Not too long ago we encountered something rare, something inspiring and something, perhaps, a bit sinister: a 1987 Buick Regal Grand National. Buick’s reputation from the ’50s related to gaudy adornment, port holes, a wallowy ride and slow shifting Dynaflow automatic transmission. Flash forward to the 1980s and Buick, despite its identification with the AARP set, becomes GM’s kick ass division by dint of the fact that the Regal’s ultimate high performance variant, the Grand National, was a monster, albeit a monster dressed in formal attire. We saw an ’87 Grand National, black grill, no bright work, wearing a T-top, blast by the other day and recollected that this was the fastest car built on an assembly line in its time. Equipped with a turbo-charged V-6 developing 245 or 276 hp with 355 – 360 pound feet of torque and a O – 60 time of 4.7 seconds, Buick’s factory-built hot rod could smoke a Corvette which had two more cylinders and no back seat. Win = Buick.
Despite its cushy, bourgeois Buick breeding, this was one of the best bang-for-the-buck cars of all time. You could buy one off the showroom floor of an unsuspecting Buick dealer more accustomed to selling LeSabres, for as little as $18,500. That translates to $38,814 in today’s money. Does it sounds like a lot? It shouldn’t because you’d be getting a super car for about half of what you’d pay for a Porsche or, even, a Corvette. Did we mention the backseat?
The Grand National version of the Regal faded to memory as Buick got back to its core business: selling softly sprung barges and baby barges to geriatric types, catering to the oldest demo in the book.. The mock convertible roof on this ’88 Regal GS that was captured in Manhattan by Feral Cars Field Scout Jim Bessman is a gauche take on external luxury. Seems like the fiery Grand National has a bit more dignity that this tarted up coupe.
At its inception, Regal was imagined to be a downsized Riviera to compete with Thunderbird and Cougar and GM sister divisions’ Monte Carlo, Grand Prix and Cutlass. We think this ’77, found in a Miami Beach shopping mall, has quite a bit of assertive presence, especially in this era of look alike wind-styled blobs.
The ultimate expression of the first generation Regal, this black beauty belies the conventional wisdom that ’70s style was overly baroque and/or uninspired. We do admit that the vinyl clad half-roof seems gratuitous but it’s really quite understated by the standards of the year that begat Saturday Night Fever.
The Grand National GNX is the subject of a much lauded documentary film entitled Black Air in recognition that all were painted black and turbocharged. The trailer is really worth checking out as is this “Bad To The Bone” -themed 1984 commercial with George Thorogood sounding somewhat convincing and this much, much milder one with Glenn Ford. Think they were influenced to hire the Blackboard Jungle survivor so it could say that Ford endorses Buick?
There are no fewer than 14 Grand Nationals for sale at this time on Hemmings.com so it may really be the time to ask yourself if you really wouldn’t rather have a Buick.
If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us: info (at) feralcars (dot)com. Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted