Lord Vader - An Unknown Buick Returns


As far back as I can recall, I’ve been a Buick guy. In fact, I came home from the hospital in a 1971 GS 350 4-speed that was my mother’s daily driver in 1972. Maybe it’s the “underdog” lure that’s kept me drawn to Buicks or the mere fact that the “fast with class” moniker has resonated with me. Either way, I’m hooked.

Rewind to December of 2016: a Buick Facebook page features a picture of the car depicted in this story. The group member (and now good friend) had recently purchased the Regal Black 1970 GS 455 Stage 1 4-speed via Craigslist. The car spent its 47 years in relative obscurity in Lebanon, PA, having survived four owners - one of which was a high school kid who blew the original engine after owning it for two weeks. The gentleman who listed the car on Craigslist owned it the longest and only put 10,000 miles on the car in the 35 years he had it. Turns out he was friends with the high school kid and bought the car from him, probably saving his life considering that’s an awful lot of car for a teenager to handle. As far I was concerned, this 49K original mile car was the Holy Grail of Buick musclecars. The top of the line model for the year that featured the pinnacle horsepower ratings - for all musclecars churned out by The Big Three - and it was black.

I hadn’t been in the market for a car and had been out of “the game” for a long time. Yeah, I’d owned about a dozen Gran Sports over the last 30 years but none had measured up to or even came close to this car’s pedigree. I needed to learn more about this rare gem and speaking in terms of rarity, the 1970 GM Daily Car Reports from Buick list 160 black on black GS 455 Gran Sports produced at the main Buick plant in Flint, Michigan.

All Stage 1 cars were built at that plant in 1970 and 1971 and that particular high performance option was only available on the GS 455 model. That being said, it’s presumed that of the 160 cars produced in that particular color, the Stage 1 models were probably in double digits and the 4-speed car production was presumably even lower.

I reached out to a mutual friend on the V8BUICK website (who finds cars for people all over the country) and he told me the gentlemen had bought the Gran Sport in late October. Soon after, though, he found one he really wanted. A light bulb went off and an email was sent to the new owner of the black Stage 1.

As it turns out, the mutual friend was right: the gentleman (who’d also been out of the game for some time) bought the car and just two weeks later, found one that was strikingly similar to one he’d owned 20 years ago. He then emailed me a very detailed description (with pictures) of the car and our dialogue continued until I flew down to Baltimore in early February to give the car a good once over. I finalized the sale - of a car that wasn’t technically for sale - upon leaving Maryland. Two months later, my dream car arrived in Taunton, MA at 10:30 on a late March evening.

In the nine months I’ve had the pleasure of owning this rare piece of Buick history, I’ve amassed almost 2,000 miles. Aside from a short period on the shelf - where I had to replace the entire front of the engine - I was lucky enough to attend close to 30 events - even winning a couple trophies & ribbons along the way. It was a ridiculously fun summer and I can’t wait until next spring. It’s great to be back in the game again and even better to be able to let people enjoy such a nice car. I’m not one of those “look but don’t touch” types at car shows and always offer to let kids sit in it. Their parents get a kick out of it and Lord Vader is typically a hit wherever it goes.

The goal for 2018 is to continue to make the engine compartment look as factory correct (with a hint of Day 2) as possible and I was able to get a lot done in a short amount of time last summer. Luckily, the car has been garaged its whole life and while the early 80’s lacquer isn’t perfect, the car is completely rust free - which was a huge selling point.

I’ve had offers to buy at car shows and cruise nights but respectfully declined them all. I bought this car “right” and while it’s the NOM (non-original motor), it does have the numbers M21 Muncie and 3.64 geared rear end. At this point, I figure I’m ahead of the game with no intention of being that person who always remarks: “I wish I never sold that car."

New photo by Brett Slater