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Upcoming Buick GNX: Another
Storied Nameplate to be Sullied

March 2, 2012 by Matt

Buick SLP GNX Regal GS Concept Sketch Teaser

It’s like what Pontiac did to the GTO, only worse.

Motor Authority reports that tuner SLP plans to revive Buick’s legendary GNX designation, applying it to a breathed-upon variant of the automaker’s current Regal GS. Mercifully, they’ve only planned to build around 500 of them, close to the painfully low number of the original that were produced.

To understand why this is such a travesty, consider a couple of things:

  1. The original GNX was the ultimate rip-snorting, ground-pounding, take-no-prisoners incarnation of the already-fearsome Grand National. It was, first and foremost, a muscle car. It may not have been V8-powered in the classic tradition, but its turbocharged V6 radiated torque in its own right. And it was RWD, sported a live rear axle, dripped with testosterone and was singularly intimidating to line up next to at a stoplight or drag strip.
  2. Back in ’04, Pontiac attempted to revive their legendary GTO badge by slapping it on a car called the Monaro, imported from their Australian subsidiary Holden. While the new GTO possessed good credentials on paper—a small-block V8 lifted from the outgoing Camaro and RWD—it utterly failed to catch on. Its timing was off by several years, for one; the new generation of muscle cars wouldn’t crop up until the emergence of the Dodge Challenger and especially the new Ford Mustang. But more significantly, although the mechanicals were on point, the sheetmetal was jellybean-like and inert, with absolutely none of the swagger befitting a proper muscle car.

And with the new GNX, history threatens to repeat itself as SLP prepares to water down yet another revered nameplate by affixing it to a very un-muscle-y sports sedan built on a FWD platform. A little nostalgia mining I can handle, but the new car must faithful if not to the original’s concept, at least to its general attitude. I really can’t see any possible way for SLP to re-cast the Regal GS in the mold of the ’80s GNX. It’s just not going to work.

3 Comments on Upcoming Buick GNX: Another
Storied Nameplate to be Sullied

Packing Heat:
The Buick Grand National

July 29, 2011 by Matt

1987 Buick Grand National GNX

Among other cars, I’ve owned a Toyota Supra. Yes, it was the turbocharged version, and yes, it was a 5-speed; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m sorry to report, however, that it wasn’t the coveted “Mark 4” (4th generation) iteration of The Fast & The Furious fame, a model whose asking price, due to its hallowed status, seems to defy depreciation 13 years after it departed our shores. The Mark 4 is a potent car, and its often deep-pocketed owners have been able to extract pavement-buckling amounts of horsepower from its indestructible and eminently tunable 2JZ-GTE engine.

But I’m not here today to discuss the Mark 4 Supra. No—I want to talk about the one car owners of the vaunted Mark 4 have said time and again that they fear to line up next to on a dragstrip or at a stoplight: The ’82-’87 Buick Regal Grand National, or Grand Nash.

Buick Grand National Engine Bay

One of the few true muscle cars of the horsepower desert of the ’70s and ’80s, the GN took an unconventional—by muscle car standards—path to greatness. Instead of a typical American pushrod V8, the car was powered by a turbocharged (from ’84) and intercooled (from ’86) variant of Buick’s legendary V6 engine. The horsepower figure may have looked mild, even for the era, at 245 hp, but the Grand Nash had four key advantages for those in the know:

  1. The horsepower was underrated. Especially in the ultimate GNX incarnation of ’87, with 276 “factory” hp, a 4.6 second 0-60 time and 13.5 second 1/4 mile clearly meant that at least that much power was being sent to the rear wheels, as opposed to being measured at the flywheel, without driveline loss. 276 flywheel hp + a 3400 lb car do not add up to that kind of acceleration. Presumably, the actual power figure was deliberately misquoted so as not to further overshadow the GM range-topping sports car, the Corvette, whose engine, until ’92, only put out 230 hp.
  2. Torque. Horsepower may have “only” been 245, but the maximum torque available was a colossal 355 lb-ft (again, even more in the GNX). Chalk this figure up to the presence of the turbo, the long stroke and relatively low redline. The upshot of the massive torque figure was that in the mid-rpm range street racers typically play, the Grand Nash had a huge advantage over its imported rivals, whose smaller-displacement engines often required much higher revs to extract their full potential, over a smaller rev range.
  3. Easily-upgradable rear suspension. Unlike the independent rear ends of the ‘Vette or the import aspirants, the GN featured a good ol’ live axle, which would accept virtually the full arsenal of grip-enhancing bolt-ons dating back to the ’60s, from ladder and traction bars to stronger differentials.
  4. Easily-upgradable engine. Perhaps most significantly, tuners had the Grand Nash’s engine “figured out” within a year or two of its entry into the marketplace. The Buick V6 core was a known quantity, and the relatively new technology of turbocharging was quickly mastered. As with the rear suspension, building a bulletproof engine was as easy as flipping through the Summit Racing catalog, and extracting more power was simply a matter of improving on what the factory had already provided. The manifolds, intercooler piping and fuel system were all there—just install a more capacious one of each, tune and crank the boost. Bingo.

The car has a cult following, and considering its model run was relatively brief (as with all good GM cars), it’s something of a collector’s item. Still, if I had to pick one American-made car from the ’80s as a keeper, the Grand Nash would probably be it. I’d love to stare down a cocky Mark 4 Supra owner or two.

2 Comments on Packing Heat:
The Buick Grand National