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Fake It 'Till… 1972 Skylark Puts On Lipstick, Chevy 454 V8, Wants To Be a 1970 GSX Tribute

Like pretty much everyone else in Detroit, Buick had one of its brightest muscle car years In 1970, mainly reaping the benefits of GM lifting the displacement ban on the intermediates. With the horsepower wars unwarily rushing toward a federal-indicted ending, the piston displacement was the preferred path in which the dragstrip arms race extended. And in 1970, the General Motors division emerged as the apex predator with one gargantuan motor: the Buick 455.
1970 Buick GSX Tribute 57 photos
Photo: ebay.com
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It was the biggest and torquiest Detroit had ever seen in an intermediate, one cubic inch above its corporate sibling, the Chevelle 454 LS6. At 455 cubic inches (7.5 liters), the Buick stood alone in a class above everyone else. Large engines were available then – Cadillac had the 472 and the 500 (7.7-liter and 8.2-liter, respectively). Ford countered with the 460 (7.5-liter), but those naval-sized behemoths were reserved for the luxury brands Cadillac and Lincoln.

Buick, primarily perceived as a ‘Gentleman’s Muscle Car’ brand, decided to shed the gentry and keep the brawny part, releasing a no-nonsense terror in the form of the Gran Sport of 1970. Remarkably, the GS 455 –especially the Stage I and Stage II versions– was the name everyone didn’t want to see lining up alongside at the stoplights.

Buick made a particular variant of the already-special GS 455 (to complete the overkill) and called it GSX – as in eXterminator. That wasn’t the official translation, but it might as well have been, judging by its 350-hp and 510-lb-ft capabilities. That's 355 PS and 691 Nm, although the power ratings were suspected of being a little... 'discrete.' A high-end variant was also available, with a hotter cam and just 10 extra hp as the main differences. The GSX had a short lifespan between 1970 and 1972, and the production numbers fell exponentially with every model year.

1970 Buick GSX Tribute
Photo: oldcarbrochures.com
In 1970, the original GSX was released in 678 examples: 187 dressed in Apollo White livery and 491 in Saturn Yellow (yes, Detroit was riding the high wave of patriotism following the Moon landings). 1971 was a transitional year, the last of the actual era of muscle cars, and Buick built just 124 GSXs, five times less than a year before. The final curtain fell upon the 44 models assembled for 1972, putting the overall GSX production to 846 units.

By the power of mathematics, 1970 is the most abundant model, but finding a real-deal GSX isn’t exactly a walk in the junkyard, where the likes of an Impala or Mustang are regular pensioners. However, there is a long-settled practice among gearheads of building clones, tributes, or lookalikes simply because an authentic example is too expensive, too hard to come across, too tricky to source, or all at the same time.

While some wrench-turners are master craftsmen who achieve impeccable results in copying the originals, others don’t bother much with the details, whether small or vital. After all, we wouldn’t frown (too hard) upon a 1966 Pontiac GTO clone if it had a 389 V8 in it, even if it wasn’t put there by the factory. But we would very much feel the blood pressure building up at a steep rate if the badge were to say 'Judge' and the engine bay were to house a valvetrain cover that said ‘Overhead Cam.’

1970 Buick GSX Tribute
Photo: gatewayclassiccars.com
The same goes for any other make and model, particularly for rare birds like the GSX. Can you imagine a ‘69 Dodge Charger R/T tribute with a Six-Barrel? The atrocity in the previous sentence implies two colossal errors: 1) that the ’69 Dodge would have a six-barrel carburetion, and 2) that the Six-Barrell would be uncaringly transplanted from the sister division Plymouth (because Dodge used the designation Six-Pack for the 440 Magnum).

That happened to the following 1970 Buick GSX Tribute built on a 1972 Skylark with a 454 V8. No, that’s not a typo, but the cold, hard facts: this Buick is powered by a Chevrolet engine. To make matters even more cringe than the cross-divisional transfer of power, the Skylark donor was originally a column-shifted automatic.

The genuine GSX of 1970 had two transmission options: a four-speed manual or a console-mounted three-speed automatic with a horseshoe shifter (the gallery contains a brochure of the model that reveals the gearbox setups). The builder of this mixer of feelings put the correct console and, critically, a Turbo Hydra-matic, but the exact model is not specified. For correctness, note that the true GSX automatics came with a THM 400.

1970 Buick GSX Tribute
Photo: ebay.com
The front clip of this 1972 Buick Skylark has been replaced by a 1970 piece for a closer resemblance. Since the first-year GSX is easily distinguishable by the two colors, white or yellow, this tribute was resprayed in white, and GSX-style decals were added on the sides. Interestingly, this glitch in the Buick matrix is offered for auction, and the base price is $34,000.

Even more intriguingly, this exact vehicle was sold for three grand at one point. The video below is from the older ad, as the photos of the current bid on eBay are finger-snapping mediocre. Literally, whoever took the pictures did a good job of including a finger in the shots.

The seller jotted some notes about the car, but it’s hard to say much about it after reading them. The eBay ad states the following: ‘No rust at all no dents great paint,’ ‘(...) 454 cam solid lifters roller rockers big port heads H P unknown estimate 600 to 700 horses,’ and ‘It’s a great car I don’t want to sell it have to Really fast and fun turns heads.’ (The text is accurately transcribed; no corrections or alterations have been made).

This Frankenstein of a Buick Skylark-based GSX even sports the 8,000-RPM hood tachometer, but the current ad doesn’t have an image of the odometer. The seller put ‘2,500’ in the ‘Mileage’ field on the online auction page – around 4,000 km. However, the older ad clearly shows 58,691 miles (94,434 km) – see some of those images in the gallery. As a last note, the video attached is also courtesy of the dealership that sold this crossbreed for $30,000.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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