How the Buick GS Stage 2 Redefined Muscle Car Performance
When Muscle Car Review named the 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 as the third-fastest muscle car of all time in a November 1984 issue, the publication received numerous phone calls and letters from angry car enthusiasts crying foul. Nobody could believe that Grandpa’s Buick was higher on the list than the GTO Judge, LS6 Chevelle, and even the fastest Hemi-powered Mopars.
But the numbers didn’t lie. After sifting through decades of road tests from the largest automotive publications, Motor Trend’s recorded 5.5-second zero-to-60 time and 13.4-second quarter-mile placed the Buick behind only the 427 Cobra Roadster and 1966 427 Corvette.
With a conservatively-rated 360 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, a Stage 1 GS and its massive 455 cubic-inch V8 engine was not something you wanted to challenge at a stoplight. Whether or not other muscle car owners cared to admit it, many had learned this the hard way.
While the Stage 1 GS and GSX were virtually untouchable, the little-known truth was that Buick engineers had something far more potent in the works: A Stage 2 package designed to expand the boundaries of muscle-car performance to levels that had never been seen before.
Prior to production, Reynolds Buick in West Covina, California, sold an ordinary Stage 1 model to co-owners Lennie “Pop” Kennedy and Jim Bell (founder of Kenne Bell) under the agreement that they would test out the company’s Stage 2 components. Dennis Manner at Buick engineering worked closely with Bell and the parts were sent, tested, and shipped back.
With an estimated 540 horsepower, the Stage 2 Buicks could run 10.70s at 123 miles per hour with a pair of racing slicks. No, that’s not a misprint. What’s all the fuss about this Hellcat, you say?
Unfortunately, the packaged was deemed too hot for the street. It appeared the world wasn’t ready for the first factory 10-second car. But that didn’t stop Buick from offering Stage 2 parts over the counter and having its dealerships install them.
At this year’s Buick GS Nationals, held in Bowling Green, Kentucky from October 14 to 17, one rare example was on display that had the Stage 2 package installed by Dunn Buick Inc. in Oklahoma City. With multiple sponsorships and wide Firestone Drag 500 racing slicks bulging beneath its rear quarter panels, you could definitely tell this was no ordinary Buick.
Compared to standard GS 455, the only exterior changes on a Stage 2 model included special badging and the addition of a stamped steel hood scoop in place of the Gran Sport’s dual ram air setup. The aggressive scoop was molded to a base model Skylark hood with a hole cut beneath for cold air induction.
Under the hood, the most notable components of the Stage 2 kit were high flow heads ($143.50), a Mark IV 7,000 RPM camshaft ($278), 12.5:1 forged TRW pistons ($502), Edelbrock B4B aluminum intake ($125.99), Carter TQ Competition Series 1000 CFM carburetor ($105.99), Kustom Equipment 2-1/8-inch headers ($149.95), and a 4.78 ring and pinion for improved launching capability ($99.95) — in period dollars.
For a total price of $3,147.53 including installation charges, the Stage 2 package certainly wasn’t for the faint at heart. Considering a nicely optioned Stage 1 Buick 455 stickered just above $4,000, it was an additional 75% of the original purchase price of the vehicle. While I probably don’t need to remind you, that was some serious coin to be throwing around in the ’70s.
In 1970, Buick reportedly produced two factory Stage 2 cars along with a number of mule cars running its upgraded high flow heads. The cars’ whereabouts are still unknown. Though it’s far from likely after nearly a half-century of hiding, let’s hope you don’t stumble upon one in the staging lanes of your favorite racetrack. Without question, your pink slip will surely be in imminent danger.