Garage Built Grand National Going Road Racing

Back in the day, Justin’s dad used to drive him to school in a brand new 1987 Buick Grand National. So, when this born and raised gear head was old enough to buy his own car, the legendary turbo V6 was on the top of the list and he bought this one when he was 19.

Now 31, Justin has decided to do something rather unconventional with his first love. Even though Grand Nationals are historically known as street kings and drag strip dominators, he has his mind made up and is going road racing with this one. What? Yes, we said road racing.

When we first saw the car on pro-touring.com, we thought, “Wow! That’s pretty nice already.” Aside from minor upgrades in the form of a few bolt-ons, upgraded turbo, built trans, and a couple of sets of wheels, the mid 80s classic is was pretty much stock. But, last January, Justin started taking the car apart in his home garage. The goal: mini-tub the back, upgrade the suspension, brakes, and chassis to get it ready for the twisties!

Justin’s build is centered on a set of Fikse Wheels: 18×9” in the front, 19×13″ in the rear, with the rears wrapped in 345 Kumho tires. In order to fit all of this meat in the wells, some serious modifications must occur—and that’s where the cutting begins. “It would have been easier to tub it, but I want to maintain the integrity of the Grand National,” he emphasizes. “Grand Nationals are mostly either pristine and nerdy and tucked in someone’s garage or extreme hacked up race cars. I want to stay right in the middle,” he explains.

Although he wants to go fast at the track, he also wants to be able to take the wife and kids to the beach in the 2-door G-Body, while keeping the back seat, and maintaining the stock appearance. Justin has gone to great lengths to make sure all of the aforementioned happens. 

Whenever possible, Justin uses stock parts that came on the car and modifies them—even down to the details, such as modifying the stock trunk hinges so that they wouldn’t interfere with where the new wheel well needs to be. When he has to fabricate something from scratch, such as his frame rails, he created his own template because even though you can buy aftermarket ones, he wanted to maintain the original wheel well contour of the Grand National. 

After all is said and done, Justin has moved the gas tank, spaced the factory wheel wells in 4.5 inches, and meticulously modified the frame to accommodate the hefty rubber that will one day live beneath the wells.

Now that the majority of the fab work is out of the way, Justin is working on getting the new suspension and brakes together. He will be running SPC upper and lower control arms, along with ATS spindles for added handling and the ability to maintain the correct suspension geometry. Additionally, single adjustable Varishocks will give him the ability to change with various track conditions, while still being able to easily adjust dampening for a better ride for the family.

Adding to the stable of aftermarket parts needed to create an appropriate road course vehicle, he chose Wilwood W6A front brakes, which have a 14.25″ rotor and 6-piston calipers. Obviously, allowing for more braking power while coming in hot and preparing for the apex of a turn. Being a little conservative since he is on a budget and this is a home garage build, Justin decided to stay with the traditional coil spring in the front for now, as opposed to a coilover set up. The Eibach springs were already on the car, but he is hoping that a good shock like the Varishocks will improve the handling.

Moving onto the rear, and after changing his mind about 10 times on which rear axle to go with, he finally settled on a Moser 12-bolt with 33 spline axles, Detroit Truetrac, and 3.42 gear. A combo that is intended to get as much power to the ground as possible, which in turn provides maximum acceleration. Staying true to his “stock appearance” theme, the upper control arms bolt right in like factory, and the lower control arm mounts were based on the stock design, only beefier.

He doesn’t have any immediate plans for the drivetrain because he thinks the V-6 with the upgraded turbo is fine the way it is for right now. As time and money allows, he will work on that after he shakes down the chassis at the track a few times. It seems that all of the hard work is out of the way, and if all goes well, he will be on the track by next season.

We find Justin’s story uncanny since he also owns a C5 Z06—kin to the C4 that was embarrassed by the Grand National back in its heyday. Although the C5 seems like the obvious choice between the two, Justin sees the Grand National as a car that will be more memorable at the road course. We are pretty sure he is right, for more reasons than being an oddball out there. Once the fabrication skills of this welder by trade is realized, the car is sure to become legendary in its own right.

About the author

Tracy Shayhorn

Tracy began in the automotive industry in 2002 as the marketing manager for a performance shop, which she helped co-found. As a marketing ploy, she found herself piloting high-powered racecars built at their shop. You may recognize Tracy from shows like Bullrun on and Ultimate Car Build Off. Tracy has used her racing career and media platforms to encourage and empower women to feel more comfortable in the automotive and motorsports arenas by starting up all women driving schools and automotive workshops. She now enjoys writing and shooting photos in her spare time for Power Automedia automotive magazines.
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