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.)