One-in-Six 1971 Buick GSX 455 Is Up for Grabs, but Why Should We Believe It's Real?

1971 Buick GSX 455 14 photos
1971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551970 Buick GSX 455 brochure1971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GSX 4551971 Buick GS brochure
1970 was the year when GM issued the ‘Fire at will!’ order across its entire four-strong piston legions, revoking the displacement ban for intermediates. That woeful ban on engine size was aimed at hot-headed wranglers who thought speed was the ultimate goal of cars (isn't it?!). By the debut of the 70s, GM was falling behind in the horsepower wars. But when the Corporation shook off its self-imposed shackles, it was pretty much game over for everybody else, and some of the most emblematic nameplates erupted onto the streets.
The Chevelle 454 LS6, the Olds 442 W-30, the GTO 455, and the GS and GSX (with or without Stage 1 magic) all appeared simultaneously. It was a massacre of big-block proportions (minus Pontiac, who stayed out of this lowly activity. That would be the ‘making of two different types of engine blocks’ activity, not the tire and competition assassination).

The Buick should have made the biggest waves among the fabulous machines that emerged in 1970, given that its previous muscle cars weren’t particularly awing (compared to the rest of the high-RPM Detroit gang of mutineers). The GS package existed on the Skylark, the Riviera, and the Wildcat before, but neither gained their fame at the speedway or along officially sanctioned 440-yard sectors of an arrow-straight strip of prepped surface.

They did, however, gain a respectable reputation in the Stoplight Grand Prix when the 1970 iterations of the Gran Sport (that’s what GS stood for) suddenly offered first-row seating to a spectacle of taillight and rear-tire smoke screens to most everyone around town. The Buick GS and its bigger, meaner brother, the GSX, quickly gained a fearsome nickname, ‘The Hemi killer,’ when they put on the ‘Stage 1’ superhero cape.

1971 Buick GSX 455
However, the twins – GS and GSX differed slightly in looks and internals, but not drastically – failed to conquer a critical part of the automotive scene: the buyers. Between 1970 and 1972, 846 examples of the fabled Buick GSX muscle cars found a caretaker.

The Gran Sport 455 model of 1970 was already a rowdy performer, armed with a 455-cubic-inch V8 (7.5 liters) that could have easily been mistaken for a runaway locomotive powerplant. That’s because the 510-lb-ft of torque (692 Nm) was two classes above everyone else, short on Cadillac’s 500 big-inch abomination. (The 8.2-litre – spelled exactly like that – in the luxury cars of GM weren’t interested in the muscle car pastimes, so the 550 lb-ft / 746 Nm rating is not taken into this mid-size brawl consideration).

The GSX subvariant of the GS was even meaner, with revised internals for higher performance and the longest list of standard-equipment high-performance parts ever offered during the Golden Age in any muscle car. Still, it was a sales flop. Granted, marketing wasn’t on its side, with minimal literature offered to buyers in 1970. In 1971, the GSX was relegated to a performance option available for all GS versions (both 350 V8 and 455 V8).

1971 Buick GSX 455
Still, the decline became a free fall: 678 GSXs were built in 1970—124 in 1971, and 44 in the moniker's final year of 1972. Just to have a metric: in 1971, a four-page full-color brochure was dedicated to the GSX. In 1971, a single paragraph in the full lineup mentioned the GS Stage 1 but said nothing about the GSX. (See the two documents in the gallery). By 1972, the brochure left out the GS altogether, making only a short mention on the engine choice chart.

The Buick GSX was among the last of the proper muscle cars to leave the scene. In 1971, 124 units were ordered, but production records don’t detail how many came with the 350-cube V8 (the 5.7-liter) and how many with the heavy puncher 455.

The latter was available in three power ratings, 315, 330, and 345 hp, but the GSX got the top one, the 455 GS Stage 1 version. 345 hp / 350 PS and 460 lb-ft / 624 Nm wasn’t as impressive as a year earlier (360 hp, 510 lb-ft / 365 PS, 746 Nm), but that was the immediate result of dropping points on compression ratio, from 10.0:1 to 8.4:1.

1971 Buick GSX 455
One rear axle gearing was offered, a 3.42:1 with a four-speed manual or the optional three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic. The only gain over 1970 was the addition of four colors, as opposed to just two in its debut year. The Cortez Gold was one of those, but only six examples are said to have been ordered in this hue.

Regardless of color, the 1971 GSX no longer sported the 8,000-RPM hood tach that was openly hated by every Buick engineer because of the equipment’s provenance. The engine speed metering device was sourced straight out of the Pontiac parts bin, and that didn’t cut it for the upper-class division.

How many have made it to this day is unclear – there is a registry for the 1970-1972 Buick GSX owners, but that only tells us how many are recorded, not the total number of survivors or restored examples. Speaking of the latter, here is one of those rare Cortez Gold examples built for the 1971 model year. Its history is not available (at least, not for now), but the car is for sale, and all bets will be off on Friday, July 12, 2024, at the Florida Summer Special auction.

1971 Buick GSX 455
However, there’s something really ‘everything not alright’ about this car. Allegedly, it is a restoration, and the original engine and transmission are probably elsewhere. The diff is stated as being a 3.73, not the 3.42 factory equipment. Also, the signature black hood and its tachometer are missing (the car is said to wear the ‘correct’ Cortez Gold, but we all know what that means).

Apart from what’s (barely) visible from the slim photo gallery provided by the seller, the car has power steering and power brakes, Rally Ride suspension, and tinted glass. What the selling price might be is anyone’s guess, with a market so thin in the past years that it really isn’t of any help. If this car is a real 1971 GSX, then the only public reference would be a restored example sold in 2017 for $41,250 at a Mecum auction.

However, another 1971 example (a 350 V8 GSX) is also on the market, and the asking price is $82,500 (and yes, it is also a restoration). Given that the car featured in our story is so shrouded in uncertainty, a correct price is only what a buyer is willing to pay (and the seller to take).
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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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