It was June 1998, but I remember the dialogue as if it were yesterday.
“Aren’t you even going to go look at it? It’s an old car,” my then-girlfriend asked.
“I don’t need to, as I know what it is. Besides, it’s a thousand miles away, and these cars don’t come up for sale often, if ever,” I said.
“Well then, you’re crazy!” she said as she walked away.
I told her that she should have known back then how crazy for Buicks I am.
I knew exactly what it was: a 1970 GS Stage 1 convertible four-speed, Sherwood Green with a black bench-seat interior and black vinyl top. The drivetrain on the GS was completely numbers-matching, right down to the carburetor, distributor, and shifter. Factory options included power steering, power disc brakes, an AM radio with a rear speaker, G60-15 steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps, A/C, tinted glass, a remote driver’s mirror, and a tachometer and full-gauge instrumentation. Prior to ownership, the steel wheels were replaced with Buick Rallye wheels, and both heavy-duty suspension and tilt-wheel were added.
According to the official records maintained by the Sloan Museum, Buick manufactured a total of 1,416 1970 GS455 convertibles at three different plants. Of these, 232 convertibles were built with the Stage 1 performance option. Of those 232 cars, 67 were equipped with a Muncie M21 four-speed transmission, and only 22 rolled off the line with air conditioning.
I have always been into Buicks. I owned my first, a 1971 Skylark, one year before I was legally able to drive. The performance aspect of Buicks that made me fall in love with them was the fact that these well-engineered cars never left me stranded when I used them as my daily driver for seven years.
In 1988, my daily driver was a 1971 Skylark convertible, the most fun daily driver I have ever owned. The car was not pretty, but it ran trouble-free for years and many, many miles. In 1992, I was starting to see signs that parts needed to be replaced. Reality was sinking in: I needed to spend money on this car. My buddy told me about YearOne, and I ordered the catalog.
Once it came, I was introduced to the Buick GS Club of America (GSCA) in Valdosta, Georgia. Wow, there was actually a club dedicated to these cars! I immediately joined. I remember creating a list of all the parts my convertible needed (a list I wish I still had). The parts on the list totaled more than $10,000. Adding in needed labor and “incidentals,” I was looking at a $20,000 investment. Once done, I would have a 1971 Skylark convertible worth half the value of that investment. Not a good thing.
I decided to sell the car and keep my eyes open for a more valuable car. It needed to be a convertible, as I was hooked! Hopefully, it would be a Gran Sport, maybe even a Stage 1. I still remember the sickening feeling as I sold the Skylark. I felt I had made a huge mistake selling it and leaving me Buick-less (thankfully, that only lasted three months).
In June 1998, I arrived home from work to find I had received the latest GSCA publication in the mail. Looking through the magazine, I could not believe my eyes. Someone was actually selling one of the 67 1970 Stage 1 four-speed convertibles. What an opportunity! This was my dream car.
This GS had a write-up that depicted all the correct date-coded part numbers, and the current owner was awarded Third Place at the 1997 GS Nationals. Knowing exactly what it was, I immediately called the owner and told him I wanted to buy the car. He told me others were interested and were coming to look at the car. When was I coming? I told him I was not coming; I was buying the car, and I asked for his banking information so I could wire the money to his account the next day.
While the owner realized I was serious, he was initially reluctant to sell me the car sight-unseen. So he made me a deal. I would have first dibs on the car, but he would overnight me a videotape of the car and wait until I had a chance to view the tape before completing the deal. Of course I agreed—whatever let him sleep better at night. I already knew this GS was going to be mine.
When the tape arrived, the GS was everything I expected and more. I immediately contacted the owner and we finalized the deal. I secured transport for the 1,200-mile journey to its new home, and the waiting began. It would be several weeks before the GS arrived, but this gave me time to sell my two other GSs (1968 GS400 convertible and 1972 GS350). This delay also gave me the time to get the title in my name, register, and insure the car. Hagerty was great to work with, understanding my situation exactly.
When the car arrived, it was all I could hope for. The first modification I made was to remove the straight bench and replace it with a notchback bench seat. Comfort comes first, and the notchback seat is like sitting on a living room couch. Then came halogen headlamps and an upgraded exhaust. After the A/C was converted to R-134, an aluminum Be-Cool radiator was needed to cool the car. Currently there’s a modern radio behind the stock eight-track.
For me it’s the epitome of comfort. This car was never meant to be a trailer queen and is driven everywhere. From 2006 to 2015, it regularly made the 1,000-mile trip out to the Buick Performance Group (BPG) Nationals in Ohio. Since ownership in 1998, more than 35,000 miles/smiles have been added.
I have learned to become involved in the things I enjoy. In 2000, there was a lot of talk on the Buick websites about how many cars were built with this option, or in that color. As no database existed, I volunteered to collect this information, and the factory Stage 1 Registry was born Media In 2007, I also volunteered to be the webmaster for the BPG, now a division of the Buick Club of America.
I can’t say enough good things about Buick people. The cars bring you together, but the people keep you together. I am extremely fortunate and blessed to have become actively involved in the Buick community. My advice to anyone into cars? Get out and get involved! The people you meet will enhance ownership. It was by getting involved I met some of the best people. Duane Heckman, the Buick guru, will forget more than I’ll ever know, but he’s been more than willing to have many hour-long conversations to share his knowledge over the years. (He installed the interior in my GS in the 1980s during its restoration). Mark Macoubrie runs the GSX registry Media and has freely shared all his documentation knowledge and website hosting. John Csordas has run the Northeast GS/GN club since the early 1980s, the tightest group I have ever been associated with. Jeff Holthenrichs (Yardley) graciously offered his backyard for more than a decade to the Buick Fanatics in the Northeast to gather. Sean Ryder stepped up as BPG chairman many years ago. Ken Lisk offered to trailer my GS out to MCACN in 2015 for the special show and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
None of this would be possible without the support of my loving wife Gigi (yes, my girlfriend from 1998) and my “pit crew,” Joe and Julia.
At a Glance
1970 GS455 Stage 1 Convertible
Owned by: Marc Conigliari
Restored by: Previous owner
Engine: 455ci/360hp Stage 1 V-8
Transmission: Muncie M21 4-speed manual
Rearend: 3.42 gears with posi
Interior: Black vinyl notchback bench seat
Wheels: 15-inch Buick Rallye
Tires: P245/60R15 BFGoodrich Radial T/A
Special parts: Power steering, power disc brakes, AM radio with rear speaker, Buick Rallye wheels, A/C, tinted glass, remote driver’s mirror, tachometer and full-gauge instrumentation, heavy-duty suspension, tilt wheel
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