Throughout the history of the American automobile, there have been carmakers that have provided luxury – Cadillac and Lincoln, for example – and there have been carmakers that have provided performance. But no American automaker has so effectively blended performance and luxury as Buick. Throughout its history, Buick has provided luxury car buyers with engaging driving dynamics, speed and acceleration. Here’s a look at Buick’s performance history:
Buick Series 60 Century (1936 to 1942)
One could argue that the 1936 Buick Series 60 Century was the prototype for cars like the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, and all the other cars that would influence the muscle car era. Prior to 1936, Series Buicks (Series 40, Series 50, Series 60, Series 90) had a range of engines with increasing horsepower as you climbed the Series ladder. But in 1936, all the Series Buicks got the same engine: a 320-cu.in. overhead valve Straight 8.
With 120hp, the 1936 Series 60 Century could run at 100mph, a feat that few other cars in its price class could accomplish. As the years went on, the Series 60 Century got more and more performance, eventually ending up with 165hp just prior to World War II. The Series 60 Century was the car to beat in this class, providing both serious performance and luxury to match.
1954 Buick Century
For several years following the war, Buick was like many other manufacturers, delivering slightly revamped versions of its prewar cars. But in 1953, Buick introduced an all-new 322-cu.in. “Nailhead” V-8 in the full luxury Roadmaster. The next year, the Century returned, and with it came the Roadmaster’s killer new 255hp mill, providing the style of the Buick Special with the Roadmaster’s performance
In 1955, Buick redesigned the inefficient Dynaflow transmission into something that could deliver the Nailhead’s true performance potential to the rear wheels. It was such a performance titan that the California Highway Patrol ordered a fleet of Buick Century models for use as pursuit cars. Civilian Buick Centurys matched the driveline’s exceptional performance with luxurious leather interiors, and features like power windows and an optional padded dash.
1962 Buick Wildcat
As a means of competing against the Mercury Marauder, the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Chevrolet Impala, Buick introduced the Wildcat, the first Buick of the 1960s to signal that performance was just as important as luxury and style. The Wildcat was a subseries of the Buick Invicta, with a shorter “sport coupe” body. The high-performance 401-cu.in. V8 churned out 325hp, and a stout 445-lb.ft. of torque (which was called out nicely on the Wildcat’s air cleaner.
The Wildcat featured a host of interior upgrades that might seem common today, but were truly exciting for the period: Bucket seats, a console with a floor shifter for the Dynaflow transmission, and a tachometer. It also got the more expensive Invicta’s taillamps, and an emblem featuring a Wildcat’s head on each of the rear sail panels. Signaling its luxury intent, the Wildcat featured three ventiports the first year of production, like the Invicta and the LeSabre.
1965 Buick Skylark Gran Sport
While John DeLorean was getting all the credit for creating the “muscle car” at Pontiac, the same kind of development was happening at Buick. In 1965, Buick introduced the Gran Sport, the performance trim of the intermediate Skylark lineup. Under the hood was the descendant of the 322-cu.in. Nailhead, the 401. Since General Motors had a corporate displacement cap of 400-cu.in., the 401 was called “400.” The engine produced a solid 325hp, but more remarkable was the torque, rated at 445-lb.ft. “It rides smoothly,” read the 1965 Buick brochure, “And it’s styled inside and out to appeal to your sense of the opulent.” Power seats, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt wheel and “Hi-Fidelity Audio” were all available to gentlemen muscle car drivers.
In the first year of production – 1965 – Buick sold 15,000 Skylarks with the Gran Sport option package, some through Reynolds Buick in Los Angeles, that ran a dealer-sponsored drag racing program. In 1965, Lennie Kennedy drove a 1965 Skylark Gran Sport through the ¼ mile in 13.42 at 104.46.
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1
The Gran Sport became its own trim level – rather than an option package – in 1967, and was completely revised along with the rest of the GM A-Body cars in 1968. Performance increased steadily until its zenith in 1970, with the arrival of the Buick GSX Stage 1.
The Nailhead engine bowed out for the 1968 model year, but it wasn’t until the corporate displacement mandate disappeared that the Gran Sport really came into its own. The GSX utilized a behemoth 7.4-liter V8, good for 360hp and an astounding 510-lb.ft. of torque. Right off the showroom floor, a 3,810 pound GSX could run a 13.38 ET at 105.5 mph. Part of its performance advantage was that the engine itself was 150 pounds lighter than Chevrolet’s 454.
A rare, dealer-installed “Stage 2” package included headers, a performance intake manifold, a hotter cam, hollow pushrods and high compression forged pistons. The parts came shipped in the trunk of the car.
Saturn Yellow and Apollo White GSXs featured luxurious interiors with a host of equipment offered as optional on the rest of the Skylark line.
1978 Turbo Regal Sport Coupe
The 1978 Regal was a sales record-setting car for Buick. A whole lot of Regals came through with small-block V-8s, but in order to preserve V-8-style performance and offer decent fuel economy, Buick introduced the Turbo Regal Sport Coupe. It debuted alongside the larger LeSabre Sport Coupe that could also be ordered with the turbocharged, 165hp, 3.8-liter V-6.
It was the beginning of real production of a turbocharged performance V-6 for Buick and it was literally ahead of its time. In 1978, computer controlled engines were far in the future, and turbocharging still forced the fuel/air mixture through a four-barrel carburetor.
1984 Buick Grand National
The Grand National began as essentially an appearance package on a Turbo Sport Coupe back in 1982. That year, just 215 ever left the factory, and most would feature a 125hp version of Buick’s 4.1-liter V-6. Only a few had the 175hp version of the 3.8-liter engine.
Click to See Full Galleries of the Buick Grand National
The Grand National wouldn’t really become a performance icon until 1984, when Buick added Sequential Fuel Injection (SFI) to replace the four-barrel carburetor. It boosted the Grand National up to 200hp. That may sound like a run-of-the-mill passenger car today, but in 1984, the Cross-Fire injected Corvette only delivered 205hp.
1987 Buick GNX
The GNX was a collector’s item right off the showroom floor. For the $29,900 MSRP price tag, GNX buyers were treated to ASC-McLaren modifications including VR-rated Goodyear Gatorback tires, larger diameter wheels, and engine modifications that brought the V-6 up to an advertised 276hp and a titanic 360-lb.ft. of torque (though contemporary road tests suggested that both of those figures were significantly underrated.)
With a price tag nearly twice that of a “standard” Grand National, the GNX also featured a lot of rare accoutrements like a special silver satin jacket, and a custom-bound book written by legendary performance publisher Marty Schorr.
2014 Buick Regal GS
The Regal GS boldly announces its arrival with signature front and rear styling—and raises expectations with the ECOTEC 2.0L high output turbocharged engine offering more torque than Acura TSX V-6 and Audi A4 Sport.
Tuned to deliver a racing-inspired 259-hp and 295 lb.-ft of torque at just 3000 rpm, the big news for 2014 is the availability of a GS with a Haldex all-wheel drive system, along with GS Sport and GS driving modes.
2014 Buick LaCrosse
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse is the result of more than a century of commitment to driving dynamics and luxury. While it provides the exhilarating performance Buick customers have come to expect, it’s also delivering an estimated 25 percent increase in fuel economy (25 city/36 highway), thanks to Buick eAssist engine technology. The transmission also features rev-matching on downshifts in manual mode.
Inside the LaCrosse features a center stack with a Buick IntelliLink† voice-controlled infotainment system, matte-chrome accents and gorgeous wood details. The Ultra Luxury interior package doubles down on the elegance with a combination of deep red leather appointments and black accents, as well as a suede-effect headliner, and an even more luxurious grade of leather on the seating surfaces.
† Full functionality requires compatible BlueFull functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and Smartphone. Some devices require USB connectivity. Data plan rates apply. Go to gmtotalconnect.com to find out which phones are compatible with the vehicle.tooth and Smartphone. Some devices require USB connectivity. Data plan rates apply. Go to gmtotalconnect.com to find out which phones are compatible with the vehicle