1970 Buick GSX Stage 1

1970 Buick GSX Stage 1

Buick was shooting for the stars in 1970 with their limited edition GSX. With 510 lb-ft of torque, the Stage 1 tune of the monstrous 455 V-8 lays claim to the highest ever for a classic muscle car.

Apparently, the brass at the #2 division of General Motors knew what they were doing when they limited the colors of this special edition muscle Buick to Apollo

White and Saturn Yellow.

Apollo was an Olympian god in both Greek and Roman mythology. Saturn, of course, is one of the planets in our solar system, as well as a Roman god. When Car Review magazine first published their “50 Fastest Muscle Cars” list in 1984, it surprised Mopar fans with its #3 ranking of the GSX with Stage 1 455. Just two other classics were faster down the quarter mile.

All Hail The King Of Muscle Car Torque (cont)

Number one was the lightweight and infamous 427 Cobra, of extremely limited production and just barely a street legal production car. Number two was another two-seat sports car, the 1966 Corvette with a 425hp 427. Buick, with a 13.38 @ 105.5 mph, proved faster than any other mid-sized or pony car from the 1960s/1970s. Road testers clipped off these times on street tires.

Buick GSX

Buick fans had known all along how fast their muscle Buicks were. Luxury, however, had been Buick’s calling card for decades. The nail head V-8s of the 1950s and early 1960s were known for their small valves and decent fuel economy. When muscle cars became popular with Pontiac’s GTO in 1964, soon Buick, same as Pontiac, fitted their own mid-sized Skylark with high output big blocks. Oldsmobile had their 4-4-2, Pontiac had their GTO, Chevrolet had their SS, while Buick had their GS, short for Grand Sport. The ultimate Buick came at the end of the decade with the 1970 GSX Stage 1 455.

Today, muscle car enthusiasts worldwide recognize how fast those Buick GSX muscle cars were and remain today. The main trouble is, production for 1970 totaled a miniscule 678 units, divided between 491 in Saturn Yellow and 187 in Apollo White.

Ray Witt of Dumas, Texas has owned three of the GSX super cars. Although he appreciates all muscle cars, Buicks are his favorites. He has done 16 muscle car restorations, including a 1970 Pontiac Trans Am, a 1969 Opal GT, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster “woodie” station wagon, three GSX Stage 1s, and the rest Buick GS models.

A used car dealer today, Ray sold out his Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick dealership 13 years ago. He claims to have been “raised on Buicks.” Like most Buick owners I have met, Ray is very opinionated on the GS and GSX models. When I mentioned that Buick made the GSX in 1971 and 1972, Ray made sure I realized the 1970 was the “only true, full package.”

The 1970 GSX is one of those special cars that come along once in a long, long time. The second year saw dilution. Ray says, “In 1971 or 1972 you could order any piece of the package you wanted, such as stripes.”

All Hail The King Of Muscle Car Torque (cont)

Buick GSX

Basically, the 1971 and 1972 GSX suffered from decreased horsepower and torque figures and, overall, the GSX was a trim package.

For 1970, the GSX was the full meal deal. The one caveat to single-mindedness was the choice to two different engines. The base engine was the standard 455. There just wasn’t anything very standard about a big block with 510 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, the base 455 matched the 455 Stage 1 in torque. Horsepower differed by a slim margin of 10 – 350 versus 360. Aficionados of the GSX are quick to point out the true horsepower easily topped 400 for both the base 455 and the Stage 1.

What did the Stage 1 bring to the table? First was the name itself. Stage 1 was an obvious reference to

drag racing, where diggers denoted an increase in power in “stages.” Buick wisely applied the name to their GSX. No doubt the 455 was right at home on the strip.

Ray explains, “The compression was the same and the block and heads were identical except they cut the valves larger. The Stage 1 has a different curved distributor, a different camshaft and different jets in the Rochester carburetor.”

According to Ray, the jetting in the four-barrel carburetor was the same from the standard 455 to the Stage 1 455 when backed by a 4-speed manual transmission.

As might be expected, Buick GSX buyers chose the automatic over the manual, with sales figures of 479 to 199. Ray’s GSX has the 4-speed. Since Apollo White production

All Hail The King Of Muscle Car Torque (cont)

numbers are 187 compared to 491 for Saturn Yellow, his car is very rare with this color and transmission option.

Ray came by this car by default. He’s been in the Buick hobby for decades and regularly attends national shows. In the late 1980s, he built a Buick station wagon into a tow rig made to resemble a GSX. In 1990, he towed his Buick racecar to the Buick Nationals with the GSX station wagon. The novelty of the wagon attracted major attention. One of the Buick faithful was so enamored with the wagon, he was still thinking about the vehicle a year later.

“He called me up and asked if I still had that GSX wagon. I said yes. I used it for a daily driver.”

Ray Witt was amazed when he heard the offer. The man had just bought a 1970 GSX Stage 1, an Apollo White car. He had another GSX that needed “touch-up work.” Ray was a Buick dealer at the time and had gained a reputation for restoring and detailing Buicks to world-class standards. The deal was too good almost for Ray to believe or to pass up. The man would trade the 58,000-mile GSX he had just purchased in exchange for the novel GSX station wagon and the touch-up work on the other GSX. He shipped both “X’s” to Ray in Dumas, Texas.

Meanwhile, Ray traded the man his GSX station wagon. The deal was done.

Buick GSX

Ray laughs today at his great deal, but explains the pricing and valuation of the cars was quite a bit different in 1991. The deal was fairly equitable then, but the rarity factor today would definitely dictate a different trade.

The GSX had 58,000 miles and was complete. The one fault was rust on the passenger side front floor pan. The air conditioner had dripped condensate into the cab and initiated rust.

Ray’s forte is restoration. He explains, “I love to restore.”

Starting with such an original, Ray built a masterpiece. At the 2009 GSX Reunion in Ohio, out of 27 show cars in concourse judging, Ray had the highest score – 396 out of a possible 400. The closest GSX to him was “three or four points” behind.

All Hail The King Of Muscle Car Torque (cont)

In total, the Reunion had an astounding 97 GSX cars there, or almost one out of every six cars built.

When Ray took the body off the frame, he found an incredibly original GSX. Matching numbers could be the theme of this build. The heads, intake, carburetor, distributor, alternator, starter, even the air conditioning compressor matched, number-wise and in date codes. Starting with such a good car made the restoration much simpler.

Ray says, “I mean, all I did was send parts off, have them rebuilt, and whatnot. The only thing I tracked down was some original A/C hoses with the right date codes.”

Air-conditioning hoses on what one source lists as the hottest mid-sized muscle car ever seems quite odd, as A/C is a power-robbing accessory.

Ray is being overly modest with his assessment of the difficulty of the restoration. He takes his time and does restorations the OEM way. He plated the bolts, for example, to factory. Ray restored this car inch by inch. The 396 points out of 400 attest to his high standards.

1970 Buick GSX Gallery