This 1971 Buick GS convertible named “Baby” is owned by Jessica Midkiff, native of Giles County, and Gudfridur (Frida) Sigursteinsdottir, native of Iceland. The vehicle is largely cared for by Jessica’s husband, Rupert Cox, owner of Pil Seung Taekwondo and algebra teacher at Blacksburg Middle School.
Baby is a living testament of the life of Donald Weiss, Jessica’s “adopted” father and Frida’s life partner. Weiss drove more than a million miles for Allied Van Lines and encountered the Buick when its original owner moved it across the country into the county where Weiss lived. He found it for sale at the local car lot in 1974 and became the second owner.
Baby was a chick magnet. A fiery, redheaded Icelandic woman walked into a bar in Florida one day asking who owned the eye-catching ride parked out front. And that encounter launched 25 years of love and laughs for Don and Frida.
The car is emblematic of the high point of American muscle car production from the mid-60s to the early ‘70s. In its day, this car certainly featured in some races against the Chrysler Hemi cars and Mustangs of the era. Then oil shortages led American car manufacturers to consider fuel efficiency. “It does drink a lot of gas!” Rupert says.
Baby has been modified from the standard GS, “Gran Sport.” At first, GS was a performance version of the Skylark, then became its own performance-oriented model in 1967. Because Cadillac, the only marque in General Motors more luxurious than Buick, didn’t make performance cars, the Buick GS was the most luxurious muscle car made by GM in 1971. Baby is one of only 802 convertible versions of the GS made that year.
In 1994, Weiss undertook a restoration project which included 14 coats of lacquer paint on the exterior, reupholstering the top and interior and installing the 455 engine. The paint was matched to the factory original, a shade of burnt orange with the evocative name Bittersweet Mist. The top is electrically operated, and all GM parts were used except the addition of a Mallory ignition. Modifications were done to the engine to increase power. The three-speed automatic transmission is the original Turbo Hydra-matic 400.
When Weiss passed away in 2015, he bequeathed the car to Jessica and Frida, who moved back to Iceland. Jessica was raised in Staffordsville and met Rupert 13 years ago when they were neighbors in Blacksburg. The couple and their kids have lived in Pembroke for the last 12 years.
“The first time I drove the car,” Rupert recalls, “I went from Orlando to Cocoa Beach. Don’s health was getting bad, and he wanted to go to the beach. I was incredibly nervous, and Don wanted me to see what it could do saying, ‘Go for it, let her rip!’ I drove him to car shows in Baby. I’d get it all sparkling clean, and we’d go sit next it and enjoy the sun.”
The family enjoys rides with daughters Jilla and Jettlynn. “They absolutely love going for a ride, putting on sunglasses, getting their hair tangled up and even going to a local car show,” Jessica says. “They get all riled up just hearing the motor revving loudly in the garage!”
The couple keeps the car in good condition partly by not taking it out on wet, salty or gravel roads. “We tend to drive it very gently,” Rupert explains. “This year we are going to change the front brakes from drum brakes to disc brakes.”
Weiss knew Baby would be in good hands with Jessica and Rupert because of his experience working on older cars. He’s had a 1974 Corvette Stingray T-Top, a 1981 Porsche 911 Carrera, and a 1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am. Today his daily driver is a Chevy Silverado 2500. “I like the Buick,” he states. “It’s more simple than modern cars and more fun to work on.”
Jessica and Don had been good friends for a few years when Jessica was in a serious car crash. “Don took me in and cared for me like I was his own daughter, and I am forever grateful,” she explains, and she was able to return the favor. “He had a long battle with Parkinson’s, and I took care of him until he passed away at home in my arms.” She remembers him as the man “who was happy to live in the moment and brought the party wherever he was; a man who would lend a helping hand to anyone; a man always ready for sand between his toes and a cold drink in his hand with a little Jimmy Buffet on the radio.”
Jessica loved Don. Don loved Frida. They loved one another. Rupert loved each one, and they all love[d] Baby.
Text by Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Tom Wallace