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.
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
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
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.