Monday, June 25, 2012

In a Gran Manner- Hot Rod and Buick Sunday

This is one of the most interesting vintage articles we've seen yet. Hot Rod tested a new mid year '65 Gran Sport Coupe for their May, 1965 issue and were thoroughly smitten- with its power, its comfort, and even its fuel economy. But it didn't stop there- they describe being at San Fernando raceway with a half dozen Buicks owned by the local Buick dealers- and how they won classes B,C,D,E,F and K. Quite a day indeed.

Who did they find to show them how to set up the Gran Sport and then get the most of it? None other than our own Lennie "Pop" Kennedy. And the car he was driving? Our 1965 Gran Sport Number One- this was before Pete Reynolds' lesson in drag slick rain driving.

It had to have been "Buick Sunday"- Sunday, February 21, 1965, when Buick won every class in which it was entered. Not only did Buick tout the triumph to the press, they went so far as to have General Manager Roland S. Withers send a letter to every Buick dealer in the country talking about Buick's success.

The balance of the text we've taken verbatim for the original article, and the scans are attached for your perusal. It couldn't have praised the new Gran Sport more highly if Pop Kennedy had written it himself. And we're certainly not going to put that past him.

 All the normal driving done with the Gran Sport served to whet our appetite for a couple of shots at the quarter-mile, and just about the time our appointed drag weekend was coming up, a fantastic stroke of luck fell our' way. Various members of the L. A. County Buick Dealers Association had recently begun campaigning a number of Gran Sports at area strips, and when they heard that we were doing a test on one, offered to bring a number of cars to San Fernando Raceway for us to try. The beauty of the whole operation was these rigs were slightly set up for class competition, or about as the average buyer might design for himself. In the end, the "several" cars turned out to be six, ranging from Lennie Kennedy's B/S, which most nearly resembled our test car, to dealer Ted Baker's coupe, sporting a small 225-inch V6.

 Lennie's car was representative of the modifications performed on all the Buicks so we jotted down the information, which really didn't represent much alteration as "stock" classers go these days. The engines had all been disassembled, checked through for factory-recommended clearances, and the deck height of .030-inch attained. While the heads were still off, their combustion chambers were measured out to 123 cc's and a fresh-up valve job applied. The engine was buttoned back up and' a set of Hooker headers leading into 3-inch collectors fitted for improved scavenging. 

All the cars had Positraction rear ends to which 4.30 gears were added, as well as a set of super-bite Casler recaps. The final touch was a set of Delco air' shocks added in the back of Lennie's machine which he declared enable him to jack more weight to the right side for bite on acceleration. And that was it. All the cars had been driven in the 'Fernando front gate and remained entirely docile for street use. Up to that day Lennie's best time was, now get this, a frantic 104.46 mph in 13.42 seconds with headers open. Such performance is truly remarkable.

And that's the way the afternoon went, with the Buicks gobbling up everything in sight, copping B, C, D, E, F and K classes for a spectacular string of successes in a mixed field of sticks and automatics.

 The message from these triumphs and others like them at Southern California tracks is stamped large on the competition scene, for anyone who surveys the situation has to concede that Buick will be the car to beat in the lower classes, wherever they run.

Thinking back over the days we had the Gran Sport, and especially the drag fling, the test was a most happy experience, including the Flint price tag of $3,441.40 ($3,090.40 without air) and the gas mileage which ranged as high as 19. Of the GM Divisions, Buick was the last to introduce a sports model, but as in former days, "When better automobiles are built ... " Need we say more? -HR

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