The Buick Grand National

The History of the Buick Grand National

One of the crown jewels in Buick’s history is the Grand National, a souped up version of the Regal, which, despite its short life, remains a favorite today.

The V6 Experiments

Back in the day, in America, “performance” meant V8. If your car had a V6, you didn’t tell anybody about it and you just hoped they didn’t pay too much attention to the engine note. In 1976 Buick did something a little ballsy when asked to make the official Indy 500 pace car. Rather than putting something with a big V8 up there, the engineers showcased a turbocharged V6 instead. While this engine didn’t really catch on in the Century, the ’76 Indy Pace Car was the genesis of the Grand National’s saga.

The First Grand National

In 1982 Buick wanted to capitalize on the ’81 and ’82 wins in the NASCAR Grand National Series and so it planned a run of only 100  Regal Grand Nationals. Cars & Concepts, ended up retrofitting 215 ’82 Regals. The Grand Nationals sported red pin-striping, two-tone grey paint, blacked out wheel openings and rocker panels, a new front air-dam, and a new front splitter on the outside, and a pair of silver cloth/black leather seats Lear-Siegler seats on the inside.  Power came from a naturally aspirated 4.1L V6 that had 125hp.

The First Turbocharged GN

While there was no Grand National for 1983, it’s not because Buick had been slacking off; Buick had been working on a much sexier successor to the ’82. The ’84 GN came in all black paint, the signature look of the line, and with a turboed 3.8L V6 that produced a respectable 200hp and an awesome 300 ft-lbs of torque. The “little V6” posted quarter-mile times at the drag strip that were just a bit slower than the Corvette and way faster than the V8-powered Camaro.

The GN Gets an Inter-cooler

When GM added an inter-cooler to the Grand National in 1986 it started to become not just a muscle car that proved that there is, in fact, a replacement for displacement, it turned into one of the most potent sports cars of its day. After the engine received a few more tweaks in 1987 the GN was making 245hp and 355 lb-ft of torque.

The Grand National steps it up

1987 was the last year the Grand National was produced, and as a fare-well car both to the performance icon and to rear wheel drive cars, GM created what is easily one of its greatest cars of all time: The 1987 Buick GNX. Only 547 GNXs were made, and they were all absolute monsters. Every single piece of these cars was optimized, and as a result it was easily one of the fastest things money could buy. That said, $29,900 was a lot of money to spend on a car in ’87. Buick’s official specs for the car were that it made 276hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, which pushed it to 60mph in 5.7 seconds and did a quarter mile in 14 seconds. The only faster accelerating car was the Lamborghini Countach. When the press tested the GNX they soon realized that something wasn’t quite right: on the dyno the GNX proved to make 300hp and an insane 400 lb-ft of torque and on the drag strip it did 0-60 in a scant 4.5 seconds and did the quarter mile in only 13.26 seconds. GM lied to protect the Corvette’s image. To put that kind of speed in perspective, a 2013 Porsche Cayman S goes from a stand-still to 60mph in 4.7 seconds.

The Grand National Reborn

Buick has once more filed for trademarks on the names “Grand National” and “GNX.” The upcoming cars are most likely to be build on the new Cadillac ATS platform. Here’s to hoping that the new GNX is just as amazing as it once was.

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