A parking lot is a parking lot—unless it’s the Summit Racing parking lot. On any given day or time, the lot outside a Summit Racing store can turn into an impromptu mini car show, depending on who’s stopped by the store. On Wednesday, we often share a notable parking lot find—another benefit of being powered by Summit Racing Equipment.
We don’t know if it was caused by excess Aqua Net or the incessant wonka-wonka from the Pac-Man machine in the break room, but things got a little crazy at Buick in the early 1980s.
How else would we be able to explain the Grand National?
Starting in 1982, the Grand National was a trim level available on the Buick Regal. Inspired by Buick’s recent NASCAR success, the Grand National added some styling bits and an aero kit. You could opt for a traditional Buick 4.1L V6 or (here’s where things got interesting) a turbocharged Buick 3.8L.
The Grand National brought some sportiness to GM’s G-body platform and, with the exception of a 1983 hiatus, steadily evolved into one of the most potent muscle cars in history.
For its final year, incremental tuning improvements, intercooling, and a series of upgraded turbos allowed the 1987 Buick Grand National GNX package to crank out more than 275 horsepower from the turbocharged 3.8L.
Buick was hush-hush on the exact performance numbers, perhaps to not run afoul of GM’s unwritten rule that no car could be faster than a Corvette.
But it was totally faster than a Corvette.
Magazines of the era were clocking GNX ETs in the mid-to-high 13s. To put that in context, Corvettes and Ferrari 328s of a similar vintage were in the low-to-mid 14s.
We don’t see many Grand Nationals in the wild, so we were giddy to see this one pull into Summit Racing’s Tallmadge, OH parking lot.
It had an “intercooled” badge, which tells us that it’s either a 1986 or 1987 model, when intercooling was introduced for the Grand National.
We’re pretty sure this is a 1987, and that’s because we asked our resident Buick GN expert, Steve Sutek, about the key differences between the two years.
Sutek said the 1986 version had some chrome in the grille and black door handles, while ’87s got a blacked-out grille and grey door handles. Under the hood, the power steering reservoir was relocated in ’87 and the oil cooler lines were different too.
Alas, 1987 was also the Grand National’s swan song. After ’87, there was simply no room in the Buick lineup for a tire-melting hot rod, as the company eventually focused its efforts on making crossover SUVs for Tiger Woods.
For a brief while though, the folks at Buick proved they could still make a muscle car.
And it wasn’t crazy—it was glorious.