Curbside Classics: 1972 Buick Sport Wagon, 1972 Heavy Chevy & 1971 Buick GSX – “Better Go Home, Son, And Make Up Your Mind”

The General Motors A-Body platform is one of the most versatile in the pantheon of American automobiles, with the possible exception of the K-Car (GM didn’t turn the A-Body into a limousine, as far as I know).  Last September, three great examples of 1971 and 1972 A-Bodies reminded me of the infinite variety of this long-running and popular midsize menagerie of cars, and although I’ve never been in the market for an A-Body of this vintage, I’d have a tough time choosing which one I’d like best.

My gut tells me it’s this 1972 Buick Sport Wagon.  Even with a nondescript paint color and basic, plain wheel covers, this is the car I’d want to take home.  Reliable, convenient, and handsome, why would anyone want to drive anything but an old Buick?

This one is in spectacular condition, and it might even be original.  Sport Wagons (and indeed all Skylarks in 1972) came standard with Buick’s small-block 350 V8, a relic of a time period where GM’s volume meant that four completely different 350s were affordable and expedient.

A brown vinyl bench seat with no air-conditioning will certainly leave one’s thighs regretting the choices of Buick’s fabric department, but rugged durability was the primary concern in such a workaday grocery getter.

The Sport Wagon lost the neat glass roof it shared with the Vista Cruiser somewhere along the way, but an old wagon will always have a certain charm, regardless of its styling gimmicks.

The “Buick Motor Division” stamped wheel covers make a clear claim that this car is here to work, not to pose.  Knowing Buicks as I do, I would not be a bit surprised if this car is still powered by its un-rebuilt original driveline, still ready to take the family on an adventure.

A-Bodies were good about that kind of thing.  I’m not much of a beach guy (I’m fair-skinned and modestly freckled), but something about this Sport Wagon makes me want to go for a swim on a nice, hot day in July.  I’ve spent enough time behind the wheel of an old Skylark to know how it drives, and with its ’70s tallish rear gear, it will easily cruise with modern traffic.  But what if I weren’t a guy in his 40s?

Parked a couple cars down from the Sport Wagon was this very orange 1972 “Heavy Chevy” Chevelle.  A belated answer to Plymouth’s successful-for-a-time Road Runner, the Heavy Chevy was similar in concept to Pontiac’s GT-37 and Oldsmobile’s Rallye 350.

To keep the more well-heeled Chevelle buyer in an SS, the Heavy Chevy was only available with V8s ranging from the lowly 307 to a Turbo-Jet “400.”  The “Turbo-Jet” moniker in the brochure tells us that it is not the small-block variant but the big-block 402, as Chevy’s naming schemes in the early 1970s were baffling.  Needless to say, the Heavy Chevy was mostly an appearance option, and it looked great.

The interior is as basic as the Sport Wagon’s, with a hot bench seat and a column shifter, both of which emitted a sleeper image but also explained why a Heavy Chevy was cheaper than a comparable SS model.

The ’68 to ’72 Chevelle hardtops are understandably among the most popular collector cars in the country, and it’s easy to get burned out on seeing them.  You don’t, however, see too many “Heavy Chevy” versions from 1971 and 1972, and this one was immaculate.  Kudos to the owner for keeping it stock (at least on the outside – those tailpipes look rather large).

As a counterpoint to the belief that all Chevelles are SS hardtops, this 1971 model reminds us that Chevelles too came as a complete line of cars, most of which were basic transportation.  By the way, an easy way to tell the difference between a ’71 and a ’72 model is the parking light design: the ’71 used a “split” parking light and the ’72 used a one-piece design (with a lens that was more obviously orange).

Like Chevrolet, Buick made the A-Body into a muscle car, although none were as inexpensive as the Heavy Chevy.  This 1971 GSX (which was an appearance package in 1971 and 1972) was extremely rare, with only 124 being built (according to Hemmings).  Unlike the 1970 models, which were only available in Saturn Yellow and Apollo White (Get it?  They’re out of this world!), the 1971 model came in a variety of colors.  It could also be ordered with the GS’s base 350 small block, unlike the 1970 model, which came standard with the 455.

There are a lot of people on this website who appreciate cars with a story to tell, just as I do.  This car (with an Arizona plate) has the marks to prove it’s been around, and I think the overall effect is fantastic.  It would be tough to decide what to do with it; as a rare and valuable Buick muscle car, a restoration would probably be worth the money.  On the other hand, it’s so cool the way it is that I’d certainly leave it.  Obviously, we all have different opinions about this kind of thing.

This GSX even has a trailer hitch, along with some reproduction Firestone Wide Oval tires.  I don’t remember seeing the hood open to verify if this was a 350, a 455, or a 455 Stage 1 GSX, but it was one of my favorite cars of the event because I like originality, I like imperfections (to an extent), and I like Buicks.

Regardless of whose A-Body you might prefer, they all stand as a reminder that General Motors once sold something for almost everyone.  I’m not so sure that’s still the case, but the classic A-Body is still available in large numbers for those who want to give a collector car a try.