In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, it seemed the days of muscle cars were truly over. However, a handful of models, like the GMC Syclone and the ‘90s Chevy Impala SS, showed American performance wasn’t quite dead yet. And preceding both was the Buick GNX, the faster and more extreme version of the already rapid Grand National. But as iconic as the GNX is, does its status and history deserve a $205,000 price tag?
The Buick Grand National shook off the doldrums with turbocharged grunt
Today, Buick focuses purely on luxury vehicles. But back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it, Oldsmobile, and Mercury had significant performance credentials, Hagerty explains. However, as the ‘80s rolled in, in the eyes of enthusiasts, Buick had lost its edge, Car and Driver reports.
So, it decided to stir things up by entering NASCAR, where it won the manufacturer’s trophy in 1981 and 1982, Hagerty reports. And it celebrated by releasing the 1982 Regal Grand National. But that was just the beginning of the Buick Grand National’s story.
The 1982 Buick Grand National has naturally-aspirated V6s. And the following year, Buick gave the Regal a turbocharged powertrain, creating the Regal Turbo-T, Hagerty reports. But the Grand National most remember arrived in 1984 with an all-black paint job and even more performance. Performance that only grew over the years.
Each 1984-and-later Buick Grand National has a 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 with a four-speed automatic, MotorTrend reports. At first, the V6 made 200 hp and 300 lb-ft. But in 1986, thanks to a new air-to-air intercooler and several internal tweaks, output jumped to 235 hp, The Drive explains.
And by the end of production in 1987, the Grand National offered 245 hp and 355 lb-ft, Automobile reports. By that point, it went 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds and could out-run a C4 Corvette in the ¼-mile, MT and The Drive report.
And the Buick GNX was a luxury muscle car that could out-run supercars
But Buick saved the best for last and gave the Grand National one last hurrah: the 1987 GNX. And performance-wise, the wait was worth it.
ASC and McLaren’s engineering division further tweaked the 3.8-liter V6, giving it upgraded internals, a new turbocharger, a retuned ECU and fuel-injection system, and a sportier exhaust. ASC also stiffened the chassis, strengthened the rear suspension, and upgraded the transmission, Car and Driver reports. And the Buick GNX also gained new aluminum wheels, a transmission oil cooler, and fender flares with functional cooling louvers.
As a result, the 1987 Buick GNX has 276 hp and 360 lb-ft and goes 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, The Drive reports. That’s faster than a Lamborghini Countach. And a ¼-mile time of 13.1 seconds put it in ‘80s supercar territory. Even by modern muscle car standards, the GNX is impressively quick.
The $205,000 1987 Buick GNX is the most expensive Grand National ever sold on Bring a Trailer
In short, the Buick GNX has a secure spot in performance-car history, especially after it was nicknamed ‘Darth Vader’s car.’ Still, the idea of paying $205,000 for one might strike some as odd or excessive. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what one Bring a Trailer bidder recently did.
On May 14th, 2021, one BaT bidder paid $205,000 for a 1987 Buick GNX. That’s not quite a record-breaking amount for a Grand National, but it’s close. The last GNX ever made sold for $220,000 in a 2017 Mecum auction, Hagerty reports. However, this GNX is the most expensive one sold on BaT; the previous record-holder ‘only’ sold for $200,000 in 2019.
But what exactly prompted such a high auction price? For one, it’s an iconic 1980s performance car, making it Radwood royalty. And because the classic car market is currently dictated by those with an appreciation for the ‘80s and ‘90s, cars from this era are rising in value.
Secondly, the Buick GNX is a rare car. Production was originally limited to 500 examples but later increased to 547. Plus, it’s a one-year-only model that’s demonstrably improved over the already fast Grand National.
Thirdly, this 1987 Buick GNX only has 262 miles on the clock. It still has the factory plastic wrap on the seats. True, ultra-low-mileage cars can sometimes be headaches. But in terms of market value, low mileage usually means more money. Though interestingly, the previous record-holder only had eight miles on its odometer.
Was it worth it?
In terms of average market price, this $205,000 1987 Buick GNX is a notable outlier. Other GNXs have sold for less than half that price on BaT. And a pristine 1987 Grand National typically sells for less than $60K, Hagerty reports.
With classic cars, the ‘worth it?’ question is as much emotional and financial. Seeing as the previous record-holder had even fewer miles, in raw monetary terms, this one was arguably a bit overpriced. But the GNX is likely the winning bidder’s dream car. Since they could afford the best, they bought the best.
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