"The Stage" circa Oct, 1991. Mike took the picture, I was behind the wheel.
This chapter of my History with Buicks Chronicles my first foray into modification of a GS, engine building, and drag racing. If you haven't read it yet, go back and read part 1 and 2, so your up to speed.
How I met Mike Bucy- 1986
By this time, I was heavily into the street scene, with both my GS, and a 1980 Z-28 that I purchased as a daily driver.. 40K original miles, bought thru a buddy of mine from my high school days, that was a used as my daily driver and what I referred to as my "Winter beater". But it actually was a very nice car.
Having just graduated from High School, and not really knowing what I wanted to do for a living yet, I decided not to go blindly to college, but instead was working several jobs, one of which was as a counterman for a local chain of Auto parts stores known as "10,000 Auto Parts".. called that because we stocked 10,000 parts, I suppose.
While there were half a dozen of these stores scattered around the Twin Cities, it was nothing like the Autozone's of today.. it was a serious parts store, with a good selection of speed equipment. Much more like a speed shop that the current type of store that is mainly interested in selling oil, filters, and floor mats.
That store was located on Coon Rapids Blvd, in Coon Rapids MN, about 4 miles from where TSP sits today.
While working at the parts store in the Evenings, and a production machine shop during the day, I spent plenty of time planning new improvements for my cars, as well as cruising, and a bit of street racing.
"The Scene" back then, was Central Ave in Northeast Minneapolis. On any given Friday or Saturday night in the summer, there would be dozens, sometimes hundreds of cars of all shapes and sizes cruising up and down the street. And when the bench racing ended, and it was time to "run what you brung" we would head out to Hwy 88, about 2 miles away. This was a divided 4 lane hwy, with just enough stoplights with long stretches between them, to make a natural race track.. I was involved in more than a few of those races, with the GS, and my Buddies STG 1 Riv.
One evening, while we were parked on Central with the GS convert clone pictured in the first installment of this narrative, a maroon 73 GS pulled up behind the GS, and parked.. out popped a big short hairy guy, who asked who owned the GS.. His name was Dan Joseph, he lived in the area, and was hooked into the Buick street and race scene far more than I was in those days.
Dan was just a fireplug of a guy.. Short and muscular, he loved to work out, and street race his 73 GS 455.. it was typical for the time, with a VP trans, headers, Q-jet, 113 cam ect... and he loved to tell a story, with demonstrative arm movements and his voice going up and down like a yo-yo.. a fun guy to hang out with..
Anyway, while we were talking on the street, he mentioned to me that he knew a guy in Coon Rapids, who had what he called "The Stage".. and that I had to hook up with this guy. At the time, I was a competent back yard mechanic, and he mentioned that Mike Bucy, this guy in Coon Rapids, was helping him and one of his buddies put a 455 Buick in a mid 70's Chev pickup..
So he asked if I would stop out the next day, and help them straighten out some wiring issue. I got the address, and agreed to stop out the next day, which was a Sunday if I recall correctly.
After looking at a map to find the address (no mapquest ..or internet for that matter back then) I realized this guy's house was not more than a Mile from my job at 10,000 Auto.
I showed up the next day to find them working on that truck.. they put a mid 70's 455 in it, in Mike's driveway, and just need a little help with the starter/ignition wiring.. Mike was a nice guy, about 5 or 6 years older than I was, who had a house an a young family at the time. We got the truck running, did some smoky burnouts with one tire out in the street, and then the serious bench racing started. I had brought out the convert, and we talked about that, went for a ride, and then settled down for an evening of brandy cokes and BS..
I walked into Mikes 2 car garage, and what did I find sitting there.. a near perfect 1970 STG 1, up on jack stands, with no motor or trans, covered in boxes.. "What is this" I asked excitedly. It is probably the first real 70 STG 1 car I had seen in person. And this car was nice.. the poly brown paint shined like new, the brown vinyl top was perfect, and the saddle brown interior looked like it had never been sat in. I could see the MN Personalized lisc plate, that simple read "STAGE" on it (hence the name).
Mike relayed the story, which is all too familiar these days. After buying the car for $2500 from the aforementioned Dan Joseph, after Dan had gotten into an accident with a motorcycle (ran the peg of the bike down the LH Quarter, slicing it open) Mike had the body fixed and repainted, and then had embarked on a tradition "go fast" buildup, common back then.. Headers, KB switch pitch (VP) converter, 113 cam, 12 bolt rear, ect, and had ran it that way at the local drag strips, and on the street. Went to Ohio and was at the track where the Infamous Hemi vs STG 1 race took place.. Ran in the low 13's with it back then.
Wanting to go faster, Mike hooked up with a local Chevy engine builder, and had the predictable results.. ruined the original numbers block, all kinds of other problems, and Mike got fed up with it, and it just sat. Had been sitting there, untouched, for a couple years.
That car made an impression on me, and the wheels started turning in my head.. it looked like a way for me to get to the drag strip, with a Buick.
I had run once at Rock Falls Raceway, with my Z-28, but that thing, even with it's 268 comp Cam, intake, headers, and 750 Holley would only turn mid 14's, and that was too slow for me, and besides, I was really a Buick guy..
Because Mike's house was so close to my job, I often when over there to hang out with him in the garage, drink a few EJ Brandy-Pepsi cocktails, and help him maintain his family vehicles. But "The Stage" was never far from my mind.
Some where in that time, we hatched a plan.. Me, being single, having a pickup truck, a welder and plenty of time to work on the car, took The Stage home to my folks garage that fall, and proceeded to install a roll bar, a 65 4-11 geared 12 bolt I had(because it was 1" narrower than the later model on that was in the car already) and over that winter, we pieced back together the motor, with a new block.
That first race motor was nothing spectacular- Stock bottom end, with the Venoilia flat top pistons from his previous setup, a KB Mark 5 cam, the original stock STG 1 heads, KB roller rockers, KB headers, an 850 Holley he had laying around, and the original stock Iron intake. He had a B4B, but it was on of the early ones that was machined wrong, and it leaked water at the corners. With a limited budget, we just used Iron intake with an adapter to begin with.
I had "inherited" a nice 77 GMC 3/4 ton pickup in '87 when my maternal Grandfather died, and it's 454 was well suited to pull a borrowed open car trailer, so we headed for the track that spring.
It ran pretty well, but was really loud... I mean when it did a burnout, folks jumped back from the fence. It was uncorked with just the headers and collectors, of course. We didn't think anything about it at the time.
It ran pretty well, but was really inconsistent.. Mid to high 12's as I recall, and it was the first time since Mike had turned it into a race car, that he really had fun with it. But there was a problem that he had before.. it would misfire downtrack, and he could never really figure out why.
After the normal swapping of parts, trying to fix the misfire, we were banging and popping our way down the track one weekend, when I was under the dash in the pits, looking at the fuse box. Out of the "ING" terminal on the fusebox, I saw this big red wire. "What does this go to"... Mike replied "the electric fan".
So I unplugged it.. and the car sounded awesome, even in the pits..
After a quick hotwire job for the fan to the battery, I took it out on the track, and ran the first clean pass with the car.. it ran about a 12.10, and we were overjoyed.
It turns out that "ING" terminal is hooked directly to the coil positive wire, and was dropping the voltage on the coil.
About the end of that first year, we had an engine problem.. it started smoking pretty bad, and was running very inconsistently. So we yanked it out, and pulled it apart, and were dismayed to find out that it had taken some chunks out of the top ring land of a couple pistons.
Curious, we broke out the NHRA rulebook, and in the back were the engine calculations for compression ratio. We got some simple tools together, and I measured my first true compression ratio... It turned out to be around 13-1, and we were running 100 octane 'race fuel' right out of the pump at a local station.
Not quite enough for the compression..
I decided right then and there, I was going to buy some engine building books and tools, and learn really how to assemble a race motor.
We raced that car for 7 years, with suspension modifications, hood scoops, fuel system upgrades and parts from a newer company called "TA Performance", and all the used racing parts we could lay our hands on. We also got into the whole electronics, that were just coming out at the time, using both a throttle stop and a delay box in the later years. I had probably the one and only throttle stop for the 1000 Thermoquad ever made, and it still sits on my shelf to this day.
In the meantime, in my personal life, I had decided to become a tech. I went thru Dunwoody industrial Institute, and graduated with high marks, and now I not only new what worked on race car, I knew why it worked. I was employed at a Texaco gas station in South Minneapolis, as a tech in the back, making decent money, and having the shop at my disposal on weekends to work on the race car.
By 1993, we were tired of losing races from spinning the tires on marginal tracks, and we began back-halving the GS. I have nightmares to this day about cutting out the perfect trunk floor, and throwing it away. The decision to back half the car was not taken lightly, we discussed it for many years, before we actually started on it. You see back then, big tires were the only answer, for that 4100 lbs car. There were not trick suspension setups for the A bodys back then. You just lopped off the back of the car, and put ladder bars and 14/32's on it.
But another opportunity came along that winter. Dan Hopkins, who I had met at the track and thru mutual friends, was selling his backhalfed 81 Regal, which had lexan windows, fiberglass doors, and a 1 piece front end. Mike an I bought the car from him, and set the GS aside, with it's new frame rails and cage just tacked in place.
Here's a rundown of the GS, when we stopped racing it. It took six years of mostly trial and error to come up with the final combo.
1970 GS STG 1
Full Bucket interior with 8 point cage (and pwr windows)
All steel, all factory glass windows, with a "snorkel hood scope" on a 70 Skylark flat hood. Rear GSX spoiler, for looks.
Stock rear suspension with boxed arms and sway bar, air bags
Sumped stock tank, with Holley Blue electric pump
HD driveshaft with 1350 Yokes
12 bolt Chev with 4.33 gears, Strange Spool, Moser Axles
15X10 Centerline wheels, 29.5x10.5 Hoosiers, or 11.5 Firestone's
15x4 Centerlines, with skinny's up front
Moroso drag front springs, 90-10 shocks, 4 wheel factory drum brakes.
Manual steering box from a Olds Vista cruiser wagon.
TH-400 with T-brake
ATI 5000 stall converter
1969 430 +.060 with a set of ancient KB/ Jahns superlight pistons
Stock rods and crank
K/B "deep sump" oil pan
Mildly ported (250cfm) 70 STG 1 heads
KB "Mark 4" cam
TA roller rockers
TA Sp-1 intake with 1" spacer, sealed hood scoop
Stock timing cover
1000 TQ carb
Dynoed at 527HP/540TQ
Car weighted 4110 with me in it, ready to race.
Best performance- 11.19 at 119mph
We never won a race with it, but were always there in the later rounds, and it was a great learning tool for how to run a race car. Because of our limited budget, and our desire to not "cut up" the car, we had to learn how to make a race car fast, without having tons of money to make big HP. And how to make it consistant, and how to race competitively.
The car today sits as it was left in 1994, in my garage, waiting to be finished. The next time you all see me in a race car, it will be this car. I have another 70 GS that we will be turning into my girlfriend Beth's race car, and using as a test bed for products.
But "The Stage" will live on, as it's slated to run Super Gas in the future.
Thanks for reading, sorry it was so long, but trust me, I abbreviated it greatly, as there are many, many stories I could tell about this car, and our experience (and education) with it.
Next up- The Regal years