Written by Eric Becker
There’s something undeniably cool about flying under the radar, being the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, and yet sitting behind the wheel of a true scorcher. At the height of the muscle car era, during the late ’60s, performance was being served up by nearly every American automaker. Offerings were often loud and flashy colorful things adorned with “go-fast” stripes.
Little was left to the imagination … except when it wasn’t.
Buick isn’t a nameplate you’d think of when talking about the front lines of performance. It was a division of General Motors more catered to the banker or senior accountant. But the tri-shield was no stranger to performance or the muscle car for that matter, especially in 1970. On offer with No Reserve at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction is Buick’s premiere muscle car, a staid and discreet beast entertained by relentless shove and a raucous V8 engine note. Crossing the block as Lot #707, this 1970 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 truly earns its familial “fast Buick” nickname of “The Banker’s Hot Rod.” The ’70 GS Stage 1 is a true rarity; just 2,465 hardtops were produced in 1970, and only 664 of those came with the 4-speed manual. This is one of them.
Apart from some subtle badging hinting at the under-hood muscle, the Buick was remarkably sedate. Only those “in the know” were aware of the Stage 1’s ability to shrink distances at breakneck pace. Even the contemporary motoring press of the time were stunned by what the engineers at Buick had cooked up. In their January 1970 road test, Motor Trend magazine clocked the Stage 1 at a blisteringly quick 13.38-second quarter-mile time with a trap speed of 106 mph. Stunned by the result, Motor Trend billed the 1970 Buick GS 455 Stage 1 as one of the fastest muscle cars they had ever tested.
Much of that raw pace can be attributed to Buick’s 455ci V8 and the added performance the Stage 1 engine offered, with its larger intake/exhaust valves, a more aggressive camshaft and higher 10.5:1 compression ratio. The hood featured two solenoid operated nostrils that would feed the high-performance Rochester Quadrajet carburetor cool air when the engine was warmed up. The matching-numbers powertrain in this example produces an infamously underrated 360hp and sends 510 ft/lbs of torque through a Muncie M21 close-ratio 4-speed manual transmission and 3.64 posi-traction rear end.
Meticulously restored to concours standards by Thornton Autoworks of Teford, Pennsylvania, this 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 underwent a full frame-off restoration and was awarded Concours Gold at the Buick Nationals in 2010. Beautifully finished in Glacier White over a premium and well-appointed solid black interior, this Stage 1 has a Sonomatic AM/FM radio, as well as power steering and power brake option delete. The Buick rides on factory 15×7-inch five-spoke Rally wheels wrapped in Goodyear Polyglas GT G-60 tires. Sitting on a 112-inch wheelbase, the Stage 1 offers plenty of on road comfort thanks to an independent coil-sprung front suspension and link-type coil-sprung rear suspension, perfectly handling the lumps and bumps of the road. This is a Buick, after all.
When it rolls across the block at the Barrett-Jackson 2020 Fall Auction, just remember: “The Banker’s Hot Rod,” much like the banker, is not to be trifled with.