By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (2024)

Muscle car fans have always been obsessed with numbers. Big numbers always impress—cubic inches, horsepower. But frequently, smaller numbers are better. Zero-to-60 sprints? Quarter-mile elapsed times? The smaller the number, the quicker the run, and the bigger the smile on your face. Half a century later, it's as much about production numbers—how many were made, and how many have survived 50-plus years. If nothing else, it helps justify the amount of money you've spent—a number that, all too frequently, is not small.

There are sane limits to this line of reasoning, of course. Get deep enough into the options list, and nearly any muscle machine could be a one-of-one. "You mean it's green with a blue deluxe interior, radio delete, and crank windows only on the driver's side, built on the third shift at the factory in Wyoming? It's a one-of-one!" When you're talking serious production numbers, generally it's a question of the number of engine and transmission combinations installed in a given body and chassis. Occasionally, paint color will come into it, usually if the colors are limited or exclusive to that model, or otherwise a highlight of the marque's marketing (marqueting?).

By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (1) INTERIOR: Bucket seats, consolette (when ordered with the Muncie M21 four-speed), sport steering wheel, and full gauges (minus a tachometer, which was hood-mounted) greeted the GSX driver in 1970.

And so we arrive at the 1970 Buick GSX. Understand, no GSX is a common machine. It was positioned as a gentleman's express, a top-of-the-line muscle car from the upper echelons of the A-body's reach within GM's food chain. Buick built just 678 GSX specials for the 1970 model year, all of them two-door hardtop coupes—a number low enough that back in the day it gave off a whiff of failure, particularly against Buick sales estimates of nearly double that amount. Yesterday's slow seller becomes today's niche collectible, however, and so the Buick GSX is seen by many as the ultimate example of the breed. It helped that Buick's Stage 1 engine carried the period's highest torque rating, boasting 510 lb-ft.

All of the 1970 GSXs were built in a three-month stretch, between March 2 and May 15, an abbreviated production window that may have contributed to the model's scarcity. It was largely an appearance package: choice of two colors, a black chin spoiler (included with the car but installed at the dealership), a rear spoiler atop the decklid (that required its own unique trunk tensioner bars to accommodate its weight), a hood tach, and black stripes on the body sides and hood. Racing-type mirrors and headlamp bezels were color-keyed to the body, and a special thick-rimmed version of the sport steering wheel topped the column.By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (2)

And that was the bulk of the exclusive pieces that made a GSX. The rest of what was included was either already part of the GS 455, or was on Buick's order sheet. Full gauges, a consolette for four-speed-equipped examples, and black bucket seats festooned the interior. The 112-inch wheelbase chassis was given a set of 3.42 gears with Positive Traction in the axle, heavy-duty cooling, power front disc brakes, and the F41 Rallye Ride Control Package. This was comprised of heavy-duty Delco Pliacell shocks (with 1-inch-diameter pistons) and springs (450-pound-rated front, 144-pound-rated rear), a 1-inch-diameter front anti-roll bar, and a .875-inch rear anti-roll bar. A set of G60-15 Wide Oval white-letter tires rode on chromed 15 x 7-inch Buick wheels to complete the GSX package.

But even within the rarefied air of GSX production, there are common ones and there are the harder-to-find models. With only the one body style, the GSX offered a minimum of color and power train combinations. Just eight, really: four powertrain combinations (base 455/four-speed, base 455/auto, Stage 1/four-speed, Stage 1/auto) and two colors.

Some assume that, because of the GSX's high-performance image, Buick would automatically include the Stage 1 in the package. This is incorrect: The base GSX engine was the same 350-hp 455-cu.in. V-8 that was available in the standard GS. That said, the majority of GSXs were Stage-equipped: 400 of the 678, to be specific. This means only 278 of them were base 350-horse versions. Automatic transmissions (479 GSXs so equipped) topped Muncie M21 four-speeds (199 total); Buick dispensed with the three-speed manual altogether for the GSX and went straight for the M21 as its base transmission.By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (3)

Those numbers can be broken down further. Of the 278 350-horse GSXs, 199 were automatics, and 79 were four-speed equipped; of the 400 Stage 1 monsters, 280 were automatic-equipped, and 120 packed a four-speed. If you think like us, you'd probably wonder why someone would order their muscle car with a sporting four-speed manual and not toss in a little extra for the Stage 1 option, particularly since Buick's hottest offering was known to be easy to live with. But 79 people felt otherwise, and the non- Stage four-speed wound up being the least-popular powertrain combination.

Only two colors were available on the GSX: exclusive color Saturn Yellow, with 398 built; and Apollo White (the same shade as Glacier White offered elsewhere in the Buick lineup that year, just renamed), with 280 built. Yellow is certainly the color more closely associated with the GSX, as it was used in period advertising.

So, if white is the less common GSX color, the four-speed was selected less often than the automatic, and most GSX orders had the optional Stage 1 checked off, an Apollo White GSX 350-hp four-speed would be the rarest of GSX combinations, right?

By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (4) ENGINE: Buick's new 455, finally unleashed in the midsized A-body chassis for 1970, looks perfectly at home. Cold-air scoops help the base engine churn our 350 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque.

After a dozen-year search for the car he calls his "Holy Grail" of Buick GSXs (see Owner's View sidebar), this example now belongs to Steve Fusci of Santa Rosa Valley, California. It's the 103rd GSX produced, with an April 20, 1970, invoice date, and was delivered to Kohler Buick in Burlington, New Jersey, when new. It was a "demo car," which could mean anything from it being ordered to sit on the showroom floor as some eye-candy while dad signed the papers for an Electra, to someone at the dealer ordering it to run down the quarter-mile at ATCO Raceway on the weekends with the dealer's name emblazoned down the side, to the dealer owner's favorite nephew getting to bump around south Jersey in a GSX for six months. Nobody knows this part of the car's story for sure.

For a demo car, it wasn't absurdly optioned: Atop a base $3,283 GS, and the $1,195.87 GSX package, the dealer also ordered quick-ratio power steering, a Sonomatic radio, and "carpet saver" floormats. Including the $99 transport fee, you're looking at a tank of gas shy of $4,800 out the door—not inconsiderable money for 1970.By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (5)

After delivery, the first correspondence we can trace was from Daniel Kreiser, of Yardley, Pennsylvania, who was seeking hop-up tips from the regional Buick office in the summer of 1972 (they sent him a list of Stage 2 part numbers!). By 1996, an East Coast-based independent appraiser judged that this GSX was worth six figures. Nearly two decades later, it was having paint and bodywork done by Ken Maisano of MASCAR, a restoration shop in Costa Mesa, California. After Maisano finished the body, he was looking to shift it to a new home via an online auction site. Steve, ever on the hunt, found it.

"It was about 80 percent done—not restored completely, but the body and paint were done, and the engine was rebuilt. It still needed an engine and engine bay and trunk detail, and I wanted to pull the aftermarket sound deadener out. It had a Protect-O-Plate, but no build sheet. It was already bid to $45,000 when I went to look at it, so I went down to see it in person. I asked Ken what he needed on it. He gave me the number—and that number was a lot lower than what this GSX was worth."

And now we enter a negotiation out of Bizarro World. On one side was Ken, a seller who was dead-set on a price and insisted he knew the value of what he's selling. On the other side was Steve, a potential buyer who (in his delicate, Andrew-Dice-Clay-inflected way) was trying to suggest that Ken's sale number was too low, offering that he was perfectly willing to go higher. When does this ever happen?By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (6)

It got weirder. Ken would not hear about a dime more than his asking price, the dialog going something like this:

Steve: "I want to give you more money than you're asking."

Ken: "No!"

Steve: "What's wrong with you?"

It actually devolved to name calling, with barbs that were as hilarious as they are unprintable. This activity was not without a degree of risk.By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (7)

"Ken had a bodyguard that looked like a Viking," Steve recalled. "For a while there, I thought he was gonna bust me up." But the seller wouldn't budge from his number—a number that was roughly two-thirds of the long-ago-appraised value.

Steve got one more surprise. "Finally, he says to me, 'You really want this car?' I said that I did. Then Ken says, 'Do you know how many people called me and lied to me about the value of this car? How many of these people painted themselves as experts on the phone? You're the only one who was honest with me. I hate liars.' He shook my hand, pulled me in, and told me we had a deal." Steve arrived the next day with the entirety of the asking price in hand—and a week later he sent a pallet of car-care products from his company as a thank-you.

Proving once again that sometimes, when it comes to muscle cars, smaller numbers can often be the ones to pay attention to.

By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (8)OWNER'S VIEW

Back in 1970, I rode in a four-speed Buick GS. It took the good looks off my face when my buddy floored it; I never recovered. I'd been looking for a four-speed GSX for about a dozen years—I already owned a yellow automatic GSX. I was surprised to find a white non-Stage four-speed— the Holy Grail of GSXs. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one was an 8. I removed some sound deadener, repainted the floorpans, restored the trunk, took care of the engine and engine bay, and installed a new interior from Legendary. It really pays to have someone who knows these cars to come with you and check out any potential purchase. Don't be lazy! Do it! I spent my kids' inheritance on my dream car; for anyone who wants a muscle car, all I can advise is to be a good custodian, and don't be a tightwad. Fix it and restore it correctly! —Steve Fusci

SPECIFICATIONS

1970 BUICK GSX

PRICE

Base price .....................................................................................................................$3,283

Options on car profiled............GSX package ($1,195); fast variable ratio power steering ($121.12); Sonomatic radio ($69.51); Carpet Savers and handy mats ($14.54)

ENGINE

Type ................................... Buick tall-deck OHV V-8; cast-iron block and cylinder heads

Displacement ...................................................................................................... 455.7-cu.in.

Bore x stroke .................................................................................................4.3125 x 3.90 in

Compression ratio ..........................................................................................................10.0:1

Horsepower @ rpm ........................................................................................... 350 @ 4,600

Torque @ rpm ............................................................................................. 510 lb-f. @ 2,800

Valvetrain ............................................. Hydraulic-lifter camshaft (0.3891/0.4602-in lift, intake/exhaust; 290/322 degrees duration), shaft-type rocker arms, 2.00/1.625-in valves, intake/exhaust

Main bearings ...................................................................................................................Five

Fuel system ......................................Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel, mechanical pump

Ignition system ..................................................................................................................12-V

Exhaust system................................. Dual, cast-iron manifolds; low-restriction mufflers

TRANSMISSION

Type ..................................................GM Muncie M21 four-speed manual, all syncromesh

Ratios ..........................1st/2.20:1 … 2nd/1.64:1 … 3rd/1.28:1 … 4th/1.00:1 … Reverse/2.27:1

DIFFERENTIAL

Type ..................................................................GM "B-O-P" 8.2-in, limited-slip differential

Ratio ................................................................................................................................ 3.42:1

STEERING

Type .............................................................................. Recirculating ball nut; power assist

Ratio .......................................................................................... Variable, 17.0:1-13.6:1 overall

Turns, lock-to-lock .............................................................................................................3.4

Turning circle ................................................................................................................39.9 ft.

BRAKES

Type ..............................................................................Hydraulic dual-circuit; power assist

Front .............................................................................................................. 11-in vented disc

Rear ..................................................................................................9.5 x 2.0-in finned drum

SUSPENSION

Front ..............................................................Independent; upper and lower control arms, coil springs, ball joints, 1-inch anti-roll bar, hydraulic shocks

Rear ................................................ Live axle; coil springs, upper and lower control arms, 0.875-in linkless anti-roll bar, hydraulic shocks

WHEELS & TIRES

Wheels .....................Buick Road Wheels: chrome-plated styled stamped-steel, five-lug

Front/Rear: 15 x 7 in

Tires ...................................................................... Goodyear white-letter fiberglass belted

Front/Rear: G60-15

PRODUCTION

Buick produced 678 GSXs for 1970; 278 of them had the base 350-hp 455. A total of 79 of these 350-hp cars were Muncie M21-equipped.

PERFORMANCE

0-60 mph* ....................................................................................................................6.5 sec

1/4-mile ET**...................................................................................... 14.28 sec @ 100.5 mph

Top speed* .................................................................................................................. 129 mph

*Car Life, 1969

**Car Craft, 1970

By The Numbers - 1970 Buick GSX (2024)
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