It’s a shame so many enthusiasts overlook the Buick Skylark when shopping for an A-body toy. Chevelles and GTOs, sure, but everyone seems to forget that the big Buicks, like the GS455, made more torque than any other gasoline engine GM built until the arrival of the latest supercharged Corvette ZR1. By 1972, compression was down, but the Buick was still a strong performer as the GS nailed 14-second quarter mile times at better than 100 MPH. And it did so while loaded with luxury features that were not available on its corporate cousins. This stunning Flame Orange GS is one of only 81 Stage 1 convertibles built in ’72, one of only 66 built with an automatic transmission, and is believed to be one of 25 identically optioned Buick Zone Office cars. With a Concours Gold-winning restoration and full documentation courtesy of the Sloan Museum, this car is NOT to be missed.
With a full package of paperwork from the Sloan Museum, this highly optioned GS Stage 1 is a coupe for the muscle car fan who doesn’t want to give up, well, anything to get his performance fix.
Check out this options list, which added more than $2,000 to the bottom line and brought the total to $5,556.67—dangerously close to 1972 Corvette territory:
* 34: GS455
* 67: Convertible
* ZZ: Flame Orange
* 1: White convertible top
* 245: White notchback bench seat interior
* B2: Turbo Hydramatic 400 transmission
* CF: Power disc brakes and variable ratio power steering
* DN: AM Sonoramic radio, rear speaker and stereo tape deck
* E6: Through bumper exhaust extensions
* F7: G60-15 Firestone Wide Oval white letter tires and chrome plated wheels
* G1: Performance axle with positive traction (standard with Stage 1)
* I6: Air conditioning
* J1: Custom seat belts
* L2: Soft-Ray tinted windshield
* NF: Front and rear bumper guards and bumper strips front and rear
* O6: Sport outside rear view mirrors
* S7: Tilt steering
* UD: Full Rally Gauge package with clock and Convenience Group (trunk light, mirror map light)
* V2: Chrome plated wheels (standard with F9 Firestone Wide Oval tires)
* X2: Rallye steering wheel
The car was treated to a frame-off restoration in 2006, and has recently been freshened for competition at the highest levels, including an all-new fully functional factory A/C system. Flame Orange is an incredibly rare color on an already shockingly rare car, and the bright hue was so far outside Buick’s comfort zone that only a handful were built. Nevertheless, it looks fantastic on the Skylark’s handsome sheetmetal, which is so perfectly proportioned that it’s quite likely impossible to make it look bad. Then & Now Automotive in Marietta, Georgia handled the bodywork, and the results are, obviously, show-stopping. The paint is now two-stage urethane which looks about a mile deep and has a shine that no ‘70s finish could match. Just look at the way the panels line up, the way the light reflects off the paint, and the care with which it was all assembled. It’s not surprising that this one has racked up some pretty impressive wins.
All the details are correct as well. Although the basic body shape didn’t change, Buick adjusted the detailing on the cars every year, making things like the grille unique from year to year. All the chrome on this one has been restored to concours condition, the stainless is fully polished to match, and yes, that grille is original and correct. Proper GS Stage 1 badges were installed, and details like the original T3 headlights and cool through-the-bumper exhaust tips help separate this car from its brothers.
The engine is a date-code-correct WS-stamped warranty replacement block that was installed not too long after delivery. Why, we can’t say for certain, but it’s probably easy to guess. But there’s no doubt that it’s a correct GS Stage 1 block. The engine bay has been detailed for national competition and given the list of awards it has already won, it’s clear that everything is correctly restored. It may show a few signs of use, most notably in some discolored paint around the exhaust ports, but that’s how they looked the moment they were driven off the transport trucks and into the dealer’s showroom. Please note that new A/C system, also installed by the guys at Then & Now, who obviously have some expertise with this car, and which uses 100% original components and blows ice cold today.
While you could get a 4-speed in your GS Stage 1, an automatic really seems like the better choice in a Buick and suffers no performance penalty behind the big block. The TH400 in this ragtop is the original, numbers-matching piece, complete with a crystal clear VIN stamp on the driver’s side pan rail and a Stage 1 specific code BB tag is riveted to the passenger’s side. Out back there’s an indestructible 12-bolt full of 3.42 gears on a Posi-traction limited slip, which deliver neck-snapping acceleration and remarkably comfortable high-speed cruising abilities. The frame wears a correct coat of satin black, and the beautifully finished floors are the perfect background for the restored suspension and braking systems. And if there’s a more beautiful muscle car wheel than the Buick chrome Rallys, I haven’t seen it. On this car, they are also wearing correct G60-15 Goodyear Polyglas bias-ply tires.
The glittering white vinyl “notchback” interior is bright enough to require eye protection. The white is the ideal choice in a convertible, especially a bright orange one, because it avoids two common problems with black interiors: excessive sweating on a hot day and the appearance of the Great Pumpkin. There’s fresh foam under those new seat covers, so the car feels like new from behind the wheel, and the dash pad and instruments have been completely restored. New black carpets show no signs of wear, and the door panels don’t even have that slight depression where the driver might rest his elbow. As I mentioned, the A/C system is brand new and blows ice cold, and this car also carries an optional 8-track tape player, which is mounted below the dash and separate from the AM radio. Overhead there’s a professionally fitted white power convertible top that stashes itself behind the seats in seconds, where it’s hidden by a matching white boot.
Thanks to the archives at the Sloan Museum, there’s a lot of factory documentation with this Buick. In addition to the original owner’s manual and warranty booklets, we also have a 1972 Buick/Opel advance information booklet, a reproduction window sticker, a copy of the original build sheet, and a letter stating that this car may have been a special test vehicle used by GM; which might explain the replacement block and the low VIN number and options package believed to be shared with 24 other Zone Office cars. There’s also a beautifully presented display board with a complete listing of this car’s features and options as well as a CD full of restoration photos. You’ll also get the Concours Gold award from the GS Nationals—winning first prize there is as good as it gets. The car also won a gold award at the 2010 Buick Performance Group’s 2010 national meet and is officially registered with the GS Stage 1 Registry. Finally, it includes receipts for much of the restoration work, detailed right down to the transportation charges getting it to the facility before the work even started and totaling more than $90,000.
Rare, fast and beautiful, this Buick GS Stage 1 is for the discerning collector who knows the difference between a nice car and a great car. Big block A-body convertibles remain top-quality investments, and Buicks are starting to see some movement after decades of living in their corporate cousins’ shadows. Already a documented prize-winner at the very highest levels, this lovely convertible represents the end of the great muscle cars. If you’ve been looking for something different to add to your collection, this GS is awfully hard to beat!