There are (many) eighties cars that no one is convinced have a following, and then there is the Buick GNX. Unlike many of the other cars I write about, I doubt there’s anything new I can add to the discourse about the GNX. Still, I can’t not cover it.
“A high-performance investment for the fortunate 500.”
The story is familiar to many of us. Buick’s Grand National performance variant of the Regal had been around since 1982, and it had gotten steadily more powerful, gaining a standard turbo V6 in 1984, and an intercooler in 1986. For 1987, Buick announced the GNX, which stood for Grand National Experimental.
Buick built cars with Grand National interiors and sent them to American Specialty Cars (ASC). The GNX added a performance suspension with a torque bar and a GNX-only rear differential cover. Its exterior featured functional front-fender louvers, and 16-inch aluminum mesh wheels with black-out faces and GNX center caps, which were equipped with Goodyear Eagle “Gatorback” tires—245/50VR-16 in front and 255/50VR-16 in the rear.
Most importantly, the GNX included a massaged version of Buick’s LC2 3.8 liter/231 ci turbo V6 making 276 bhp paired with an automatic transmission with overdrive. Improvements to the engine over the standard turbo included a Garrett T3 turbocharger with ceramic impeller and a GNX-specific heat shield, a larger capacity intercooler, reprogrammed engine management, and a low-restriction exhaust.
Straight line acceleration was outstanding for the day—0-60 came in 5.5 seconds. The GNX handled well for a Regal, but that wasn’t really the point. Mileage ratings were 15 city/23 highway by the day’s standards (about 13 city/21 highway by today’s measures), which triggered the dreaded gas guzzler tax—$650 in this case.
The GNX was not inexpensive—the window sticker showed $29,290 (about $76,800 in 2022 dollars), with the GNX option alone listed as $10,995. Essentially, moving from a Grand National to a GNX added more than 50% to the price.
By 1987, a Grand National came reasonably well-equipped, with Sport mirrors, air conditioning, a leather-wrapped Sport steering wheel, a full-length operating console, and reclining front bucket seats included. A GNX came standard with many comfort and convenience features that were optional on the Grand National, including tungsten-halogen headlamps, electric door locks, power windows, electronic cruise control, tilt steering column, a six-way power driver’s seat, and the top-of-the-line UX1 stereo with graphic equalizer.
Options and Production Numbers
Buick built a mere 547 examples of the GNX—production was always intended to be quite limited. As far as I can tell, there were no factory options.
The View From 2022
According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1987 Buick GNX coupe in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $288,000, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $112,000.
The GNX has enthusiastic forum support, and there is intense collector interest. GNX coupes are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, at online auctions such as Bring a Trailer that cater to the eighties car market, and at in-person auctions such as Barrett-Jackson and Mecum.
Make mine Black, of course.