Buick Regal Grand National

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Buick Regal Grand National

1982 - 1987
4.1 liter / 3.8 liter Turbo
up to 245 bhp
4 spd. auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 star
Buick Riviera
While the Buick T-Type Regal coupes were aimed at the performance market, 1982's Regal Grand National signalled a change for the better.

Named for the NASCAR Grand National racing series, this car incorporated a 4.1 liter V6 with 125 hp, or an optional 180 hp turbocharged 3.8 V6.

It also featured T-tops, front and rear spoilers and a striking gray over silver paint job. There was no Grand National in 1983, but it returned in 1984 wrapped in its familiar all black paint.

The turbocharged 3.8 became standard and would continue to be refined with fuel injection and intercooling, and by '87 was good for 245hp (182kw).

Also available in 1987 was the lightweight WE4 (Turbo T) option, extremely rare today as only 1,547 of this variant were ever manufactured.

The differences between a WE4 and base Grand National included such items as the interior trim, rims, exterior badging and aluminum bumper mounts. The rear spoiler was only available as a dealer installed option.

By 1985, the Grand National was acquiring a reputation as modern muscle car, but the days of the G-body were numbered. For the final year, 1987, Buick introduced the GNX at a US$11,000 premium. Produced by McLaren/ASC, Buick boasted 275 hp and a very substantial 488 Nm of torque.

This was created so as to be "Grand National to end all Grand Nationals," as the next model year converted the chassis to front wheel drive, which, Buick engineers admitted, simply wouldn't be able to put down that much power.

Changes made included a special Garrett ceramic-impeller turbocharger connected by a ceramic-coated pipe to a better intercooler. A special computer chip, low-restriction exhaust, and reprogrammed Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R transmission with a custom torque converter and transmission fluid cooler completed the drivetrain modifications.

Exterior styling changes include vents located on each front fender, 16 in black mesh style wheels with VR speed rated tires, and deletion of the hood and fender emblems. The interior changes of the GNX included a serial number on the dash plaque and a revised instrument cluster providing analog Stewart-Warner gages including an analog turbo boost gauge. The acceleration performance of the GNX outpaced the factory's power claims: 0-60 mph (97 km/h) took just 4.7 s with a 13.4 s/104 mph (167 km/h) quarter-mile.

According to contemporary sources, these numbers made the GNX the fastest production sedan ever built. This claim is somewhat controversial—the car had two doors but its interior volume and structure made it a sedan rather than a coupé, and just 547 examples were built. GNX #001 is currently owned by Buick and sometimes makes appearances at car shows around the US. Although many quicker cars have been built, including a number of quicker modern sedans, its performance was truly impressive for the time.

Able To Out-Accelerate The Coveted Porsche 911

A contemporary Porsche 930 hit 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 13.6, roughly equivalent to the GNX, which cost much less and could out-accelerate the naturally-aspirated 911 of the day. The muscle cars of the 1960s had the power to beat the GNX, but the tires of the time could not transform this into speed, not to mention the numerous techniques employed in the GNX allowed the car to transfer all the power to the ground, such as a ladder bar that ran from the mid-section of the car to the rear axle, so as to increase traction. This is also the reason why a GNX will actually lift the rear end up when the car is about to launch heavily. The GNX never made much of a road-track competitor to cars like the 911, but it could certainly hold its own on a drag strip.

Famously painted in all black, the Grand National and GNX were ferocious drag strip competitors and are highly collectible today. The sinister, stealthy appearance coupled with the fact that the Grand National was initially released during the height of Star Wars fever earned it the title Darth Vader Car. The Grand National returned briefly to the headlines in 2003, when actor Sean Penn's car was stolen with several guns inside.

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