Back In Black: Buicks GNX Goes Out with a Bang

Automobile Staff
1987 Buick Gnx

The year 1988 would mark the Buick Regal's change from its old rear-drive G-platform to a new front-drive W-platform, but also signaled the end of the Grand National - arguably, one of the sportiest Buicks built since the 1970s.; To celebrate - and go out with a bang - Buick decided to build the ultimate Grand National: the 1987 GNX.

GM engineers began work on the project in late 1986, partnering with colleagues at American Sunroof Company and McLaren Engines to develop the program.; Given the budget and time constraints, no party had time to re-work the innards of the Grand National's 3.8-liter turbocharged V-6 - but they could work on external components.

The motor was treated to a modified Garrett T-3 turbocharger with a ceramic impeller, revised intake and exhaust systems, a larger intercooler, and a tweaked engine computer.; These changes yielded 276 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque - a significant boost from a base Grand National, which in 1987, delivered only 245 hp.

They also yielded some impressive performance figures.; Two GNX prototypes hit a drag strip in 1986, laying down a 0-60 time of 5.38 seconds, and made a quarter-mile sprint in 13.47 seconds at 104 mph - outperforming a naturally-aspirated Porsche 911 and even Chevrolet's own Corvette.

Some mild chassis changes (like new rear torque bars and a Panhard rod linkage) helped channel that power to the ground, but the GNX remained a sleeper.; With a monochromatic black exterior, all production cars looked nearly identical to a normal Grand National, save for small emblems, fender portholes, cross-lace alloy wheels and analog gauges for the driver.

Such performance didn't come cheaply; the GNX option package ran for nearly $10,000, bringing the total price for a car to a whopping $29,900 (nearly $57,000 in today's economy).; That didn't deter buyers; Buick had to raise production figures from an initial cap of 200 cars to 500 to meet demand.; Ultimately, 547 examples were built, making the 1987 GNX one of the most collectible - if not powerful - Buicks to date.

Hind sight is always 20/20... Imagine though if a Buick guy at GM had suggested that the front wheel drive Riviera was a stinker and put a Fresh Body on the rear drive Regal Platform.... Heck, the rear drive Regal could be had w/a 305 Chevy V8 and 4spd Auto... Rework the solid rear axle and the "Riviera" might still be in production today... With Roger Smith's downsizing there wasn't enough Room at Buick in the 1990's for Buick to have Two, "Coupes"... Now that's a Buick Tiger Wood might've not only advertised but have purchased...
When Buick made this great car, i think that their intentions were to make this car and always be remembered but never bring it back to the market. One because its a powerful and nice looking machine, but hopefully one day they change their mind and bring back the GNX because i will buy it.
They were talking about bringing it back with a twin-turbo 6 they use in Aussie, makes like 400-450 hp! that would be nasty!

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