Tim Garland has been a Buick guy since high school, when he dressed up a 1972 two-door Skylark to look like a GSX. “I had read about them, seen pictures, and actually got beat by one in my brother’s ’70 GS350,” he remembers. “It was the ultimate Buick, just out of reach. I didn’t think I would ever have one.”
Few people did. Buick built just 678 of the range-topping GSX model for 1970. You will recall that GM’s brands went cubic-inch crazy that year, when the corporate parent lifted the displacement limit for midsize cars. Buick engineers stuffed a torquey, 455-inch mill into the Gran Sport, then upped the ante with an appearance and handling package that turned the GS455 into the GSX. For the ultimate Buick muscle car, you could combine the GSX option with the Stage 1 455 that was hot rodded to produce 360 horses along with the 455’s 510 (!) lb-ft of torque.
Tim’s journey to GSX ownership began in 2008, when plans were being made for a GSX reunion in Ohio. A friend who was looking for cars to put in the show got wind of a four-speed GSX for sale in Louisiana. “The story was that it was a Saturn Yellow Stage 1 four-speed car with A/C,” Tim recalls. “The car had been sitting for years, and the owner had hoped to restore it. A woman had owned it before him in the 1980s. She painted it blue, had an automatic transmission put in with a column shift, and a bench seat.”
Tim pauses while telling the story. “I have no idea why she did that. Why the seat? You can shift an automatic from a bucket seat.”
It didn’t look like a GSX, which may be why it hadn’t been snapped up before. But Tim got verification from the GSX Historical Society that the car was indeed a Stage 1 four-speed “with A/C, tilt wheel, and tinted glass.”
On New Year’s Day 2009, Tim and his brother Rich went to Louisiana to see the car. “What we found was a beat-up old Buick,” he recalls. “The car had the usual rust, the trunk was full of junk, and it had dents and primer spots all over. I think my brother said it best: ‘If this was a Skylark, it would be worth 500 bucks.’”
But Tim saw potential in the derelict Buick. “I knew the car was fixable and thought it deserved to get its soul back. So back to Pennsylvania it came.”
Tim’s optimism likely stemmed from the fact that he makes his living restoring cars at Bulldog Rod and Custom in Exton, Pennsylvania. He said he “looked forward to the challenge” of bringing the GSX back to factory-new condition.
Before he had a chance to do much, though, the GSX Reunion was coming up that summer. “I figured the old girl should make the trip. So we cleaned all the mold and dirt off, rigged up a fuel system, and got her running for the show. It was cool to be among all the GSXs. People loved seeing the beat-up car. In fact, we won the Ugliest GSX at the GSX Reunion award.”
Work began in earnest once Tim got home from the show. Over the next couple of years he made repairs to the body’s sheetmetal and mounted it on a rotisserie. Once free of the body, the frame was sandblasted and painted, and Tim installed new lines and hoses, and resealed the rearend. The roller chassis was stored in his parents’ garage to keep it clean.
“Then I had a curveball thrown at me,” Tim says. Cancer. He underwent surgery and chemo, which “kicked my butt and knocked me out of the game for about a year.” To his wife’s dismay, but with the approval of his doctor, he attended the 2012 GS Nationals just two weeks after his final chemo treatment with Rich and buddies Duane Heckman and Ken Smith.
“I needed a lift,” he says. “I was bald and had a slight greenish hue, but I had a great time. It also helped me to get refocused on the GSX.”
He set a goal to have the car finished for the 2014 GS Nationals, and he said it “felt great” to get back to work on the Buick. He first tackled the remaining bodywork, then turned to the running gear. He had the 455 rebuilt to Stage 1 specs, and then backed it with a Muncie “that my brother blew up in one of his GSs.” The transmission case is filled with Auto Gear M22 wide-ratio cogs. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says, “it should have a close-ratio M21, but it sounds badass and is a blast to drive.”
Tim prepped the body for paint and sprayed it with four coats of PPG Concept Saturn Yellow. He rejoined the body and frame, installed the interior with an assist from Duane, hung the bumpers, and mounted the trim. “Thank God for my brother and his collection of Buick parts,” Tim says. “He saved my butt many times getting the car back together.”
The GSX was completed just in time for the 2014 Nationals. “I finished striping the car on a Sunday, and we left for the Nationals the following Tuesday,” Tim recalls. The car scored 394 out of a possible 400 points, “not bad for the first time out.”
He “fixed a few things over the winter,” scored 399 points at a Buick Performance Group show in Norwalk, Ohio (reproduction—and incorrect—air filters cost him the point), earned his Junior award at the AACA Meet in Hershey, and followed that up with a Senior award at Hershey in 2016.
“The car was a very big challenge but worth every minute,” Tim says today. “With some divine intervention, help from some great friends, and a blessing from my wife, Doreen, the soul was brought back to the 153rd GSX made in 1970.”
Owned by: Tim Garland, Westchester, PA
Restored by: Owner; Rich Garland; Duane Heckman
Engine: 455ci/360hp Stage 1 V-8
Transmission: Muncie 4-speed case with Auto Gear M22 close-ratio internals
Rearend: 3.42 gears with posi
Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15×7 Buick Rallye
Tires: G60-15 Goodyear Polyglas GT
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