Alignment specs aren’t something most hot rodders can recite at will. That’s usually reserved for stuff like option codes, production numbers, and other excruciatingly uninteresting minutia that make a car seem rarer than it really is. No thanks, bud, brag about that factory original air cleaner decal to someone who actually cares. The fact that Jeff Peoples knows the alignment calibrations on his ’72 Gran Sport by heart is actually kind of freaky, but a half-degree of negative camber, 5.4 degrees of caster, and 0.05 inch of toe-out tell quite a narrative about both man and machine.
For instance, the tops of the Gran Sport’s tires tilt inward just enough to provide a good balance of lateral stick and even wear. Likewise, generous positive caster yields great straight-line stability, while just a smidgen of toe-out affords sharp turn-in response. This is obviously a car built with functionality as the top priority, validated by its frequent autocross excursions and 11.79-at-115-mph timeslips. Moreover, while the A/C and iPod hookup hint at the car’s roadworthiness, it’s the Buick’s cupholders that seal its street credentials. Finally, a muscle car that can hold your Big Gulp! Without even knowing it, Jeff’s ability to unwaveringly stick to a game plan has resulted in a car that adheres to the original Pro Touring formula far better than the played-out, high-dollar trophy chasers that are the norm these days.
The beauty of Jeff’s GS is that it doesn’t rely on any gimmicks like flashy paint or exotic body mods along its path to marching right past the street machine status quo. In contrast, it’s simply a well-sorted package dressed in GM Cortez Silver that flat-out works and lets its performance do the talking. Just some of the goodies include a fuel-injected 462ci Buick big-block, a 200-4R overdrive, tubular suspension pieces, and disc brakes. A modest man who learned the lessons of humility at an early age, Jeff’s approach to building cars isn’t the least bit surprising. “When I was 4 years old, my family had a ’70 Skylark,” he says. “The shape of the sheetmetal and body lines of that car have been ingrained in my head ever since then. To me, that car always had an aura of unpretentious and understated luxury, and that fit perfectly into our family’s humble lifestyle.”
Although Jeff’s family is in the construction business, building everything from strip malls to elementary schools, he’s the only one who channeled his mechanical ability into cars. “Building a warehouse or a shopping center is a lot like building a car. You have to plan every step of the process in great detail, stick with it, and make it all come together,” he says. Perhaps it’s this regimented approach that explains the purposeful execution of his GS, but this particular car is merely the latest culmination in a long line of Buicks. To exercise his desire to turn wrenches, he picked up a ’71 LeMans in high school. Granted it wasn’t a Buick; he stumbled upon a great deal on the LeMans that he couldn’t pass up, and it exposed him to the A-body bug once again.
After college, the need to focus on his career meant that the LeMans had to go, but he picked up the ’72 Skylark that he always wanted as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Jeff bracket raced the car for several years before stepping up to a big-block-powered ’87 Grand National that ran 10.30s, followed by a Super Gas dragster good for high 8-second passes. Growing pains got in the way once again, forcing Jeff to take another break from racing. “Drag racing is very addicting, but maintaining a race car and taking it to the track every weekend takes a very big effort. Trying to drag race and raise a family at the same time didn’t work too well, and I had to sell my race car in order to buy a house.”
The paint and body on the GS is the same as the day Jeff bought the car. The Buick’s paint
Once family life settled down, Jeff began scheming up his latest project. Obviously, it had to be a Buick, and he found a ’72 Gran Sport in Illinois that perfectly suited his plans. After a two-day road trip to pick the car up, the Buick was in his garage and the long-term plan started coming together. This time, merely going in a straight line wasn’t enough; he wanted a car he could enjoy on the street as well as at the track. “I wanted to build something that could do a little bit of everything, a triple-threat type of car I could drag race, autocross, and go cruising in,” Jeff says. “Before I even bought the GS, I had been in love with the Pro Touring look for a long time, and felt that the A-body platform was perfect for my goals. Regardless of whether it’s a Chevy, Pontiac, or a Buick, the aftermarket for A-bodies is abundant. These days, it’s easy to make a lot of power with a Buick motor, too.”
Well aware of the costly nature of bodywork, Jeff didn’t mind paying a premium for a car that had already been restored in the past. Equipped with a mild 455 and a TH400 trans, Jeff took the car out to the GS Nationals where it ran 13.70s down the dragstrip. “That was just flat-out embarrassing, and I vowed to come back the next year with a much faster combination,” he says. To that end, he opened up the bores in the stock 455 block to 4.342 inches, and slipped in Sealed Power 10.2:1 forged pistons while retaining the factory crank and rods. The air supply comes from aluminum cylinder heads and a single-plane intake manifold, both from TA Performance, and a 232/232-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet cam provides an excellent balance of power and streetability. Although the engine combo has never been dyno tested, Jeff estimates that output is in the 550hp range. Considering that the 3,900-pound GS has run 11.79 at 115 mph at the track, we’d have to agree.
Pro Touring machines that don’t have LS engines are becoming somewhat of a rarity these days, so it’s refreshing to see a Buick that packs Buick power. “If I put an LS motor in my car, it wouldn’t have any soul. Besides, 455 Buicks aren’t nearly as heavy as other big-blocks, so it works well in a Pro Touring application,” Jeff says. Adding a modern twist on an old-school engine platform is a FAST EZ-EFI system. Jeff reports that it does indeed tune itself, exactly as advertised, in addition to dramatically smoothing out the idle quality. “All I did was install the EFI system and drive the car around the block a few times. The tune was spot-on after that, and it really spoils you at the track because you don’t have to change jets anymore. The motor was so much more responsive that upon going back to the track for the first time, I red-lit on every single run. The EFI helped knock a solid tenth of a second off my reaction times.”
With the horsepower portion of the equation complete, Jeff turned his attention to the chassis. The front underpinnings were completely reworked with a set of Savitske control arms and lowering springs. Out back, CurreTrac control arms and Savitske springs locate the rearend. Tuning changes are handled by Chassisworks double-adjustable shocks, and Spohn sway bars keep roll in check at both ends. Managing stopping duties are C5 front disc brakes matched with C6 rear discs. While Jeff still enjoys the thrill of drag racing, his new passion is ripping through the cones on an autocross course. “Running through an autocross is just as intense of an adrenaline rush as driving an 8-second drag car,” Jeff says. “The difference is since it lasts so much longer, it’s much more fun. Anyone who has drag raced should give autocross a shot. They’ll love it.”
As difficult as it is to build a car that can accelerate, turn, and stop like stink, the real challenge is integrating all those qualities into a streetable package. Having owned several race cars in the past, streetability was one of Jeff’s top priorities with the GS. Never losing sight of that goal, he resisted the temptation to go over the top with the motor and suspension, and the result is the best driving car he’s ever built. “This isn’t the fastest car that I’ve built, but it’s definitely the most enjoyable to drive. I can drive it into work, and I don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain like I did with my drag cars that had skinnies,” he says. At the end of the day, Jeff’s GS is a car that sticks to the original Pro Touring mission statement by relying more on substance and functionality than flamboyance and gimmicks. What else would you expect from a man who knows his alignment specs off the top of his head?
This car will pull the left front tire off the ground even with a stiff autocross suspension. —Jeff Peoples
The Buick’s interior looks mostly original, but with enough modern touches to improve functionality. Front occupants sit in Procar Rally seats, and the entire cabin has been lined with Dynamat. Auto Meter Z-Series gauges fill the stock instrument panel, and a slick Classic Console center armrest features integrated cup holders.
By the Numbers
1972 Buick Gran Sport
Jeff Peoples, 44 • Madison, MS
Type: Buick 462ci big-block
Block: factory 455 block, bored to 4.342 inches
Oiling: TA Performance pump, stock tank with custom baffles
Rotating assembly: stock 3.900-inch crank and rods; Sealed Power 10.2:1 forged pistons
Cylinder heads: TA Performance Stage 2 aluminum castings with 2.130/1.755-inch valves ported to flow 320/240 cfm
Camshaft: TA Performance 232/232-at-.050 hydraulic flat-tappet; .515/.515-inch lift; 110-degree lobe-separation angle
Valvetrain: TA Performance lifters, double-roller timing set, pushrods, and 1.65:1 roller rockers
Induction: TA Performance SP1 single-plane intake manifold, FAST 1,000-cfm throttle body
Fuel system: FAST EZ-EFI engine management system, 88 lb/hr injectors, fuel rails, and pressure regulator
Ignition: stock HEI distributor; MSD coil and plug wires
Exhaust: TA Performance 2-inch long-tube headers, Dr. Gas 2.5-inch X-pipe, dual Hooker mufflers
Cooling: Alumitech radiator, TA Performance water pump, dual electric fans
Built by: Modena Motorsports (Scottsdale, AZ)
Transmission: California Performance Transmissions 200-4R overdrive and 2,600-stall converter; B&M Stealth shifter
Rear axle: GM 10-bolt rearend with Moser 30-spline axles, 3.73:1 gears, Detroit Truetrac differential, and TA girdle
Front suspension: Savitske control arms, lowering springs, and bushings; Chassisworks double-adjustable shocks, Spohn sway bar, Lee Performance, 12.7:1 steering box
Rear suspension: Savitske springs, Chassisworks double-adjustable shocks, CurreTrac billet aluminum control arms, UMI relocation brackets, Spohn sway bar
Brakes: DBA 12.8-inch rotors and two-piston C5 Corvette calipers, front; DBA 13-inch rotors and C6 Corvette calipers, rear
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Voxx Misano 17x8 (5-inch backspacing), front; 18x9.5 (6-inch backspacing), rear
Tires: Nitto NT05 255/40R17, front; 295/35R18, rear
With the exception of a reproduction GSX spoiler, the Buick’s body is completely stock. In
Jeff says the hardest part of installing the FAST EZ-EFI system is hiding the wiring. The