1962-1996 Buick V-6

The AMC V-6

In 1973 Buick began searching for a way to bring back its V-6. Before long it would appear in cars like this 1976 Century Special.
In 1973 Buick began searching for a way to bring back its V-6. Before long it would appear in cars like this 1976 Century Special.

Buick Chief Engineer Phillip Bowser sent word of the Apollo V-6 to GM President Edward N. Cole, who announced that he wanted to drive it. On December 17, 1973, Studaker drove the yellow Apollo prototype from Flint to the GM headquarters in downtown Detroit, followed by a chase car "just in case." He expected Cole would give it the usual perfunctory executive test drive.

"I'd been on these rides before with corporate management and knew what that usually entailed," Studaker said. "They get in the car, ride around the block a couple of times with you, get out of the car and say, 'Well, that was a very good job young man. We'll be in touch.' But this time it didn't happen that way. Ed got into the car and headed for Interstate 75 and turned south. I couldn't figure out where we were going. When I asked, he said, 'We're going down to Kaiser. We're going to talk with those people down there.'"

Accompanying Cole was his chief technical assistant, an engineer by the name of Robert C. Stempel, who later became GM's chairman of the board. This was a pretty wild ride down the interstate, according to Studaker. Cole was a man with a mission: "He had his foot in the firewall the whole way, passing nearly every car on the road. He says, 'Man, we gotta have these engines. This is what we really need with this oil embargo. If we could get 50,000 to 100,000 of these, that would really help us.'"

Kaiser-Jeep Corporation was now owned by American Motors, and AMC representatives met Cole at the Toledo engine plant, where the V-6 tooling had been mothballed for more than two years. AMC's engineers favored their own straight-sixes over the V-6, in good part to achieve "economy of scale" in their own manufacturing operations. Besides, as one AMC executive pointed out, the V-6 was "rough as a cob." The old GM V-6 was thus dropped in Jeep products after 1971.

"So we went out into the factory, and we're walking down along the equipment, and Ed Cole was waving his arm and he says, 'How long do you think it would take you to get this line back in production? How many do you think you could build us in a year -- 25,000? Maybe 50,000? Even more than that? How much do you think they'd cost?'" Cole had a much greater sense of urgency than the AMC people, who figured they could tool up to build 20 engines an hour within a year. Cole said he needed 75 an hour by August. Studaker describes the stunned AMC executives as "standing there with their mouths open." They told Cole, "We'll get back to you."

Meanwhile, it was obvious there was much work to be done to update the V-6 to meet the stricter emissions regulations of the mid-Seventies while preserving fuel economy. That task was assigned to Buick Engineering. "We worked all through the Christmas holidays," according to Studaker. "They ran prototypes day and night at the Milford Proving Grounds," testing durability, emissions, and fuel economy. EPA certification required 50,000 miles on the odometer, so as soon as one driver's shift was over, another jumped behind the wheel.

For more information on cars, see: