Friday, March 29, 2013

1973 Century Gran Sport- Late in the Game

The GM Strike of 1970 caused the delay of the new mid size cars for one year, so what was intended to come out for 1972 actually debuted one year later as 1973 models. All of the corporations mid sized cars were affected, so of course Buick was no exception, The 1971 styling continued for 1972, prolonging the availability of the convertible for one more season, until the new cars appeared for 1973. 

 There was a lot new for the '73 Buick intermediates, starting with the name. The Skylark name was retired for '73 and  the time honored Century nameplate returned. A new Regal model was introduced at the top of the line and the Gran Sport became a Century Gran Sport in 1973.

 The new styling was handsome and well received. All body styled featured Colonnade styling including fixed B-pillars and frameless door glass on all models, four doors and wagons included. The Gran Sport had the sportiest of the Century rooflines, a swept back rood with large fixed rear side glass.

Mechanically the car was little changed from the 1971-72 GS. The lowered compression ratios of 1971 had effectively stopped further engine development, so the engines were largely carried over for 1973. Both 350 and 455 V8s were available, as was a 455 Stage 1. The 455 was now rated at 250 HP, and the Stage 1 which developed 270 HP net. This figures are comparable to the net horsepower ratings of the 1972 models.

 Even though the performance era was rapidly drawing to a close, Buick still managed to produced 6,635 of the handsome 1973 Gran Sport. Of that number,  4,930 were equipped with 350 engines, 979 had the 455 and another 728 were Stage 1 455 equipped. The vast majority were produced with automatics, only 365 cars had four speeds in '73- and 92 of those were also Stage 1s. A handsome car that is much desired today and who knows what might have happened if it had reached market at the peak of the performance car era instead of so late in the game.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


INSIDE LOOK: Media get a closer look at the 2014 Buick Regal midsize sedan (front and back), and the 2014 Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan yesterday at a special event on the eve of the New York Auto Show in New York.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Darth Buick- Remembering the Grand National

1984 was an important year for Buick in many ways. Sales were riding high, many new platforms were in the works with the front wheel drive compact Skyhawk and the mid sized Century being well accepted, the Olympic sponsorship they had been nurturing for over two years was to culminate that summer in the Games of Los Angeles, and they were about to introduce an iconic model that would forever change the public's perception of Buick.

By the early 80s, Buick's V-6 engine had become a mainstay across the line. The 3.8 litre version powered the midsize Regal and a slightly larger version was offered in Riviera, Le Sabre and even Electra. A smooth and durable little engine, it developed 125 horsepower in 4.1 litre trim. But hehind the scenes, Buick engineers were hard at work on the 3.8 litre engine, and in 1984 came out with a 3.8 litre turbocharged engine with sequential fuel injection that produced 200 HP. It was available in Regal  and Riviera T-Type coupes and set the stage for one of the most famous Buicks of all time.

The special edition WE2 Grand National package was introduced as a limited edition in the spring of 1984. It came in one color- Black (Code 19) , with a black and grey interior featuring special Lear Siegler buckets seats with leather inserts and Turbo 6 logos. The bumpers and all bright trim were black. There was a front air dam and a black rear spoiler, blacked out wheel opening moldings, black window reveal moldings, black headlamp and taillamp bezels, and even a black standard antenna.

Every piece of trim on the car was black, the only bright being the Grand National fender emblems, the 3.8 SFI Turbo badges on the hood, the header car and edges of the black grille, and the aluminum wheels- and even they featured blacked out paint and black centers. It was Darth Buick, and people went crazy over it. Enthusiast magazines couldn't believe it was a Buick. The era of the modern Buick performance car was here, and it was all powered by Buick's amazing V6 engine, the backbone of the Buick line.

The WE2 was available only on the Regal T-Type (J47) coupe, and the 3.8SFI Turbo and Turbo Hydra Matic Transmission was the only powertrain. Additional options available included Hatch Roof (CC1), Astroroof (CF5),  Cruise Control (K34) , Electronic Touch Control Air Conditioning, (C68- regular C60 Air Conditioning was standard), Rear defogger (C49), Remote Trunk Release (A90), Electronic Instrumentation (U52), Theft Deterrent System (UA6) and Lighted Vanity Mirror (D64). Many of these options, especially Hatch Roof and Astroroof were very popular with buyers.

As was the Grand National itself. All told, 2,000 1984 Grand Nationals were shipped to Buick Dealers and the car was a great image vehicle for Buick- with the V-6 at the very heart of it all. It would continue through the 1987 model year and go on to become the stuff of Buick legend.

Introductory flyer for the 1984 Grand National

Page Two of the Introductory Flyer

Grand National Fender badge

3.8 SFI Turbo says it all

Bad to the Bone


1984 Grand National seats with leather facings

Only 1984 GNs have leather facings

1984-5 Grand national alloy wheels

One important footnote is the introductory commercial- George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone", recently used in the movie Christine, was licensed and adapted to introduce the Grand National. And "Bad to the Bone" became its mantra. Take a look:

Wouldn't you really rather have a B-b-b-b-Buick?

Friday, March 15, 2013

FAST FRIDAY- 1970 Buick GS 455: King of the Hill

It was the best of times, it was the best of times. If the engineers at Buick had any inkling that the performance era was about to come to an abrupt end, there is no evidence of it whatsoever in the 1970 Gran Sports. Instead, it was all good news. Denny Manner's brilliant new 455 big block made it debut, a strong engine featuring 10.5:1 compression, big valves, and developing 350 HP for the base GS 455 and 360 HP in  Stage 1 tune. Both engines developed a whopping 510 lb/ft. or Torque at a relatively low 2800 rpm- Denny liked them to be quick off the line. He was also given to understatement and admitted privately that the 360 HP Stage 1 might have really put out closer to 372, but please don't tell anyone. 

And the news kept getting better. A redesigned body for 1970 with a handsome, square jawed look. A new unique split grille with a large red GS badge. Good looking dual hood scoops that were functional indeed. The 1970 GS 455 personified Buick's "Fast with Class" moniker. 

 Even more good news for those who liked to race- The Stage 2 racing components made available from the factory during the 1969 model year were continued and expanded for 1970 to include Stage 2 heads, as well as cams and lifters, intake manifold, high compression forged pistons, and special hollow rods, were part of the package. Pete Reynolds recalls that our own 1970 GS 455 Stage 2 drag racer was shipped from Flint with the Stage 2 parts boxed in the trunk. 

 And it almost got even better. We've seen the letter from Denny Manner outlining a production race car they intended to offer with a factory built Stage 2 engine and significantly lightened body, designed for track use only. Had the corporation not made the decision in early 1970 mandating low compression engines for 1971, the factory racer very well could have seen the light of day.

 So on almost the same day that the iconic GSX was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show, the Divisions received a letter mandating a corporate decision to reduce compression for the 1971 models. The party we we knew it was over. Of course that rendered any thoughts of factory racers obsolete,  and also left the 1970 GS as the undisputed King of the Hill. Certainly the most powerful Buicks of their time, they have earned an iconic place in Buick history and are highly prized today.

Monday, March 11, 2013

At SXSW, GM beefs up tech support for connected cars

As the pace of in-car technology increases and infotainment systems become more complex, the number of car buyers perplexed by the latest bells and whistles is growing. 
Although automakers have pushed for more dealer training to help buyers understand and operate these systems, there’s still a learning lag -- and unfortunately, most people don’t discover issues until after they’ve purchased the car.

To solve this -- and to reduce buyers remorse and increase brand loyalty -- several automakers have stepped up their game in providing tech support. Luxury brands in particular have started staffing dealerships with special technology experts. 

Last year, Lexus added Vehicle Technology Specialists when it launched the tech-laden GS, and Cadillac did the same when the XTS and its new Cue system went on sale. Stealing a page -- and name -- from Apple, in February BMW said it would add a “genius” at its dealerships to help customers with tech issues.

Last week, GM announced that it would double its tech-support efforts by hiring 25 Connected Customer Specialists assigned to dealerships around the country, bolstering the 25 it added last November. If the customer prefers to call to resolve an issue instead of driving back to the dealership, GM has set up a special rapid-response team at its Infotainment Center in Austin, Texas.

At the recent SXSW Interactive technology conference in Austin, which GM co-sponsored, I got a close-up look at the automaker’s cutting-edge tech-support efforts. At the rear of the sprawling GM Infotainment Center is a small, dimly lit room with a dozen customer-service agents sitting at computer workstations and speaking with car owners through wireless headsets. This is where Tom Kanable, director of tech support at the facility, oversees GM’s remote Geek Squad-like team.

Kanable began by explaining that his team prefers to keep the lights low. “Geeks like working in the dark,” he told MSN Autos, grinning. He also explained that low-level white noise is pumped into the room to help prevent a caller from hearing the conversations of adjacent agents. “It’s not like that coldness you get when you call the cable company,” he said.
The GM tech-support representatives also adopt the lexicon of the caller. “I may call the buttons on a car’s in-dash screen icons,” Kanable said. “My grandmother may call it a doo-dad. When we talk to customers and hear them say, ‘Well, the doo-dad on the screen …’ we stop calling it an icon and start saying doo-dad. This way we start to build rapport with customers so that they can walk us [through the problem] using their terminology.”

To better understand the issues customers are having with connected devices, a table in the center of the room has standalone working models of GM’s current infotainment systems, such as Cadillac Cue and Chevy MyLink. Scattered around these are dozens of the most popular portable devices that car owners might connect to their cars. 

“People call with so many different issues because there are so many different devices available,” Kanable said. “Having the devices on hand allows the team to replicate a problem that customer may be having. We can go and plug in these devices and re-create whatever that situation is.”

Kanable also pointed out that if the team notices that certain issues repeatedly pop up, they can be identified and solved more quickly using a collective approach. Issues that are “trending” are displayed on three large screens on one wall of the room. “The agents can see on the screens when trends start to form,” he said, “and be more alert to identifying them."

Identifying recurring problems as well as listening to customer feedback can also lead product designers to change an infotainment system down the road. “Customers tell us all the time what they want in their vehicles,” Kanable said. “They say, ‘This should really function this way.’ We send those ideas to engineering, marketing and product development. So a large customer-service center then becomes an intimate knowledge base.”

Courtesy of MSN

Friday, March 8, 2013

FAST FRIDAY: Buick GS for 1971

 Compression was down for 1971, lowered by GM corporate mandate to adapt to unleaded fuels, but the fun was not over yet. The GS for 1971 was offered both in GS 350 and GS 455 variants, in coupe and convertible body styles, and the 455 Stage 1 engine option was still offered.

It's not that the reduced compression went unnoticed. Dropping from 10.0:1 to 8.5:1 and detuning to run on regular fuels would affect anyone, Buick engineers included. The 455 saw a horsepower decline from 350 HP gross to 315, and even the mighty Stage 1 fell from 360 to 345. Transmission choices remained the same, but axle ratios did not- the 3.61: 1 was dropped from the options list. 

While the GS was still a very powerful car, the results were inescapable- The GS 455 was about  a second slower ET in the quarter mile. Times were changing already, and soon an oil embargo would replace "What'll she do?" with "What'll she get?" as fuel economy becomes a prime target for engineers. 

But for a couple more years, the Gentleman's Hot Rod, as the GS has become known, will stick around, although sales numbers would trend downward. Only 9,170 Gran Sports left the factory in total for the strike-shortened 1971 model year, which broke down as follows:

GS 350 Coupe- 5,986
GS 455 Coupe- 1,481
GS 455 Stage 1 Coupe- 801

GS 350 Convertible- 656
GS 455 Convertible- 165
GS 455 Stage 1 Convertible - 81

Oh, and of those 81 Stage 1 convertibles, only 9 had a manual transmission. And a total of 124 GSX were produced in 1971. Note that it was a trim option and is already included in the count of 9,180.

It's easy to see that the 1971 Buick GS was rare even when new and very highly prized indeed today.

Please enjoy our gallery of the GS 350 and GS 455 of 1971:  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fast Friday Fun- The 1971 GSX

The GSX is now on the options page for 1971

We've covered the 1970 GSX in detail- how it was a very special model with a limited number of options and only two colors. The GSX continued for 1971 but it was in all now reduced to series of trim options available on any GS coupe, and no longer quite the unique machine it had been in 1970.

The 1971 GSX was announced in this bulletin from Buick Car Distribution
The 1971 GSX option availability was announced by letter from J. T. Sorrell, head of Car Distribution, on Nov. 27, 1970. It listed pricing and specifications for each of the options that had been part of the GSX in 1970 and specified that each order should be submitted as Special Car Order, or SCO. (Letters courtesy of

As per this bulletin, the front and rear spoilers and hood tach were separate options.
It specified that the option would now include the stripes, paint and emblems, and that the rear spoiler, front spoiler, and hood tachometer would now be stand alone options, and would be offered on the coupe only due to the differing shape of the convertible rear fender..

Here are the six colors for 1971
The letter outlines six available colors for 1971- Stratomist Blue, Arctic White, Lime Mist, Platimum Mist, Cortez Gold,. and Bittersweet Mist. The GSX Registry has accounted for 1971 GSXs all of these colors plus Fire Red, Verdemist Green and Black. It is possible that because the GSX was already a SCO order, additional colors may have been permitted, especially if the rear spoiler were deleted from those orders, or some of the cars may have been color changed.

For 1971, power on all the GS models were reduced. The standard 350 now developed 260 hp, the optional 455 produced 315 hp, and even the 455 Stage 1 now developed 345 hp. Compression on all engines was lowered across the board to 8.5 to 1, down from 10.5 to 1 on the standard 455 and 10.5 to 1 on the Stage 1. Clearly the handwriting was on the wall and the performance car as we knew it was on the way out.

A total of 124 GS coupes had the GSX option in 1971, only about a quarter of what were sold in 1970, but it is worth noting that they are still very potent and desired classics, and the 455 Stage 1 was still the most popular engine in 1971, even with the reduced compression.

 Here are all of the approved colors for the 1971 GSX:

Arctic White- Code C

Cortez Gold- Code Q

Lime Mist- Code H

Platinum Mist- Code P

Stratomist Blue- Code B

Bittersweet Mist- Code T
The sun was quickly setting on the GSX but there would still be one more year for the model. GSX was quickly becoming a classic in its own right, a reminder of a time when horsepower was king and the luxury division from Flint was responsible for one of the finest and fastest performance cars ever created.