Showing posts with label Buick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buick. Show all posts

Buick Gran Sport

Buick Gran Sport 1970s American classic muscle car

The Buick Gran Sport had Pontiac to thank. The latter's GTO was the first muscle car. As such, it saw a big-block V8 fitted in a medium-sized chassis. The result was hard-punching power - at a competitive price. Not surprisingly, then, the GTO sold well. Again, not surprisingly, Pontiac's rivals picked up on the fact. The muscle car era was born.

One of those rivals was Buick. In '65, they took their 'Skylark' car - and mated it with their 401ci 'nailhead' V8. As a consequence, the Skylark's output soared to 325bhp. While the Skylark 'Gran Sport' never played in the same sales league as the GTO, it nonetheless did good business for Buick. In '66, they followed it up with a more powerful Gran Sport. It now kicked out a cool 340bhp. Sales, though, were down on its first year. Attractive as it was, a brand-new Buick did not come cheap! So - in '67 - the 'GS' 400 was launched. A 3-speed auto transmission appeared. As an alternative, Buick offered the budget GS 340. Sales started to climb again.

The Gran Sport's finest hour came in the form of the GS 455. Released in 1970 - complete with a 355ci engine - oomph was nominally upped to 360bhp. However, Buick were almost certainly underestimating it. Road testers swore it felt more like 400bhp. At any rate, it was in 'Stage One Special Package' tune. That comprised a hotter cam, larger valves, and a modified carb. With all that hooked up, the Gran Sport was good for 130mph. Exotic 'GSX' styling options went toe to toe with the performance stats. Spoilers, stripes and supersize tyres made the GS 455 look as well as it went. Sadly, all good things come to an end. As soon as '71, the Gran Sport's best days were behind it. Low-lead gas led to less power. Insurance hikes kicked in, too. One way or another, the muscle car game was up. Like its power-mad siblings from other marques, the GS simply faded away. Times change - and the world moves on. But - like everything else - progress comes at a price. In automotive terms, that meant cars like the Buick Gran Sport. For - despite all their foibles - driving has never been quite the same since!

Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera 1960s American classic car

Its name alone told you all you needed to know about the Buick Riviera. It was a classy automobile! Built at a time when in your face fins and chrome were ubiquitous, the Riviera oozed cool sophistication. Automotive haute couture, so to speak. Spotlessly clean, in design terms, its shape was especially powerful in profile. The Riviera's elegantly-drawn body was along the lines of, say, a Jaguar or Bentley. So European were its looks that it might almost have been described as the Rolls-Royce of American cars! Interior d├ęcor, too, was in the continental style - complete with rounded dashboard dials and floor-mounted gear-shift. Electric windows and power steering came as standard, naturally!

But, the Riviera's charms were more than skin-deep. In highest-spec 7.0-litre guise, its V8 engine produced no less than 365bhp. Top speed was a cool 130mph ... pretty good going for a five-seater saloon car. A two-speed automatic gearbox kept it all on an even keel. Not that the Riviera was perfect, of course. Handling was average - not helped by the live rear axle. And its drum brakes were prone to high-speed fade.

The Riviera, then, was a satisfying blend of American and European. The best of both worlds, Buick hoped. For all its cosmopolitan chic, there was still more than a hint of muscle-bound machismo. Straddling the 'pond', you might say. At the time, it was the bee's knees in transatlantic travel. Indeed, many a Mediterranean tourist would not be seen in anything else. Would they, chéri?