What Is a Buick Grand Nationwide?


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It’s 1987 and highly effective two-door sports activities vehicles abound. The turbocharged model of the Supra simply hit the American marketplace for the primary yr, producing properly north of 200 horsepower. You’ll be able to stroll right into a Chevrolet dealership and drive out in a model new IROC Z. Acura simply launched with the first-generation Integra, hitting US streets with two cams, excessive revs, and a sub-2,500 lb curb weight. 

And if you happen to had a bit extra coin, the Ferrari Testarossa and the Lamborghini Countach have been the wedge-shaped styling icons of the last decade, with the ability to match their spaceship appears. But, in need of a Porsche 911 Turbo or a Porsche 959 (a literal Group B homologation automobile that wouldn’t even be authorized to import till 2001), there was one automobile that stood tall above all of them. One which stood towards the grain. And it wasn’t what you’d assume. 

Behold, the Buick GNX, the final word model of Buick’s NASCAR-winning, Darth-Vader-styled Grand Nationwide. With its roots within the humble Regal coupe and solely six cylinders as a substitute of the competitors’s eight (or extra!), it confirmed {that a} legendary automobile can come from wherever. Stick round, The Drive’s received some education to do on Buick’s best muscle automobile.

AP Photograph/Wright 

How’d The Grand Nationwide Come to Be?

The Grand Nationwide, like all satisfying American automotive success tales, had humble roots beginning in auto racing. In 1978, because the gasoline disaster demanded extra svelte platforms, the gargantuan 17-and-a-half-foot-long Buick Regal misplaced a foot of size and a pair of cylinders. With this sportier base constructed on the G-body platform and an aerodynamic redesign in 1981, the Buick grew to become a critical contender in NASCAR, with Richard Petty profitable the primary race of the season—the ‘81 Daytona 500—in his Regal. 

AP Photograph/Phil Sandlin

The Regal steamrolled the competitors. 1981 and 1982 noticed Darrell Waltrip pilot a Regal to win the Winston Cup Grand Nationwide Championship back-to-back. If that wasn’t sufficient, the automobile swept the producer’s championship, with a Regal within the winner’s circle in a staggering 47 out of 62 races.

In 1982, Buick moved to capitalize on this success and launched the Grand Nationwide, named for the Winston Cup Championship it had simply gained. The unique Grand Nationwide was a Regal possibility package deal that may very well be ordered on any trim stage. GM would ship the vehicles out in base charcoal gray paint to Vehicles and Ideas, a modification store in Michigan, and as soon as there they’d be hand-painted two-tone silver on the bottom charcoal paint and striped with purple accents. 

The seats have been changed with Lear Sigler vinyl ones with the Buick turbo 6 insignia stitched into the again; the trim was blacked out, stiffer suspension got here customary, and a fiberglass spoiler was bolted into the trunk. As a result of it was an possibility package deal and never its personal mannequin but, solely a handful of the Regals have been geared up with a turbocharged V6 from the Regal Sport package deal, however most have been offered with the bottom mannequin usually aspirated V6. 

Toni Scott

The choice package deal disappeared in 1983 however in 1984, the title reappeared, this time as its personal mannequin. This was when the Grand Nationwide gained the mythos that surrounds it at this time. The package deal went for a extra critical presentation upon its reintroduction, with black paint and trim framed on the corners with brushed turbine wheels. Most significantly, the turbo V6 was now customary and was tuned to provide a really respectable 200 horsepower. As an alternative of a commemorative particular possibility, it was now a muscle automobile with one of many hottest six-cylinders available on the market.

The Grand Nationwide of 1984 was already a critical contender because it debuted, with a quarter-mile time only some tenths of a second off of the newly-introduced C4 Corvette. However in 1986 the turbo V6 gained an air-to-air intercooler, a comparatively new know-how for the period as turbos have been nonetheless of their infancy for highway vehicles. The intercooler together with a couple of different bolsterings to the motor bumped the G-body to 235 horsepower, shaving a complete second off the quarter-mile time. Now the blacked-out Buick was formally quicker than a Corvette, and it solely wanted six cylinders to do it.

All good issues should come to an finish, and the Grand Nationwide was no exception. The ultimate yr of manufacturing was 1987, as GM retired the G-body platform throughout all its manufacturers. The common Grand Nationwide received a lift within the type of barely extra enhance and a tuning improve, pushing the ability to almost 250 HP from the stout V6, however the remaining ballad of the platform was sung by what quickly grew to become an automotive legend.

Common Motors Assortment

What’s Up With the GNX?

The GNX, so named for Grand Nationwide eXperimental, is to at the present time an icon of American automotive engineering. The GNX was a potent final-year Grand Nationwide packaged up and shipped out to ASC/McLaren, a high-profile tuning home that may go on to work with GM on different initiatives earlier than their eventual dissolution. ASC/McLaren dropped in a bigger turbo with a ceramic turbine. 

They modified the ECU to squeeze extra energy from the now-ported 3.8L V6. The suspension, already firmed up for the Grand Nationwide repeatedly all through its life, was made even stiffer within the rear, for higher straight-line traction. Enhance was upped to 16 PSI in first gear. It was, in line with inner advertising and marketing, supposed “to create a limited-production Buick Grand Nationwide that achieves a memorable place within the historical past of high-performance vehicles, one which automobile collectors will wish to personal and that automotive writers will always remember.”

Common Motors Assortment

And the way might we presumably overlook? It was blindingly fast, with a 0-60 time checking in at a Countach-defeating 4.7 seconds and a jaw-dropping mid-13 second quarter mile. In 2021, a automobile that runs 13s from the manufacturing unit is spectacular; in 1987, it put it within the dialog with the best supercars of the period. 

Even past efficiency, the darkish Lear Sigler inside trimmings and performance-minded gauge cluster put in by ASC/McLaren, mixed with the already blacked-out Grand Nationwide styling, made it menacing to behold. 

A number of journalists who reviewed it when new stated it regarded like Darth Vader designed a automobile, and so they weren’t improper. You possibly can put on a pocket protector and librarian glasses and nonetheless be the raddest individual in your state if you happen to drove one in all these items; it possesses an aura of sheer intimidation and energy that might imbue the dorkiest driver with a way of inimitable coolness.

Common Motors Assortment

Formally, 547 have been constructed and distributed to high-performing Buick sellers, and auto shops—after they might lastly get their palms on onecompletely ensconced it within the collective reminiscence as one of many best American vehicles ever constructed; Buick’s mission to finish the Grand Nationwide venture with a legend was achieved. Buick has introduced again turbocharged Regals within the years since, however nothing has ever come near the uncooked shock and awe marketing campaign of the GNX or the sinister styling of the Grand Nationwide, and with NASCAR shedding its cultural maintain within the ensuing many years, it’s unlikely we’d ever see something fairly prefer it once more. 

However they’re nonetheless on the market, and if you happen to’re cruising down a lonely freeway at evening in a Testarossa or a 911, smugly assured you may outrun something you could encounter, maintain your eyes peeled for a blacked-out coupe with a turbo whine and quad headlights. Considered one of these would possibly simply take your lunch cash.

Study How To Drive Your Grand Nationwide With Skip Barber Racing Faculty 

Studying your automobile’s habits, quirks, and persona will be executed by yourself, however you’re not precisely doing so in a vacuum. A missed braking level or goal fixating on that tree over there might imply a bent bumper or some critical medical payments. Why take the possibility when you may study safely the way to drive your Grand Nationwide from the professionals at Skip Barber Race Automobile Driving Faculty?

The Drive has partnered with Skip Barber, the legendary racing college, to make sure that if you first prime your Grand Nationwide’s ignition, you gained’t fly off right into a ditch. 

FAQs About Buick Grand Nationals

You’ve received questions, The Drive has solutions!

Q. What number of GNXs have been made?

A. GM constructed 547 GNXes, all in 1987. 

Q. How a lot is a Grand Nationwide value?

A. Hagerty’s valuation instrument places the common Grand Nationwide offered at this time in good situation at round $22,000. 

Q. Did Grand Nationals have T-Tops? 

A. They may very well be geared up with both t-tops or a regular slicktop.

Q. What’s the prime velocity of a GNX?

A. Common Motors restricted them to 124 mph electronically, out of concern greater speeds would trigger the automobile to severely destabilize from an absence of downforce and insufficiently rated tires.

Grand Nationwide Enjoyable Information

You already know you need extra Grand Nationwide details!

  • The Buick LeSabre additionally had a Grand Nationwide trim stage within the early 80s that ran alongside the unique Regal package deal. 
  • The rarest Grand Nationwide is the unique 1982 mannequin, with solely 215 produced. 
  • The 1987 GNX was offered with an identical GNX jacket given to unique house owners, and mint examples of the jacket have offered for $4,000. 

Let’s Speak, Remark Under To Speak With The Drive’s Editors! 

We’re right here to be professional guides in every part How-To associated. Use us, praise us, yell at us. Remark under and let’s speak! You may as well shout at us on Twitter or Instagram, listed below are our profiles.

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Chris Teague: Twitter (@TeagueDrives), Instagram (@TeagueDrives)

Toni Scott: Twitter (@mikurubaeahina), Instagram (@reimuracing)

See the 1987 Buick GNX In Motion 

Take pleasure in this retro assessment from Motorweek’s legendary John Davis from when the GNX was a brand-new automobile! 

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