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Will Buick build a new Grand National?

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On: Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 5:46PM | By: Teddy Field


Will Buick build a new Grand National?

The 1980s were a Grade A, pasteurized version of the 1950s. Your TV still sat on the floor, encased in wood. Kids still respected their elders. Our president was still staring down the Russians. Cars were slathered in chrome, and luxury still meant a vinyl roof and wire hubcaps. Not much had really changed since Ike left office; then Buick came along and changed everything.

Say hello to the future. Say hello to the Buick Grand National...

Although most people don’t associate Buick with Performance, they were actually one of the first performance oriented brands... ever. From the 1900s–1920s, Buick established itself by winning races, then selling rich guys luxury cars that were fitted with powerful race engines. Matter of fact, Louis Chevrolet (i.e. Chevrolet) became famous behind the wheel of a Buick race car. At one time, Buick was one of the most coveted car brands in the world. Much like Audi or BMW is today. Then General Motors reorganized its product portfolio, slotting the famous marque below Cadillac in the exclusivity order. This brand shuffling effectively killed Buick’s “swagger” in this country, but the Grand National aimed to change that.

Nowadays, turbocharging is about as commonplace as a 10-year-old with a cellphone. Thanks to more stringent regulations, automakers routinely take tiny engines and blow massive amounts of power through their itty-bitty intakes. But turbos were exotic in the 1980s, and Buick’s turbocharged Regal sent shockwaves right through the middle of Bowling Green.

The Buick Grand National debuted in 1982 as a trim package intended to celebrate the brand’s return to dominance in the NASCAR Grand National Series. Just 215 were made, and none of these black and silver coupes came with any sort of performance modifications. When the special edition Regal returned in 1984, that oversight had been corrected. The 1984 Buick Grand National came with a turbocharged 3.8L V6 that cranked out a heady 200hp/300 lb-ft of torque. And to put that into perspective, the 1984 Corvette managed only 205hp/290 lb-ft from a 350ci V8. Take that, communism!

Corvette’s development team were none too happy about this in-company challenge, so they upped the Vette’s output the following year. Buick fired back in 1986 with an air-to-air intercooler and 245hp/355 lb-ft. This knocked the Grand Natty’s 0-60 time down to 4.9 seconds (Car & Driver, April 1986), which handily beat the Vette’s 5.8-second run. Kentucky’s favorite supercar, however, still handled infinitely better than the blown Buick.

1987 was the final year for the Grand National, and this bad Buick would go out with a bang. Four versions were offered in ‘87: The standard Grand National, Regal Turbo-T WE4, the Turbo Regal LC2, and the GNX.

The Regal Turbo-T WE4 had the same blackout appearance as the standard GN, but it shed some weight by using aluminum bumper braces, aluminum rear brake drums, and lighter aluminum wheels. The Turbo Regal LC2 was the rarest of the bunch (just 1,035 built), and it allowed buyers to add the GN’s turbocharged drivetrain to the Regal Limited, complete with a column shifter and vinyl top. The gnarliest and most coveted version was the GNX. This “Grand National Experimental” came with a bigger Garrett turbo with a ceramic impeller, a better intercooler, and a low-restriction exhaust. All of this resulted in 276hp/360 lb-ft, and a blistering 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. The Corvette people could only cower in their shed.

1988 saw the Regal switch to a front-drive platform, which obviously killed the mighty Buick Grand National. Then, about a year ago, rumors surfaced that Buick was developing a new GNX/Grand National using the RWD Alpha platform (i.e. Cadillac ATS). Car & Driver even produced a rendering of what a new GN might look like. This was likely due to the fact that Mark Reuss, son of Lloyd Reuss (he was head of Buick at the time the first GN was conceived), is now GM’s product chief. And while none of our sources inside GM can confirm a that a new Grand National is coming, we certainly can’t rule it our either. After all, the Chinese would just love it.


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