Written by independent automotive journalist Steve Magnante
If you were among the hundreds of thousands of automotive enthusiasts who read magazine articles promoting the 1987 Buick GNX either as a child or adult, you’ve seen this car before. That’s because, of the 547 Buick Regal GNX’s built for 1987, the car featured here – which will be auctioned on Saturday, January 20, at the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction as Lot #1327 – is serial #003. While the first and second GNXs were retained by the General Motors Heritage Collection (#001) and the Buick/Alfred P. Sloan Museum (#002) for posterity, GNX #003 saw extensive duty on the magazine test-car circuit.
This very car was loaned to publications like Auto Week, Car Craft, Motor Trend, Popular Hot Rodding, Road & Track and others, where it was depicted in photographic scenarios ranging from tire-smoking fury to sitting pretty at rest. Shuffled from editor to editor, GNX #003 covered just over 8,000 miles in the process. Through it all, a constant sad undertone was the understanding that 1987 was to be the final appearance of the traditional body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive G-body (which also underpinned the best-selling Chevy Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix and Olds Cutlass). A totally redesigned W-body Somerset Regal, with front-wheel drive and unitized body construction, was slated to replace the popular midsize Buick in 1988.
Knowing it faced the end of an era, Buick smartly capitalized on the emotion of the time with “a Grand National to end all Grand Nationals.” While the standard intercooled 1986-87 Grand National was plenty potent, for the final volley Buick partnered with ASC/McLaren to elevate the GN to its ultimate form, the GNX. A self-aware spin on the Buick Skylark Gran Sport GSX program of 1970-72, ASC/McLaren embellished 547 Grand Nationals with wheel lip flares, fender vents, huge 16×8-inch BBS rims and 255/50VR16 tires.
Interestingly, aside from shot-peened connecting rods and more cautious assembly, the GN’s basic Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection (SEFI) V6 engine was left alone internally. Rather, Buick restricted GNX enhancements to external areas with inclusion of a larger Garrett T-3 turbocharger with a ceramic impellor for reduced mass and quicker spool-up, a larger intercooler, more aggressive fuel, spark and waste gate tables and a revised dual exhaust system that bumped output from 235 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 330 ft/lbs of torque at 2,400 rpm to 276 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 360 ft/lbs at 3,000 rpm.
These figures may not seem impressive in today’s world of 300-horsepower hatchbacks, 400-horsepower pickups and 800-plus-horsepower pony cars, but with contemporary magazine reports touting 12.7-second, 113.1 mph quarter-mile times, the GNX was quicker and faster (in the quarter) than the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 930 Turbo!
Proof the GNX was far more than a hasty “sticker supercar” was how Buick handled the rear suspension. With the added torque, the stock Regal four-link rear suspension was prone to axle hop. To combat the issue, Buick engineers replaced the two upper control arms with a transverse-mounted Panhard rod and novel traction arm running parallel to the driveshaft toward the front of the car. A special cast-aluminum differential cover linked the torque arm to the differential housing and was inscribed with the GNX logo. The protruding differential cover conflicted with the standard Grand National transverse rear muffler, so Buick equipped the GNX with a unique twin-muffler exhaust system.
When this car was done spreading the GNX message to members of the automotive press, it was purchased by Fischer Buick of Troy, Michigan, in the summer of 1988 with a little over 8,000 miles on the odometer. After attracting plenty of attention at Fischer Buick, #003’s first private (retail) owner took delivery in August 1988. Fully aware of its status and rarity, he drove it sparingly before selling in the spring of 1989. From there it spent the following decades in climate-controlled storage, racking up a total of 10,790 actual miles.
Though climate-controlled indoor storage is beneficial to the preservation of any automobile, static existence can wreak havoc with certain onboard systems containing fluids. To assure proper operation, #003 was recently treated to a comprehensive mechanical service and cosmetic reconditioning to return it to its function and appearance as a member of the 1987 Buick press fleet. Best of all, unlike some known ultra-low mile examples of the GNX breed – which have to be shuttled about on castors to keep the odometer from racking up miles – #003’s indicated mileage of just over 10,000 is too high to render modest use a drawback.
That opens the door to modest use on the open road, where the next owner of GNX #003 can enjoy sharing the story of how it played a key role in promoting Buick’s final rear-wheel-drive muscle car package – or spanking virtually every other performance car made in 1987.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.