Buick Stage 2 Engine Program
by Dave Knutsen
I've heard many confilcting reports on the firey demise of
the white GSX car, not sure really what to believe. I've heard everything
from a mule car that was destroyed to a blown engine that was done on the
test track (car was a 4 speed) to a blown engine that ended up burning the
car. The parts, including the steel Stage 2 scooped hood being used on another
car. I don't know what the real outcome was.
As to the two Calif. cars (the red one and white one). Both came out of
the factory as ordinary Stage 1 cars, with few options. Buick sold them
to both camps for little cash outlay with the agreement they'd be supplied
with "parts" to test. The white one was an auto, bench seat (non
custom interior), with the 3.64 gearset. They drove it on the street for
about 50 miles and never did title or register the car. Jim told me they
managed a best of a high 13 sec. ET with bias ply tires and no tuning. This
was the Reynolds sponsored car driven and co-owned by Lennie "Pop"
Kennedy and Jim Bell. Buick, through Reynolds Buick in West Covina California,
sent out many items to bolt on the car. The 4.78 gearset, lots of engine
parts, including Stage 2 heads, Kustom headers, and the famous stamped steel
Stage 2 scoop, (of which only two were produced, from what I was told).
Pop ended up buying Jim's half out of the car when Jim was going through
one of his divorces and they didn't want Linda to get the car. Bob Kent
(out of Kent, WA) bought the car, in I think 1974, with just a bill of sale
for the paperwork. It remained unchanged for several years while Bob had
trouble keeping it in proper tune. Bob would flat tow the car to the track.
He eventually had the car painted a horrendous blue color and tried to rework
the engine. The mechanics and machinist he used left much to be desired
and the car was eventually retired to the garage for several more years.
He had to buy another set of iron Stage 2 heads as the original set were
screwed up with home porting and bad machine work. He found two sets in
Michigan and was going to buy both sets if I'd buy one of the sets. Being
a starving college student at the time I couldn't muster the cash. So he
bought just one set. When the new engine didn't run right he called and
offered to sell me the car, this was back in 1981 or '82 for $2500. Now
being newly married I again couldn't come up with the cash. It just wasn't
meant to be I guess. Dave Johnson ended up buying the car for $5000. We
stripped the blue paint off and had it repainted in Sikkens white and redid
the engine, trans and put a 12 bolt in it. And generally fixed a lot of
the stuff that had been messed with on the car. Got the car to run 10.40's
at 126 and change. Dave ended up moving to AZ and eventually sold the car
to Guy as a rolling chassis. There's a bunch more to the story but this
is the quick version. I was told the red car was a stick car, but I've never
asked Doug Jones or Dave Benesik. Doug and Dave had much success with the
red car that is now owned by Tom Rix.
The Stage 2 air cleaner decals were available from Buick. I have several
of them here that I ordered many years ago from the local Buick dealer.
They are the correct raised pattern just like the Stage 1 decals. I made
the Stage 2 fender emblems that both of the cars used, but I think they've
probably gone back to using the original style Stage 1 fender emblems the
cars came with. If Buick would have made the fender emblems I would think
they'd have looked like the second version of the fender emblems. I used
a photo of the hood scoop decal off Tom's car as a pattern.
I do have a letter from Buick stating that two factory Stage 2 cars were
produced in 1970, but the white and red car are not them. They did produce
some other "mule" cars that were running the Stage 2 heads as
early as 1969. There was a magazine article testing a 69 Stage 2 packaged
GS400 car with the Stage 2 heads. So test heads were out there as early
First time I saw most of those pics is when Dave and I went
down to Reynolds Buick many years ago to try to find original paperwork
so we could get the car titled and licensed in Washington state. They had
a bunch of old photos and spent hours talking with us about the history.
You'll notice one of the factory Stage 2 air cleaner decals on the front
fender just below the 455 Cu. In. script. Also notice the hood is different
from the first and the fourth photo. The first photo shows the car with
a standard 70 Skylark hood (notice the front flat portion the chrome trim
fits to) vs. the fourth photo with a 71 Skylark hood. When Bob got the car
from Pop it had the 70 hood on it. I don't know if Guy ever got that hood,
as Dave and I switched it to a 71 style hood and had the correct hole cut
into it and fit the steel Stage 2 scoop on it. But the first photo is how
I remember the car when it came up here. I'm pretty sure those photos you
sent show two different white cars. But it could be just early and late
stages of the same car. But I was under the notion it was another car. Also
in the fourth photo it shows the hood before they cut the hole under the
scoop for the fresh air. The air cleaner also was pretty unique. It had
the standard base with no snorkel at all. Atop that base was a ring that
fit inside the base's lip and flat portion on top. This was held in place
with two springs, one on each side, down to the center valve cover bolt
location with a tab. Then a foam pad was glued to the ring to seal against
the hood. It all had the original GM logo part number stickers on it when
we had the car up here. I have a bunch of photos of those parts.