HomeCar CultureBuick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept

Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept


2016 Buick Avista concept car | Buick photos

Buick is causing some commotion this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with the unveiling of its Avista concept car, a 2+2 sports coupe with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that, the automaker reports, pumps out in excess of 400 horsepower.

In conjunction with the concept reveal, Buick produced a list of “10 That Mattered: Milestone vehicles that established and advanced the brand’s performance heritage.”

“Performance has been part of Buick’s DNA since its earliest days, when stripped-down chassis and powerful Buick engines pushed the pioneers of motorsports to victory,” the company said in its news release. “Racing success helped forge the brand’s reputation for durability.

“Now, more than a century later, that legacy of performance complements the refinement for which Buick has always been known.”

We’re so happy to see a Detroit automaker celebrating its history that we’re sharing the entire list (and photos) below in this gallery of “Buick’s Performance Legacy:”

1909 Buick race car

In 1909 –- two years before the first Indianapolis 500 –- the 2.5-mile-long oval at Indy was inaugurated with the Prest-O-Lite Trophy, a 250-mile race won by Bob Burman driving a Buick and averaging more than 53 mph. Of the nine cars that finished the race, three were Buick models.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1910 Buick 60 Special 'Bug'

The 60 Special, or "Bug," was built by the Buick racing team and had a unique nosecone –- a feature designed more for aesthetics than aerodynamics. A huge, 10.2-liter (622 cubic inches) four-cylinder engine propelled the Bug to 110 mph. Buick built two 60 Special race cars, one for Prest-O-Lite Trophy winner Bob Burman, a second for another racer of note: Louis Chevrolet.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1938 Buick Century

Buick introduced straight-eight engines in 1931, but it was the 1938 Century model that established a new performance benchmark. Dubbed Dynaflash 8, the 5.2-liter (320 cubic inches) inline engine featured new, domed pistons that contributed to an 11-hp increase over the 1937 engine. It was enough power to pass the “century mark” at 103 mph, making the Century one of the fastest cars of its day.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1954 Buick Wildcat II concept

The Buick V8 engine -– nicknamed Nailhead for its unique valve arrangement -– was introduced in 1953 and powered the Wildcat II concept vehicle a year later. Using a quartet of sidedraft carburetors, engineers coaxed 10 percent more horsepower from the engine than regular-production models, giving the Wildcat II the power to back up its sporty styling.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1963 Buick Special

In 1961, Buick introduced an innovative, lightweight all-aluminum V8 to power its new midsize Special model line. Displacing only 3.5 liter (215 cubic inches), it was lauded for its high power density. The engine achieved its peak in the 1963 Special, with its 200-hp output representing a horsepower-to-liter ratio of 0.93:1. Versions of the engine were used in Indy racing cars.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1970 Buick GSX

At the height of the muscle car wars, torque was king and no competitor could dethrone the 510 lb.-ft. of twist generated by the GSX’s available 455 Stage I V8 engine. In a 1970 road test, Motor Trend went from from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds. The GSX’s combination of raw power and Buick’s signature luxury prompted many to describe the car as a “velvet hammer.”
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1976 Buick Century Indianapolis 500 pace car

Buick’s turbocharging legacy was established with this purposeful pace car. Engineers leveraged the recently revived, more-efficient 3.8-liter (231 cubic inches) V6 engine that was supplanting larger V8 engines in many production models. They filled it with 22 pounds of turbo-fed boost –- resulting in 306 horsepower from the compact powerhouse -– and reset expectations for Buick performance.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1984 Buick/March Indy car
When Buick began its dalliance with turbocharging, few could have predicted it would lead from pacing the Indianapolis 500 to racing in it a few years later. It culminated at the 1984 race, when driver Scott Brayton drove his Buick-powered March racecar to a 204.638-mph one-lap speed and a 203.637-mph four-lap average, setting records for a race car using a production-spec engine block. By the mid-1990s, a more powerful version of the Buick turbo V6 helped Eddie Cheever turn the fastest race lap ever at the Brickyard: 236.103 mph during the 1996 Indy 500. It’s a record that stands 20 years later. 
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
1987 Buick GNX

During the resurgence of high-performance in the 1980s, Buick ditched the conventional V8 playbook and continued to cultivate its turbo V6 program, which was manifested in the Grand National. Buick marked the end of the car’s production in 1987 with the limited-production GNX. It was a Grand National on steroids, with a larger turbocharger, a higher, 276-horsepower rating and all-black attire. Only 547 were built and they became instant collectibles.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
2012 Regal GS
The GS returned to Buick’s lineup and advanced its turbocharging heritage with one of the most sophisticated and power-dense engines in its segment – a 270-hp 2.0L delivering 135 hp per liter. It also reintroduced a manual transmission to Buick and matched power with sophisticated driver technologies such as the Interactive Drive Control system. The 2012 Regal GS was potent enough to make collector car insurer Hagerty’s list of the 10 most collectible Buick models of all time.
, Buick celebrates performance heritage with new Avista concept, ClassicCars.com Journal
Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Rather than crowing about this, Buick should be hanging its head in shame now that they’ve started building vehicles in China and exporting them back to the U.S. market. Exposing consumers to the lack of quality of products made in China is reprehensible, not to mention outsourcing auto worker jobs….I’ve owned several Buicks over the years, but will never buy another.

  2. Gorgeous concept… Why no mention of Riviera in the history.. ?

    I long for large, luxury 2 door coupes… it doesn’t have to have 400 hp… why not a v6 that delivers over 25 mpg?

    We boomers grew up with cars that came in sedans, wagons, coupes and conv’s… the 2 doors were for the singles and couples… or the young at heart. We are 65 now… the kids are gone.. we don’t need minivans or sedans… we want to travel long distances in large, comfortable cars with large trunks…That’s what this demographic wants to buy.

    Design dept…. take notice.

  3. Unfortunately, as great as the Avista looks, if it ever makes it to production, it will be a more mundane 4-door sedan rather than a cool coupe. Consider the concept car that became the Chevy Volt (it was also a cool coupe).
    Sorry, Buick is still a geezermobile. It will take a lot more for me to ever consider a Buick.

  4. First of all this car look very much like the 1999 Pontiac GTO concept. So does the Camero for that matter. If Buick wants to change it’s image it is real easy. Spell your name PONTIAC.

  5. Nice enough for me. I have 2 Grand Nationals that need replacing . One has 63k and the other 21.7 actual miles. Time to rotate them out for a new model. Get it done BUICK.

  6. Geezermobile?? When was the last time you looked at American iron? Park your Honda or Toyota and look at the real world. And building in China makes sense. They buy 3or 4 times more Buicks than the American market. If it was considered an import would more people buy it? If Buick does do a 4 door, I’d suggest a true hardtop – no center pillar. Beautiful car that would change drastically if brought to market.

  7. I think they should be concentrating on value and old fashioned Buick quality and durability and bringing
    manufacturing back to the USA. Until then I will continue to drive my 1993 Park Ave with 106,000 miles and
    running strong and comfortable.

  8. WOW= HISTORY???–they missed that they made the FIRST Muscle Car with the 54 Century(Roadmaster engine) AND that the CHP had them build 55 Century 2 door sedans with stick shifts-I have owned and restored both-wish I had them both back.
    Jim Ashworth

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