Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Memories: GNX 443- Pete's GNX

GNX 443 on the showroom floor, 2004

It's an unusual story in the automobile business, instead of the "one that got away" it's the one that came to the party and stayed. Buick Motor Division made the decision to end production of its highly successful Regal Grand National at the end of the 1987 model year. To go out with style, Buick teamed up with ASC to build a run of 500 ultra high performance Grand Nationals, to be called the GNX. It featured a special turbocharger, modified suspension, special wheels and tires, scoops and fender flares, special instrumentation and other special touches. 500 were planned but in total 547 were produced, at a list price about $12,000 higher than a regular Grand National- $29,290. "A Grand National to end all Grand Nationals," said the ad copy.

To say the cars were eagerly anticipated was the understatement of a lifetime. Speculators and enthusiasts alike scrambled to buy them and this created a dilemma for Pete Reynolds. Lots of dealers were cashing in and asking $10,000 above list price, but Pete always had a soft spot for a fast Buick, so when he received notification that Reynolds was getting one, he decided to keep the car himself.

GNX 443 arrived at Reynolds in July of 1987 and was assigned stock number 694. On the tag is handwritten "Pete's GNX." The car was kept covered in the back and seldom driven. After a couple of years, when all of the hoopla had died down, Sales Manager Spence Lyon bought GNX 443 for his own Buick collection, however the car remained on site, brand new and covered. It made appearances in the showroom for Anniversaries and special occasions, and was sometimes seen at Thunderfest in Covina. Otherwise it lived quietly under its specially fitted car cover.

Finally in 2004, after seventeen years at Reynolds and with 180 miles on the odometer, Spence made the decision to finally part with the car. He advertised it and quickly located a buyer who promised to keep the car in immaculate, low mileage condition. GNX 443 was placed once again on the showroom floor awaiting pickup.

And then one afternoon a giant transport truck appeared, and the black Buick rolled out of the showroom for the final time. It paused for pictures with Pete Reynolds and Spence Lyon, posed with the Reynolds overhead sign, and then rolled up to a giant transporter for its cross country journey. The entire dealership waved good bye to our old friend of nearly twenty years.

GNX 443 now resides in a large collection of GNX and other high performance cars on the East Coast. It presently has approximately 900 miles and is kept in climate controlled storage. It still looks like new, however, if anyone encounters the new owner, tell him Spence commented that it's getting too many miles, and ask him take it easy on "Pete's GNX."

Pete Reynolds and GNX 443
Sales Manager Spence Lyon (retired) and GNX 443
GNX 443 rolls out of the showroom for the final time.
GNX 443 pauses by the Reynolds Buick sign.
Tail end of GNX 443
GNX 443 is off to a new life with a GNX Collector
Original 1987 Stock Number noting "Pete's GNX" still in place, 2004.

Monday, November 21, 2011


We're written quite a bit about Irven G. Reynolds, patriarch and founder of Reynolds Buick GMC but we haven't worked Mrs. Reynolds into the conversation thus far. While going through the files we found these wonderful portraits of her on her wedding day, so we thought this would be a good way to introduce her.

Miss Gertrude Ives was born and raised in Wisconsin. She met her future husband while visiting relatives in California. They began a long distance correspondence that became a courtship and then a romance. She married Irven Reynolds on June 27, 1923. They were married for over fifty years and had two children, Patricia and Irven Jr., better known as our own Pete Reynolds.

Gertrude Ives Reynolds was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and citizen, and was very active in civic causes and charities throughout her life. She was the Matriarch of our Reynolds family, and much loved and admired by the people of Covina.

We believe that our success and longevity is due to the values and philisophies instilled in us by our founders. We take pride in our heritage, and we work hard to preserve the values and dreams of our founders, Irven and Gertrude Ives Reynolds.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Reynolds Racers: A red '59 Invicta

This is one that started it all, and the one we know the least about. Pete Reynolds had only been the dealer for about a year, having taken over from his father, Irv Sr., and had developed a friendship with a fellow named Bill Trevor. In many ways Trevor is the key to it all, because in addition to being the Buick instructor at the GM Tech Center in Burbank (itself sparkly new, having been completed in 1955), Trevor was a weekend warrior.

There were dozens of them, car crazy guys who worked a weekday job to support their families but lived at the dragstrip on the weekends. Trevor had his hat handed to him more than once by a white haired driver named Lennie Kennedy that they nicknamed "Pop." He realized that if anyone ever put Pop behind the wheel of a serious ride, that there were races to be won.

So Trevor worked on young Reynolds. "If you want to try it," he told Pete, "I know the just the driver." Pete thought it was a promotional opportunity for the dealership and soon an introduction was arranged. Pete and Pop hit it off pretty well.

The 1959 Buick models came out in late 1958 and looked like nothing anyone had ever seen- longer, lower and wider with enormous Delta-wing fins. They looked like they were moving even when they were standing still. Perhaps that was the final jolt Pete Reynolds needed, because shortly after that he selected a Tampico Red Invicta Coupe with a red and white interior and made a phone call to Pop Kennedy.

And the first race car was a very successful one at that. Called the "winningest Buick of all time", this car accumulated an astonishing 132 trophies in its career before being retired in 1961. On its first run, the Tampico Red finned beauty turned a 15.0 at 90 mph. With milled heads and a 4.44 rear end, the time dropped to 14.70 at 93 mph.

Unfortunately, in those days, the crew were too busy making history to record it. We don't even have pictures of this one, just one grainy photo from a newspaper. And it's an early one- built before they fitted the grille medallion! But what a beautiful car it must have been. On the Reynolds books as a demo, upon retirement it was sold as a used car. We'd love to have this one back!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Memories: Ctrus and Badillo

Reynolds Buick in 1930
Reynolds Buick in 1936
Reynolds Buick in 1960
Our last year in the old showroom- 1963
Reynolds Buick began in a humble manner indeed- Irv Reynolds Sr. received the Buick franchise from C. S. Howard, placed his desk in a rented corner of a garage at Citrus and San Bernardino streets in Covina and thereby began the dealership we know today. It took off slowly, and his own service in the Great War intervened, but the pace of sales picked up in peacetime.

By 1921 the expanding business had outgrown its host, so a new location was needed. Irv partnered with local businessmen Dr. J. D Reed and J. R. Elliott and built the new dealership at the corner of Citrus and Badillo where it would remain for many years. The building showed influences of the Italianate Revival school of architecture that was popular at the time with arched windows and detailed cornices and trim.

The building was completed in 1922 and Reynolds Buick was open for business in its first real home. GMC was added in 1923 and the dealership remained at that location, in basically original but well maintained condition. The signage and awning vary with some seasonality, but the easiest way to identify the date of the photos is by the shiny new Buicks.

Reynolds moved to the current showroom on Citrus in 1964 and leased the building to Narducci Lincoln-Mercury. After they moved out near the freeway as well in the 1970's, the noble old building was replaced with the One Citrus Office Complex which still stands there today.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Memories: Buick Lets the Sun Shine In

The 1970's were a time of rapid change in the automobile industry as well as in society as a whole. Old social norms were giving way, the trend toward ecology was coming on strong, and for the auto industry, we had landed in an era of decreased compression and increased regulation.

Proposed roll-over standards made automakers hesitant to redesign their convertible models at the same time the near universal acceptance of air conditioning caused the demand for convertible models to plummet. Most models of convertible were discontinued in the early 1970's. At the same time, however, people still craved the interaction with sun and stars. The Fifth Dimension sang "Let the Sun Shine In", and Buick looked for a way to do just that.

The 1972 would be the last for the mid-sized Skylark convertible, and Buick introduced a special model at mid-year to help ease the transition. The Sun Coupe was a special option on the Skylark 350 Custom Coupe. It included a forward vinyl roof section, decorative pinstripe, fabric sliding sun roof, and gold "Sun Coupe" identification.  Often seen in youthful colors like Bittersweet, Yellow or Kelly Green, it was a very attractive car. Longtime Reynolds employees recall the Bittersweet and white one with Chrome wheels on our showroom floor.

Unfortunately the Sun Coupe failed to inspire the marketplace and only 3.943 were sold according to Buick records. The folding sunroof was not going to replace the convertible and Buick quickly moved on to the sliding steel sunroof and the "T-Top" removable hatch roof for its sun worshiping buyers. But we still fondly remember the car with the color keyed sliding roof and the gold badges proudly proclaiming itself to be a "Sun Coupe."

Friday, November 4, 2011

FAST on the STREET: The Stage 1 Story

1970 GSX Prototype at the Burbank Training Center. Provided by Dennis Manner whose handwritten notes are on the margin.

Last month we traveled to Michigan and had the opportunity to meet with some very important players in the story of the Buick Gran Sport. We spent an afternoon with Dennis Manner, Powertrain Engineer and father of the big block 400 and 455, as well as the 455 Stage 1 and Stage 2 engines. Dennis gave such a thorough and excellent explanation of the theory and execution of the Stage 1 engine that we decided the only way to do it justice is to print it verbatim. Here, in Denny's own words, is the story of the Stage 1:

"The objective, as we developed the Buick Stage 1 400/455-CID engines, was simply to provide maximum street performance in a vehicle sold from the showroom floor. We allowed no compromise of Buick features- if you wanted air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows or seats, etc, they were available. This was no trick lightweight or stripped-down model, nor were any tinkering changes necessary once you bought it. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it- we optimized the Stage 1 package to move on the street.

Furthermore, we did not compromise the car's street performance so that it would be quicker at the drag strip. For example, a wilder camshaft would have provided more power when running without mufflers at the strip, but it would have reduced power on the street with an exhaust system.

The Buick 455-CID engine was designed to produce high torque durability and power relatively heavy cars, including the Gran Sports, which weigh in excess of 3600 pounds in typical street trim. The Stage 1 was an extension of that philisophy, to enhance the high torque characteristics of the engine, and focus on the automatic transmission for the majority of sales.

Heavy duty cooling and suspension, G-60 tires and Positraction rear axle combinations quickly became part of the package. We retrained the GS cold air induction air cleaner and developed a low-restriction dual exhaust to improve power and provide a pleasant sound while conforming to legal noise restrictions. The power development engine on the dynamometer was equipped with an exhaust system and air cleaner to ensure that our camshaft, carburetor, spark timing, compression ratio and valve sizes were focused toward developing real power on the street. Significant work was done to the camshaft, including the fitment of special valve springs and push rods to ensure clean valve train behavior at 6000 rpm. A higher pressure oil pressure spring was used to ensure adequate flow to the rod bearings at higher rpms.

We selected a 3.42 rear axle ratio on for air conditioning (3.64 for non-air cars) to maximize performance and driving enjoyment with the high-torque engine and G-60 tires. To further enhance street performance, the automatic transmission option was calibrated to allow downshift on demand, all the way back to first gear at speeds below 35 mph. This feature provided exciting acceleration in a rolling situation.

Larger valves with specially machined combustion chambers were developed for the 455-CID Stage 1 engine to improve the air flow characteristics of the larger bore size.

All of this special engineering was targeted toward the basic goal of maximizing total street performance. The axle ratios, camshaft timing, transmission calibration, valve size, exhaust system, fuel and spark all played their part.

It is rewarding to see a classy legend live on! "

-Denny Manner