By Dave Rubin
Unusually warm weather this last autumn allowed me to cruise over to the Yorktown (NY) Cars and Coffee the first week of November in my ‘69. Among the Corvettes, Mustangs, Porsches, and more Corvettes, I spotted this tidy example of a 1970’s GM A-body Colonnade coupe. These cars are rare sights at car shows nowadays. But I did not realize how rare this car was until I spoke with its owner, Phil Roitman of Katonah, NY.
First a little background on the 1973 Gran Sports. The Buick Gran Sport was the muscle car version of the Buick Century. The GM A-bodies were new for 1973, featuring the Colonnade styling. All the A-bodies were around 325 pounds heavier than the prior years’ models due to roof and frame reinforcements required by the anticipated safety federal rollover standards (which never materialized). However, due to the large engine compartments of these cars, stuffing them with big V8 power plants was not a problem. When these cars were on the drawing board, the 1973 oil embargo was not part of the plan, many of these V8-engined A-bodies were built. The Buick Century had its Gran Sport, the Olds Cutlass had its 442, the Chevy Chevelle had an SS version, and the Pontiac Grand Am could be ordered as a GTO.
The Gran Sport was differentiated from the Century with decals on the rear fenders and trunk lid, suspension upgrades, and four engine choices. The Century came equipped with only a 150 net horsepower 350 2-bbl V8. The four Gran Sport engine choices for the ‘73 line-up included either a 175 net horsepower 2-bbl 350 CID V8 or a 190 net horsepower 4-bbl 350 CID V8. A 225 net horsepower 455 CID V8 was available next, and topping it all off was the 270 net horsepower Stage 1 455 CID V8 (270 net horsepower equates to 340 to 350 gross horsepower according to this source). All engines were available with a 3-speed automatic or a 4-speed manual transmission.
Phil’s car is of the scarce 4-speed variety. The car is currently a high gloss black, but was originally Harvest Gold. The new paint, factory correct decals, black vinyl roof, and black interior all show well. This is not a car for the concours, but instead is a very presentable 100,000-mile cruiser. The car is straight, clean, and shiny. The only item that shows as not original is the tach.
So how rare is Phil’s car? In 1973 the Buick A-Bodies included not only the Century and its Gran Sport muscle upgrade, but also the Regal and Luxus Series’ as well. Century and Luxus came in four-door, two-door, and station wagon configurations. The Buick Regal came as a two-door Sport Coupe only. Of the 298,468 intermediate A-bodies produced in 1973 by Buick, 56,154 were two-door Century’s. Only 728 Gran Sport customers opted for the Stage 1 option however.
Having a car that is one of 728 is special, but it actually gets more interesting. According to the 1973-1975 Century GS Registry (http://19731975centurygsregistry.freehosting.net), only 365 4-speed Buick A-bodies were produced in 1973, of which Phil’s car is one. That makes Phil’s car one of 365, even rarer than one of 728. But let’s drill down deeper than that, because we actually know how many Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 cars came with the 4-speed. The answer according to the Registry is 92!
But the story of Phil and his interest in 1973 Buick A-bodies gets better. This is because Phil actually owns another 4-speed 1973 Gran Sport with the Stage 1 upgrade, along with four other 1973 Buick Colonnade models. The other ’73 4-speed Stage 1, Harvest Gold with 70,000 original miles, is currently undergoing a frame-off restoration at a specialty shop down South. Also in the stable is another Harvest Gold Gran Sport, an automatic with a 455. Phil competes with that car at FAST Races (Factory Appearing Stock Tires) and Super Car events, and consistently comes in under 13 seconds on the quarter mile (with street tires and A/C). So what does Phil take to the concours then, since one Stage 1 is a cruiser and the other is being restored? How about his 1973 Gran Sport Stage 1 Sun Coupe, one of only 45 produced, according to Phil.
Values listed in the 2015 Collector Car Price Guide for the 1973 Gran Sport are around $4,680 for a #3 condition car to $6,120 for a #1 condition car. Add the Stage 1 option, and those values increase to $10,400 for the #3 condition car to $13,600 for the #1 condition car. In the Guide there is no mention of what a 4-speed transmission or the Sun Coupe option do for value, but I believe it would increase markedly. These Gran Sports represent a good value for anyone wanting to get into the old car hobby for reasonable money. But you have to find one first!