Category: Buick

Did GM Really Sell Specially Equipped Buick Grand Nationals to the FBI? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

Did GM Really Sell Specially Equipped Buick Grand Nationals to the FBI? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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The year: 1986. The place: America. The problem: Bad guys drove fast cars, faster than anything the Federal Bureau of Investigation had in its motor pools, and they were getting away with murder. The solution: …call Buick?

The notion of FBI-ordered Buick Grand Nationals (especially when reading the above in a Don LaFontaine/Redd Pepper voice) certainly sounds like an Eighties action flick come to life. Throw in an agent who bristles at authority and doesn’t play by the rules, a straight-laced family man partner, and plenty of explosions and you’re halfway to a Hollywood script. But it may actually have some basis in the truth, even though the details are hard to confirm and sketchy at best.

We jumped down this rabbit hole after a recent Regal T Turbo Hemmings Find of the Day elicited a couple of comments on the topic of federal turbocharged Eighties Buicks, starting with one from Joe MM with a rather elaborate backstory to the mythical beasts

he U.S. government ordered Regal T-Types with V rated tires and the PROM chip that raised the top speed limit on the cars. T-Types and GN’s came with H rated tires so GM governed them. All GM law enforcement vehicles had top speed limiters unless you ordered the optional V rated tires. Then the respective agency could order the PROM that would raise the limit. This was a popular upgrade if you could find a dealer that was able to order the chip. GM used these chips in the 1994-96 Impala SS since they had 17″ rims; since most tires that would fit had a V rating. They were afraid that they would be accountable if owners installed inferior tires and have accidents as a result. The full size trucks today are governed to the same top speed whether they have the base V6 or the 420 hp V8’s for this reason.

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The Last 1987 Buick Grand National to Leave the Factory Comes Up for Sale for the First Time – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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For a little dealership in a town hard against the Louisiana-Arkansas border, Springhill Motors sold more than its fair share of Buick Grand Nationals during the 1980s: 30 or 40, by owner Bob Colvin’s estimate. “We got most of them from other Buick dealers,” he says. “They weren’t performance oriented, so they didn’t know what to do with them.” Colvin even got in one of the few GNXs, the instant collectibles that everybody wanted to buy and then immediately put in storage, though he sold it soon after. Instead, he set his sights on another Buick, one that he felt would become far more important in the annals of collecting: the last Buick Grand National.I

t’s not unheard of for dealers to angle to get the last of any particular car. Multiple dealers, for instance, tried to get their hands on the last Chevrolet Corvair. It’s also not unusual for carmakers to hold on to those last cars, as we saw when GM liquidated a swath of its Heritage Collection roughly a dozen years ago. But when it came to the last Buick Grand National, it seemed only one dealer showed any interest in the black-clad G-body that had terrorized V-8 muscle cars for years.

Colvin didn’t find that it was as simple as calling up his contacts in Detroit, though. “I made several phone calls to Buick’s Darwin Clark and Bob Henderson, director of distribution,” Colvin says. When he didn’t get a response, he rang the office of GM CEO Roger Smith. “The Buick executives called me back and said, ‘Don’t you ever call him for anything else.'”

He assured his contacts at Buick that he wouldn’t advertise it as the last Grand National or put it up for sale. Even so, the best Colvin could get out of Clark was one of the last two Grand Nationals, as GM may decide to keep the ultimate example. A letter to Colvin from Larry Shields, a representative at Buick’s dealer assistance network, noted that it would be impossible to guarantee him the last Grand National due to scheduling and assembly complication.

But then Springhill Motors received an order for a Grand National, invoiced to the dealership. “That in itself was very unusual because dealers order their own cars with whatever equipment they desire,” Colvin says.

It was, as Colvin learned, a tacit acknowledgement that he’d be getting the car he wanted. Chuck Maitland, the manager at the Pontiac Final Assembly plant, scheduled the build of the Grand National for December 9, 1987, which would be not only the last day of production for the Grand National but for all 1987 G-body cars (i.e., the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme). Colvin, his wife, Charlotte, and their four-year-old son, Matt, traveled to Pontiac, Michigan, where they got a tour of the plant and the production line, which dates back to the factory’s opening in 1927. (A second line had been added for the Pontiac Fiero. When Fiero production ended in 1988, GM permanently closed the plant.)

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Broken Circa 1928 and Stored Away, This 1926 Buick Standard Only Saw Fleeting Glimpses of the 20th Century Before a 2020 Resurrection – David Conwill @Hemmings

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In 1926, the Buick Standard had been around for a year already. It replaced the Buick Four series for 1925 and was priced below the larger and more powerful Master series. The Standard used a 207-cu.in., 60-hp six-cylinder and rode a 114 3⁄8-inch wheelbase, while the Master had a 274-cu.in., 75-hp six and a 120-inch (or longer) wheelbase. As a two-door sedan, the Standard offered much of the style and build quality of the Master, at a $200 discount (equivalent to nearly $3,000 today).

Those early days of this car’s existence are a bit murky. Bill says the oral history passed down to him, along with the physical evidence uncovered during his efforts to revive the Buick, suggest it was just a few years old when sidelined with a cracked engine block. A fine line is still visible from the resulting repair.

“Most of the miles were put on before 1928. After it was fixed, the original owners placed her in storage. Then came the Depression. She hibernated through World War II, Korea….”

A used Standard Six sedan was a good car in 1928, but nothing ground shaking. Betty must have been in particularly nice condition to get repaired and then stored for what amounts to about three and a half decades. What had once been a common and unremarkable entry-level Buick was, by the early ’60s, an unusual sight.

A farmer in Richmond, Massachusetts, just southwest of Pittsfield, purchased the car around that time.“Other than touch-up paint and typical mechanical maintenance, she was all original,” Bill says. “The intention was to restore her to new condition since she was in such great shape. He started the motor and drove her around the farm to make sure she ran.

“All the parts were there and in perfect condition, but the project was sidetracked by his 1919 Buick roadster project. Betty was sold to a family in Pittsfield in 1968 for $50. I have the bill of sale from that purchase.

Buick advertised its engines as being “triple sealed,” in reference to filtration systems for air, fuel, and oil. Note the canister for the vacuum-operated fuel pump: Gasoline is drawn from the tank to a reservoir, then fed to the carburetor via gravity

“They were able to free her engine, fill the tires, and drove her home from Richmond under her own power. They changed the oil, replaced the horn, and added a brake light switch so they could get an inspection sticker. She still has the Massachusetts inspection sticker from 1970.

“They coated the hood with clear coat, touched up a few places where the paint had chipped, and painted the grille bezel to protect her bare steel. They replaced a couple inner tubes and used the same tires. I presume the tires are ’40s or ’50s vintage. They left the rest of the car as a survivor.

”After some fun in the summers of 1969 and ’70, however, the family wasn’t satisfied with how Betty was running.

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JUNKYARD RESCUE! Buick Scrap National – Classic GBody Garage

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Another great Buick Grand National revival, this time from Classic B Body Garage

This 1987 Buick Grand National was sold for scrap and rescued! I will be going through this car to bring it back to life and get it back on the road. Project Scrap National begins

Learn the proper steps to get an old car running again that has been sitting for years. I teach you how to perform a complete compression test and determine the condition of the engine. This 1987 Buick Grand National was sold for scrap and rescued and I am continuing the work to get it running and back on the road again.

Rescued 87 Buick Grand National is finally getting a bunch of new parts and it’s closer to running once again! This 1987 Buick Grand National was sold for scrap and rescued and I am continuing the work to get it running and back on the road again.

Learn how to replace a gas tank, fuel pump and sending unit! This 1987 Buick Grand National was sold for scrap and rescued and I am continuing the work to get it running and back on the road again.

LOW MILEAGE Buick Grand National press car and barn full of cars | Barn Find Hunter – Ep. 106

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In the previous episode of “Barn Find Hunter,” Tom made friends with a Gentleman named, Cliff Wilson who owned a Dodge Polara 500. As usual, Tom asked the question, “Do you know of any old cars around?” Sure enough, Cliff pointed to a location down the road to a man who restores Case Tractors and also has a barn full of cars. The fun doesn’t stop there! Tom then hears about a local who has an all-original low-mileage 1984 Buick Grand National that was a press car in Detroit during the early ’80s.

Generation GNX: How One Man Built a Collection of Five GM Turbo V-6s – Barry Barry Kluczyk @Hemmings

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As with music and other cultural touchstones, it’s a good bet that your automotive interests are rooted in the trends and experiences of your youth. They’re the cars on the street you started noticing before you could drive, the ones you and your buddies had in high school or shortly thereafter. Or perhaps you simply lusted after the ones that were out of reach. For most baby boomers, it was the golden age of the original muscle car movement, but for the Generation Xers who came up behind them, it was the cars of the Eighties and early Nineties. IROCs, 5-liter Mustangs, and Grand Nationals. Those were the cars that left the indelible impressions on their collective psyche.

Production of the 1987 Grand National nearly quadrupled over the previous year, to 20,193, as customers rushed for the last of GM’s rear-drive G-body models and clamored for the increased performance that came with the intercooled Turbo V-6 that debuted in 1986.

The older Gen Xers are now solidly in their 50s and they’re collecting the cars of the MTV era. They’d rather add a 1993 Mustang Cobra to their garage than a ’69 Boss 302, while the Buick “Twisted 6” logo evokes as much awe as a Stage 1 emblem. Count Matt Murphy among them. He’s an unabashed fan of just about all Eighties’ cars, but it’s those GM Turbo V-6 models that burned into him like a cattle rancher’s branding iron — or perhaps a weekend-long Miami Vice marathon.

He has five turbocharged vehicles: a 1987 Buick Grand National, a pair of 1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am models, a 1987 Buick GNX, and a 1991 GMC Syclone. It’s a collection any performance enthusiast can appreciate, regardless of his or her generational proclivities.

The engine was rated at 235 hp in ’86 and upped to 245 in ’87.

It all started with Matt’s father, a GM employee tasked with the otherwise innocuous job of window moldings. It doesn’t sound as sexy as developing a Super Duty engine, but all of those snap-on windshield and rear-window moldings had some serious engineering behind them, with an entire department for their design and manufacturing. They were produced at a dedicated plant in downtown Detroit.

“In the early Eighties, he got a call about an upcoming production model that would require blacked out window trim,” says Matt. “The twist was they didn’t want the trim simply painted, because it would flake off pretty easily. They needed something else.

”Cutting to the chase, Matt’s father delivered the durable black trim for what would be the 1984 Grand National. A little while after the car went into production, the senior Murphy received a surprise at his Troy, Michigan, office. It was a GM car hauler with a Grand National on it. The development team was so appreciative of his efforts on the project, they dropped off the car for him to enjoy for the weekend

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For sporting style, power, and capacity, it’s hard to beat this 1968 Buick Riviera – David Conwill @Hemmings

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It has a 7.0-liter V-8, hideaway headlamps, and exclusive, swoopy styling. If we’re talking late-1960s General Motors products, that sounds a lot like a third-generation Corvette. Not everyone can daily drive a two-seater, and if you were going to drop $4,600 on personal transportation back in 1968, there was another option. It came not from Chevrolet, however, but from GM’s founding division: Buick.

“The automobile you drive must be more than a machine that takes you from one place to another,” Buick said in Riviera promotional materials. “It must be as exciting to drive as it is to look at and as exciting to look at as is reliable to drive. Obviously, Riviera is your automobile

.”That may have been obvious five decades ago, but the second-generation Riviera is often overlooked these days. That’s a mistake. You see, if you wanted a big-block, A/C-equipped vintage ’Vette with an automatic transmission now, you’d best be prepared to spend around $60,000. A similarly optioned Riv, meanwhile, can be had in like condition for about a quarter of that.

We drove this example not long ago and can tell you: Unless you want to attend track days on the regular, you’ll have just as much fun in the Buick. Maybe more if you have some friends you’d like to bring along, or just prefer some extra room to stretch out

The Ivy Gold Mist example on these pages belongs to John Scheib (no relation to Earl, in case you were wondering) of West Hartford, Connecticut. Just to look at his car, you immediately realize a Riviera of this era was more than mere transportation. Take that curvaceous styling, for instance. It’s a clear departure from the sharper, more vertically oriented, Ferrari-meets-Rolls Royce looks of the 1963-’65 first-generation Riviera. At first glance, you could be forgiven if you mistook the Buick for an Oldsmobile Toronado, but look closer and it’s a more conservatively styled car.

That conservatism extends to the chassis. While the Toronado and the Riviera, along with the Cadillac Eldorado, shared GM’s E-body platform, only the Riviera adheres to the traditional American approach of a front engine and rear-wheel drive. The decision to retain what was tried and proven good not only means it’s a more straightforward car for the modern owner to service and find parts for, but its driving manners are familiar and predictable.

In the Buick’s cruciform X-frame chassis are nestled such well-respected parts as a division-specific differential, Super Turbine 400 transmission (that’s a TH-400 with a Switch Pitch torque convertor, in case you don’t speak Buick), and 430-cu.in. V-8.

The 430 was only in its second year in 1968, having recently replaced the 425-cu.in. “nailhead” engine found in earlier Rivieras. It shares its stroke with the later 455-cu.in. V-8, but uses a slightly smaller bore. The engine in John’s base-model Riviera was rated for 360 hp at 5,000 rpm and 475 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm, thanks to 10.25:1 compression and a Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor

.Standard rear gearing was a long-legged 3.07:1, perfect for road tripping like John’s visit to the GM centennial in Flint, Michigan, back in 2008. Along on that trip was his wife, Bea, with whom he was celebrating 40 years of marriage—a perfect coincidence with the age of the Riviera. Back in ’68, leadfoots also had the option of more aggressive 3.42:1 gears with a limited-slip differential as a part of the Riviera GS package.

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This 1962 Buick Special eight-passenger station wagon would make the perfect street-legal gasser. Here’s how I’d build it. – David Conwill @Hemmings

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“These rules are solely for the purpose of obtaining certain stylistic qualities associated with drag racing in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,” is a great premise for a race series as far as I’m concerned. Those certain stylistic qualities mandated by the Southeast Gassers Association (“SEGA”) result in period-correct gassers, circa 1967.

I just spent a bunch of time documenting folks having fun at the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Races. It got my creative juices flowing and reminded me of a previous encounter with the folks at SEGA (just via e-mail, sadly). They’ve got a similar philosophy to their counterparts at PSMCDR, but instead of being aimed at the old NHRA Stock classes, it’s oriented around the gassers.

Gassers, if you aren’t familiar, are those drag racers that ran in the NHRA Gas classes from 1955 to 1971 and the similar classes of other sanctioning bodies. As distilled down by SEGA, the hallmarks of a ’67-style gasser are a solid front axle (straight or dropped) suspended from leaf springs, an elevated stance (12 inches at the rocker behind the front wheels, 11 inches at the rocker ahead of the rear wheels), a vintage (i.e. a design that existed in 1967) V-8 engine, and a manual transmission

.The SEGA rules also make it clear that every car has to be invited and that day-of-race entries aren’t permitted—you should check with the organizers before assuming anything is within the spirit of the rules. Still, the general guidance on selecting a vehicle for racing is “Closed full body styled production cars 1967 or earlier. No open or altered body styles. All cars must have a top/roof” with further prohibitions on 1967 Mustangs, all Camaros (we’re guessing Firebirds too), V-8 Corvairs, Opels, and Cougars.

Sonny Clayton’s 1956 Chevrolet is a SEGA participant. Tri-Five Chevys are relatively common gassers, as are 1933-’42 Willys and Chevy II’s.

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For sporting style, power, and capacity, it’s hard to beat this 1968 Buick Riviera – David Conwill @Hemmings

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It has a 7.0-liter V-8, hideaway headlamps, and exclusive, swoopy styling. If we’re talking late-1960s General Motors products, that sounds a lot like a third-generation Corvette. Not everyone can daily drive a two-seater, and if you were going to drop $4,600 on personal transportation back in 1968, there was another option. It came not from Chevrolet, however, but from GM’s founding division: Buick.

“The automobile you drive must be more than a machine that takes you from one place to another,” Buick said in Riviera promotional materials. “It must be as exciting to drive as it is to look at and as exciting to look at as is reliable to drive. Obviously, Riviera is your automobile

.”That may have been obvious five decades ago, but the second-generation Riviera is often overlooked these days. That’s a mistake. You see, if you wanted a big-block, A/C-equipped vintage ’Vette with an automatic transmission now, you’d best be prepared to spend around $60,000. A similarly optioned Riv, meanwhile, can be had in like condition for about a quarter of that

We drove this example not long ago and can tell you: Unless you want to attend track days on the regular, you’ll have just as much fun in the Buick. Maybe more if you have some friends you’d like to bring along, or just prefer some extra room to stretch out.

The Ivy Gold Mist example on these pages belongs to John Scheib (no relation to Earl, in case you were wondering) of West Hartford, Connecticut. Just to look at his car, you immediately realize a Riviera of this era was more than mere transportation. Take that curvaceous styling, for instance. It’s a clear departure from the sharper, more vertically oriented, Ferrari-meets-Rolls Royce looks of the 1963-’65 first-generation Riviera. At first glance, you could be forgiven if you mistook the Buick for an Oldsmobile Toronado, but look closer and it’s a more conservatively styled car.

That conservatism extends to the chassis. While the Toronado and the Riviera, along with the Cadillac Eldorado, shared GM’s E-body platform, only the Riviera adheres to the traditional American approach of a front engine and rear-wheel drive. The decision to retain what was tried and proven good not only means it’s a more straightforward car for the modern owner to service and find parts for, but its driving manners are familiar and predictable.

Read on