By on August 10, 2020

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, RH view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter writing about more than 2,000 discarded vehicles during the past 13 years, I haven’t found many legitimate machines from the Golden Age of the Detroit Muscle Car. I believe this era started with John DeLorean’s brilliant marketing of the 1964 Pontiac GTO and ended at some point during the 1972-1974 period, depending on how many beers you’ve consumed before beginning the debate about the edge-case vehicles.

Today’s car meets most of the requirements: a GM A-Body coupe with spiffy graphics, a thirsty big-inch V8 engine, and school-of-hard-knocks small chrome bumpers.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, gran sport emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsEven the most tedious car fanatic agrees that the Buick Skylark Gran Sport, built for the 1965 through 1972 model years, qualifies as an A-list Golden Age Muscle Car, particularly when you’re talking about the ridiculously powerful GSXs. When GM stopped using the Skylark name after 1972, the old Century name got dusted off and applied to the Skylark’s A-Body platform. Naturally, the Skylark Gran Sport became the Century Gran Sport that year.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYou could get the ’73 Century Gran Sport with a 350 cubic-inch (5.7-liter) Buick V8 rated at 190 horsepower, a 455 cubic-inch (7.5-liter) Buick V8 rated at 225 horsepower, or a wilder 455 with 270 horses. This appears to be a 455, though it could also be a 400 or 430 that got swapped in. Keep in mind that while those horsepower numbers seem low (compared to the inflated gross power numbers of earlier years, as well as to the very powerful engines of the present day), all of the 1973 Buick 455s made high-300s torque numbers and moved the just-under-two-tons Century pretty well.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, windshield - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car sat outdoors with the windows down (or busted out) for decades, and probably ceased being worth restoring before the 1980s were through. Still, some car lot tried — and failed — to move this iron for $999.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI found this car last winter in the San Jose yard with one of the best taco trucks in the San Francisco Bay Area. While California cars tend to avoid cancerous rust, they don’t fare so well when they bake in the sun every summer and fill up with rain every winter.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, rust - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCorrosion like this isn’t so hard to repair, of course, but the return on your investment would be much higher if you started with a 1965-1970 Skylark GS.

1973 Buick Century GS in California junkyard, gauges - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI could tell at a glance that this clock would be frozen solid inside, so I didn’t buy it for my collection. I have the Cadillac version already, anyway.


With Accu-Drive like the big Buicks and time-modulated choke (whatever that is). Buick borrowed the “Luxus” trim level name from Opel that year… which ended badly for sellers of big, gas-swilling machines thanks to certain geopolitical events beyond the control of Detroit.


The 1973 Buicks looked good, so buying one sight unseen wasn’t complete madness.

For links to all the other Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Buick Century Gran Sport...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    In my opinion the muscle car era ended with the introduction of power choking anti-pollution equipment in 1973. So a 455 cubic-inch (7.5-liter) Buick V8 rated at 225 horsepower would hardly qualify as “muscle”. My little V6 Escape is rated at 245hp

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s not a direct comparison. They made lots more torque than HP, and it came on early, right off idle. That’s even with those primitive emissions, but they were instantly bypassed and would “fall off” the car before you made it home. Plus an aftermarket carb and you were golden. Maybe a cam too.

      The “idea”, or they way era V8s were designed was that if those gas guzzlers got up to speed quickly, at low revs, it would save fuel.

      They were excruciatingly slow thanks to very freeway friendly (rear end) gears.

      A few things conspired to kill the muscle car era, but the engine tuning and drivetrain aftermarket was bigger than it is now. Remember “Hooker Headers”? Holley Carbs? Crane Cams? Thrush? Plus many others. Local speed/marine dealers were everywhere, plus national chains.

      Minor mods made huge improvements, where as now, they Hot Rodded from the factory, and it takes huge changes for minor improvements.

      • 0 avatar
        Sobro

        Now, all it takes is an ECU reflash. No need for busted knuckles.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The smothered 1973 455 put out 360 lb-ft at 2600 rpm. Most big block V8s today need over 4000 rpm to achieve maximum torque.

      • 0 avatar
        CombiNation

        Unfortunately, you couldn’t “instantly bypass” the drop-off in compression ratio. In 1970, average CR in the U.S. was 9.52. By 1973 it was 8.13. That’s where a lot of the power went in a desperate effort to reduce hydrocarbon emissions. To get all the power back required real engine work, although there was a lot of small things that could be done.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The little things made huge improvements, starting with swapping out the ring/pinion and open diff. The typical V8 Torino, Maverick, Nova, Camaro, Aspen, Javelin, etc, came with much lower (numeric) ratios than 3.00. Probably around 2.50.

          Or if you were serious, the carb, intake, cam, exhaust, etc, could be swapped out for aftermarket/performance parts, for more than satisfactory results, unless you were hardcore.

    • 0 avatar
      seppi

      1973 Pontiac Firebird 455HO. Period.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill4554

      That car with 308posi going down a two lane highway if you were to drop it in low and floor it while turning 90degrees to enter a new highway . You had better known what your doing if you think your going to stay on the gas

    • 0 avatar
      Bill4554

      That car with 308posi going down a two lane highway if you were to drop it in low and floor it while turning 90degrees to enter a new highway . You had better known what your doing if you think your going to stay on the gas

    • 0 avatar
      Bill4554

      That car with 308posi going down a two lane highway if you were to drop it in low and floor it while turning 90degrees to enter a new highway . You had better known what your doing if you think your going to stay on the gas

  • avatar
    spookiness

    My first car was the family 77 Buick Regal (Landau!), and GM colonnade coupes of every marque were common throughout my extended family. One thing I learned, just this year, is that Monte Carlos and I think Grand Prix actually had a 4 inch longer wheelbase than Cutlasses, Regals, Centuries, Malibus/Grand Ams, etc. It makes no sense that the cheaper badges would get the longer wheelbase vs. the pricier ones, but then again there are a lot of GM moves that make no sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      The coupes had 112″ wheelbase, the sedans had 116″. Now dude, see if you can borrow the Regal and pick me up at 8. I’m grounded from the car this week, but I’ve got Frampton live on 8-track and a joint I swiped from my big brother (he’ll never miss it).

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I guess the new fascist conservative owners of TTAC are not paying for weekend posts anymore.
    https://twitter.com/Nancy_Crouse/status/1291151625512460289

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My 73 Chevelle DeLuxe with a 350 V-8 was anything but excruciating slow. It would burn rubber and it would go well over 120 mph. My 77 Monte Carlo on the other hand with a 305 was not that quick.

    The reason the Grand Prix and Monte Carlo were longer was they were both considered personal luxury cars and had no other body styles. The Cutlass and Century came in 4 doors and station wagons and their brands alone were not considered personal luxury cars. True you could get a personal luxury trim such as a Cutlass Saloon or Regal but the entire model was not considered personal luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      However my ’76 Grand Prix with it’s 455 V8 @ a whopping 200hp was merely adequate. It was a good car with just ok power

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        When I picked mine up my Grand Prix SJ, the first time I tried to accelerate I ‘burnt rubber’. For a car of that year it had more than adequate power. Although in my estimation not quite as much as the Gran Torino Elite with the big block engine that I had just before it, or the Corvette that I replaced it with.

        The instrument panel was excellent, and it had an array or interior lighting. What turned me off the car is when I had two separate blow outs on highways (the Don Valley Parkway), due to a fault with their Firestone 500 radials. That and the fact that after flipping a ’59 Eldorado Biarritz that I had enough for the ‘Stingray’.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I remember the mid-‘70s GPs — the family across the street swapped a 1974 Cutlass Supreme for a nicely-loaded beige-over-beige GP LJ. Even had the factory sunroof. Nice car for a ride to school.

          That’s interesting that the GP and Monte of the Colonnade era had the longer wheelbase, especially since the Cutlass Supreme and Regal were still considered “A-specials.” Think back to the Monte/GP of the’68-‘72s, at least: the GP of that ilk certainly looked longer than the Cutlass Supreme of the same period. Not sure about the Monte. Wasn’t that around the time when old John Z was running the Pontiac Division?

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            The Cutlass was the top selling car in the USA for a number of years in the mid/late 1970’s, and I also believe in Canada.

            The swiveling front bucket seats probably clinched many of those sales.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            In the First generation the GP was longer than the MC. The GP was on a 118″ wheelbase while the Monte was on the sedan’s 116″ instead of the 2drs 112″

            For the Colonnades, the Monte and GP were both on the 4dr length chassis while the top Olds and Buick 2drs were on the shorter 2dr chassis shared with the lesser Chevy and Pontiac 2drs.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          A Gran Torino Elite, eh? Just this week, I stumbled upon a video of a Minnesota farm boy who spends A LOT of time getting such a car going after sitting in a field for 29 years:

          https://youtu.be/HuWjiIb6FZk

          The whole thing is a spoof on the Minnesota accent and rural mannerisms. Not sure if you appreciate such humor, but if you do, I hope you enjoy!

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        200 hp was a lot, and torque was much higher. If you weren’t having a blast, you had the wrong and or factory gears in it and can’t blame the engine itself.

        My 140 HP 302 V8 ’79 Mustang was an absolute kick in the pants, would smoke the tires through 2nd gear if you wanted, except the factory open-diff and 2.42 gears were swapped with 3.45s and a posi.

        I left the engine stock since it was plenty of speed for stock everything else. I first put in 4.10s but it was an extreme waste of street tires, that were the odd 390/220 TRX Michelins only.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          I had just come off a ’71 Corvette with the LS5 454 cu in engine generating 390 hp. I guess I was a little jaded

          • 0 avatar
            bufguy

            In 1971 horsepower measurements were gross measurements. In 1973 they were net…Your 390 hp gross is very close to the 270 hp net for the 455 stage 1

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Perhaps the 500lb weight advantage of the Corvette over the Grand Prix plus the hp difference must of had a notable overall effect on performance. My Corvette was fast, my Grand Prix, not so much

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            So you’re saying it lost 120 HP from the water pump, fan, alternator, etc? A big block? Even the drivetrain losses are just 15 to 18%.

            No doubt the Corvette had way more aggressive rear-end gearing.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            bufguy’s assertion is accurate. In ’71 GM published both gross and net figures for engines.

            The LS5 was gross 365hp/465lb-ft and net was 285hp/390lb-ft. The LT1 had a smaller hp being 330hp/360lb-ft gross and 275hp/300lb-ft net.

            lov2xlr8.no/brochures/chevy/71corv/bilder/11.jpg

            lov2xlr8.no/brochures/chevy/71ca/bilder/9.jpg

            lov2xlr8.no/brochures/chevy/71cc/bilder/13.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            buffguy’s assertion is correct, but I believe he is exaggerating the delta in hp. 365 to 285 sound more accurate than 120 hp loss…

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Our Regal had the 2-bbl 305 Chevy in it (yes). It was leisurely to be sure, and cold-natured.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    73 and 74 GM intermediates with a 350 V-8 and larger still had more than enough power and acceleration. As I said above my 73 Chevelle with a 350 was quick and plenty fast but the 77 Monte was not quite adequate with its 305 and 2 barrel carburetor with very lean jets. The Monte got decent enough mpgs on the road but I would have rather had bigger jets in the carb and better yet a 350. I bought one of the last new 77 Montes new available at the time and I didn’t want the downsized 78s

  • avatar
    bunkster

    I graduated HS in 82 and many of the cars mentioned were readily available on the used car market. Sad, but by that time just saying you had a V8 gave you a little cred.

    Personally liked the smaller vehicles with V8s. Mustang II, Monza, Comet/Maverick. Not speed demons or track day heroes but it was what we had and they could be easily upgraded.

    For some reason I’m still fond of the Aspen RT and its corporate sisters. Especially the 360 versions. Heck I even like the plain jane V8 wagons. Wondering if people will start thinking of putting the Gen III Hemi’s in them.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The Ghost of Telly Savalas in weeping.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My dentist had 73 Buick Regal Luxus Landau coupe in maroon. It was quite attractive but after a few years the paint faded and surface rust developed for some reason worse on one side like many A-body Colonnades.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A guy I went to high school with had a ’73 Century Regal Luxus coupe, triple black, with the 455. It used the optional “positive traction differential” to deliver some pretty decent burnouts.

  • avatar
    3SpeedAutomatic

    There’ll come a point that we’ll be able to trace a junkyard wreck back thru various registrations to the original owner. It’d be interesting to do a complete history.

    I doubt the last few owners would be the type to assist, but the original owner may have some photos and paperwork to share.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    You had some nice cars with the 71 Corvette with a 454 and the 76 Grand Prix with a 455. Those cars would be very desirable to today’s collectors interested in 70s cars.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Sleeper? The VW Westphalia with the pop top, of course. Slept a small family. The buzz of the air cooled rear engine put many a cranky baby to sleep. And its ‘acceleration’ could be described as ‘sleepy.

    Oh, that’s not what you meant by sleeper?

    I can confirm that there was a definite seat of the pants difference in feel between pre 1973 and 1973 and later domestic cars.

    Also will confirm that the GM 305 was perhaps the least satisfying of all GM V8s.

    If you wanted a new cheap ‘fast’ car then the Gremlin was the way to go.

    And yes we are living in a golden age. Even most of the vaunted ‘muscle cars’ of the era 1966 – 1972 don’t compare to their current counterparts in regards to top speed, acceleration, handling, ride, and dependability. But they do tend to look better.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    True the 60s and 70s era muscle cars don’t compare today’s counterparts but they had a lot more soul. Most of today’s vehicles are safer, more powerful, and less maintenance but most are boring and lack the whoa factor that those earlier vehicles had. I cannot get as excited about the new models as I did in the past. I get just as much excitement from today’s new vehicles as I do about a refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, toaster, and other appliances. Maybe that is good because I view them now as necessary and to not be replaced until they are worn out. Most pickup trucks, suvs, and crossovers are boxes on wheels and for the most part come in appliance like colors of white, black, silver, and various shades of gray.

    To me car performance really took a dive in 1975 with catalytic converters and more regulation as a result of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. The wide spread use of fuel injection really helped to boast the performance and reliability of later vehicles.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder if those one-year-only taillights would be worth something. If they’re not pitted beyond redemption. If they weren’t crushed with the car by now.

  • avatar

    I liked the pontiac version. My parents didn’t have a Grand Am, they had the Grand Prix. Same 455, I think, and the local mechanic would lean it out before the state inspection….we’d barely make it, stalling in traffic, nothing off the line, pass, go back, screws turned out, car ran endless torque….

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