When I was a young kid in the 1980s, I was just starting to become aware of my love for the automotive industry. I was beginning to learn about cars that are iconic today, like the Buick Regal Grand National. That car, in particular, I found menacing-looking. Especially so, since the only color that Buick came in was black. So, imagine my surprise to find out decades later that black was not the sole color for it.
As a little kid, I did not know that the 1980s was about manufacturers struggling to restore lost power that drained in the 1970s due to environmental regulations and restrictions. All I knew at the time was that I liked sporty type cars. Certainly, the Countach and Ferrari 308 held my eye. But, so did the Mustang GT, Camaro IROC-Z, Datsun 280 ZX, Cougar XR-7, the Shelby Cobra, the Corvette, and the Buick Regal Grand National. That last one, the Grand National, was always a jaw-droppingly good looking car to me, and it was especially menacing in its only available color, black.
The first year Buick Regal Grand National
As an adult, after doing a little research, I found out that the first year of the Buick Regal Grand National, 1982, did not even have black as a color option at all. Instead, the color available was a silver and charcoal two-tone paint combination. The black cars did not start rolling off the line until 1984. My mind was blown.
The Buick T-Type
Buick was pretty crafty back then. So, they made it possible to have the Grand National in other colors, but without the Grand National name. They created a Buick Regal T-Type edition. Smart purchasers could order the same engine and suspension package that the Grand National had, but in more colors.
According to Hot Rod magazine, a buyer in 1987 did just that. He ordered the T-Type in white, and then went to the parts store and ordered the parts and emblems that the Grand National had. So, after his white T-Type showed up, he added the air dam, wheels, fender flares, a rear spoiler, and the badging found on the other Buick. In essence, he made the Buick Grand National that never was, in white.
The performance of the Buick
The Buick Grand National and the like-equipped T-types were powerhouses. The first year, 1982, the Grand National came with a normally aspirated V6. There was no 1983 model year for the Grand National. In 1984, it returned. This time it had a 200 horsepower, turbo, V6 that moved the car to comparable performance numbers to the Corvette. In fact, the Grand National and the Corvette were both putting down 15 second times in the quarter-mile at the track.
In 1986, Buick became the fastest American production car thanks in part to the turbo V6 receiving updates. Those updates pushed horsepower to 235 horsepower. Quarter-mile times dropped under 14 seconds.
The last year of production
For 1987, the final year of production for the Buick Regal Grand National, the performance house, McLaren, worked with the manufacturer to create the ultimate beast. A bigger turbo, tweaked suspension, a bigger exhaust, and a refined computer brought quarter-mile times under 13 seconds, bettering the performance of the Porsche 911 and Ferrari F40 of the day. The only car in the world that was faster was the Lamborghini Countach.
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All in all, my research blew my mind. The Buick Regal Grand National was not black in its first year of production. Also, all the Grand National performance and suspension goodies could be equipped in the T-Type, which offered more colors. In fact, it would seem that the T-Type is underappreciated. It could be comparably equipped as its brother, and available in different colors, like white. Yet, the Grand National still took all the glory. What a diva!