Need some help from the Buick community

Discussion in 'The Bench' started by 442w30, Mar 8, 2015.

  1. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    Not sure if you remember, but . . .

    But to save you the trouble of clicking on another link, I've been commissioned to write a muscle car book, and I'm having some issues with Buick. As you know, every major American brand from Detroit and Kenosha was involved in the "specialty car scene in the 1960s, but finding a good example of a high-performance promotion that Buick did in that era has been problematic. I have been to the Sloan Museum and spent the day looking through paperwork, but the best I could find was a document that was an appeal to produce the GSX package. At the GM Heritage Center, all I could find was a reprinted article on a Stage II package from 1968.

    Ive also searched through Automotive News issues from 1964-71, but barely any mention of Buicks marketing - I did find a funny car pic with caption, plus some interesting model announcements like the 1967 California GS, but neither of those really exhibit distinctive hi-po marketing.

    To learn more about the book, please visit this page:

    Otherwise, if you seem to know something, someone from Buicks past, or have rare or unusual marketing material, I would love to hear from you. Roberta has given me some pertinent folks to email, as has Tony Rose; Richard Lasseter is going to be kind enough to print an appeal in a future newsletter too. I've also spoken with Dennis Manner, who remembers the era well except that he was more on the engineering side, and this is all about marketing and promotions, so I'm not sure how much help he can be.

    Most of all, I want to make Buick fans happy with the chapter on their favorite car, so if you can help in any way, please shoot me a message - thanks!
  2. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    Hi, folks, proofreading the Buick chapter now.

    I still have not been able to find much marketing material for Buick, so I'm only guessing it's because Buick clearly was not involved in marketing high performance aside of producing the cars themselves.

    So my recourse is to write about Reynolds Buick, which seems to have acted as a skunkworks of sorts. I have found this page:

    ....But it's not quite enough, plus I will need to find photos in which to purchase the rights. I did call the dealership, and Mr. Reynolds referred me to someone who I found on Facebook. However, he seems to either be quite busy or doesn't wish to be engaged in this project - first it was timing, then there was family, and now no response after a message 6 days ago.

    The only other person I can think of that would be a good person to talk to is Jim Bell, but I am not sure how to get in touch with him.

    If anyone has any leads or ideas, I would be very indebted. Some of the V8Buick crowd has been quite helpful but in order for me to be happy with the chapter, I will need your assistance.

    One other thing: If you're sharp on 1968 Stage 1 and 2 items, please shoot me a PM as I've found conflicting information and want to be set straight. I do have Dennis Manner's contact info so I may just do that but jogging someone's memory over the phone is tough.
  3. sixtiesmuscle

    sixtiesmuscle Founders Club Member

  4. Hawken

    Hawken Hawken


    I'm not sure this is going to help much, but here is my .02. I think most Manufacturers in the muscle car era you are researching used two basic approaches to the concepts of "performance" and "image" with respect to specialty performance oriented packages- or, both simultaneously, and these efforts were primarily aimed at increasing sales, of course. In my mind, "performance" is more engineering-based (mechanical) and "image" is more marketing and interior/exterior design-based. Of course, there are clear examples of cars where both were present at very high levels ... like the GTO Judge, '69 Trans Am, SD 455 Trans Ams, the HurstOlds, Challenger T/As, Cuda AARs, etc. But, make no mistake about it, Manufacturers tried both individually as well as mixed the two aspects together. I think of a Camaro or Chevelle COPO for example as leaning far more to the "performance" side without much of the "interior/exterior design" side of image (absent flashy colors, options, paint or emblems, etc.) as well as the early Hemi offerings in the boxy Mopar bodies. Now as far as Buick was concerned, the GSX was an absolute anomaly and ran counter to so much of the perceived market position and conservative nature of the Division and yet was one of the best expressions of both the "performance" and "image" aspects of a specialty muscle car. And, after the pinnacle of the muscle car years, the "image" aspect seemed to become more dominating with the proliferation of flashy paint, stripes/stickers/trim names, etc., while lacking the previous years' performance (along with the effects of emissions & safety regulations, insurance and fuel costs).

    So, what am I trying to say here? Well, Buick was in such a different position than virtually any other Manufacturer. With all do respect to Olds which had a Division marketing approved "Dr. Olds" promotional campaign ... a point that never would have gone over at Buick! Buick was so tuned in to what it was doing and if it produced a muscle car, it was going to do it the Buick way. This meant that while there was some limited racing engineering support (early Stage 2 parts offerings and Racer support), it was largely collateral to regular production engineering efforts and akin to a "skunk works" kind of activity with Engineers devoting their own time to much of the work. Buick had efforts aimed at the more affluent end of the youth market where that market intersected with both performance and image and that is where the mainstay of the GS 340/350 and GS 400/455 models existed. There were more "image" based promotional efforts that Buick tried, but make no mistake about it, it was Buick's way and no other. The "junior" GS models were such an attempt with more "image" focused differences (not performance enhancements) - the GS 340s with the contrasting colors of the faux hood scoops, lower body side stripes and colored steel wheels. The California GS lower cost post coupe models were another (Yes, there were the Colorado GS's, but they were a metro area or sales District-driven Dealer promotion which were actually produced by Buick as viola, California GS's) and intended to give a muscular look at a lower cost. There was the spring '69 promotion of a new GS exclusive "youthful" paint color called Fireglow Orange which was actually Buick's attempt to find a higher impact bright color Buick Designers could live with. Buick did not have any high-impact colors ... no Hugger orange or Daytona yellow. The '72 Skylark SunCoupes (and the few GS SunCoupes) were another good example of how Buick defined it self in the market. Again, the GSX being an anomaly ... as all the stars must have aligned. I think that Buick fans (and I am one for sure) don't all grasp the Herculean effort that certain Buick Engineers like Denny Manner achieved in making the business and engineering (performance, efficiency, etc.) cases to Buick Execs for approval as to why a Stage 1 (let alone a Stage 2) package was a good idea to pursue, because it would be difficult to base the case on a performance Electra 225 or Estate Wagon with a Stage 2 cam. Most people aren't aware that most of the exotic engine studies of the GM Olds and Buick 455's (turbos, various induction set ups and OHC heads, etc.) had their foundations in genuine engineering studies actually analyzing how much more reliable power could be made with these 455 cube engines because when they were designed in the '60s, the prevailing thought was that the full size cars were actually going to grow substantially bigger in the '70s and approach an average size close to 6000 lbs .... and more power would be needed for this increased size. It was a genuine need of the Divisions and, oh by the way, a few Engineers managed to collaterally design some performance heads and other things on the side.

    So, Buick had its own way of approaching the performance and youth markets which was very different from its Sister Divisions at GM and other Manufacturers. My '70 Stage 1 is a good example (thanks Dad for passing it down to me) of the Buick philosophy ... I drive down the road and can keep up with just about any largely factory muscle car I come across .... while enjoying the A/C, power brakes and power steering .... power windows ... power locks, ahhh, power driver seat, cruise control, tilt steering wheel that's the Buick way. Does that make sense?

    I was born when the muscle car era was ending, so these admittedly are from my observations and research about the '60s and '70s.
  5. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

  6. austxsteve

    austxsteve Well-Known Member

    I just ran across this youtube (tv show) video yesterday on the GSX and watched it. [h=1]Muscle Car Of The Week Video #45: 1970 Buick GSX 455 Stage 1 4-Speed[/h]The host talks about marketing and such. Maybe you could track him down as a resource too.
  7. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    With all due respect to Kevin, mentioning "Super Riviera" misses the mark - the Century was the one to mention if talking about 1950s Buick performance. And "Riviera" is only a marketing term for "hardtop" so it's irrelevant.

    Anyway, I have the GSX marketing proposal from the Sloan so I'm good with that. :beer
  8. 69GS400s

    69GS400s own amusement ride!

    I've got some 69 Buick internal marketing stuff .. I'll dig it out this weekend
  9. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    That would be wonderful!

    Just got Doug Jones' ph# so I'll be speaking with him soon.....
  10. Hawken

    Hawken Hawken

    Hey, Diego, one more thing to mention and I am not sure it really translates into your research, but I do think it is close ... at least in explaining how Buick was able to field a competitive big block muscle car back then.

    I remember an article about the Buick Engineers and design of 400/430/455 engines. The article quoted Denny Manner as saying something to the effect of people buy horsepower, but they drive torque. Think about that for a minute because this is a HUGE aspect to why the Buick big blocks are so much more effective than a large number (not all) of competitors. The engine was probably the least exotic of 'em all in full street trim .. it was so much about torque which was almost completely available at a relatively super low RPM. Yes, there was a lot of development work on the 400/430/455 engines about dramatically increasing the breathing - intake and exhaust, but that is an obvious point coming from the limitations inherent in the Nailhead 401/425 engines. Denny was talking about the success of gobs and gobs of useable torque off the line ... in the bread and butter Buick Electras, Le Sabres and Rivieras .... but we all know what happens when the classic muscle car "formula" is followed in putting a "big car" engine into an intermediate sized car ... good times. What Buick's formula did for the big block GS is bring the engineered-in and torque rich design of the new big blocks to the street where in a drag race off the line, the massive torque ended up making up for a lot of other things the GS didn't have like the Chevys, Fords and Mopars had with all the racing parts with GM, Ford or Mopar part numbers, etc.

    So, the torque was so much the secret of the GSs success as any other attribute. But we're not exactly done there. See, the Buick Division really did exist in a place in the market which was so very different than most other Manufacturers .. far, far more like Cadillac than Chevrolet or Pontiac. And, if you go back to the early days of automobiles .. back to the 1920s on through the 1960s, the exclusive Manufacturers in the world of big luxury cars were frankly far more concerned about torque in their powertrains than horsepower. The bragging rights and exclusivity amongst the upper echelon of these manufactures revolved around the most torque rather than horsepower. Us muscle car gear-heads really do not understand that aspect nor how important torque is in these cars. What business was Buick in primarily? Building full size near luxury and luxury cars (back in the day). What type of engine attributes did Buick really try to achieve with its powertrains (reaching back decades)? Torque.

    I'll reference Denny's statement again, people buy horsepower, but they drive torque.

    Oh, one other thing you might also find interesting. I remember reading a really good in-depth research article in one of the high-end collector car magazines about the development of the full-size Buicks for '71. Of interest was the fact that the original design of the Boattail Riviera in the late 60's was a lot smaller than the production car and originally intended to be built on an A-body platform (Skylark/GS). Now that would have been interesting. As I recall, the real issues became cost considerations as the new frames and body development for the '71 full-size line was already done or substantially done and available & all updated where as the A-body cars were still being developed and not set in time for development schedule for the new Riviera.

    - Ken
  11. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

  12. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    To reinforce what Ken said about torque, recall the turbocharging Buick (and Olds) offered in 1963--that was aimed at getting more torque from the 215. I and a friend spoke with Denny firsthand at the Nats a few years ago about the turbo nailhead program--in the early to mid '60s, performance cars were big cars, and apparently the only thing preventing Buick from offering a Wildcat with 700 ft/lbs of torque was transmission failures. (Remember too that Buick's nomenclature for its engines was 'Wildcat xxx' with xxx being its torque). Think about that--while others were selling high strung, solid lifter cars that are cantankerous high rpm bombs, here'd come Buick with a 9:1 Wildcat that was upscale 'fast with class' in luxury trim but still more potent than its tires could handle. And then imagine a lightweight one set up by Pops Kennedy. It might have been like the time in the '80s when a lot of people in Chevies, Fords, and Mopars learned to watch out for 'those black Regals'.
    Good luck with your book--I'm an avid car book reader and look forward to reading yours.
  13. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    ...And it would have only been a matter of time before someone, maybe with Denny's clandestine help, maybe with junkyard parts, built a '65 Skylark GS 'Turbo Super Wildcat 750' post coupe with all the goodies and starting dropping jaws at the strip. Food for thought.
  14. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    You sure Buick offered a turbo motor back then?

    Anyway, here's a good item that I found that should demonstrate marketing chops:

    The story is that several people have found Mercury Cyclone 500s, which was never produced by the factory. One person found a Ford Word bi-weekly company paper with about 150 Cyclones on the track of the 1968 Atlanta 500, but what was this "Cyclone 500?" To add to the confusion, there have been some Cougar 500s found, but they were not represented or mentioned in the Ford publication.


    To add to the confusion, one of the owners of these cars got the Marti Report that showed 60 Cyclone 500s built, which was much different than the 150 or so claimed by Ford. And the build sheet for the Cyclone 500 mentioned Charlotte, not Atlanta. Hmmm....

    So I had seen this mystery online on a website, but when I found the following article in Automotive News, I knew this was a piece of the puzzle:

    Mercury dealer delivery to the track 1968 copy 2.jpg

    Also, through, I was able to find ads for the Cyclone 500, lending credence that it was merely a regional promotion where someone somewhere in the Atlanta district added 500 badges and crossed flags; otherwise, they were regular-production Cyclones.

    I also found ads around Charlotte up to MD touting the Cougar 500 (it already was known these Cougars were from the DC and Atlanta districts) and Cyclone 500, so it was beginning to look like there were two promotions, one in Atlanta for the Cyclone 500 and another in Charlotte (whatever their race is called) with the Cyclone 500 and the Cougar 500.

    Mystery practically solved (with help from some Cougar folks - I can't take the credit)! But why did the Ford publication show 150-odd Cyclone 500s and the Marti Report show 60 Cyclone 500s? A friend at Ford poked around and found the VINs for every one of these "500" cars.

    - Slightly less than 140 Cyclone 500s were at Atlanta
    - 60 (I could be remembering the number wrong, but around 60) Cyclone 500s and 54 Cougar 500s were at Charlotte

    So why does the Marti Report only show the production of Cyclone 500s from Charlotte and not total production for the promotion? Apparently it has to do with a quirk in the system - think of it as a box was checked on the invoice for one race, but not another - so Marti had no idea the full production was not being represented.

    My friend gave me the specs for all the cars, such as how many were white, how many were vermillion, how many came with each engine, tranny, etc.

    Pretty neat, eh? We went from knowing very little to knowing more than we imagined.

    And a nice example of "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday!"
  15. wkillgs

    wkillgs Gold Level Contributor

    There's a nice selection of 65 GS literature over at

    Loren, aka 'Loren at 65GS' would be the guy to contact there.

    I have a collection of '66 GS stuff. Primarily ads, brochures and service info. Also have one of the '65 GS salesman's jackets.
  16. DavidC77

    DavidC77 "Matilda" 1970 Buick GSX

    Try Wild About Cars, they are "The Automotive History Preservation Society (AHPS)", Great Folks there...

    Here's their webpage:


    Here's some Info:

    Who we are
    The Automotive History Preservation Society (AHPS) is a non-profit 501 c3 organization that has been in existence since 2010. We are digitally preserving the written and printed history of the automobile in pictures, period advertisements, brochures, magazine articles, and manufacturer's published materials and other documentation - for YOU.

    What we do
    The AHPS finds printed historical material from auto manufacturers, suppliers, the aftermarket, individuals, automotive publishers, writers, and even artists and designers. Much of this material is not available anywhere else.

    •All material is carefully restored and then digitized. Then we make it accessible and available through our Digital Documents Library.

    • We also compile materials from multiple sources for easy access and reference in our Technical Info Center.

    •AND we write articles using the materials - to give you a picture of the history of the automobile, current activities, and historical events. These are placed in our News and Feature Articles Section.

    You may access these materials by clicking on the buttons below. A limited amount of material is only available to members. This is a small amount of our over 250,000 pages of documentation.

    How you can help!
    As a non-profit 501 c3 organization, the AHPS relies on donations, dues from our members and contributions from sponsors for the working capital to continue our efforts. Contributions go directly into the collection of materials and the operation of the website. You can also volunteer to help! E-mail us at

    Hope that helps...
  17. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I'm pretty familiar with WAC. There isn't so much marketing-oriented but there's some.

    Honestly, for those of you with a lot of time, you should go to the local library (at least if you live near a major city) and check out Automotive News on microfilm. I think you'd be surprised on the things you'd find there....

    IMG_6778 copy 2.jpg
  18. 442w30

    442w30 Well-Known Member

    That site has more items than I've seen even by visiting the Sloan. Some neat stuff. :beer:
  19. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    Oops. Now that you've questioned it I think the turbo 215 was Olds only. I'm curious now how much of the r&d work was done by Olds. Maybe you'll tell us in the book.
    Thanks, Patrick
  20. Hawken

    Hawken Hawken

    Here is a cover of Hot Rod with a picture of the Nailhead V8 fitted with a turbo which was a holdover from the mid-'60s engine programs - it was very close to being considered for production, but it kept breaking TH400's &/or rear axles .... that tells you it was actively being tested in production platforms. In the picture, that's the turbo Nailhead (401 or 425) in the front right and a Stage 2 development engine in the front left.

    The Turbo Buicks of the 80's (Grand Nationals and T-Types ... "T" for turbo) were results from the prior years R&D with turbos and V-6s as a solution to the constraints of emissions regulations. Remember that Buick was the first US Manufacturer to stop producing V-8s after 1977. Buick re-visited the turbos then based on its prior research in the '60s with turbos.

    Diego, I have this article at home in storage if you need it. I think you can also print it from the web as well. The Buick 455 OHC Cammer in the back right reminds you a lot of the Olds 455 OHC 4Valve 4 Cam, doesn't it? These Olds and Buick experimental engines were wild and made unbelievable power. These engines provide a glimpse of what could have been if the EPA emission regulations could have held off for a little longer ...

    P.S. I do recall the small (215 CID???) aluminum turbo V8 offered in the early '60s Skylarks was really an Olds designed set up, I believe. Olds had a lot of engineering into that drivetrain for their F85 Cutlass and I think Buick got to use it as well ... maybe a blend of Buick's aluminum V8 and Olds turbo induction.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015

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