Red Hot Buick: 1971 Gran Sport 350

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The GS or Gran Sport (please note “Gran” not “Grand”) was Buick’s refined answer to the Pontiac GTO and other muscle cars of the sixties and early seventies. The first GS designation appeared on Skylarks in 1965, and while the Buick brand aimed squarely at older, more conservative buyers, these mid-size muscle cars had class and comfort and found a steady stream of well heeled buyers who liked to go fast and be comfortable doing it.

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When GM launched its new mid-size corporate “A-body” range in 1968, GS model sales took off. More than 26,000 Skylark based Gran Sports sold that year. Sales continued strong through 1970 (when the top of the line GSX was introduced) and only began to decline in 1971 when new emissions controls and a change in corporate philosophy began the steady reduction in power that muscle car fans have been unhappy about ever since.

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In 1971, Buick offered the GS in both hardtop and convertible configurations. The base model was the GS 350, equipped with a four barrel engine that was backed by the TH350 automatic transmission in most instances (only 358 buyers opted for the four speed transmission that year).

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As it turns out, the GS 350 hardtop was by far the most popular GS in 1971, with 5986 manufactured out of a total run for the year of only 9294 cars (that number includes the far more powerful GS 455s and GSX designated cars).

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Even though the 455 and GSX cars are the most desirable for collectors, in many ways the 350 makes for a much better car for pure driving enjoyment. The 350 is lighter, better balanced, handles well and gets far better gas mileage than its big block brother. And while the ’71 Buick Skylark is a fairly hefty car, there are plenty of suspension and brake modifications available that can transform these cars into very comfortable modern drivers with plenty of get up and go.

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In addition, these “lesser” GS cars are far less expensive to buy and own than the heavier and more powerful 455 powered cars.

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This very solid barn found GS 350 is for sale here on craigslist in Narrowsburg, New York, in the eastern part of the state. The seller knows this car is relatively rare and desirable, but the asking price of $9,700 is not completely out of line, at least according to the Hagerty’s valuation tool, which indicates $9,100 is the average price for a car in fair condition.

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And this one may be a bit better than fair. While the seller does say the car has “no rust” that’s all that is said about the condition of the body, floors and frame – all crucial concerns. The photos do indicate the car might be intact and possibly even rust free. It shows having been inspected through 1985, which means it was on the road, and possibly exposed to New York weather for 14 years. But maybe it was a summer driver? Fortunately the car seems to have been stored in dry conditions.

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The seller describes the car as being numbers matching and “like a time capsule” with “every vacuum hose in place.” All the air induction parts appear to be present, the interior looks relatively clean, and the trim and chrome bits also appears to be in good condition.

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The seller also says he is leaving the detailing to the buyer, but has worked on mechanical issues, including a new water pump, and that the car “runs and drives.” There is no mention of whether brakes, AC, etc. are functional, but if it’s been sitting for 30 years, the buyer can plan on some additional mechanical refurbishment and some repair and considerable amount of elbow grease to make the interior habitable.

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Still, how often are you going to find a real 45 year old muscle car in the northeast that looks as good as this one does? People throw around the concept of “winter project” all the time, when we all know that fixing a car to drive, much less to show, usually takes more than a single winter of weekends and nights in the garage. And most of us have been fooled all too many times into buying a car because it looks like an “easy restoration.” But I am attracted to this car, and not just because it is “buy me red.” I think this GS 350 will be a fun car for its next owner. Fix it up enough to drive safely, keep it as original as possible, and run with it. Are you with me on this one?

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Comments

  1. ed the welder

    narrowsburg is actually near bethel which is not exactly ” eastern ” new york …

    • David W Member

      Ed – Narrowsburg is about 140 miles from the eastern border of NY State and 300 miles from the western border, so it seems more eastern than not, but what would you suggest? – David

  2. 68 custom

    looks like a decent GS/350 but I don’t think there is much of a weight savings as the external dimensions are the same as a 400/425/455. still a pretty nice car but the interior kinda looks mildewed? if so it likely will all need to be replaced.

  3. Scotty Staff

    Nice find, David!
    Back in a former life, when I was parking and washing cars in an underground parking garage in a medical building after graduating from high school, a fellow co-worker had a perfect, gold GS with a factory 4-speed. That was so many levels above my 1974 Dodge Van with a dented side and a 225-slant-six and 3-on-the-tree.

  4. redwagon

    needs redlines

  5. Rustytech Member

    I bought one of these back in the mid 90’s for $300, it was wrecked. After about $800 in repairs I drove it for about a year then sold it for $4500. It was jade with black top & interior, buckets, console, horseshoe shifter. It was in excellent condition and I thought I had made a killing! Look where they are now. Wish I’d kept it.

  6. Flmikey

    In 1973, I traded my 1972 GS 350 automatic just like this one for a 1970 GS 455 4 speed even steven…never regretted it…and it is still in my garage….

  7. Tom Member

    Not sure on the money. Car is rough. Small block, bench on the column for this money and every inch of it is …..well, needs a total resto. you will be upside down fast. Search the internet. you can find this car DONE for 20K +/-. You are GOING TO spend the money…..some now and a lot over time or spend more money now (less in the long run) and enjoy it. Good project for someone who wants to learn and get their hands dirty. This car is not important enough to worry about practicing on it. It’s a GS. that is it. Better than not being a GS. My opinion.

  8. Ck

    My thoughts, exactly Tom. $9700.00 bucks is a lot of cake for a plain jane GS with a 350.A friend of mine just out of high school sold his 70 Chevelle SS and bought a 70GS 455 with a 4spd .What a nice car that was and fast to boot .If you want or have to have a GS why would you want one like this .Save your money and look around for one with more options .

    • Tom Member

      Yep. This car is worth saving. You can make those changes to it as well. I would keep the 350 for originality sake but a 4 sp, buckets and a console will not hurt the value, probably help it. This car is going to be upside down once all the money goes into it….no matter what you decide to do resto wise…..that is why this is one time I recommend someone learning on a car. It is not like a GS Stage 1 that needs to be restored perfectly. Learning comes with a price tag as well. You either pay someone else way too much money to do the car (hopefully right) or learn as you go. Rebuild that 350 right and there is nothing wrong with that!

  9. Trey

    The Riviera also received the Gran Sport package in 1965.

    And if you actually look at sales data, production started to decline for 1969 (like most performance cars), then picked up a bit for 1970 (unlike most performance cars).

  10. Raoul Robichaud

    Could be a decent street cruiser, but way overpriced. There’s considerable oxidyzation on some bright trim, dimples on right fender, and I suspect considerable odor in the interior. Also having had three GM of that vintage, with hardtops, the rubber weather stripping was atrociously poor, desintegrated very quickly.
    I’d pass on this one’

  11. Tom Driscoll

    My 72 GS convertible is the prize of my (small) collection. It’s a 350 Florida car I found on craigslist about 8 yrs ago. It’s the most solid, all original , and best driving car I own hands down. This BF car needs considerable love: paint/chrome/ interior, totally worth the resto if the price is right.I may get down votes, but the build quality and driving impression of these GM A-body’s far exceeded that of the Chrysler’s of the time. Great car, totally worth saving.

    • Tom Driscoll

      the car

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