Friday, September 21, 2012

FAST FRIDAY: For Golden Staters on the GO: California GS

Last time, when we reviewed the 1967 GS brochure, there was still part of the story yet to come. By 1967, the Buick GS was gathering quite a reputation tearing up the dragstrips of Southern California and turning a lot of heads. People were buying them too, but  Buick thought there was additional sales potential in the Gran Sport line. They added the GS-340 nationally for '67, but the car was offered in only two colors and with a rather plain interior.  It wasn't quite what the dealers were looking for, especially in car crazy Southern California.

Enter Mickey Garrett and the California Buick Dealers. They took a two door pillared coupe, added the 340 cubic inch V8 engine, Super Turbine Automatic transmission, ride and handling performance package, deluxe carpeting and interior accents, sport steering wheel, California emissions, chrome plated road wheels, black vinyl top, tinted glass and tinted windshield and voila: The California GS was born, for California dealers only and with a base price of $3,273.00- about a thousand dollars less than a comparable GS-400. They tied it up with the tagline "For Golden Staters on the GO"- and off to market they went.

The California GS was provided to the automotive press of the day to evaluate and promote. Here it is in Car Life magazine article- they called it a "surprising semi-supercar." The car featured the 340 cubic inch engine with 4 barrel carburetor. It produced 260 HP and 365 lbs/ft of torque. It had a 10.25:1 compression ratio and ran on premium fuel.

Unlike the GS-340, the California GS came in a full range of youthful colors. Here is the special California fender script on a Sapphire Blue California GS. There were fifteen colors in the 1967 Buick color palette.

The introductory flyer was basic, but listed all the pertinent special equipment- and who could argue with that $3273 price? The California dealers sold 1,577 of the special pillared coupe that year, and the effort paid off well enough to continue the effort for 1968. Buick Motor Division was impressed enough to roll the model out nationally for 1968.

So what was the California GS really? Besides being a sporty and good looking coupe at an attractive price, it's also an interesting footnote in GS history- it's an pioneering effort by Buick at targeted marketing in car crazy Southern California, and by far it won't be the last time they do it.

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