Buick: Luxury, Performance, Heritage

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1987 Buick Regal GNX Coupe

What? Buick performance? Luxury certainly, heritage maybe, but don’t try to tell me that my granny’s old Le Sabre 225 (Deuce and a Quarter for those in the know) has got anything to do with performance. That thing is heavy with room for an even dozen and it sails all over the road like a big boat. Buicks are built to be rental cars and to take up space in the parking lots of retirement homes and that is all there is to it. Right?

Wrong! Just ask Handsome Harry.


Harry Gant drove Buick Regals very successfully during his NASCAR Winston Cup career in which he became known as “Mr. September” after winning all four Winston Cup (now called Sprint Cup) races (Darlington, Richmond, Dover, and Martinsville) in September of 1991. This record of four straight NASACAR wins still stands and he might well have won a fifth if his brakes had not failed late in the race at North Wilkesboro the following week. Try telling Harry Gant that a Buick won’t perform as well as anything else.


This is a moot point. I don’t believe that anyone will argue with the luxurious trappings of a Buick.


Now this is where most folks have got their nose out of joint. I don’t want to bring up muscle cars just yet (I am saving them for the “Heritage” part) but I would like to talk about Handsome Harry’s ride for most of his career. The GM G-body platform was a rear-wheel drive coupe that fit perfectly into the mold of a large performance car. It was wide, low, and mean. Buick took the G-body and created the Regal which was good for grannies but had very little use elsewhere until 1984 when Buick began experimenting with turbocharged V6 engines. Fast forward to 1987 when the Buick GNX (short for Grand National Experimental) was the fastest American production car. It was faster than a Corvette, Camaro, a Mustang, or anything else produced in the U.S.A. (and — yes — that includes Canada).


The 1987 Buick GNX was a menacing masterpiece of a production car that could clear the quarter mile in 13.2-seconds at 104 mph and it could bolt from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3-seconds. The big deal is that all this was accomplished using the same 3.8-liter V6 that Buick uses today. Granted the GNX was equipped with a Garret T-3 turbocharger and a larger intercooler designed by McLaren Racing minds but it had a level of performance potential that cannot be denied. Combine this engine with a specially calibrated electronic automatic transmission, a sport tuned suspension engineered exclusively for this type of car, and an expertly modified rear differential and you have what some onlookers refer to as the “Dark Side” for more mundane sports cars.



When muscle cars are mentioned you don’t hear much about the Buick Skylark despite the fact that it was a significant player. The Gran Sport, as it became known, was equipped with some of the most powerful engines ever put in a GM vehicle including the 455 cubic-inch V8 used in the 1970-1972 GS. The next time that you consider shopping for a muscle car, do some research on these 1967 through 1972 Buicks. You just might be surprised.

So, what has got me talking about Buicks? The truth is that Buick plans to launch an all new performance line based on the Grand National and the GNX in 2016 or possibly 2017. I am anxious to see what exciting updates await us as Buick performance rolls into this century.

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.