The 1987 GNX – Beauty, Power, Performance and one Hell of an Attitude

Recently I posted an article about the TV show “Life” where a beautiful Grand National was prominently featured. However, although very impressive, the Grand National was not the cherry on top of the cake Buick made for the “welcome back American Muscle!” party. That cherry  was the devilishly good looking monster called GNX.

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Originally with a sticker price of 29.900$, today if you can’t fight the urge to go out and not come back until it’s behind the wheel of one, you’ll have to add about 50.000$ to the original price. Well if you do decide to part with your life savings for the sake of one of these, who could blame you? The GNX is one of the most astonishing creations in automotive history!

Back in the early 80’s Buick had surprised everyone with the Grand National. Now, when I say surprised, I mean a proper, startling, “where the hell did that come from?” kind of deal. The hairspray era wasn’t exactly synonymous with muscle cars; actually, most 80’s Americans are pretty rubbish. Plus, Buick wasn’t at all  what you’d call “performance oriented”. So in a lousy time, a boring company comes out with what’s to me and many others the greatest car of the decade. Naturally this raised a few eyebrows, but the sinister Buick had all the right attributes and became a phenomenon.

 In 1986 the all black, all sexy…and absolutely evil looking Grand National was kicking @$$ and taking names. The 3.8 V6 (yeah, V6) was all the GN needed to blow the doors off the competition. Yet, Buick felt it just wasn’t enough. The company decided that 87 was the year to go all out.

A deal was made with ASC/McLaren and those 547 little pieces of magic called GNX came to life. Just look at it…this thing owns the troublemaker vibe! A Garrett AiResearch turbo was improved and linked with a special intercooler; the onboard computer was modified to allow for a better fuel mix and turbo boost; the dual exhaust system with separate mufflers for each pipe was custom, of course and the transmission was also upgraded allowing for firmer shifts (a transmission fluid cooler was also fitted). To deal with the very attractive and useful 360 lbs-fts of torque (actually that’s a bit of a GM lie…the reality was more like 400 lbs-fts), a special ladder bar was put in place to increase rear wheel traction, something that according to  musclecarsfacts would cause  the rear end to lift up before a heavy launch, something that’s described as “an interesting and intimidating sight”. I bet it is.

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The GNX meant business, no doubt about it. At the time, it was the fastest production coupe on the road, anywhere! With just 276 bhp (again, that’s another GM lie…it was more like 300, 320 bhp), the GNX shoots from 0 to 60 in just 4.5 seconds, and that means that back in the day, it was a real nuisance to performance royalty like Porsche and Ferrari. You see, it’s ok to have a speed war when it’s at the same manufacturer level, but having a Buick crashing the party is a whole different story…the Porsche 928 S4 was capable of 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds and the Testarossa (a V12) could only cut 0.3 of a second to that time. Not even the almighty Countach LP500 QV would be able to do much against the Buick, taking 4.9 seconds. Let’s not forget that the Lamborghini would cost you more than 3 times as much and yet, the GNX would easily wipe the floor with it, that’s mind blowing! Actually, this brave Buick is still impressive by today’s standards; a 2007 GT500 takes the same 4.5 seconds to reach 60…

So why did GM lie so much about it? Why wasn’t GM the proud parent of such an amazing son? Well, like J. Lieberman points out in his article for Jalopnik, admitting just how brilliant the GNX was would outshine that colossus called Corvette, and that would be a huge no-no because, as we know, the Vette is GM’s favorite child and as such, it will always come first in that family. However this was good thing! It made the Buick an underdog, a rebel, a kind of black sheep…in other words, made it even cooler. Car and Driver Magazine applied to the GNX for the first time the now famous slogan “Darth Vader, your car is ready”; it’s easy to see how the Buick would indeed appeal to the legendary dark Lord: the black on black from top to bottom, the flared fenders, the vents…it just screams trouble, menace. The car’s design is based on straight lines but that doesn’t make it excessively boxy, boring or ugly, quite the contrary; it’s a thing of beauty, full of emotion.

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If it’s not completely obvious by now, I love the GNX; it’s one of my favorite cars of all time. It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it has – by the bucket load – what most cars chronically lack today, even the most expensive, most exclusive ones: heart, passion, and an endless potential for greatness. The feeling it brings is visceral, beyond reason, superior to it. So, here it is, an 80’s V6 Buick which chews up and spits out Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. A most unlikely, unexpected and amazing drop dead gorgeous peak of automotive perfection.

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Image credit

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