AN INSTANT STREET LEGEND: THE 1987 BUICK GRAND NATIONAL GNX

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Muscle cars were around when Elvis owned the radio air waves in the 50s.

 

‘Most of the exhaust noise put out by finned 50s iron came from big block engines that were still a relatively new concept in the late 50s.’                                                                                                                                                                                `

The idea of more power gained momentum in the 60s as Motor City upped the ante every year in the horsepower wars.

 

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It may have been the Age of Aquarius on the radio but it was an all-out war on the streets during the late 60s when 400 cubic inches was a minimal requirement for battle.

 

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Bigger was better and Motor City lived by one simple motto: “There is no replacement for displacement”.

 

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The horsepower wars died a horrible death in the 70s when overzealous regulations neutered the big blocks and turned them into wheezing catalytic-choked weaklings. The death of the muscle car was mourned by many car guys during the 70s and few envisioned the rebirth of a factory-built road rocket from Detroit.

 

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They were right until the mid-80s when Motor City started to tinker with performance in a smaller package. Chrysler even turned their sub-compacts into 4-banger road rockets with their high performance Omni/Horizon models that looked like fast-moving beer fridges.

 

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However, the title of instant 80s automotive legend was applicable to one car-the 1987 Buick Grand National GNX. Car guys recognized the GNX was something special the minute they appeared on the market in very limited numbers.

 

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They only built 500 of these road rockets from the Buick stable, a brand better known for style and luxury than performance. The debut of the 1987 GNX was the 80s version of the Cobra debut in the 60s because they were both limited production cars that beat up the competition on the street.

 

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The GNX had a tricked-out six cylinder with an inter-cooled turbo boost that brought out the best in this mid-sized Buick. It was a Corvette killer and could bury the ‘Vette in a showdown.

 

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The GNX was an example of Detroit’s newly found ability to squeeze maximum horsepower out of a lightweight engine with less than 8 cylinders. Suddenly there was a replacement for displacement in American performance cars called a micro-chip.

 

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The marriage of a computer and an internal combustion engine produced a four-wheeled 80s missile that could hit 60 mph in a little over 5 seconds right out of the dealership-if you were lucky enough to buy a Buick GNX in ’87.

 

 

Many 21st century cars can match the performance of a 1987 Buick Grand National GNX but this car was built 29 years ago and would still be a strong performer in 2016.

 

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The cars were an expensive investment in 1987 at $28,000, but many car guys would have sold their beloved family dog to buy a GNX if they had an opportunity. These days a 1987 Buick Grand National will command $150,000 if the owners have been able to handle the crazed six -cylinder beast under the hood and avoid a crash over the past 29 years.

 

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The Buick GNX was a once-in-a-generation car. Few people have even seen a legitimate version of this car because 500 is not a big production number by anyone’s definition. We at MSCC have seen exactly one of these legends at the hundreds of car shows we have visited over the years.

 

‘It was a Hall of Fame rock star sighting moment for us. ‘

 

Jim Sutherland

 

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