1965-1967 Buick Gran Sport

1966 Buick Gran Sport
Like its corporate siblings, the 1966 Buick Skylark Gran Sport was new all over.
Like its corporate siblings, the 1966 Buick Skylark Gran Sport was new all over.

The next year proved to be a transition year for the 1966 Buick Gran Sport. The biggest changes came in styling. The 1966 Gran Sport looked more like a performance car after Buick designers had a chance to fiddle with the product.

For one thing, the hood ornament was gone because muscle cars didn't have hood ornaments. But muscle cars did have hood scoops; the Gran Sport got a pair, albeit fake. There was a blacked-out grille, and the full-width taillights of 1965 were replaced by a black-matte finish rear cove panel and rectangular outboard taillamps.

The straight-through fender line was replaced for 1966 by a "kick-up" in the rear quarter panels; roofs on closed cars took on a bit of a slope and featured a backlight sunk between long sail panels. Front bucket seats were no longer mandatory -- a front bench seat with a folding center armrest was standard.

The new body made the 1966 Buick Gran Sport look a bit like a baby Wildcat.

On the other hand, chassis and suspension construction were essentially the same. Tires continued at 7.75 × 14, but now in a choice of whitewall or red-line styles. The 325-bhp, 401-cid Wildcat V-8 was continued, but an optional 340-horse single four-barrel version was advertised.

Base prices for the 1966 Gran Sport ranged from $2,956 to $3,167. Total production dropped to 13,816, with the hardtop again taking the lion's share of production with 9,934 examples. Buick produced 2,047 convertibles and 1,835 coupes. As in 1965, GS buyers flocked to automatic transmission-equipped cars.

Demand for the 1966 Buick Gran Sport coupe slipped below the 2,000 car mark.

Buick ended its engine charade in 1967 with a brand new 400-cid powerplant designed by Denny Manner under Cliff Studaker's direction. "We all worked together," Studaker said modestly, but he had been promoted to executive engineer in charge of all engines, so the new mill was his baby.

Actually, two new engines were built for the 1967 model year; the 400-cubic-incher and a 430. "We made the 400 specifically for the purpose of putting it in a Gran Sport," Studaker said.

The 1966 Buick Gran Sport two-door hardtop remained the volume car in the line with 9,934 sold.

According to Studaker, the 400 was an underbored 430-cid Wildcat V-8. Even with the smaller bore (4.04 inches versus 4.19), the engine was over-square "by far," he said. The 430 developed 360 bhp at 5,000 rpm and 475 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm, while the 400 put out 340 bhp at 5,000 rpm and 440 pound-feet at 3,200 revs. Both used single four-barrel carburetors and a 10.25:1 compression ratio.

"When we designed the 400 to replace the 401, not a part was interchangeable," said Manner. "The distributor was in the front, not the rear. It drove the oil pump up front. The oil pump was in the rear in the 401. The cylinder firing order was different."

For more on the new engine and on the 1967 Buick Gran Sport, see the next page.

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