It Was One of Those Days - Pt IX


Here - watch THIS!
May 24, 2001
As I opened the walk-through door into the ‘annex’ of my garage and stepped through, all of those memories came flooding back… reading the Hemming’s advertisement the first time and thinking, “Nah, it’s gotta be a fake…”, seeing Dollar-Bill’s big-teeth dog that day we first saw the car, the sights and smells in the old musty barn… and even the feel of the door handle in my hand as I opened the driver’s side door for the first time…


I walked around Dollar-Bill with Kelly right behind me. Neither of us could scarcely believe what we were seeing. My first reaction was, “Ok, where’s the documentation?”

Bill just grinned…

“Open the door there, my friend. You will find everything in the glove box that pertains to this car, just like it was when it left Flint. Papers on the lightweight fender liners that Oldsmobile got all the press for, papers on the trunk mat delete, papers telling us to not put any insulation at all in the car of any kind…. Hell, I even have the documents that our department heads signed off ordering the car to be destroyed. GM did not want this car making it to the streets. They used a lot of its design in the GSX series but not all of them and as usual, they wanted the prototypes destroyed. This is the ONLY prototype we built like this and they knew it – they wanted it crushed, melted down and gone forever. But we fooled ‘em good…’

“Oh yeah? How’d you do that, Bill?” I paused, my hand on the gleaming door pull, about to depress the release button below it. I paused, seriously interested in how this car came to be…

“Aw, it was easy really. We just had a regular black Gran Sport crushed and when the suits came to see the remains, they didn’t even check to see if it was anything but a black bodied car. Meanwhile, we had all drawn straws to see who would get to keep the car and I was the lucky one. Seemed fitting somehow… the motor in this car was hand assembled primarily by yours truly. The public knows that 678 1970 GSX’s were built but actually there were 679.” His wink said it all.

Bill seemed to have a gleam in his eye but then he seemed to be swept back in time… back to those days in the prototype works arm of Buick Corporate… I could see that far-away look in his eye, most likely reliving the memories of hefting the huge pistons in his hands, of hearing the motor come to life the first time… and many more.

He explained to us in great detail about how back then, almost $1200 was added to the price of the Buick Gran Sport 455 in 1970 to get the GSX. But if a person spent the extra money, he got a four-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter, G60-15 tires on mag-style wheels, a posi-traction rear with 3.42 gears, Rallye Ride and Control Suspension, power front disc brakes, bucket seats and a small console, a big fat three-spoke steering wheel, spoilers, hood tach and more. The Stage 1 package – for a measly $113.75 when ordered with the GSX package - added a hotter cam, a reworked carb, and bigger valves with freer flowing heads. Most GSX buyers ordered it.

He also told us about a dealer installed Stage 2 package that added headers, gears, the scooped hood, and some other things that he wasn’t sure about but that were all to be done at the dealer. But the granddaddy of them all was supposed to be the Stage 3.

The car before us was supposed to be the culmination of everything Buick’s performance division could muster and that the engineers hoped to get added to the option sheet for prospective buyers. Other GM divisions were kicking Buick’s butt in sales; particularly the new GTO Judge and the Chevelle SS 454 and Olds 442 W-30 car (with its red plastic fender liners) were leaving Buick behind in sales. Buick fans wanted to be the king at the track and on the street. It was hoped that ideas borne from this car were going to help Buick get the crown for them in a very quick way.

Before I reached back down to open the door, Bill had popped the hood. Oddly, the hood was not on springs and he propped it up with a prop rod that was along the driver’s fender. I tucked that observation away for a moment as I began to circle up to the front of the car along the long, curvaceous fender…

“Look at this… if this doesn’t make you drool you’re dead, boy…”

Bill had produced a flashlight from somewhere and was directing its dust particle-filled beam into the cavernous engine bay of the GSX. As I stepped nearer, I could see what he meant. This was a serious race car.

The first thing I noticed was the massive intake system. There were two four barrel carbs sitting on what was obviously a hand crafted intake connected to a common air inlet that sealed up against the yawning hood. No insulation was on the underside of the hood and when I reached up to touch it, I noticed it wasn’t metal at all – it was fiberglass! The scoop was worked onto the surface of the hood because there wasn’t any attachment hardware visible at all. No wonder there weren’t any hood springs…. Casting my gaze back down into the engine bay, Kelly was on the opposite fender and looking on with appreciation for something special. Bill continued with some more details….

“Steve, this car is definitely unique. I saw you staring at the intake – it’s beautiful, ain’t it? Wendell in fabrication made that for me and those two Holley 600’s on top have his linkage hooking them together. The cam? I don’t remember the numbers exactly but they are on the sheet in the glove box. I CAN tell you this thought, this car has a lot of trouble idling – it’s VERY rough and sounds a lot like a pro-stocker. Engine vacuum is almost non-existent at low rpm due to the size of the valves and the cam.”

I tried to imagine what it must have been like to build this monster…

“The internals are all forged, balanced and blueprinted as best possible. The compression ratio is almost 12:1 and this car HAS to have premium fuel. Actually, it liked the old Sunoco 260 but you can’t find that good stuff anymore… Anyways, the transmission is a built Turbo 400, not the 4 speed that you see in a lot of the cars. Tests showed us that the 4 speed would not take the torque of this motor… The rear axle isn’t a GM 12 bolt – it’s a Dana; and it has 4.10’s stuffed in it. Notice those big headers? Those also were all special made by Wendell and his crew and they were designed to maximize torque. If you recall, these here Buick 455’s were famous for their torque. Well let me tell you this – STOCK Buick 455’s WISH they had the torque this motor does…”

I saw that memory-laden stare in Bill’s eyes again… I scanned the engine bay, admiring the Spartan assortment of plumbing, wires and such… this was full-boogie race prep.

Kelly came on around to my side as Bill stepped back, a look on his face not unlike that of a father looking has child for the first time.

“Open the door, Steve” Kelly whispered… “See what’s inside…”

I felt the heat returning back to the environment… “Bad to Bone” still ran in and out of my thoughts… I put my hand back on the door pull – it felt hot… pressing the metal release, I felt the linkage move, heard the clicking of the release of the door latch, and pulled the heavy door open.

More smells… the smell of plastic; old plastic and vinyl and glass. I noted a thin rubber mat on the floor… no carpet. I slid on into the car on onto the seat.

It felt like… well, like a big old flat sofa. The seats were supposed to be ‘buckets’ but compared to today’s bucket seats, these seats were not much more than small sofas sitting side by side. A seat belt was all that would have kept us in check. The steering wheel was HUGE in diameter! It had a gray vinyl material which also felt hot to my hands but it fit. It kind of reminded me of the steering wheel in my GN but much bigger yet. The three spokes were not solid – they were semi-split but afforded a good view of the instrument panel, which to my surprise, was one of the best laid out panels I’ve ever seen.

It was obviously also hand assembled. It had a tach (no hard to see hood-tach here), oil pressure, battery, fuel level, speedo, and water temp. All the gauges were black faced with white numbers and needles. The smell inside the interior swept me back the 20 years or so (remember? This was 1990!) and I could imagine how it might have felt to be able to walk into a Buick Dealership on Main Street in Any Town, USA and buy one of these beasts. There wasn’t any console and the standard floor shifter (sort of an inverted “U”) was housed above a small box that hid it’s linkage to the Turbo-Hydromatic 400 beneath the massive floor raise.

I sensed Bill standing out side the door but he wasn’t speaking….

I ran my hands over the passenger seat and noted that the rear seat was still in the car. Kelly had opened the passenger’s door and slid onto the seat, opened the glove box and pulled out a very aged-looking manila envelope. On the outside of the envelope was “1970 GSX S-3 P-Type – TOP SECRET” stamped in fading red ink. In the upper left corner of the envelope were GM’s logo and the name “William R. Davis” which had “Property Of:” stamped above it as well.

It looked like Bill was legit after all. I suddenly forgot how hot I was and ignored the sweat beading on my brow and my upper lip… I didn’t know if I was sweating now or drooling… THIS car was indeed very special.

“Here, young fella… see if she’ll start for ya. Christine is a bit temperamental and I don’t know how fresh the battery is so try your hand. My guess is, if she like’s you, she’ll start. If not, don’t take it personal, ok?”

The battery? I didn’t notice a battery under the hood.

“Bill, where IS the battery? Is it in the trunk?” I asked this as I slid the key into the ignition cylinder. No chime rang out but I also noticed that there wasn’t any sort of interior lighting either. Apparently prototypes (or maybe S-3’s only?) do not get fluffy stuff like interior lighting…

Bill grinned. “Yep, it’s in the trunk. And it’s a big one too… takes a lot of amps to turn this high compression monster over…”

Ok... here goes… I rotated the key in the cylinder forward. Actually, the action took more effort than I thought it would… possibly just due to lack of use? I noticed then that as the key passed the “Run” mark on the column that the gauges all flickered a bit and then jumped up off of their dead position.

The battery had at least THAT much juice… but – would it have enough to turn over?

In a millisecond, that question was answered…

The first rotations of the reciprocating mass sounded like what surely was the noise of hell-hounds being stirred from a deep slumber…

“Grrr… grrr…. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr….”

But the speed of the rotations began to pick up speed.

“Did you pump the accelerator, boy?”

No. In my life of becoming comfortable with electronic and computer controlled fuel injection, I had completely forgotten about chokes on carbs! I let off the key and it returned to the run position, the needles on a couple of the gauges jumping back up to their live status.

I matted the pedal a couple of times, hearing the linkage work on the carbs out front… what a delightfully, mechanical sound… a lost and long ago sound of power and mobility…. Millions and millions of Americans had grown up knowing that you ALWAYS pump the pedal a time or two before staring a car.

But not me… Duh… I completely had forgotten!

Lifting my foot from the pedal, I rotated the key again. This time, the results were vastly different.

The motor didn’t start as much as it exploded to life. The fast idle of the carb settings must have been set up to at least 2000 rpms if not higher… looking at the tach, I saw I was close – around 1900 rpms was being held fairly steady. But that wasn’t the main attraction.

That glory fell to the exhaust.

Even at the high rpm of the cold-start (now, there’s a misnomer for an Ohio August afternoon…), the idle was rougher than I imagined possible. The cam HAD to have at least numbers that were nearly off the chart for street use.

“Bap! Bappety, bap-bap-bap-BAPPETY-bap…”

The explosions within the cylinder walls were a cacophony of mechanical music, the pulses ringing within the big-tube headers and exiting what had to surely be nothing more than a chambered exhaust (which I later found to be exactly what this car had – NO mufflers at all)… It was deliriously beautiful yet had the deadly sound of a very angry mechanical beast…

It was then that I noticed the dust had really kicked up in the barn, dancing about in the sunbeams… a few small pigeon feathers slowly wafted down from above... Obviously, the pigeons (and most like ANY animal within earshot of the barn) had exited in a hurry, fearing for its life. The falling feathers confirmed this fact at least for the birds that were previously looking down upon us in curiosity.

Bill was trying to talk to me but I hadn’t a clue what he was saying. Maybe the grin meant it was good?… Kelly had her fingers in her ears… I was probably damaging my hearing with each second but I didn’t care. This car was calling my name… it was the song of the siren, asking me to come closer to the rocky shoals of mega-torque and Horsepower… Christine owned me right then and there with her sultry and abundantly loud voice… “Bad to the Bone” was gone… now, I could hear (barely, even in my own head) AC-DC’s opening intro to “Hell’s Bells” began to circulate in my brain’s ‘ears’…

Dust… feathers… exhaust noise… the acrid smell of high compression exhaust fumes… darkness… light… life… death… good… and evil… oddly, all of those sensory stimuli were bombarding me at the same time… I was terrified yet could not run…

Christine wasn’t mine. Oh, no… not hardly. No one could ever truly ‘own’ an entity like this car. Our best hope is to be able to share years with a car like this, knowing that we can not take it with us when we cross over to the other side… Christine surely didn’t come from the other side of light and music and angels and trumpets…

Christine was forged with the fury of molten steel, of flaming forges, and of mighty pile-driving hammers striking hot metal to shape its soul… hand built by people who knew what she might be capable of.

Bill agreed to sell me the car at that moment. He saw ‘it’ on my face. He knew that I didn’t want to own Christine. He knew that I knew what he knew… that she wasn’t going to be mine so much as…

I was going to be her’s…


Standing there in the garage bay that evening, I looked her over again. I can never look at Christine without feeling the same things I felt the time I first fired her up in that run-down old barn over fifteen years earlier. I had only taken her out at night… LATE at night, when no one was really around. I never took her into town… only out in the country where she could breathe the cool, dense air of the night, where her exhaust noises wouldn’t wake anyone but the dead (and those sleeping)…

But I had not had her out for several months. It was about time… it wouldn’t this weekend. But – it would be soon. I felt it… she knew it… sooner or later, I would have to feed her.

And Christine was a cannibal of the worst kind… she had no one to fear and thus, feared no one…

Sooner or later… it was coming. I stood there feeling the same kind of chill I felt… and I thought I heard her soul rumble deeply within me with approval.

It was time to start finishing her up…

Yes… it was definitely time.

To be continued…

Just wanted to take the time to let you know how much I have enjoyed this series. The first time I log on each day I get on here, I check to see if the next part is out. Thank you.

Thanks for the nice words John and Jason.

If I have time, I'll post Part 10 tonight. Too early to know if I'll have the time but hopefully, I will. ;)
Really Good read

You have a beast, I like how you said, " that she wasn’t going to be mine so much as…

I was going to be her’s… "
That was like in the movie. HMMMMM really good.