While some couples may have matching bathrobes, matching number plates or even matching tracksuits, we can assure you that Brad and Mariska Vear aren’t like that, although they do have two very similar early '70s Buicks.
The story of how that came to be doesn’t start the way you’d expect it to. Instead of hubby having a car and wifey wanting her own, Mariska actually had her 1971 Skylark first. Having grown up with a dad who’s always been a GM man, and more specifically a Buick enthusiast, it’s not a huge surprise she eventually found herself in the driver's seat.
At the time, then boyfriend (now husband) Brad was a Chev man and owned a pretty tough big block-powered Chevelle. After Mariska found the Skylark on the internet, where it was sitting in the Towe Auto Museum in Sacramento, a deal was done and it was soon on its way to New Zealand.
Being a museum car, it’s as stock as they come, besides some aftermarket mufflers which Mariska had fitted once the car arrived, and a set of 15-inch Arrow wheels she fitted also.
For the next few years Mariska happily drove around in the car without a hitch, although she did have the desire to make it a bit girlier by adding some pink graphics. After Brad and her son Alex both swore they wouldn’t go near it if she did, a compromise was made which saw the current black stripes applied instead. The GSX-style rear wing was fitted at the same time.
At this stage Brad still had his Chevelle, but had always wanted a pro street-style car, and after getting involved with the Buick, and noticing just how rare they are, he figured a tubbed one would be pretty cool.
Like most muscle car enthusiasts, Brad was always scouring the internet just seeing what was available. However, it wasn’t until a fellow Kiwi who was working with Brad in Australia pointed out a tubbed red 1970 GSX clone that he knew that was the car for him.
He rang Mariska almost instantly and told her to press the 'Buy Now', which she willingly did (isn’t love sweet?). While Brad continued working abroad, Mariska organised freighting the car, just in time for it to land in a period when Brad had 10 days off.
Originally built by Redwood Autos in California, the car has been back-halved, but left un-caged. This was part of what appealed to Brad – although it’s tubbed it’s still also family friendly. As with many Californian cars, it landed with no window wipers or handbrake assembly, so was soon taken to Freelance Automotive to get sorted and certified.
According to the seller, the car has had a number of different engine combinations over the years, including a 350ci Buick, 455ci Buick and a 502ci big block Chev, which is what it landed with.
Despite being a big block-Chev fan, a friend made an offer on the 502, which Brad just couldn’t turn down. As part of that also came a decent 396ci big block, so it wasn’t as if he was going to be left with no motor. While the 502 would have been great, the 396 is probably a bit more streetable, and that’s exactly what Brad was after. As he’s said himself, the car is too nice to risk damaging down the drag strip, despite looking like it belongs there.
While the internals of the 396 are unknown, Brad has fitted an Edelbrock Performer intake along with a Quick Fuel carb and MSD ignition. With an Edelbrock electric fuel pump supplying the fuel and a Procomp distributor creating spark, the combustion note from the twin 3-inch exhausts is wild. Just as Brad wanted though, it’s perfectly streetable, doesn’t get hot and behaves well in traffic.
After having transmission troubles, Brad took the TH400 to Auto Trans Ltd where it was rebuilt and fitted with a 2200rpm stall converter. These days the shifts are smoother than ever and the car is a dream to drive.
A narrowed nine-inch diff with Moser axles and Trac-lok head back up the combo and massive 31/18.5R15 Hoosier Pro Street Radial tyres put it to the ground. Up front are far smaller 185/70R15 Hankook tyres wrapped around narrow 15x5-inch rims.
Wanting to add his own touch to the car, Brad’s fitted a cowl hood scoop, which, when combined with the already fitted GSX rear wing, balances out the look of it perfectly. Despite the GSX graphics kit Brad is very quick to point out that the car is by no means a genuine GSX, of which just 678 were built in 1970. Buick fans may have picked that the GSX wasn’t available in red until 1971 too, but with looks like this and the performance to match, we’re pretty sure that no one will be complaining.
Interior-wise, the car is as it landed, with stock trim, a Grant steering wheel, Hurst shifter and a bunch of Auto Meter gauges. The brakes, too, remain as they were, stock Buick discs up front and Ford drums on the rear.
In an interesting twist of events, the car that started it all, Mariska’s ’71, is now up for sale [at the time of print], as Brad has managed to track down a car she’s dreamed of owning for some time, a ’67 Chev Nova coupe which is currently on its way to New Zealand. Somehow, this time we don’t think Brad will be following in her footsteps again, as he’s already got exactly what he wanted… although he did mention a nitrous-fed 455ci Buick big block wouldn’t go amiss. Whether that ends up happening or not, it certainly looks like there’s some interesting times ahead in the Vear household.
- Vehicle: 1970 Buick GSX (replica)
- Engine: 396ci big block Chev, Edelbrock Performer intake, 780cfm Quick Fuel V/S carb, Edelbrock electric 160gph fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel-pressure regulator, 16-gallon Summit fuel cell, Procomp distributor, Taylor leads, E3 plugs, MSD 6AL ignition, Hedman headers, three-inch dual exhaust, Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers, reconditioned factory radiator, Derale trans cooler
- Driveline: TH400 transmission, 2200rpm stall converter, narrowed nine-inch diff, Moser 31-spline axles, Trac-lok 3.89:1 gears
- Suspension: Comp Engineering ladder bar, QA1 coilovers, Koni front shocks, Eibach front springs
- Brakes: Buick discs, Ford drums
- Wheels/Tyres: 15x5 and 15x15-inch Weld Draglite rims, 185/70R15 Hankook front tyres, 31/18.5R15 Hoosier Pro Street Radial rear tyres
- Exterior: Factory GSX stripe kit, GSX spoiler, hood scoop
- Chassis: Back halved/tubbed
- Interior: Stock seats, Grant GT steering wheel, Hurst Quarter Stick shifter, Auto Meter gauges
- Performance: Untested
- Vehicle: 1971 Buick Skylark
- Engine: 350ci Buick, factory two-barrel carb, Flowfast mufflers
- Driveline: TH350 transmission, 10-bolt diff, 2.56:1 ratio
- Suspension: Stock
- Brakes: Stock drums all round
- Wheels/Tyres: 15x4 and 15x9-inch Arrow Centerline rims, 165/75R15 Michelin front tyres, 255/60R15 Cooper rear tyres
- Vehicle exterior: Aftermarket rear spoiler, factory Cortez Gold paint
- Interior: Grant steering wheel, aftermarket gauges
This article was originally published in NZV8 Issue No. 79. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below: