By: Kurt Ernst
Looking to draw attention to its muscle car offerings for the 1970 model year, Buick pulled a pair of white GS Stage 1 models, with sequential serial numbers, from September 1969 production. One of these was finished in pearlescent red paint and fitted with a bold, mostly monochromatic interior before being shipped off on the show circuit. After a life spent on stage, street and strip, this one-off 1970 Buick GS Stage 1 (the subject of a feature article in the August 2005 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines) heads to auction this October in Chicago.
The task of turning a production GS Stage 1 into an eye-catching show car fell to Buick’s Shows, Displays and Exhibits division, which began the effort by spraying the white GS a non-production shade called Fireglow Pearl. On the inside, the group removed the production steering wheel, kick panels, carpeting, A-pillar trim and seat belts, all of which would have been black on a car ordered with white vinyl seating. In their place, Buick substituted all-white components (except for the seat belts, which were tangerine), using thick pile carpeting that Craig Fitzgerald described as, “the kind of plush you might find in the back of a custom van from the 1970s.” One additional change was made to the car’s exterior, solely for the purpose of highlighting its interior: though a Soft-Ray tinted windshield was used in production, this was substituted for a clear glass windshield to avoid casting a blue tint on the all-white cabin.
Under the hood, the stock GS Stage 1 455-cu.in. V-8 and Turbo-Hydramatic three-speed automatic transmission remained unaltered. Compared to the GS 455 series, Stage 1 cars received a high-lift camshaft , 10.5:1 compression pistons, a rejetted Rochester Quadrajet carburetor and a low-restriction dual exhaust, bumping output to 360 horsepower (from the base 455′s 350 horsepower) and 510 pound-feet of torque. Like most muscle car horsepower ratings of the day, 360 was an extremely conservative number, meant primarily to appease insurance companies, and popular belief was that the Stage 1 actually made closer to 400 horsepower in stock trim.
Both cars pulled from production were loaded up with options, too, as Buick wanted to highlight features that could be ordered from a local dealer. The show cars came equipped with the Rallye Ride Control Package; Goodyear Polyglas GT tires; tilt steering wheel; power windows; full instrumentation; chrome wheels; and a Rallye steering wheel. About the only option missing from the build was air conditioning, since Buick never intended the cars to be driven for any length of time.
At the conclusion of their time on the show circuit, the Fireglow Pearl GS Stage 1 and its sister car, a White Pearl GSX, were destined for a date with the crusher until Columbus, Ohio’s Len Immke Buick intervened by purchasing both vehicles. GM reportedly agreed to the sale on the grounds that the dealership would retain possession of both custom Buicks, but it wasn’t long before the cars were in the hands of customers. The Fireglow Stage 1 was used by its original owner for both street and drag strip duty, and although it was retired in 1978, he retained possession of the car until 2003, when it was acquired by John Chamberlain.
When Chamberlain took possession, the car showed less than 13,000 miles on the odometer and had no signs of significant rust, but the cracked Fireglow paint (and the once-white interior) had seen better days. The car’s original engine and transmission were lost to time, but the owner had preserved the factory-supplied cylinder heads, Quadrajet carburetor, and, reportedly, high-compression pistons. A two-year restoration was begun, preserving as many of the original parts as possible and substituting correctly dated parts where necessary. Completed in time for the 2005 Buick GS Nationals, the car has won awards as recently as 2010, when it picked up Gold Certification at the Buick Performance Group Nationals. Given the car’s unique and documented history, along with its remarkable condition, Mecum is predicting a selling price of $100,000 to $150,000 when the car crosses the block on Saturday, October 11.
Mecum’s Chicago sale will run from October 9-11 at the Schaumberg Convention Center. For complete details, visit Mecum.com.