Wednesday, December 2, 2015

'86-'87 Buick Grand National: Today's Best Technology Started in Yesterday's Grocery Getters

Poorly Performing Sports Cars

In the mid to late '70s and all of the '80s, auto companies were forced to come up with fuel-efficient economy-friendly cars. This meant the Muscle Car era was over. Even cars like the high profile Corvette were suffering. For the most part sport car styling was still very appealing, but its lack of performance issues were still very real.

Buick: Ready to Bring Something to the Table That Will Change the Future of the Automobile 

The Buick Grand National was produced between '84-'87  and had the same body type as the Regal, but possessed a sportier interior, a high performance turbo V-6, suspension upgrades and exterior styling upgrades. The '84 and '85 Buick Grand National was not quite the performer that the '86-'87 Grand National was, but they still came with a V-6 3.8 liter with a turbo that produced 200 horses, which was more horsepower than the Camaro was producing at the time.

'86-'87 Grand National: The Real Performer

The '84-'85 Grand National was the launch pad that got the Grand National's name out there and paved the way for the '86 and '87 Grand National. Buick added an inter-cooler upgrade to the already stout turbo set-up, making it capable of producing 235 horses and 355 lbs-ft torque. This was impressive for a V-6 full body car from the '80s, and even more impressive was the gains it was able to produce after a few minor affordable bolt-ons. A mid 14 to high 13 second 1/4 mile time was very common for these V-6 legends. This may not seem very fast by today's standards, but in the '80s, Camaros and Mustangs were lucky to break into the 14-second range unless you were willing to dump a boatload of money into it. From 1986 through the early to mid 1990s, the Grand National took no shame in leaving Corvettes, Camaros, Firebirds and Mustangs in their dust. GM's TPI and Ford 5.0 motors just did not hold a candle to what the Grand National brought to the table.

In the 1980s, the Grand National was just what the auto industry needed: a car that could promote high horsepower with reasonable gas mileage, style and comfort. Not only did it bring those great things to the industry, it also brought hope back to car enthusiasts. It brought the hope that soon the beloved Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs would be bringing back the power that they were once known for, but in a more efficient technology driven way.

My Personal Experience

Before my senior year of High School, before my dad and I built my first muscle car ('71 Buick Skylark 455) for my senior year, my dad owned a '87 Grand National. I got the joy of taking it to school a few times. With its grocery getter body style it was not too hard to lure the Camaros and Mustangs to the local drag race spot. The Grand National was running in the low 13's and the guys who drove the TPI's and 5.0's of our school had never even seen a 1/4 time-slip. But most of them guaranteed me that their cars were 12 and 11 second rides. Needless to say, that day they all got a rude awakening when a proven 13 second quarter mile car left them literally many car lengths behind in the dust. This left most of my friends dumb-founded. A quiet V-6 with interior room to fit five passengers comfortably -- beating up on their cool looking V-8 sports car. That day a lot of people found out what the meaning of a sleeper was.   


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