How Buick Works

1967, 1968, 1969 Buicks

Buick produced a recordbreaking 665,000 cars in 1969, including this 1969 Buick Wildcat.

Modestly redone grilles, side trim, and taillights were again the principal alterations for '67 juniors, but that year's seniors got new GM B- and C-bodies with flowing semifastback profiles on hardtop coupes and more voluptuous lines everywhere else. Identifying the '67 Riviera was a horizontal-crossbar grille and revamped parking lights.

Specials and Skylarks continued with the 225 V-6 and 300/340 V-8s for '67, but a new 430 V-8 -- Buick's biggest engine -- was now standard for Wildcat, Electra, and Riviera. Though no more potent than the 425, it was smoother and quieter.

A new Special/Skylark option was a cast-iron 400, a bored-and-stroked 340. This formed the heart of a new Skylark subseries called GS 400 offering convertible, two-door hardtop, and pillared coupe with handling suspension, bucket seats, and other sporty touches. A similar hardtop with the 340 engine bowed as the GS 340. Model-year sales were excellent, exceeding 560,000.

Skylark sold in record numbers for 1968, partly because Specials were trimmed to just three DeLuxe models. Like other '68 GM intermediates, junior Buicks adopted a new "split-wheelbase" A-body making for 112-inch Special/Skylark two-doors, 116-inch Special four-doors and DeLuxe wagons, and 121-inch Sportwagons (versus 120 inches in 1964-67).

The hot GS 400 returned minus coupe, while GS 340 gave way to a GS 350 with a bored 350-cid V-8 packing 280 bhp. A 230-bhp version was a new Special/Skylark option and standard for Sport­wagon, Skylark Custom, and LeSabres; all these offered the tuned unit at extra cost. The 225 V-6 gave way to a Chevy-built 250 inline six with lower compression, reflecting 1968's new federal emissions rules.

Like the '67s, the big '68 Buicks had side sculpturing (traced with moldings on some models) recalling the '50s "sweep-spear," plus divided grilles, big bumpers, and, new that season, hidden wipers. The rebodied midsizers wore similar down-sloped side "character" lines, plus new grilles, the hide-away wipers, pointy rear fenders, and taillamps in big back bumpers. Riviera got a heavy-handed divided grille that made it look more contrived than in 1966-67.

Many Buicks returned to tradition with stylized front-fender "ventiports." Exceptions were Wildcats, GS 400s, and Skylark Customs, where rectangular trim was used to suggest air vents of various types.

No engine changes occurred for record-breaking 1969, when Buick built more than 665,000 cars, its decade high, though it still ran fifth in the industry. Seniors again received new bodies, this time with ventless side glass and a squarer, more-formal look.

The year-old junior line displayed the expected minor trim shuffles; Gran Sports and Sportwagons remained separate series, as in '68. LeSabre still rode a 123-inch wheelbase, but so did Wildcat for the first time in four years.

This hot-selling line continued into 1970, but without Specials -- the smaller workaday models were now Skylarks -- and with Estate wagons in a separate series. The latter remained big upper-class two- and three-seat haulers battling the likes of Chrysler's Town & Country.

All full-sizers acquired new grilles, bumpers, and taillights; intermediates received longer hoods, bulkier lower-body contours, and different grilles for each series. Riviera also gained a longer hood, reverted to exposed headlamps astride a thin-line vertical-bar grille, sported a wider rear window and altered bumpers, and offered rear fender skirts as a first-time option. The result was more dignified, if a tad stuffy.

Buick's main mechanical development was an enormous 455 V-8. An outgrowth of the 430 it supplanted, this monster gulped premium gas at the rate of 12 mpg on compression ratios of at least 10:1. The last mammoth V-8 Buick would build, the 455 bowed in '70 with 350, 360, or 370 bhp, and was standard for the GS and LeSabre 455s, Riviera, Electra 225, Wildcat, and Estates.

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