The most exciting news to make headline in our LS and late-model GM performance publication was brought to us by our own expert of everything turbo Regal, Rick Seitz. A few days ago, Seitz excitedly reported to the LSX enthusiast community that Buick has not only recently renewed their trademark on the Grand National/GNX nameplate, but that new runs of the T-Type, GN and GNX may be a reality within the next few sales years.
Seitz says that the turbo Regal fanbase has been awaiting the return of the high-performance Regal fleet for a long time, but hopes of the turbo-6 cars ever returning to the GM assembly line were never too much more than speculative, “We’ve heard rumors of a GN/GNX returning for years, so it’s tough to say exactly how legit these rumors are” says Seitz.
Whether or not a new generation of T-Types, GNs and GNXs are really in the cards has yet to be seen, but word of mouth says that the new T-Types and Grand Nationals are to be powered by an all-new, twin-turbo V6 while the beefier GNX is to be powered by the latest generation of LT1 small-block.
Be that as it may, the turbo Regals will always be one of the most important milestones in our muscle car history as they were among the last production cars from GM to follow the most elementary principles of factory muscle car construction, and that formula is one that dictates that a muscle car be a real door-slammer that is by nature a mid-optioned two door sedan with the fastest mill available stuffed under the hood.
The difference during the 1980s was that it was the decade that followed the ’70s, which meant that now-primitive pollution controls on all cars became an industry standard. It sucked for those who were old enough to remember the ’60s, but it also opened the doors for a new means of building horsepower that involved turbocharging small-cube motors that had cylinders missing from them.
Fuel-saving tactics during the ’70s had caused the age of big-block performance to dwindle, and Buick was the homesoil automaker who knew better than anybody that it wasn’t coming back. They and others had to find more environmentally-conscious ways of building performance while sticking to small motor protocol.
Buick’s solution was to bolt a turbo on to the 231ci V6 that they had in fact revived from the ’60s, and in ’78 the turbo Regal Sport coupe was offered with a two-barrel carburetor option that was rated at 150 horses while the 4-barrel option put out 165.
It was still timid performance from a relatively small motor that was all iron, but an incredible feat by GM for the time. It wouldn’t be until 1984 that the Grand National would be boosted to a pretty impressive 200 horsepower at 4,000 RPM, and that output would climb to 235 in ’86 and 245 by ’87.
In our featured video from Edmunds.com, Chris Walton tests the road handling capabilities of the now legendary ’87 GN, a car that offers little in the way of aerodynamics but much in the way of straight-line performance. Walton talks about his Buick GN slalom driving experience while comparing it to Edmunds’ last GN track test, “The big surprise was on the squiggly bits; it was much better handling, a lot more compliant [and] a lot more predictable,” says Walton.
Turbo Regals have never been known as road cars, as their purpose was to reinforce the stoplight, door-slammer tradition. Nevertheless, Walton celebrates the overall look, feel and performance of the Grand National, “We’ve got a good handler but not such a fast one, but it’s still a bitchin’ car!” Walton exclaims.
The “bitchin'” factor was most definitely there with the T-Types, GNs and especially GNXs of the ’80s, and looking back to this phase of Buick and GM’s history is to look back to a fairly recent time when the General tried to combine the straight, square lines of the ’60s with the 1980s’ promise of high-tech gadgetry that would truly blossom into the ’90s, evolving even many steps further into the new Millenium.