BUICK GRAN SPORT SPIRIT RISES
By Jerry Heasley
“You found a ’65 Buick Gran Sport sitting behind a barn?”
Jim Moses emailed a few pictures. The file labeled “originally found” showed weeds about as high as the trunk lid. Another photo showed a close-up of a Gran Sport emblem on the side of the hardtop. So, had Jim found a gem? He did call the car a “my new treasure.”
Jim’s Gran adventure began in the spring of 2011 with a call from a friend, Brian Stone, in North Carolina. Apparently, one of Brian’s friends, Dan Ankeney from 65GS.com, had run across someone with a ’65 factory three-speed Gran Sport sitting near a cornfield north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Dan got the lead while displaying his mint ’65 Gran Sport at a car show, where a young man came up to Dan and said, “Oh, I’ve got one of those [cars] sitting out behind my barn.” Of course Dan was interested. He lives in Green Bay and went to look at the muscle car.
The Buick, sad to say, had no floorpans and about one and a half framerails left. Basically, the Gran Sport was “just rotting into the earth,” Dan said. But, the good news was the original drivetrain was still there.
“[Dan] took a bunch of pictures and wanted to buy it,” Jim said. “What ended up happening is it got rainy, and they couldn’t get it out of where it was.”
So Dan passed the deal off to his friend Jim. A few years earlier Jim had purchased a ’64 Buick Special two-door hardtop from Brian Stone. Like Dan, Jim was after the rare parts, such as the manual transmission Carter AFB, a very difficult four-barrel to locate, and the Dearborn three-speed manual transmission with floor shifter.
The ’65 Gran Sport was Buick’s entrance into the muscle car market. Pontiac was already there with its 389-inch GTO, as was Oldsmobile with the 330-powered 4-4-2. Jim always wondered what history would have been like had Buick come out with a 401-powered Gran Sport in ’64 right alongside Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Therefore, his plan was to buy the parts off the ’65 Gran Sport to turn his ’64 Special into a homemade prototype of what a ’64 Buick Gran Sport would have been.
The more Jim thought about the nine-hour trip to Wisconsin, the more he figured he should buy the whole car. He was towing a trailer anyway.
To put a nailhead motor into a GM A-Body, the factory used adaptor plates and motor mounts. The motor also has a rear-sump oil pan. The axle is a GM 10-bolt, but on the Gran Sport came bigger wheel bearings. To do the conversion, Jim would need all those components.
Of course, picking up the original emblems and myriad other parts would be a significant help in the GS conversion for his ’64 model. So, he bought the whole car.
I asked Jim, “What did you think when you saw the car sitting behind the barn?”
“I wondered what my wife was going to say,” he replied.
The owner told Jim how eight years earlier he had chased down the car on the back of a wrecker headed for the scrap yard. He convinced the driver to drop the car off at his house, and that’s where it sat ever since.
Jim figures the parts were worth the purchase price of $1,500. Perhaps the strangest part of the rare find occurred after Jim got the Buick back home in his garage on Easter Sunday morning.
He said, “I poured some gas in the carb and got the motor turning, put a battery to it, and after sitting with no exhaust manifolds all this time and just a rag over the carburetor, it still turned over, started up and ran for five to 10 minutes.”
The original Gran Sport may not be restorable, but the spirit of the original car, the drivetrain, will rise again in the body of a ’64 Buick Special, the car Buick could have built to counter the GTO and 4-4-2.
We hope to see the ’64 Gran Sport that Buick should have built, but didn’t, in a feature one day.
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