The Last GN: Bob Colvin’s ’87 Buick Is A Time Capsule

The date December 11th, 1987 holds no historical significance in either the political arena nor the entertainment realm. Unless you want to count the release of the cult film classic, Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen.

Reagan-era Hollywood, capitalist materialism aside, there is one thing that every Turbo Buick fan should know about that particular date. It was on this day that the very last Buick Grand National was ever built. Not only was it the last GN, but it was also the final G-body ever assembled. If you want to get really technical, it would be the final car to leave the Pontiac, Michigan plant -leaving many people without work.

Not only does Bob Colvin keep his Buick in a climate controlled garage, but he still holds onto the signs that the GM Flint assembly workers autographed.

The plant dated back to the 1920’s, so in GM’s mind, it was already too old and it wouldn’t have been cost-effective to retool it with modern technology. It’s a shame, because given the obvious repercussions of an assembly plant closing, Flint built some really fine cars during it’s tenure.

Bob Colvin, a then owner of a Chevrolet-Buick-Olds-GMC dealership in Springhill, Louisiana and a leader in Turbo Buick sales was well aware of this fact.

He knew the potential of the Buick Turbo V6, and was an active drag racer in the late ’80s, campaigning a modified T-Type. Bob was also aware of their collectability, and that’s why he had his sights set on getting the one of the last Grand Nationals.

Bob’s Buick was built by a bittersweet and emotional crew who stayed over their scheduled shift to see the final car through. Initially, Bob had no clue that he would ultimately end up with the final Grand National. With GM keeping GNX #001 and #500, it was rumored that the last GN to roll off of the assembly line would end up in Buick’s Historical Fleet, but Bob and his family were in for quite a surprise.

Here's a shot of Colvin's GN driving off the line back in 1987. You can see the entire clip in the upcoming Buick Grand National documentary, Black Air.

For months, Bob had been keeping in contact with Buick’s Darwin Clark and Bob Henderson then Director of Distribution prior to flying out to Detroit from his home in Louisiana. It wouldn’t be until he arrived that he learned that he would indeed be accepting the keys to the final chapter of GN history.

Bob’s wife, Charlotte, and their then four-year old son, Matthew, joined him in watching their cherished Buick being assembled by the autoworkers at Pontiac Assembly. In fact it was Matthew who lowered the LC2 V6 into the engine cradle with the help of one very patient line worker.

As the Buick was being built, workers were hanging signs and autographing parts of the car as a way to show their sense of pride and to immortalize themselves in this piece of General Motors history. As Bob tells it, one woman even approached him at the end of Final Assembly with tears in hear eyes telling him to “take care of their car.”

Clearly the Colvin family followed her advice, as this Buick has been kept in a climate-controlled garage and out of the elements since day one. It still wears all of the factory installed plastic in the interior, and the window sticker that says “last Grand National” is still in place.

In addition to the many John Hancocks found under the hood, there is one other feature that sets the Colvin’s GN apart from the rest. When the car was completed, a final assembly worker proclaimed that, “it’s missing something, something that will mark it as the final Grand National.” So an additional Grand National badge was applied to the Buick’s header panel, just above the passenger side headlight assembly.

Twenty-five years later, and the Buick is still as immaculate as it was that December day in 1987. It’s made several appearances in public, mostly at Buick shows, but it is never driven, and will forever live on as a time capsule and a footnote in the pages of Buick Grand National history. You can catch actual footage of this car in the upcoming film, “Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary” in December.

As the car was being assembled, the workers left their signatures on very parts of the engine, including the turbo shield, inlet tube, and alternator.


About the author

Rick Seitz

Being into cars at a very early age, Rick has always preferred GM performance cars, and today's LS series engines just sealed the deal. When he's not busy running errands around town in his CTS-V, you can find him in the garage wrenching on his WS6 Trans Am, or at the local cruise spots in his Grand National.
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