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When Buick pitched sporting cars with safety

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Advertisement and brochure images courtesy of Lov2XLR8.no.

Ruth Campanelli’s husband was having a mid-life crisis. Perhaps he set out to buy a Ford Mustang (a 390-powered Mustang GT fastback would be our guess), or maybe even a final-year Corvette Sting Ray convertible (probably with the optional single four-barrel 427). “Happy wife, happy life,” the saying goes, and when Ruth pointed out that the Buick Gran Sport was safer, possessed with “sure footedness and stamina,” well, then – Mr. Campanelli became a Buick man, signing on the dotted line for an Apple Red 1967 Buick GS-400 convertible.

While other automakers were selling on performance, Buick used a different tact to attract buyers to its GS series, restyled for ’67. Below, we see that the GS-400 came equipped with dual master cylinders, a padded dash, padded visors, and seat belts, but nowhere in the ad can we read about the car’s output or available performance options. Mr. Campanelli checked the box for the four-speed manual (instead of the standard three-speed manual or optional Super Turbine automatic), and we can only hope that he also selected the 3.55:1 rear to take advantage of the 400-cu.in. V-8’s 340 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. Sure, the performance axle ratio wasn’t available with air conditioning, but who really needs air conditioning in a convertible?

1967 Buick GS-400

For 1967, Buick expanded the GS line to include the entry-level GS-340, available only in two-door hardtop form and priced from $2,845. That price included a 340-cu.in. V-8 with a rated output of at 260 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, and a standard three-speed manual transmission. No four-speed was available, though buyers could select the Super Turbine automatic, and well as two special order axle ratios. A sport suspension was included on GS-340 models, but those wanting the maximum in corner-carving ability could also select the optional Sport Pac, which included a heavy-duty rear anti-roll bar, special springs and shocks and a 15:1 steering ratio.

For buyers like Mr. Campanelli, the GS-400 came in three flavors: the pictured convertible, a two-door coupe and a two-door hardtop. At a starting price of $3,167, the convertible was the most expensive offering in the GS lineup, followed by the $3,019 hardtop and the $2,956 coupe. The GS-400 included a broader range of options, including more exterior colors and a choice of either bench or bucket seats inside.

Buick’s brochure for the ’67 GS models called them “the new American sporting machines,” advising potential buyers that “They’re not like the European sports car. Not at all.” Truer words were never written in ad copy, considering that the 3,500 pound Buick measured 205-inches from bumper-to-bumper and 75.4-inches in width. By comparison, the 2,240-pound Triumph TR4 measured 156-inches in length and 58-inches in width; the 1,925-pound MGB measured 153-inches in length and 60-inches in width; and the significantly-more-expensive Porsche 911 weighed in at 2,336 pounds, measured 169-inches in length and 67-inches in width. “Husky” is rarely an adjective associated with sporting cars, but Buick tossed that in the mix, too.

We salute Mr. Campanelli’s choice of convertible (though not his headgear – we’d take a hard pass on that), even if it did likely involve a bit of compromise with Ruth. The GS-400 has aged well, and if he’s still driving it, we bet he gets plenty of praise at the show and shine, along with the occasional, “Is that really a Buick?”