Monday, June 27, 2011

The Billy Casper Incident- Part 2

You recall that last week we talked about a trip to Las Vegas that veered a little bit off course. Irv Reynolds Sr. was injured while attending the Buick sponsored "Tournament of Champions" PGA event at the Desert Inn. Turns out he was struck by a golf ball driven by none other than Hall of Famer Billy Casper, and we posted the letter he wrote to Mrs. Casper, who had come to his aid.

This week comes a reply letter dated July 12, 1965 from the W. F Harrity Insurance Company of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. In the letter, Mr. Harrity himself kindly apologizes for the injury but, as Insurance companies sometimes are inclined to do, declines any responsibility for the incident and suggested that by attending the Tournament of Champions, Irv assumed the risk of being hurt. Sort of a grown up version of "Go away kid, you're bothering me."

Will Irv indeed go away? Tune in next week for his reaction.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fast Friday: The Rollover

1965 was to the the 50th Anniversary of Reynolds Buick, and to help commemorate, Pete Reynolds decided to order 50 cars in a special gold metallic color to use in a springtime promotion. They would use the special gold cars as demos as well. It was just about that time that Buick announced the mid-year 1965 Gran Sport- a 401 V8 in the light mid size body. Pete ordered a pillared hardtop GS in Tiger Gold with tan interior and white top. The car was logged in to Reynolds' stock book on January 19, 1965 and was soon being prepared for the strip as the latest Reynolds Buick racer.

The same style Switch-pitch converter and two speed transmission were fitted, along with a hotter Mark III cam and lifters, and 11:1 pistons. Hooker headers were also used. The result was a car that turned in a 14.05 at 101 mph (while still in stock tune) and then drive home again from the track. Pete recalled that it was not at all unusual to drive the car to the track on racing slicks, win a few races, and drive home again. He recalls driving the car as far as Bakersfield on the racing slicks. He commented that they would allow extra time for braking, but otherwise didn't give it a second thought.

It was this car that was part of the highly publicized "Buick Sunday" wins at San Fernando Dragway, winning it's B-Stock class with a 14.05. Other victories went to Boulevard Buick in C-Stock with a 1965 GS convertible and Gil Le Barge in D-Stock driving a Reynolds sponsored 1964 Special.

Driving on slicks became an issue on April 3, 1965, when Pete Reynolds took the car over to Hooker Headers in Pomona to negotiate a distributorship from them. On the way back, it had unexpectedly begun to rain and the GS still had its 1965 racing slicks on. It rolled onto its roof as Pete attempted to exit I-10 at Holt Avenue.He recalls a passerby stopping and helping him crawl out of the passenger side window. Except for damage to his shoulder and his pride, Pete took the impact remarkably well. The Gran Sport was less fortunate- the roof was nearly crushed on the passenger side, and a replacement car had to be located. It should be noted that, at the request of Pete's wife Caroline, all further driving duties were delegate to Pop Kennedy.

Watch Pete Reynolds talk about the mishap:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Mailbag: The Billy Casper Incident

Today's letter is the first of a three part series. When you've been under family ownership for over 95 years, some very interesting things show up in the files.

Buick was heavily into golf in the 1960's above and beyond sponsoring their own Buick Open and many of the dealers were fans. Seems Irv. Sr. was a fan of golf and was watching a PGA event at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas one Saturday in the spring of 1965 when he was hit in the head by a golf ball driven by Billy Casper, who was a top tier pro of the day.

Mrs. Casper came to his aid and here he writes her a follow up letter. He advises her that he stayed in bed at the Sahara all day Sunday and was driven home on Monday.

Next week: Her reply.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fast Friday: Passing the torch to a new GS

Interesting bit of news this week comes to us from the Car and Driver Blog. They note that the 2012 Buick Regal GS, previewed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, was a bit understated wh it comes to power. Says C/D:

"At the 2010 Los Angeles auto show, Buick introduced us to the 2012 Regal GS, the upcoming four-door that will be the highest-performance version of the Opel-cum-Buick. We weren’t thrilled that the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine made just 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque; for a car Buick is promoting as a sport sedan, it’s not impressive to be outgunned in horsepower by the higher-output versions of the Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima. That won’t be the case any longer, at least, as official SAE testing now rates the Buick’s engine at 270 hp. (Torque remains at an ample 295 lb-ft. That should be plenty for the G’s front wheels to handle."

270 hp is indeed good news and harkens us back to the last Turbocharged Regal with horsepower in that range- the 1987 GNX. Billed as the "Grand National to end all Grand Nationals", the limited production GNX was rated at 276 hp from its specially prepared 3.8 litre Turbo V6.

Here's a video recapture of the GNX, also from Car and Driver:

Of course we all know Buick tended to underrate power back then, but still its awesome to have Buick back in the game and besides, who says they're still not understating?

The 2012 Regal GS with its standard six speed manual transmission is due in the fall.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Mailbag: Mom's Buick

This week's mailbag came not as a letter, but as a series of photographs from our Facebook fan Mike. Mike sent us family photos of his Mother, Gladys, along with her very first new car. She bought the Buick in the Summer of 1949 in her hometown near Akron, Ohio and drove out west with her mother Theresa. They paused for the winter in New Mexico before driving to Long Beach, where they bought a brand new Pan American trailer home to live in.

The car is a 1950 Buick Special Sedanette, Model 46-S in Cumberland Gray with optional Dynaflow Automatic Transmission. Although it was sold as a 1950, the redesigned Special went on sale in April of 1949. According to our friends at the Buick Club of America, Gladys' Buick had a base price when new of $ 1,856 and is one of 8,124 such models produced. Wouldn't you love to know where it is today?

Friday, June 10, 2011

fast friday: '69 Stage 1 vs '85 T-Type Turbo

This one is a battle of the Titans.

The Big Block Stage 1 High Performance 400 engine was introduced in the 1969 Buick GS400. The brain child of legendary Buick Powertrain engineer Dennis Manner, the
Stage 1 produced 345 hp. It featured a high-lift cam, 11.0:1 compression heads (instead of 10.25:1), a larger carburetor, specific fuel pump, and larger low-restriction exhausts. Like all '69 GS400 models, the hood scoop was actually functional and part of Buick's Cold Air Induction system. Dennis' mantra was "Fast for the Street", so the engine developed huge amounts of low end torque in order to launch away from the stop light.

The T-Type was a child of a different era. Lloyd Reuss developed the V6 as an economical powertrain and put a turbocharger on it in 1978 in order to provide performance more befitting a V-8. Despite pacing the 1976 Indy 500, the Buick V6 wasn't regarded as much of a performance engine until 1984, when a SFI version produced 200 hp. The Grand National was introduced that same year, and the performance hit its peak when the Intercooled version was introduced for 1986-87. Buick released a performance figure of 245 hp, but it is widely known to be understated, and is net hp compared to the gross rating of the '69.

So now our unscientific test- both cars are modified but street legal, so it's really just for fun. Can a little turbo 6 stand up to a 400 Stage 1?

Just remember they don't call it the 'little engine that could" for nothing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

monday mailbag

Here's a charming letter from Irv. Sr to the Buick Zone Manager requesting that paperwork be initiated that will designate his son, Irv. Jr, as his successor on the dealer agreement. Of course, Irv Jr. is better known as our own Pete Reynolds.

It's also interesting to note that the letter was addressed to the Buick Zone office on Wilshire. After many years on Figueroa St, Buick moved into a mid-century modern high rise in 1953, in an area known as Wilshire Center, where many high rises sprouted in the early 1950's. The Ambassador Hotel and the Brown Derby were nearby.

Note also the graphic design of the letterhead, featuring the postwar Buick and GMC logos, a V8 logo in the lower corner, and Buick's famous tagline, "When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them" in a very period typefont.

Friday, June 3, 2011

10,000 miles in 5,000 minutes

It was a great way to get around a sticky PR problem. The Automobile Manufacturers Association had banned factory participation in racing, or advertising race outcomes, back in 1957 as a way of trying to combat street racing. But everyone knew "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" was the mantra of the industry. So manufacturers in the late '50s looked for increasingly clever ways to display the performance potential of their automobiles.

Enter Jerry Rideout, Buick's legendary PR Guru and Dean of the Buick Open. He thought that an extended high speed Buick speed test would get around the ban and testify to the high speed capabilities of the new 1960 Buick automobile. So a pair of red and white Invicta hardtop was ordered and specially prepared.

The Buick team descended on Daytona. They had two "durability" cars, a high speed refueling Invicta (to eliminate fuel stops) and a stable of famous drivers including Marvin Panch, Tiny Lund, Ralph Moody, Larry Flynn, Bobby Johns, Larry Frank, and Fireball Roberts.

After a false start, the event was a success and the Invicta ran 10,000 miles in just under 5,000 minutes- three and a half days basically nonstop at an average speed of 120.186 mph- for 10,000 miles!

After the event, Jerry Rideout was told NOT to promote the event- it was too similar to racing- but he was not easily deterred. he simply "leaked" the story to the Detroit News, Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated and a few others. There was even an 18 minute film prepared by GM Photographic that told the story and highlighted the safety and durability of the 1960 Buick. It is presented here in two parts.

And you can read more about it here.

Sometimes it's better to ask forgiveness.