Motorious Explores The Buick Grand National

Aug 12, 2020 5 min read
Motorious Explores The Buick Grand National

The Buick Grand National - One of the hottest performing muscle cars to come from the '80s era!

The Buick Grand National - One of the hottest performing cars to come from the '80s era!

Buick was looking to change its image so the company wasn't known for producing only comfortable cruisers and "doctor's cars" that only seemed to appeal to the older crowd, so the American automaker debuted a game-changer - the Regal Grand National. One of the hottest performing cars of the '80s era, the Grand National could keep up easily with Corvettes and other high-performance cars. The Buick Grand National was produced for the 1982 through 1987 model years (with the exception of 1983).

<img src="1987-buick-gn.jpg" alt="1987 Buick Grand National">
1987 Buick Grand National

The car was named after NASCAR's top stock-car racing championship known as Grand National (before officially named the Winston Cup). Darrell Waltrip raced factory-backed Buick Regals and nabbed back-to-back championships in 1981 and 1982. After Waltrip's victories, that's when Division General Manager Lloyd Reuss decided to vamp up the Buick name. The first GN debuted at the Daytona 500 race in 1982.

One Generation (1982 - 1987)

<img src="buick-grand-national.jpg" alt="A 1982 Buick Grand National, the very first mode year">

Buick's original plan was to build just 100 Grand Nationals, but Cars and Concepts of Auburn Hills, Michigan, gave 215 Regals the GN treatment. The 1982 Grand Nationals were not black but Charcoal Gray Regal coupes and not actually considered a true Grand National. The car featured a 4.1-liter V6 engine, F-41 grand-touring suspension, hatch roof (T-top), aluminum wheels with unique center caps, white-letter Goodyear Polysteel Radial rubber, and a slate gray/black interior with center console. Special black trim adorned the dashboard, console, and doors. Inside, the car came with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, ETR cassette stereo, tilt steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, right remote mirror, and cruise control. The car also featured a blacked-out grille and headlamp doors (normally found on Regal Sport Coupe decor package). Aside from the gray and silver two-tone paint, the GN featured red pinstripes,  "Buick" in shadow lettering, a front air dam, and rear spoiler.

For 1982, the GN was powered by a naturally aspirated 252-cubic-inch (4.1-liter) V6 engine capable of 125-horsepower (205 lb/ft torque). Out of the 215 examples built, just 35 examples were powered by the turbocharged 3.8-liter (231.3ci) V6 that made 175-hp (275 lb/ft torque).

Buick did not produce the Grand National for 1983.

<img src="1984-buick-grand-national.jpg" alt="1984 Buick Grand National">
1984 Buick Grand National

For 1984, the Grand National returned. This time the Buick muscle car was dressed in the shade it is well-known for - all black. A turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 was the standard engine and came equipped with sequential fuel injection and a computer-controlled ignition (sans distributor) that produced a healthy 200-horsepower (300 lb/ft torque) and could run along V8-powered sports cars. The GN conquered the quarter-mile in 15.9 seconds while the Camaro (V6) could in 17 seconds and Corvette in 15.2 seconds. Modifications launched the GN into the 13-second range. The 1985 Grand National carried over specifications from the 1984 model year.

The 1986 Buick Grand National was bumped up to 235-horsepower thanks to the addition of an air-to-air intercooler and some boost tweaking. This time, the GN could dominate the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds compared to the Corvette's 14.2 seconds.

<img src="1987-buick-grand-national.jpg" alt="1987 Buick Grand National">
1987 Buick Grand National

For the 1987 Grand National, power was increased yet again to 245-hp (355 lb/ft torque). The RWD "G-Body" Regal was discontinued, but the Grand National was produced until December due to high demand.

<img src="1987-buick-grand-national-2.jpg" alt="1987 Buick Grand National">
1987 Buick Grand National

Buick GNX

For the final 1987 year, Buick introduced the limited-edition GNX (Grand National Experimental). Offered for $29,900, the GNX was the final product of a collaboration between Buick and McLaren Performance Technologies/ASC. Only 547 Grand Nationals were given an interior package before being shipped to McLaren for the almighty GNX transformation.

<img src="buick-gnx.jpg" alt="A 1987 Buick GNX">
1987 Buick GNX

Buick underrated the GNX power output at 276-horsepower (360 lb/ft torque), but the car actually made 300-bhp (420 lb/ft torque). Called the "Grand National to end all Grand Nationals", it was outfitted with a Garrett AiResearch T-3 turbocharger, larger intercooler, exclusive E-EPROM low-restriction exhaust with dual mufflers, reprogrammed turbo Hydramatic 200-4R transmission with custom torque converter and transmission cooler, and unique differential cover/Panhard bar.

Exterior-wise, the GNX was given front-fender vents, black 16-inch mesh-style wheels with VR-speed rated tires, and deletion of hood and fender emblems. Inside, a revised instrument cluster with Stewart Warner gauges.

<img src="buick-grand-national.jpg" alt="Buick Grand National on the track">
1987 Buick GNX

During testing, the GNX proved faster than a Ferrari F40 and Porsche 930 dominating the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds and could sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.


For the debut 1982 model year, Buick planned to produce just 100 Grand Nationals but produced 215 examples with only 16 believed to have been turbocharged. No Grand Nationals were built in 1983. A total of 2,000 Grand Nationals were built for the 1984 model year, and 200 were estimated to feature T-Tops. For 1985, Buick produced 2,102 GN models, and the 1986 GN the assembly line completed 5,512 cars. For the final 1987 model year, 20,193 Grand National (WE2) cars were built along with 547 limited-edition GNX models.

The Buick Grand National remains as one of the most desired performance cars ever to come from the '80s era, especially the 1986 and 1987 models. Seeing the elusive Buick GNX in the wild is almost like seeing a unicorn. Given an attractive aesthetic and aggressive street manners, the GN holds down the top spot of dream cars for enthusiasts everywhere.

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