Tag: Buyers Guide

What you need to know when looking for a 1986-1987 Buick Grand National – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

What you need to know when looking for a 1986-1987 Buick Grand National – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


Angelo’s, in Anaheim, California, is one of the few classic drive-in hamburger joints still standing. Out front there’s a big sign, with flashy neon lettering, that can cast an instant spell over even the most jaded hot rodder. The servers zoom around the place on roller skates (of course) and you can order a beer with your burger. In other words, it’s got all the trappings of a hot cruise-in spo

Angelo’s was such a scene in the 1970s and ’80s that it made the cover of the April ’82 issue of Hot Rod magazine. It then appeared on the July ’85 issue of Car and Driver as the backdrop for a photo featuring GM’s hot “G-bodies”: the ’85 Oldsmobile 442, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, and the Buick Grand National, all basking in the nostalgic neon glow of Angelo’s big sign. The magazine’s cover line read “Modern Muscle” and the comparison story’s message was clear: These cars were fun throwbacks to the 1960s muscle car era.

Nearly 40 years later, GM’s G-body performers can be seen as something other than fun cars with retro flair—we can see them as bridges to the performance vehicles of today. One of them in particular: the all-black turbo-boosted one

The 1986 Grand National grille has a chrome strip across the top, embossed with the word “Buick,” and thin, vertical chrome strips in the center and on the sides. The brightwork on the grille was eliminated for ’87.

While Buick’s Grand National rode on the same 1960s-design underpinnings as the 442 and Monte Carlo SS (perimeter frame, coil springs, A-arms and ball joints, and solid rear axle), under the hood it packed some advanced technology. Turbocharging was nothing new when Buick applied it to its V-6 engines in the 1970s, but it came of age under the hood of turbocharged Regals when combined with computer engine management that governed sequential fuel injection and distributorless ignition. Intercoolers were nothing new in the 1980s either, but they boosted the Grand National’s power for 1986-’87. In stock form, these cars were fast for their time, but in the late ’80s and 1990s, tuners seized on the Grand National (and its turbocharged stablemates), unleashing more horsepower and creating a performance cult rivaled only by the one surrounding the 5.0 Fox Mustang.

While Buick’s Grand National rode on the same 1960s-design underpinnings as the 442 and Monte Carlo SS (perimeter frame, coil springs, A-arms and ball joints, and solid rear axle), under the hood it packed some advanced technology. Turbocharging was nothing new when Buick applied it to its V-6 engines in the 1970s, but it came of age under the hood of turbocharged Regals when combined with computer engine management that governed sequential fuel injection and distributorless ignition. Intercoolers were nothing new in the 1980s either, but they boosted the Grand National’s power for 1986-’87. In stock form, these cars were fast for their time, but in the late ’80s and 1990s, tuners seized on the Grand National (and its turbocharged stablemates), unleashing more horsepower and creating a performance cult rivaled only by the one surrounding the 5.0 Fox Mustang.

Today, Grand Nationals are on every list of collectible American cars of the 1980s— the most desirable being the 1986s and last-of-the-line ’87s. The very last Grand National ever built sold at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in January for an incredible $550,000, but 1986-’87 Grand National values across the board have been on the upswing for the last decade. In 2012 you might’ve picked up a nice ’86 Grand National for around $20,000 and a nice ’87 for less than $30,000. Now you can expect to pay upwards of $50,000 for an ’86 in similar condition and more than $60,000 for an ’87. The ’87s have traditionally commanded higher sums but they’re more plentiful: 20,193 ’87s versus 5,512 ’86s.

Interested in grabbing the keys to one of these 1980s performance icons and cruising it to Angelo’s or some classic drive-in hamburger joint near you? Even better, maybe you want to hit the occasional street night at the nearest drag strip? Here are some things to keep in mind about these turbo fliers from Flint.

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1971-’76 Cadillac De Ville and Fleetwood Buyer’s Guide – Jeff Koch @Hemmings

Strong ’70s sales mean that a rear-drive Caddy from the era remains an affordable, driveable classic, Photography courtesy of GM Archives and author’s collection.

Even though Cadillac’s lineup was all new for 1971, it remained distinctively Cadillac. The generous proportions, the toothy grille, the clean flanks, the subtle fins —you could never mistake it for anything else. The Calais (available as a two-door or four-door hardtop) was the entry-level ’71 Cadillac; from there you stepped up to the de Ville (Coupe or hardtop Sedan, depending on the number of doors you choose). The two-door Calais had a unique roofline but both Calais and De Ville rode a 130-inch wheelbase. The Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, at 133 inches between the wheel centers, was a pillared-sedan-only proposition. The Fleetwood 75, with its 151.5-inch wheelbase, was a full-on limousine, with strictly limited production. The lineup held until 1975, when the Fleetwood Sixty Special was renamed the Fleetwood Brougham, and the Fleetwood 75 limousine became, simply, Fleetwood.

Despite power and torque numbers dropping, and a fuel crisis that made single-digit thirst resolutely unfashionable, Cadillac had some record-breaking sales years in the first half of the ’70s. For 1971, sales were down 21 percent overall from ’70, and Cadillac sat in 11th place in Detroit’s annual tally of who sold what. Non-Eldorado Cadillacs accounted for 159,155 copies. But a year later, customers returned in droves: Cadillac shot up 42 percent and straight into 9th place with 225,291 rear-drivers sold that year, with hardly a change made to the cars themselves. Sales jumped again for ’73, with Cadillac topping 300,000 units, 251,103 of which were rear-drivers. Alas, it was a strong year for Detroit overall, so despite its favorable sales performance, Cadillac slipped into 10th place.

1973 Cadillac Sedan DeVille

You might imagine the fuel crisis, arriving in late ’73 as it did, would pummel Cadillac for 1974, but the division still sold 199,543 Calais, De Ville, and Fleetwood models, and remained in 10th place. Cadillac sold 218,651 full-size rear-drivers in ’75 and remained 10th during a strong bounce-back year for the industry. Finally, Cadillac stormed into 9th place for 1976, with 274,801 Calais, Deville, and Fleetwood models sold (and a healthy 3.74 percent of the overall market).What all this means is that there are plenty of these big C bodies available. Consider: More than 611,000 Coupe de Villes were sold from ’71 to ’76. But how can you tell if you’re getting a good one? We spoke to Mike Steiner of Palm Springs, California; we feel that the two-dozen-plus ’71-’76 rear-drive Caddys he’s owned and restored over time, including the dozen currently with his name on the title, qualify him as an expert worth talking to.

1971 Coupe de Ville


Lower fenders, front and rear, as well as rockers, and what lies beneath the vinyl top are all places to look for rot. Front fenders can be swapped out, and quarters can be patched, but it’s what’s lurking beneath the elk-grain roof cover that’s the scariest. “Rainwater and dirt seep in under the chrome molding at the edge of the vinyl covering,” Mike says. “The dirt that gets in there stays —and stays wet. By the time you see a hint of it beneath the roof on the rear quarters, it’s a huge issue.

“”If the car spent any time in snow country, check beneath the doors, where the outer skin folds over the inner stamping; if there’s any rust, you can’t fix that. The metal is thin and if you try to take the doors apart you won’t get them back together.” Speaking of doors: “Door strikers had a plastic sleeve starting in 1973; if these break, the door won’t close properly, and you have to slam it.” The sleeves are not reproduced, but Mike has a solution: “The sleeve is the same size as a half-inch copper pipe coupling. Cut some to the appropriate length, remove the bolt from the door, wrap electrical tape four times around the bolt, then slide the copper sleeve over and you’re done.

“But the toughest part of making the body look right? “The ’74-’76 back bumper fillers are the worst! GM used a rubber that disintegrated in the atmosphere. Something about the formulation just saw them dissolve over about a dozen years. Olds and Buick had the same issue. Several aftermarket companies make replacements but none of them fit well. With originals, you could make them fit; the aftermarket ones are fiberglass or hard plastic and will shatter on impact.”

1972 Cadillac 472-cu.in. V-8.


Cadillac’s 472-cubic-inch V-8 lasted through 1974. It was rated at 345 gross horsepower in 1971 and 220 net horsepower in 1972, with 8.5:1 compression both years. By 1974, the 472 was rated at 205 horsepower. Starting in 1975, Cadillac pivoted to its 8.2-liter (500-cu.in.) V-8, essentially a stroked 472, for all of its C-body models. Power dropped to 190 horsepower, while torque stayed the same as the previous few seasons, 360 lb-ft at just 2,000 rpm. Electronic fuel injection became optional in 1975, while new open-chamber heads were standard.”That Cadillac V-8 is indestructible if you don’t run it out of oil or water,” Mike reports. “I’ve pulled desert parts cars out of the yard, thrown a battery and gas in, and had them start up and drive.” Occasionally, “the diaphragm in the fuel pump can go bad.” Carburetors are GM Quadrajets and are infinitely rebuildable. Ignitions ran breaker points until GM’s popular and durable HEI ignition, with its integral coil, arrived on some models for 1974; all Cadillacs had HEI for 1975. “I’ve seen coils burn up on HEI ignitions,” Mike reports, “but it’s not a normal occurrence.”

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12 Motoring Classics From the 1950s Under $25,000 – @Hemmings


The period following World War II was an amazing time of optimism and prosperity in the U.S., with industry booming and technology advancing rapidly. Meanwhile, Americans were feeling good about life in the free world and many were flush with cash thanks to the strong job market. This all meshed to create a perfect storm of consumer demand that was advancing beyond the need to obtain products that hadn’t been readily available during the war—now, people were buying to satisfy desire as much as need.

The domestic automakers were perfectly poised to satisfy that demand, coming off of war contracts that had been followed by frenzied car sales after years of halted automobile production. The war had also pushed the development of technology, and style was once again a primary criterion for car shoppers. Detroit spent the decade trying to outdo itself, yielding some of the most ornately styled and trimmed cars of all time, while also recognizing that even truck buyers thought about aesthetics. Meanwhile, European automakers were pursuing their own versions of performance and style, creating some landmark designs as the decade unfolded.

This period would shine brightly, but relatively briefly, as trends continued to evolve rapidly and the 1960s would see its own characteristic features. By the 1970s, cars of the ’50s seemed like artifacts of a long-gone era, and nostalgia for that time kicked in with substantial force, driving collectors and restorers to latch onto the remaining examples to keep the memories alive. That drive hasn’t ever fully subsided, and cars and trucks of the 1950s are still very popular with car enthusiasts and collectors, including many who hadn’t even been born when those models were new.

Yet, ’50s cars still make for an excellent enthusiast ownership experience. In many cases, parts are available, and if not, strong networks of fans and specialists are ready to help locate spares to facilitate restorations or even just to keep these models on the road. Speaking of the road, cars of this period tend to be decent drivers, as the highway system was coming online and the ability to cruise smoothly at 60-plus mph became more the norm.

We wanted to illustrate that there are models from the 1950s that are also still attainable by gathering a selection of examples that are enjoyable to own, fun to drive, and still affordable. In this case, we’re considering anything costing $25,000 or less in good, presentable, and driveable condition to be affordable—that seems to be what the market thinks, too. Ponder these examples from a fantastic period in automotive design and let us know what else you think ought to have been included

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The Fox-body Ford Mustang is the best blank canvas pony car | Buyer’s Guide – @Hagerty


Hagerty’s Editor-at-Large Sam Smith takes a look at the Fox-body Ford Mustang and offers a general overview of the highly affordable but highly variable third-generation pony car. With an easy-to-modify structure, Sam not only covers the pluses and minuses of the Mustang’s massive aftermarket, but also the nuances of owning, buying, and maintaining this iconic classic.

Episode chapters:

1970-1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Buyer’s Guide – David Conwill @Hemmings


The right balance of luxury and performance, plus decent support today, make the first-generation Monte Carlo a good buy

Because it was derived from the Chevelle, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo remains an easy car to own today. Mechanical parts, in particular, are readily attainable, and the cars themselves are affordable. Popular pricing guides suggest that a small-block powered ’71 in top condition can be obtained for right around $30,000. Those who don’t mind a fixer-upper can find bargains down in four-digit territory

The complete interiors of the Chevelle and Monte Carlo will interchange, and their problems are shared as well.

.Fixing one up isn’t too bad, either. We spoke with Rob Peters, president, newsletter editor, and storekeeper for the First Generation Monte Carlo Club, and Sam Michaels, the club’s treasurer, to get some insight on what to look for when evaluating a potential purchase.

“I’d say that probably 70 percent of the parts are shared with the Chevelle,” Sam says. That’s a two-way street, however, as back in the 1980s, when investor interest in Chevelles was really taking off, the less-valuable Monte Carlos were sometimes stripped of parts to improve Chevelles.

Disc brakes, for example, were standard equipment on the Monte Carlo, and the spindles interchange with the Chevelle. Likewise, the Monte Carlo dash is the same as in a Chevelle SS, with the addition of woodgrain veneers, so not a few of those were gobbled up to produce clones

“The clocks rarely work,” Sam says, and Rob adds that many cars have been hacked to install a later radio. Additionally, dash pads crack, as does the original piping on the seats and the trim on the quarter panel, where passengers tend to brush against when getting in the back. Rob also points out that the special gauge package on Super Sport models was an option, so don’t discount an SS just because it doesn’t have one. Conversely, since that gauge package is reproduced, you can now add one to a vehicle not originally equipped

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Buyer’s Guide: The plentiful, affordable, 5.0-powered 1987-93 Ford Mustang – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


A new Mustang GT hit the ground galloping in 1982 and Ford shouted its return with the slogan: “The Boss is Back!” Hitching the Boss legend to this new pony made good marketing sense, but the Fox was no retro-themed throwback. It would go on to inspire a new generation of enthusiasts and launch dedicated magazines and websites, as well as become a darling of the aftermarket.

Old-school, American rear-drive performance mounted a comeback in the 1980s, ushered in by cars like the Buick Grand National, the Chevrolet Monte Carlos SS, and the Camaro IROC-Z. But, when new, these vehicles were priced out of reach of many young people on entry-level salaries. Also, the GM contingent offered manual transmissions only as exceptions rather than the rule.

Not so the 5.0. Ford priced the Mustang GT affordably and, beginning in 1983, offered a real-deal Borg-Warner T-5 fives-peed manual transmission. For ’86, Ford dumped the Holley carburetor and made multiport fuel injection plus a roller camshaft standard—exotic parts for a low-dollar production car back then.

While Chevrolet charged a premium for all the good stuff, Ford lowered the price by offering the el-cheapo LX with a 5.0 powertrain. Not only was it less expensive, but the notch-window body style, exclusive to the LX line, was lighter than the hatchback/convertible GT.

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Buyer’s Guide: The 1964-1965 Ford Falcon covered the spread from fuel miser to sport coupe – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings


Just because the Falcon was a low-priced economy car, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t satisfying to own. Ford referred to the redesigned 1964 and 1965 editions as its “Total Performance” compact.

That philosophy also extended to the larger models and took into account styling, handling, roadability, acceleration, braking, efficiency, and more.Sure, a buyer could’ve gone the bare-bones route in 1964 and become a fuel-savings connoisseur by driving a base Falcon two-door or four-door sedan, featuring the standard beige cloth-and-vinyl interior (more colors for 1965) with a full-width front seat, rubber floor mats, and 144-cu.in. straight-six (170-cu.in. for 1965).

Yet, with the 1964 and 1965 Falcon lineups providing avenues for boosting image, power, and comfort, why stop there?Stepping up in price, the 1964 Futura two- and four-door sedans added full carpeting, chromed horn ring on the steering wheel, courtesy lights, rear armrests and ash trays, lighter, and upgraded color-keyed upholstery choices and exterior trim.

The 1964 Futura hardtop and convertible also had the full-width front seat, but the sport coupe and sport convertible came with buckets and a console. A Thunderbird floating rearview mirror was included, and the droptop had a larger 170-cu.in. straight-six and a power top.

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1986-’87 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aero Coupe Buyer’s Guide – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


Do you think the stock car racingaero war ended in 1970? NASCAR rules may have dealt an evolutionary death blow to the winged Mopars, and nixed Ford’s King Cobras as the prototypes emerged, but it didn’t eliminate wind cheating designs. In the ensuing decades, Detroit learned that the challenges of meeting CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards and increasing racetrack speeds could be served by continuing to improve aerodynamics, often with pleasing visual results. We can think of a few post “aero wars” examples, like the 1975 Chevy Chevelle Laguna S-3. Its laid-back front fascia helped lower the coupe’s drag coefficient. Buick affixed a similar design to its mid-’70s Special and Century, and Olds didn’t hesitate to lay back the front end of its Cutlass 442, though its superspeedway prowess began in ’78. This was the subtle aero war, a trend that continued when NASCAR finally embraced Detroit’s downsized intermediates for 1981.

Buick’s Regal was an instant hit, taking 47 wins in 61 races through 1982. Ford’s nine wins during that span led to a completely redesigned, well-rounded Thunderbird, while Chevy’s embarrassing four wins (one by a Malibu, another by a four-year-old Monte Carlo) led to the reintroduction of the Monte Carlo SS, which included a sleek windswept nose with a flush-mounted integral grille. The new SS helped land Chevy a season high 14 wins in 1983, and another 21 a year later. But by 1985, Ford regained momentum and the two makes ended the season with 14 wins each.

For 1986, Chevy brass tasked its engineers with creating an enhanced Monte Carlo SS that would further reduce drag at triple-digit track speeds.

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Buyer’s Guide: 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS – Mike McNessor @Hemmings


A big-block-powered hybrid hauler examined

El Caminos have taken a beating on the internet over the past 20 years as a lazy punchline for mullet jokes. But we wonder: How many snarky car pundits have ever actually driven a big-block powered El Camino? They’d likely be impressed by the power—even on a short trip to the coffee bar to write that day’s clickbait listicle. When the chassis is in good condition, 1968-’72 El Caminos aren’t a chore to drive, either. They have surprisingly modern road manners.

Not that we’re biased or hold grudges, but just to be clear, in SS trim, an El Camino is not the automotive equivalent of a mullet. (All business in the front and a party in the back! Ha!) It’s actually all business in the back where you can haul stuff (repair parts for cars favored by bloggers, for instance), and a party in the front, where the gas pedal and Mark IV engine coexist in tire-burning harmony.

As of this writing, we counted more than two dozen 1970 El Caminos on Hemmings.com awaiting adoption. Prices ranged from $5,200 for a roller/project with new quarters (and an owner-described “cheap paint job”) up to $55,000 for what appeared to be a show-ready SS 396. Literally something for every budget.

Read the guide here