BUICK SKYLARK GS BACKGROUND
Like virtually everyone else in the industry, Buick was caught flat-footed by the runaway success of the Mustang in 1964, which kicked off the Pony Car Craze. Buick didn’t have a pony car or anything approaching it. But at the same time in 1964, another craze was starting, the Muscle Car Craze, and those were built out of existing midsize cars. It took Buick until ’65 to stuff a big engine into their own midsize to create a Buick Muscle Car. That car was the Skylark Grand Sport or GS for short.
BUILDING THE BUICK SKYLARK GS
The Skylark already came with a 300ci V8, so the biggest engine GM would allow was ordered for GS duty, the 400 V8 (which was actually a 401, but called a 400 to get around GMs rules at the time disallowing anything larger than 400ci in a midsize car (with the exception of the Corvette. This older generation 400 was known as a “Nailhead V8” and was rated at 325hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. Never a huge seller on the scale of the Chevelle SS or the GTO it nevertheless provided Buick with some welcome added volume (about 15,000 units per year) and a way to bring younger buyers into Buick showrooms, a place traditionally reserved for old men smoking a pipe.
BUICK SKYLARK GS NAME GAME
The names changed over the years. It started out in ’65 as the Skylark Grand Sport. By ’67, they had shortened it to GS and put the engine size after it, hence the GS 340 and GS 350. For ’68 and ’69, they also offered the GS400 in both hardtop and convertible form. At the peak of the muscle car rage, 1970, the pushed the displacement up still further with the GS455. By 1973, they had dropped the GS moniker and were back to calling it Grand Sport.
BUICK SKYLARK GS STAGE 1
Buick defined their role in the Muscle Car fray as a more mature, more luxurious muscle car than most. There was a definite niche there, but it was only so big. Most people only cared about performance and looks. And the Buick Grand Sport wasn’t up to the levels of performance offered by Chevrolet and Pontiac, or soon Mopar. They stepped up their game in 1969 with the Stage 1 performance option, which bumped the 400’s power to 340hp. Less than 1500 were sold. The 455 made 350hp stock and a ground-shaking 510 lb-ft of torque. The Stage 1 option brought this up to 360hp, using a wilder cam and better-flowing heads with higher compression. There was also an ultra-rare dealer-installed Stage 2 option which included a cam, headers, intake manifold, high compression forged pistons and lightweight pushrods.