GSX was so wild looking that perhaps a hippy could appreciate it's 'way out' looks!

We know that Mr. Novak had a lot of money to spend. The GSX cost him $4,963.05 which is out of the grasp of most anti- capitalistic hippies! Mr. Novak didn't stop there. He kept spending until he had taken the supremely fast GSX into the ragged edge of drag strip supremacy. Novak loaded the car with racing equipment such as 4.30:1 gears, a cam, Accel ignition, aluminum intake, Holley 650, headers and glass packs. Regular burnouts creating the need for replacement rear tires in 1972. After racing the car for a year he sold it in late 1972 or early 1973.

The second owner of the car, John Linzeni raced the car, too. John sold the car in 1975 with about 27,000 miles on it.

The GSX seemed to be doomed to fall into the typical cycle of two year ownership periods immersed in an unbroken chain of racing. The standard fate of many musclecars is to be used up after a decade. Five or six owners worth of hard use blows the engine or wraps the car around a pole. At the very least they degenerate into tubbed flame painted shells missing interiors and most original equipment. The OOCC GSX caught a lucky break when Bill Sales became the third owner.

Bill Sales drove the GSX about 5,000 miles between 1975 and 1976. He was conscientious about washing off the car regularly, but the road salt in Deerfield, Illinois took its toll. He regrets that winter of driving now, but at the time the rarity and history of the car wasn't as much an issue as it is now. In 1976 Bill had second thoughts about driving the car through another of those awful winters and put the GSX into storage. The unrestored original GSX only had 32,273 miles on it.

Despite such low miles and covered storage a few things conspired to chip away at the GSX. First, its hard past as a racer had put some road scars on the car. Second, the genesis of the steel eating effects of road salt found in Illinois winters kept working away year after year. Three, ironically, the storage space for the car took its toll, too. The storage area was unheated concrete causing the underside of the GSX to become fairly 'crusty' with a layer of rust.

After 24 years on jack-stands, the OOCC GSX was taken out of storage in 2000. Bill appreciates the rarity and history of his GSX and returned it to stock specs with the exception of two hidden performance changes made by the first owner: the 4.30:1 axle and the cam are still in the car. Two holes in the inner fender bear witness to the previous owner's installation of an Accel ignition system. Underhood, radiator, hoses and the master cylinder are original. The battery, alternator and belts have been changed.

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The result is a car that is correct, but a bit rough with original paint and stripes. Below is a detail shot of the stripe as it passes over the driver side rear wheel well. One method used to verify original GSX cars is that there is a slight 'zig zag' in the factory applied stripes at this point. If you look very closely about 2/3rds across you'll see the slight imperfection that confirms this as factory original.

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The chips in the original paint on the passenger side stand out in the shot below, but the GSX is still fairly straight overall.

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Below you can see what appears to be a mark made by a door edge guard chrome strip that has been removed. There were no door edge guards on the car when Bill bought it and they aren't listed as an option on the window sticker. The first owner may have asked for them to be dealer installed.

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The shot below shows another angle of the driver's door. The interior door panel and door pull are in good shape as expected from a low miles car, but the door skins carry heavy rust along the bottom.

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In the photo below, the passenger door rear view mirror has been removed to reveal the "X" on the mirror mount. This is another method used by GSX people to verify the car's authenticity.

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The GSX used heavy duty torsion rods in the trunk to compensate for the extra weight of the rear spoiler. Bill's GSX trunk pops open the way it should. The photo below catches the straight line of factory overspray across the hinge and bracket which indicate that nothing has been tampered with in the trunk. Clone cars often don't switch out the regular torsion bars for the heavy duty ones. The smaller torsion bars prevent the trunk from springing open and remaining open. If the torsion bars are switched, the trunk probably won't open to the precise position it did from the factory.

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Bill's GSX has the original correct WG mag wheels. The WG code 15" wheel differs from the regular 15" Rally wheel because the  WG has 1" offset versus 5/8" for the regular Rally wheel. A simple test is to place a quarter on the flared edge of the rim. The WG offset should be the same width as the quarter. The factory advertised the lug nuts as 'chrome' but they are really a steel core wrapped in stainless steel.

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As seen below, the steering wheel and interior are in good condition and the pedals have minimal wear.

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Bill entered the GSX in the Survivor Car Show, and was certified in the "Limited" class. Although the GSX is an unrestored original collector car and represents the pinnacle of muscle car history, the original surfaces were too severely worn to win a full Survivor award. But what a cool car, and a fascinating piece of racing history. To see an explanation of the judging system used in Survivor Car see the OOCC Corvette story part 3 in the DESTINATIONS section of TRAVEL STORIES on this website.

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 July 2013 22:19 )