Car of the Week: 1967 Buick Gran Sport 400

By Brian Earnest

Rick Rubis is a big believer in fate. In fact, he’s pretty sure that, like a woman, fate will change its mind every once in a while.

At least that seems to be the case for Rubis and his sweet 1967 Buick Gran Sport, who finally wound up together about 18 years ago after several near-misses. Three times Rubis tried to land himself a ’67 GS 400, and twice he missed out on chances to own the car he has now. But the two finally wound up together, and it’s been a happy marriage.

"I just figured it wasn’t meant to be," said Rubis, of his earlier failings to buy a ’67. "I had sort of given up on it, but then things changed and maybe fate did mean for me to have it."

Rubis had a new muscle car on his mind after he returned home from a tour of duty overseas in 1967, but he didn’t want to drive the same car that everybody else had. "Everybody seemed to get getting the Chevelle Super Sports and the GTOs at the time, but I like to be different," said Rubis, a resident of Monroeville, Pa. "My dad and my uncle were both Buick guys, so when I spotted the first Buick Gran Sport on the street, I went to a dealer and investigated because nobody really had them.

“I actually wanted to order a ‘67 but wound up with a ‘66 4-speed car that had 12,000 miles on it. It was yellow with a black roof.”

Rubis, eventually swapped that car for a Super Bee, and then got into Corvettes. But he never gave up on the idea of getting another Gran Sport, and the next time around he hoped to finally find a ’67.

“I had that yellow and black one, so when I went out looking that’s what I was looking for,” he said. The closest thing he found was a solid-color Gold Mist hardtop in Pittsburgh that didn’t exactly blow him away.

“When I first saw it didn’t have the black painted roof. It didn’t have red line tires on it. I wasn’t overly thrilled with the appearance, but I could tell it was a good solid car,” he said. “The seller was one of the guys that didn’t want people to know where the car was, so he met me in a section of Pittsburgh and I wound up making him an offer that he declined. I thought it wasn’t meant to be and that was the end of it.”

A year later, however, Rubis saw a newspaper ad for the same car. The Buick hadn’t sold, and the owner was again trying to find a buyer. “But I tossed the newspaper or lost it, or whatever, and I never got to call on it,” Rubis said.

“So finally, I had a friend who told me, ‘I have a brother-in-law who has a bunch of cars, and one of them is a ’67 GS. You should could go check it out.’ Turns out, the brother-in-law was the only guy that showed up to make an offer on the car I had gone and looked at, and he made the guy some ridiculous low-ball offer and the guy took it! So I wound up getting the car from my friend’s brother-in-law for $1,000 less than I had originally offered for it!”

1967 was the first year that the GS 400 was in a series separate from regular Skylarks and Skylark GS 340s. The series included a coupe with a $2,956 base price, a two-door hardtop with a $3,019 sticker and a convertible that listed for $3,167. With 10,659 assemblies, the hardtop was the most popular. Only 1,014 coupes were made, along with only 2,140 ragtops.

A Gran Sport 340 was also offered in 1967 for those on a slightly tighter budget, or who were slightly less horsepower-crazed. The 340 was available only as a hardtop and was sort of viewed as the 400’s little sibling.

On the 400, special equipment included a hood with twin simulated air scoops, a rallye stripe, GS ornamentation, all-vinyl seating with foam-padded cushions, dual exhausts, White-Line wide oval tires and a heavy-duty suspension. Desirable options included the four-speed manual transmission for $184.31, limited-slip differential for $42.13, front power disc brakes for $147, a tachometer for $47.39, a full console for $57.93, a consolette for $36.86 and chrome-plated wheels for $90.58.

Rubis’ car had about 35,000 miles on the odometer when he took the keys. He drove the car without doing much to it — aside from adding a vinyl top — “for the first 15 years or so,” but he has now turned the car into his vision of the ideal ’67 GS. The car has been repainted, given a new vinyl top, new headliner, seat covers and carpet. He kept the same gold paint color, but jazzed up the car’s appearance slightly with some aftermarket 17-inch Ion wheels and redlines from Diamond Back.  “And we took the Buick wheel centers and jury-rigged them on the wheels so they fit. They aren’t original wheels, but they do fit with the car.”

Rubis also added a console around the car’s manual floor shift, and swapped in an aftermarket steering wheel. “It’s like a Corvette wheel. I put it on and I’m happy with it. The original wheel was cracked and needed to be replaced.. I like this one, even if some people say it wasn’t an option and isn’t original.”

The only real trouble Rubis said he has ever had with the car came one day “four or five years ago” when he took the car out for some exercise and ran into some engine trouble. “I was going out on one of my ‘blow out the dust’ rides and I blew out more than the dust,” he said. “I had the whole engine rebuilt at that point.”

A new 400-cid engine in 1967 replaced the 1965-66 "401" in the Gran Sports. The old engine design dated back to 1953. The new V-8 combined lightweight construction and better breathing characteristics to create a potent package.

The new 400 power plant had a 4.040 x 3.900-inch bore and stroke, a single Rochester four-barrel carburetor and a 10.25:1 compression ratio. It produced 340 hp at 5000 rpm and 440 lbs.-ft. of torque at 3200 rpm. It was also available with the variable-pitch-stator Super Turbine 400 transmission, a $236.82 option previously used only in big Buicks.

Rubis figure he puts between 1,000 and 1,500 miles a year on the GS these days, splitting his car hobby miles between the GS and a slick, custom 1970 Skylark convertible that once belonged to his mother. “It’s just a fun car to drive,” he said. “I don’t think those early GS’s were super fast, like the ’70 GSX or some of the others that came later. I’m sure there were a lot of cars that could blow the GS’s off the road at the time. But it’s really a fun car to drive.”

And driving is Rubis’ main hobby activity. He has done the car show circuit with pristine cars, and says he much prefers having a “driver” car that he can take to cruises with his hobby brethren. “I had a ’64 Corvette one time that I turned into a show car, and that was a big mistake,” he said. “It ruined the fun of the car for me. But back at that time, nobody was doing cruises. All you could do was go to shows. But I much prefer the cruises. These cars were meant to be driven.”

Ironically, Rubis lived not far from the first owner of his car, but says he never noticed the car on the road. “I originally lived in Latrobe and the car was originally from Greensburg, which is only like 10 miles away,” he said. “I never remember seeing the car in those days. That’s another thing made me think by fate I was meant to have it.

“It’s funny, I originally was looking for a ’67, and I eventually wound up with a ’67 years later. I figured fate didn’t want me to have it. But then fate turned around and maybe I was supposed to have the car after all.”

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