Buick GS 350 and GS 400
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Buick's Gran Sport didn’t catch the American public's eye - and car-buying dollars - as well as its competitors'. By 1968
it was fighting for 4th place in the intermediate super arena with Ford's Fairlane. And that in itself told a story...firstly that the Fairlane wasn't higher on the charts, and the fact that Buick was able to maintain a sales figure equal to a Ford product.
It was, in a way, reminiscent of 1955
when Buick had 3rd place in the market all to themselves. While the traditional Buick image had never been highlighted by "hot" cars, their philosophy of building solid, rugged products was an equal selling point. For generations of Americans the Buick's had proved to be exceptionally sturdy.
The styling on the 1968 GS was pleasing. There were a couple of angles where the car did look a bit awkward, but overall, it was a smooth-lined car. If you added a set of genuine Buick wire wheels it could have been described as based on the limited-production 1954 Buick Skylark. Ratings were the same as 1967: 340 hp at 5000 rpm; 440 lbs.ft. of torque at 3200 rpm.
The Controlled Combustion System
Basically the engine was unchanged for 1968
except for the addition of a "controlled combustion system" - an exhaust
emission control device. Ignition wires on all V8s were changed from individual wires to pre-assembled harnesses. Moulded wire retainers snapped on posts which were part of rocker cover bolts, and were neater, easier to hook up, and less likely to get snagged or crossed. A single 4-bbl. carb was used on both 350- and 400-cu.-in. engines. Both were Rochester Quadrajet design.
GS 400s came with 3-speed floor shifted manual gearboxes standard. A 4-speed manual and 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic were on the option list. Both manual boxes had Hurst floor shift linkage, and the automatic
could be either column or floor console mounted. Stick shift cars came with 3.42:1 rear axle ratios, but either a 3.64:1 or 3.91:1 ratio was available. Standard ratio with automatics was 2.93:1. Options were 3.42, 3.64,and 3.91.
On the Road
The GS 400 convertible weighed in at 4300 pounds – which was not what you would have described as stripped and ready for action. It did perform admirably, though. A time of 16.3 seconds and speed of 88 mph was possible from the heavy brute, which carried nearly 800 pounds more than would be required on a sanctioned drag strip. The F70x14 Wide Oval tyres
would refuse to bite on the bitumen, even with high pressure, unless only a light foot was applied to the accelerator. Wheel spin through 1st, and most of 2nd gear, was an easy task, although it was easier to avoid the speed robbing spin in a manual rather than an automatic.
geometry was altered slightly for 1968 allowing the rear wheels to move up and back upon sharp impact. This reduced much shock transfer to the car interior, by having the wheels comply with impacts rather than just react to them. Coil springs
were used at all corners. The "400" spring rates were less than the "350," but the front spring was .10-inch higher. The "400" rate was 390 pounds per inch, and the "350" was 410. Rear rates were 115 pounds per inch on the big car, and 144 on the "350." A .969-inch diameter stabilizer bar was used up front, but none was used on the rear. Even so there was no adverse pitching at the front, nor any rear sway. Front-to-rear weight distribution was better on the "350," and since the car was lighter it exhibited somewhat better handling
All the GS models handled beautifully. Understeer was minor, the rear end preferred to stay behind the front while in a quick turn, and steering
was highly responsive. They were solid handlers in every respect, only slightly behind the GTO in overall ride and handling
virtues, and second to none of its competitors from there on out. A 24:1 manual steering
gear ratio was standard, with power assist optional. The manual unit was terribly slow, and was so hard to turn it could be dangerous in a quick evasive emergency. The power unit was 17.5:1 geared, and took only a little over four turns lock-to-lock. Steering wheel diameter was 16 inches, fairly large even by the standards of the time, and was offered with adjustable tilt mechanism which was very handy.
were always noted for reliability and resistance to fade, and the 1968 GS's continued this tradition. Obviously the weight of the GS was a problem, so they sure had their work cut out for them. Road testers recorded a 49-foot 30-mph stop which was definitely not in the " record setting" class, but was accomplished with very controllable lockup, and the car didn't vary from a straight line. But it is worth noting that these figures were thanks to the optional front disc/rear drum power binders, and the all drum setup would have been considerably worse, even though the standard GS 400 front drums were finned aluminium with cast iron liners (the rears were composite cast iron). Composite cast iron drums were used all-round on standard GS 350 brakes. Brake drum diameter for all was 9.5 inches.
Behind the Wheel
One of the best things about the Fisher Body was the vent window crank handles they added to "A" body GM cars. Earlier GS interiors didn't have nearly the posh atmosphere of its competitors'. That was corrected for 1968, and the bucket seats which formerly wrapped around the driver so firmly were opened up, allowing a bit more space to move around. We didn't realize how confining the previous buckets were until sampling these.
Hours of driving were pleasurable in the GS. Driver position was straight aft of the steering
wheel centre, so one arm wasn't kinked while the other was straight out. The glove compartment was a bit of a reach, but the optional console bin remedied this for the driver. For 1968 Buick followed Fords lead with switching to a suspended accelerator pedal. Ford had used this for some years with success, and the big advantage was that it made floor cleaning easier. Cable operated throttle linkage was used also, eliminating binding and simplifying mechanism, routing and lubrication.
The shorter overall length and wheelbase didn’t affect the GS ride at all. "Solidness" was the key descriptive word. The body was dropped over the perimeter frame to firm up the combined structure, and that all but eliminated any rattles and creaks. To our mind the firm ride characteristics were to be applauded, although we are not sure how it was received in 1960s America. We love firm suspension
for the added control it supplies, and one criticism we usually have when getting behind the wheel of a large American is the wallowing feel – but this is not so on the GS.
The funny thing about the then "new" H.D. suspension
was that the U.S. motor industry knew what was best for drivers, even if it went against the soggy experience most had grown used to. It all boiled down to a matter of balance, and then deciding which was most important; control by the driver or the car. Buick did a great job both in deciding which was the most important and in giving it.
On the Inside
The heavily padded, redesigned dash was one of the best going. Instruments and controls were neatly grouped, and within easy reach. In fact, the only complaint some had was with the contrast between the chrome finish of the controls and the flat black colour of the dash; it wasn't enough to give a driver instant reading. The hidden wipers looked great and functioned even better. The arms were tucked out of sight of the sun and didn't throw glare to the interior. The left arm was articulated, and the wipers provided 20% more wiping area than in 1967. The petrol filler neck, located behind the license plate, was ribbed and built to not break away in the event of a rear end collision.
The "horseshoe" console shift for the automatic
was always hard to get used to. It was difficult to handle because the straight bar top was parallel with the dash, and not angled to the driver. Small niggles aside, the GS interior really was neat.
GS350: 350 V8 280 bhp @ 4,600rpm, 375 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm.
GS400: 400 V8 340 bhp @ 5,000rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm.
GS400 Stage 1: 400 V8 345 bhp @ 5,800 rpm, 440 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm.
400/340: 0-60 in 6.8 sec, 1/4 mile in 15.2 sec @ 92 mph.