Potential Project Car: 1987 Buick GN

GN Propsal-3It’s no secret that the Buick Grand National is one of the most respected and coveted cars in the American musclecar realm. But what makes it stand out is the fact that it isn’t a musclecar from the ’60s, packing big block V8 power and a carburetor, but rather, it’s a turbocharged, EFI V6-powered ’80s car. It was the fastest accelerating performance car for much of that decade, and it’s one of the very few vehicles out there that’s widely accepted by enthusiasts from all automotive genres from all over the world.

When the Buick was first picked up, it needed a complete tune-up from top to bottom. Here, we had to lift the car to drop the intercooler - it was caked with oil and pretty much every bug the car had encountered since 1987.

When the Buick was first picked up, it needed a complete tune-up from top to bottom. Here, we had to lift the car to drop the intercooler – it was caked with oil and pretty much every bug the car had encountered since 1987.

One of our newest staffers had managed to pick one up about four years ago, and he has been slowly working on making it his own. But we’re looking into helping him turn his 1987 GN into a full-on project car for Street Legal TV. Now before you flip out and cry, “sacrilege!” there are several things you should know. First, it’s not perfect. In fact, you could say it could benefit from some restoration work.

Despite the relatively low-mileage for a Grand National (67,000), the amateurish respray from back in 1997 isn’t exactly show-worthy these days. There are waves, orange peel, and the shine just isn’t there as much as we would like it to be. Literally every body panel has at least one ding in it, and spending it’s whole life (up until last year) in the Midwest hasn’t done the GN any favors either in terms of rust.

Oh, and whoever put the emblems back on during the respray clearly didn’t do their research as far as applying them in the proper location. All of the emblems are also cracked and/or fading too. We suppose you can call this Buick a “20-footer.” 

Here’s the GN at it’s final Ohio e-check procedure last year. It passed the sniffer.

The interior is pretty decent, particularly the carpet and seats, but the headliner is sagging severely, and the upper dash panel is cracked and fading like the exterior emblems. The rest of the cockpit is standard Grand National, including the useless 85 MPH speedometer and LED tachometer and boost gauge. 

Mechanically it runs pretty decent, but at the moment it’s under fire from a leaking driver’s side manifold gasket and a cracked manifold – a typical problem for all ’86-87 Turbo Buicks. Up until the car’s owner purchased it in 2009, it was bone stock – maybe to a fault.

The fuel tank was rusted through, all of the shocks were shot, the battery was dead, the MAF sensor was junk, and it was leaking fluids from pretty much everywhere – a result of the previous owner “keeping it all original” and the Buick sitting for five years. It has since received a Kirban Performance cold-air intake, valve springs, and adjustable wastegate actuator, a Racetronix/Walbro fuel pump and hotwire harness, MSD spark plug wires, and a Hooker catback exhaust system.

With that said, we’re kicking around the idea of helping our writer bring his GN up to snuff. We think a car like this should be returned to it’s former glory, but with a twist. We’re looking at bumping up the horsepower from it’s current 200 RWHP-ish level, to perhaps a more substantial 350-400 RWHP. With how well these cars respond to mods, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

The GN makes for a decent driver, but it's looks could use an improvement.

If you’re familiar with G-bodies at all, then you know that they’re not the best handling vehicles out there. Since our man is interested in some light autocross action, the wheels, tires, brakes and suspension will be getting a 21st century makeover from our friends in the aftermarket. Everything will be bolt-on, and the car won’t be getting cut up or “ruined” in any way – as per the owner’s requirements.

So how would you like to see this car get transformed into a body on frame, restored machine with a pro-touring twist? Would it be something you would like to follow along with, or should it be left all stock? No matter where you stand on the matter, there’s no denying that the Buick at least deserves to be repainted and made to look like new. Tell us your thoughts below.

With some photography skills and the right amount of lighting, the Buick looks good from a distance. But we want it to look beautiful from ALL angles!

With some photography skills and the right amount of lighting, the Buick looks good from a distance. But we want it to look beautiful from ALL angles!

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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