(first posted 7/23/2014) The voice on the commercial was a mixture of auctioneer and late night car salesman. Running as often as political commercials prior to an election, the promise made by the lip-flapping announcer was almost overwhelming for this then twelve year-old. The premise worked; I was yanked in like a hairball into a vacuum cleaner.
It was September 1985, and the commercial was for the Southeast Missouri District Fair, better known locally as the SEMO District Fair, held in the world’s only inland cape of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In addition to being one of the grandest social events in the area, the SEMO District Fair is more fun than a barrel of monkeys with each night having a themed hootenanny at the grandstand.
The hootenanny that had captivated me was the stunt driving show.
Relentlessly needling my parents about it, they finally (and uncharacteristically) acquiesced and bought tickets under the pretense of it being a birthday present. That was awesome–a stunt driving show was a grand way to celebrate entry into that exclusive club of being a teenager.
Upon arrival, what do I find encompassed the bulk of their stunt fleet? Brand new 1985 and 1986 G-body Buick Regal’s. This show was uptown–they were driving Buick’s!
By no means was this my first exposure to the G-body. This was the Midwest; these were as common as mosquitos along the Mississippi River.
It might seem most of the Gs were Chevrolet Monte Carlos, but that was not the case in 1986. Notice this picture; there were three different header panels for one car within one model year. Times have certainly changed.
The Pontiac Grand Prix always seemed to be the thinnest on the ground and sales prove that as only 41,000 moved out the door.
By far the most popular was the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, a car which seemed to be in about half the driveways in the area, outselling the Grand Prix roughly 3.5 to 1. One of these is the only G-body I have ever driven.
Combined sales of the two-door G-body in 1986 was 301,000 units; as a comparison, the entire 1986 production volume of the GMC light duty line was also 301,000 units. Even better, each of these cars were relatively unchanged from 1981 to 1987.
The only tangible differences among the four brands were a rhinoplasty and a butt-job, but these did follow the time-tested and proven GM recipe of corporate body similarities. To its long-lasting credit, GM sure knew how to capture the essence of each brand as each had its own distinct personality. These were not the blatant badge engineering effort of later endeavors, such as the Cadillac Cimarron.
Sitting at ground level, separated from these careening Regal’s by only a thin cast iron railing, the seeds for my long-lasting adiabatic admiration of the Buick Regal were planted. Doing stunts similar to what Joie Chitwood was doing in 1956, I realized there was nothing more captivating than seeing a Buick Regal flying through the air or being driven on two wheels. It was pure poetry in motion.
My young mind was overflowing with savory Buick goodness. Had anyone in the history of the world created a cooler car? Hell no. To use some 1980s vernacular, it was totally gnarly and rad, man.
I didn’t fully comprehend this generation of Regal dated back to the downsizing of the A-body in 1978. Neither did I know the A-body Regal was reassigned to the G-body nomenclature in 1981 to coincide with a healthy exterior update and the introduction of the new, front-wheel drive A-body Chevrolet Celebrity, Pontiac 6000, Oldsmobile Ciera, and Buick Century.
At the time I likely knew the Buick’s were powered by either a 3.8 liter V6 or a 5.0 liter V8. But in my twelve year-old mind, nobody with a lick of sense would have ordered the V6 as six cylinders equated to levels of puniness surpassed only by a four-banger.
I had tangential knowledge of Buick’s turbo V6, an engine that had been available in the Regal since 1978. With that engine, I was intrigued. My thought was if Lee Iacocca claimed a turbocharged 2.2 liter four could accelerate like a V8, this turbo V6 should accelerate like a fighter jet off an aircraft carrier. Maybe not all V6 engines were boat anchors.
My intrigue only grew as Buick continued to cultivate the potential of their turbo V6, seen here in (what else?) a black Buick Regal.
Just when it seemed the G-body flame may have started to flicker, it was doused with high-octane gasoline causing some dormant seeds to grow.
Many of the various stories I have told at CC have had a nugget of truth within them, some larger than others (here). Since you are waiting until later to check out this link, a major element of the linked story is a high schooler playing an illicit game of “Chase.” It won’t take much to guess where that came from.
One weekend night during my senior year of high school, as I was out carousing, I met up with a buddy. He was driving the 1979 Chevrolet cargo van he had liberated from his grandfather’s appliance store. As we were cruising around in his van (the only Chevrolet van I’ve ever seen with a three-speed on the column), we encountered a classmate of mine who suggested the game of Chase. He was in his mother’s 1986 Buick Regal.
My classmate’s father was a shade tree mechanic of sorts who felt compelled to enhance the performance potential of the 5.0 liter V8 General Motors had bestowed upon the Buick. In other words, it ran like a scalded dog. Careening around the university campus and adjacent residential areas of Cape Girardeau was great fun. My buddy was slamming gears in the van and its 250 cubic inch straight six was yelping for mercy. He was a very good driver and was able to stay far enough ahead of the Buick.
However, the Buick was a formidable foe. It was also a very tail happy car, as it went sideways around numerous corners and was able to quickly catch up from our various evasions. It was a night of great fun that thankfully did not involve any members of law enforcement.
It cemented my fondness for the two-door G-body Regal into something as permanent as a tattoo of one’s name on their torso. There are times when I have wondered if I have had a pollyanna view of cars in my various write-ups. This time, I do not care; these two experiences have created a G-body Buick fanboy out of me, and for that I will loudly profess it to everyone!
Related Reading: The CCCCC Series, Part 12
I like it in black with those small wheels.
I like the Olds better, specially when fitted with the Olds rallye wheels.
I see these cars and think of Tim Richmond’s #2 Stacy Pak Buick, circa 1982…
A very nice looking Buick. Like with you, it was the Cutlass that was everywhere. These were much less common.
Loved the Joie Chitwood promo film for Chevy. I wonder what was behind his switch fromFords to Chevys? Was it the cars themselves or the kinds of “promotional considerations” that only Chevrolet could afford?
they nearly spawn everyday in Woodward Avenue…
Are you casting doubts about his “I drove all three…” slogan? 🙂
Maybe more like “I hit up all three….”
JP, I was torn between the Joie Chitwood video or this one. I went with JC since it was also GM, and this one is Ford.
Lovely car, especially in black.
Horrifying to see that G.M. actually bragged about those gawdawful too-many-functions-on-the-turn-signal stalks. Despite having the kitchen sink loaded onto that one lever, I think they still lacked a flash-to-pass highbeam switch. This is one area where Ford was way ahead of G.M. in those days.
My 86 Pontiac 6000-STE had flash to pass on that lever. I think Cadillac did as well.
I like that lever actually. I guess I wasn’t as hamfisted about using the wash paddle as the rest of my family though. those tended to break.
Any GM multifunction stock can be set up with a flash to pass option by replacing the high beam switch mechanism with one that supports that feature.
You also have to add an “always hot” wire to the switch connector, but there’s already a cavity for the terminal.
Except for the “press the stalk in towards the steering column to blow the horn” feature that some Ford engineer came up with back in the ’80s. I never knew if I would get a horn toot, windshield wipers, cruise control or a left turn indicator when I was driving my grandmother’s Merc Marquis…
That was an airbag-installation workaround which turned out to be Overcome By Events (OBE).
This is why I endorse the aviation industry’s trying to keep cockpit layouts standardized across models (e.g., the 757/767, Soviet MiGs). This reduces training costs.
It actually debuted on the ’78 Fairmont, long before airbags were a consideration.
Actually airbags were already being talked about being mandated for 1981-1982 when the Fairmont came out, so they were already getting ready in case, it was more of a passive restraint mandate, VW had some Rabbits that had a passive restraints in 1978 too, similar to the GM automatic seatbelts that came out in 1987.
The GM stalk is confusing? Wipers, high beam, cruise and turn signals, oh no, I’m totally befuddled…..Really? If my grandmother could operate it on all 3 Buicks she had with that stalk since 1982, I’m sure you could handle it too.
Ford UK used that horn arrangement on Cortinas in the early seventies. Ford Australia used the same switch on Falcons starting in ’74. I had to get a new stalk for my Cortina, and the Falcon part was listed on the books as the replacement.
I like the GM cruise/wipers/turn signal stalk, too. It’s not super intuitive if you’ve never used it before, but once you know how it works it becomes very natural. You never have to feel around for buttons, look down or even take your hands off the steering wheel for most functions (unless you’ve got baby hands).
I almost had one of these, in white with the 3.8, as my first car. Midway through my 16th year my judgement was clouded by the fact that I was driving the family minivan, a 1990 Plymouth Voyager with the mitsu V6 and 3 speed auto, and that just sucked – even three years old it was a terrible car. Neighbor had one of these that was in relatively cherry condition that he would let go for a decent price so I lobbied Dad relentlessly, but to no avail.
When a buddy got a Cutlass from a little old lady with low miles, and it had the 3.8, for his first car I had to drive it. Needless to say that car soon had the nickname of “the Gutless”. I can’t help but think I dodged a bullet on that one..
The ’87 and ’88 Cutlass Supreme coupes with composite headlights are my favorite G-bodies, but the Regals were still pretty good looking. Several G-body Cutlass Supreme coupes graced my grandparents’ driveway in the 1980s. I always wished one of them could’ve survived until my time.
Despite a slow start with the colonnades, the Regal seemed to wear the ’78 downsizing the best and to my mind was the sharpest looking of these coupes right up till the end.
You mentioned that the only styling differences between the coupes were nose and tail–not really. Each one actually has a unique C-pillar and quarter window shape also, which helps give the cars their distinct character. While they were obviously platform-mates I think the only shared body panels were the doors.
This one does look especially nice. The black paint gives it some Grand National attitude, plus the fact that the wheels are GN pieces (complete with turbo six emblem on the center cap) helps too. Always did like that design. I wonder if the Limited was ever available with the turbo engine, or if it would definitely have T-Type badging in that case?
As to my favorite G-body coupe stylistically varies with the day; sometimes it’s the Regal, sometimes the Cutlass Supreme Classic (with the composites), sometimes the Monte Carlo SS aerodeck. Came close to owning one of those Cutlass Supreme Classics back in 2002, an ’88 with the 307, but it was in pretty rough shape so I passed. Bought an ’82 Malibu instead so I still ended up with a G-body as it turned out.
I seem to recall that the Chevies and Pontiacs shared doors, as did the Buicks and Olds, at least in the ’81+ 2 doors. I think the reason was that the fenders were different. I had a Regal that I had to replace fenders and doors on, but they came from another Regal, so I have no first hand experience.
During the good SFI years of 1984-87 the only year a Limited could be ordered with a the turbo LC2 was 1987. 1035 were made.
“At the time I likely knew the Buick’s were powered by either a 3.8 liter V6 or a 5.0 liter V8. But in my twelve year-old mind, nobody with a lick of sense would have ordered the V6 as six cylinders equated to levels of puniness surpassed only by a four-banger.”
Except in the case of the 307 offered in the Regal and Cutlass, it was just as gutless as the 3.8l V6. My 1987 Cutlass Supreme sedan had the 307 and I called it the Gutless Cutlass because it tended to get passed by Corollas and Escorts due to it having such a weak engine(140hp) in such a heavy car.
My 1985 Cutlass Supreme sedan had the 3.8l V6 and I swear it felt like it went more faster then the 87 with its V8.
That Regal you took pics of is in great shape. All of the plastic filler panels that sit between the bumper and car body are intact (Unlike on most Buick G and B bodies of the era)
Your 307 was drastically out of tune I think. No way does a 110 HP 231 carb V6 out power a properly tuned and running 307 4BBL V8 in a G-body. The 307 actually had 65 additional LBS FT of torque to work with compared to the 6 and 30 more horses. When equipped with the 4 speed overdrive 200R-4 transmission it also pulled a slightly better 2.56 rear gear (optional 3.08) compared to the 3.8’s 2.41 gears. I have owned and tuned loads of these cars and the 307 has to be in proper tune with base timing set at 20 degrees with no vacuum leaks and a properly functioning carb for it to feel peppy.
I could have sworn the 307 in our ’86 Parisienne was rated at 165 HP, not 140. Is my memory foggy, or was there a substantative difference? Or was 165 the rating on the 305? I think both found their way into those cars but I’m pretty sure ours was the 307. In any case I agree with Joe – in an even heavier B-body, that engine was no ball of fire but it wasn’t gutless either. The miles and miles of vacuum lines could be tempramental though…
Still keepin’ a grille and a headlight frame of a dismantled Regal as a souvenir…
Mother’s second car, and her first new one to replace her aging but beloved 71 Caprice. Two-tone light blue and gray. She was able to put a generous down payment on it when my late father’s insurance company sent her a big check after he died. She let me drive it when I was on leave from the Navy. I was crazy about it, although the cheesy interior and dash were off-putting. It was a car you could do a serious “gangster lean” in, thanks to the loose-pillow 60-40 seats and huge center armrest. It didn’t really handle that great, but was an excellent highway cruiser, and ideal for Mom’s daily work commute from Philly to Montgomery County. After a few years, like most American cars at that time, it seemed to implode on itself with a myriad of problems. Those cheap seatbacks started to bend inward and the dash cracked – I got her one of those custom dash covers that were all the rage in the 90s to cover it up. The 231 V6 was not powerful, but it was smooth. The tranny went out twice, as did the breaks, and a co-worker smashed into the front end when it was about six or seven years old. That sped up its demise. The body was repaired, but there was a permanent “clunk” whenever the car went over potholes that wasn’t there before the accident. She eventually sold it to my cousin in 2000 for $1200. He ended up junking it a few years later in President Obama’s “clunkers for cash” program. It was the last car she ever owned too.
Great find. My first car was an ’85 in Midnight Blue (only slightly lighter than black); needless to say, they’re far and away my favorite G-body.
Can’t say I’m as big a fan of the “turbo” wheels and little tires, though. Both my previous ’85 and my current (to be finished one of these days/months/years?) ’82 wore the black/chrome 14″ Buick “sport wheels” that I prefer.
Of course, whitewalls don’t exactly do them justice. But on a 17-year-old’s budget, finding some with decent tread trumped their appearance 🙂
Didn’t you have a G Body that was in practically new condition that you bought as a no title car and that after you stripped it of the parts you wanted and sent the rest to a junk yard, the original owners family found and sent you the title for the car? That had to suck.
I did. All its parts are in my attic, just in case my ’82 ever needs them. Didn’t mention it because I never actually got to take it down the road; it was strictly a parts hulk. The paint color was interesting… at first glance it appeared dark brown, but in direct sunlight you could make out a bit of purple.
And yes, that whole situation sucked. A lot.
The ’85 once had an unscheduled meeting with a deer – quite a common occurrence around here, especially in late summer. It took weeks to find replacement body parts… and that was over 15 years ago!
(If you look close at the hood, you can almost make out the strokes from the Dupli-Color paint job it – and the left fender, and the header – all got.)
At least I’ll be more prepared should there be a ‘next time’.
I liked this generation of to me, the best of the Colonnades, but not really a Colonnade, but the same lineage. A co-worker at the time bought a brand-new 1981 Grand Prix w/T-Tops. In blue. A really nice car.
I reckoned these with the last of the classic old GM mid-sizers of the 1970s, hence the “Colonnade” association, an 80s “Colonnade” done right..
Which one of this generation did I like best? Hmmm… decisions, decisions… Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Regal or Cutlass? I’d have to go with the Olds every time, even if it did have a Chevy engine in it!
The 86 Regal Limited could be optioned with the same 3.8 L turbo as the Grand National, and still have a cloth bench seat and column mounted shifter and a variety of colors. It would be a greater sleeper as the only tell-tale signs would be the bulge on the hood and the 215/65 15 tires. It might even be slightly faster than the GN because it would weigh a bit less.
In 1986, you could only get a LC2 if the car was a Regal T-Type Coupe K47. Basically only Regal T-types and Grand Nationals. A Regal Limited Coupe Model “M47” could not be ordered with the LC2 RPO.
Then in 1987, all models could be ordered with the LC2 turbo engine:
Regal Coupe J47
Regal Limited Coupe M47
Regal T-Type Coupe K47
It could even still have a vinyl top and an opera lamp too, the ultimate would a plain crank window Regal Custom with the turbo engine.
Don’t forget about my personal favorite, the cornering lamps in the front fender. Very classy. On my Limited I had Tan leather interior…supposedly less than 200 of all 1987 Regals had the tan leather.
That’s right, they were rare on all Regals, my grandparents had a pretty well equipped 82 Limited, without the cornering lamps, I remember the first time I saw a Regal with the lamps, I had no idea they were even available.
I found a picture of mine…
BTW, I just noticed your Rusty Jones avatar, my grandmothers 1982 Regal had that from the dealership, we had that little decal on the quarter glass.
The cornering lamps must have been pretty uncommon. My ’86 parts car was the only one I ever saw that had them.
It also had quite a few other options that I had only read about prior, including a trip meter, Concert Sound II (which added door speakers) and the electronic climate control.
Though not rare, the power windows were a nice touch as well. (The fact that they worked – and quite well, at that – may well be rare nowadays!)
To this day, I have never seen a base Regal or Regal Limited with leather. Haven’t seen one in pictures either, unless you count brochure photos.
Found one – from an ’84 Limited. Get a load of that funky console!
Only Limiteds with leather got that console, the cloth Limiteds were just 55/45 seats. Regal Limiteds with leather were rare, there is a grey one I see every once in a while being driven by an old man, it has the aluminum wheels and white walls too.
I remember sitting in a Regal with leather in 1985, when a local Buick dealer brought the entire 1985 Buick line up to the mall for a display(remember when they used to do that?), one of the cars in the display was a while Regal Limited with T-tops and tan leather interior, loaded, even the “Electronic Touch” Climate Control
Wow–I really like that interior with the console. Now I want a Limited with the leather interior. Preferably an ’87 with the turbo. I’ll bet that’s a rare beast!
I thought these were smart looking when new, and still do. This car wears the black well.
I can also admit to (the Statute of Limitations surely having run out by now) playing a game of “chase” in downtown Knoxville, TN years ago – me in my (pre-Buick V6) Vega, and my buddy in his Super Beetle. How we managed to avoid constabulary attention borders on the miraculous.
I will confess to some games of chase as well. His Jeep Dispatcher (mail Jeep) and the loaner 77 Civic wagon with the HondaMatic made for a particularly even match. He like straights and I liked turns. Had my friend and I been caught at half of the stupid stuff we did with our cars, we would have been thumbing for rides until age 50.
The most common of these G bodies in my area were the Monte Carlo SS versions, the sportier Cutlass Supreme, and the Buick GNX. However, my first impressions of them were the Broughamtastic versions which I think always looked a lot nicer than the “sport” versions.
Of the four, I prefer the Cutlass. Something about the grill and overall proportions just looks ‘right’. My second preference would be the Monte Carlo. I like the Pontiac’s styling the least, but I wouldn’t kick it to the curb if I found one in good condition for cheap. Today’s typical pasenger cars (including mine) are all fugly in comparison.
G-bodies are my all time favorite car line. I grew up in a simpler time when these were all over the place. I got rides to school in them. Mom and dad owned them. I owned numerous examples of all 4 nameplates. Grams and gramps owned them. Many of my friends owned them. Of all 4 cars the Olds is my favorite optioned with buckets, T-tops, rally wheels, gauge cluster and of course the F41 suspension upgrade with the 307 driving the limited slip optional rear end ratio.
The ’81-’87 G-body should go down as one of GM’s greatest hits, and that, in and of itself, is utterly fascinating when one considers that it came out during the dark days of the Roger Smith decade. One can only guess that the reason is Smith might not have had anything to do with it since it still seemed to have plenty of the old-school GM differentiation of the same platform between the divisions. That differentiation cost money and was something Smith is infamous for doing away with at all costs.
Coupled with the fact that all of the G-body cars were quite good looking with no major engineering issues, well, it was if this was the last vehicle from the successful GM of the past that stayed true to the Sloan business model.
I’d widen the net to include the ’78 to ’81 A-bodies, since the G was simply a rename and sheetmetal freshening. (The G designation came in for ’82, not ’81). Sure, there were a couple missteps among the early cars like the aeroback Salon and Century, but the ’82 restyles were basically the mid-cycle freshening if you take the series as a whole. I don’t think anyone expected these cars to last in production all the way to ’88 like a couple of them did, but the coupes (and the Cutlass Supreme sedan to a lesser degree) kept selling.
Taken as a whole they were definitely a bright spot, and if you consider they were first released just a year after the B-body downsizing for ’77, that’s two huge hits in consecutive years. How it all went wrong so fast after that!
The ’78-’81 A-bodies with the dual headlights were kind of ‘meh’. They looked a whole lot better with the quad headlights and the 1982 re-skin.
I always thought it was a terrible mistake to move these cars to front wheel drive. By the mid-to-late 1980s, the customer base for the G-bodies could be described as traditionalists who wanted their RWD/V8. In other words, people kept buying them because they were the “last of a kind”.
Interesting bumper evolution on the Gs. They started off as the heavy chrome separate type then went to just the chrome middle like on a Mark VII then the full wrap-around plastic.
Great looking car. I like the Turbo wheels.
Beautiful car. To answer someone’s question, the turbo six was available in the Regal Limited for ’86 and ’87 but was very rare. Wiki says 1035 cars were so equipped. The turbo wheels would seem to be a nod in that direction but the small single exhaust points toward the regular V6. If it was the turbo, that would be an exceptional find.
I’ve always wanted a G-body and the Regal would be my first choice, T-tops too please. This car is very nice and should be kept original, but I occasionally surf Craigslist for a fixer upper. I think a 2000ish Camaro 3800/T5 combo would be a nice drivetrain in one of these; it’s a Buick motor after all.
Did the standard Regals (non-T Type/Grand National/GNX) ever come with factory T-tops?
An early ’80s Cutlass with them recently arrived at a local junkyard. As the conversation rolled on, we determined that none of us had ever seen one. (I’ve seen several Cuttys and Montes with them, and a couple of GPs, but never a Regal).
The car in the article is a “standard” Regal and it has T-tops, the wheels are Grand National, but the car is just a Regal Limited coupe.
T-tops were available on all 2 door G-body cars, regardless of trim or engine combination.
The Regal is my favorite G by far. The Monte LS front end looks way too much like the Celebrity, and the standard version is too generic car. So neither of those project a prestigous image to me and that is something you need in a Personal Luxury car. The Monte SS isn’t too bad. The Poncho continues with the just not quite right look the started with the Colonnades. The Cutlass in many ways is the worst with the little bit of real chrome bumper sticking out from the bumper coverish cap.
So in order of preference Regal, Monte SS, Cutlass and I wouldn’t want a non-SS Monte or a Grand Prix.
I went to a stock car race in Maine last year, and was happy to see an entire class dominated by A/G-bodies in modified but still steel-fendered form.
Kudos for them for keeping the fenders; there have been so many converted to dirt track racers around here its almost sad. Thankfully, many of those are Monte Carlo’s, my least favorite of the four.
Nice car. I recall more of the Regals being around than the others, but it was a while ago. Now I see stock looking Grand Nationals and tribute cars still running around. The other A/G bodies have been donked – I don’t like them, but it does keep the old iron on the road.
I lusted after 3 cars as teen in the early / mid 80’s – VW GTI 16V, Buick Grand National, and the Mustang LX 5.0. All sporty, but relatively understated.
Back when I was in high school, G bodies were VERY popular. Grand Prix’s and Montes were a bit less common, but there were a LOT of Cutlasses and Regals out cruising the strip…sharing the road with lowered mini trucks, Fox Mustangs and 2nd/3rd gen F bodies. From where I sit, these were the last Buicks that actually mattered. Back when they still had a little piss and vinegar in them, and cared about a performance image rather than selling granny her last set of wheels before its time for the nursing home. FWIW, the Regal always looked the sharpest of the G-bodies…especially triple black with T-tops.
This one probably isn’t a performance model, but at least it LOOKS good, all black and with those GNX wheels. My brother in law had a T-Type Regal of this vintage. It was that godawful charcoal grey that way too many cars were in the ’80s but with no vinyl roof, the factory turbine style wheels, buckets/floor shift and being in all around excellent shape it was a sharp little ride, only limited by the 5.0 V8. Not sure if these had the 305 or 307 but neither was much of a world beater. His plans were to repaint it fire engine red and drop in a warmed over 350 but then he traded BACK for the worn out ’85 Toyota 4×4 that he had traded for it in the first place!
Bobby Hill (seriously, my BIL looks like the SPITTING IMAGE of the kid from King of the Hill) isn’t the sharpest tack in the box sometimes!
Sure it was a T-Type? I thought all of those were the turbo 3.8. The 5.0 (would have been a 307 in this car) was available in the base or Limited models.
In 1987 you could get the “T” package and the blackout package RPO W02 but not get the LC2 engine. So you could have a car that looked like at hot rod, but nobody was home under the hood. If it was an 84-86 car and said T-type on the side, it had the turbo engine.
So ’87 was the year where everything was available in any trim level, basically. Non-turbo V6 T-Type? Sure. Turbo Limited? No problem.
I suppose the line of thought was “it’s our last year for this car, let’s get crazy!”
My mother in law had a 1984 Regal Limited coupe, tan with brown cloth interior and brown top. She got it from the original owners with 78,000 miles on it in 1992. It had the 3.8 V-6 and was a total sled. It was really loaded, too – if my memory serves me right it even had lamp monitors, cornering lamps and rear seat reading lamps! She had it for about two years and then it started to self destruct. The engine started knocking at 100k miles and her mechanic said there was no hope for it so he bought it from her for $500.00. The weird thing is that the Limited lighted electroluminescent dash panel on the passenger side worked for a few days when she first bought it and stopped working shortly after. The last night she ever drove it was to the mechanics and it worked beautifully.
I forgot to mention that I must be in the minority because I think the Grand Prix, if optioned properly, was the nicest and sportiest of all of these GM offerings. The dash was by far the nicest of the bunch, especially with the gauge package. My best friend had a 1985 LE with the V-8 and sport suspension. That car drove and handled great. He loved it but like so many other GM owners with 100k + miles it started to nickel and dime him to death so he replaced it with a Mazda MX-6 that lasted over 200k miles. I still love these cars and wouldn’t hesitate to grab one today.
The Regal T-type and Grand National had a fuel injected turbocharged V6 with 235 hp and upgraded suspension. I doubt that the Grand Prix was better for overall performance.
The LC2 was rated at 235HP for 86. For 1987 it was rated for 245HP.
The Corvette only had 230 hp in 86.
That is why I have this bumper sticker on the back of my Buick….LOL!
I think the Buick engineers used to taunt the Corvette development guys with these bumpers stickers.
That might just be the only bumper sticker ever that I approve of lol
Oh…I pretty much grew up in these Regals. My parents had a ’78 and ’81, both with the 3.8L. I learned to drive in the ’81 and inherited it for my senior year of high school. Seems like many of our friends had a G-body of some kind, too.
These are also the cars that turned my parents off from American cars forever. The ’78 was okay, although it did require a new transmission around 20K. The ’81 was just awful. By the time I got it with 82K miles, it leaked oil, coolant, and transmission fluid, it stalled regularly, it wouldn’t run right unless it had 94 (!) octane gas, several idiot lights never turned off, the A/C was busted, and so on. The ’86 Nissan Maxima my parents bought was a complete revelation.
I guess I have a little bit of a soft spot for the Regals because they were my childhood. But that’s as far as it goes.
I was fascinated with these as a kid…the front grille is top-hinged, so it would move backward if the bumper bar got hit, presumably keeping the grille insert from breaking. Neat little detail, not sure how well it worked in real-life.
The Grand Nationals in 86 and 87 had real hp of 300ish and were sold in a very low state of tune. Stock they beat any car on the road in 86/87 including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, etc. They were underrated at the factory so the Corvette would keep its title. The Grand National pioneered distributorless ignition and sequential fuel injection in 84 but didn’t get the intercooler until 86. Many other cars outside of GM used the same sequential fuel injection system for years.
I ended up with a Grand National after I had an 86 Cutlass Brougham as my second car and in a fit of foolishness, discovered that the repairs to the car were more than the car was worth . . stupid. I went through a number of cars, including the last year of the Catera, which I thought would be like a Cutlass . . no. The Cutlass with its 307 4 barrel had lots of creamy power and drove VERY well, save for skating in the rain. I learned to brake early and slowly in that car. People who have never driven one do not understand (and I didn’t for a long time) why they were so popular. I decided when the Catera was about at the end of its extended warranty, if I really wanted a G body, why not get the ne plus ultra of the G bodies, (that was readily available) the Grand National? I had never heard of one before (this was in 2006) but I have a dreadful fear of carburetors and this was not carbureted, and about the only G body that wasn’t. That car has been one of the most reliable cars I have ever had and save for squeaks rattles and leaks from the t-tops is very well built. FYI the turbo wheels are the BIGGER wheels on these cars. I don’t know how they keep the center caps on this car because every time you go over a bump, they tend to come off. Roomier car and nicer than the W body that replaced it. This car is unbelievable fun to drive.
Lucky man! And probably a smart move to grab one before the values start to rise exponentially. If you ever want to sell it you’ll make out well–but if I had a GN, selling it would the be very last thing on my mind!
Ugly ghetto-mobiles with all the grace of a veloure lined shoebox.
Last dying gasp of the Malaise Era. Great and honest cars, but owing to CAFE, most of them had drastically under-powered engines for their weight.
Hmmm. I would have defined these as post-malaise. Peak malaise was definitely the 70’s, when cars were still bloated and really tacky. Is there an accepted definition of the “malaise era”?
The rear wheel drive A/G bodies were nice cars. They all still own personality from the different divisions of GM unlike some fof the cookie cutter front wheel drive cars. I like the look of the Cutlass best but would take any of them. The cars were supposed to be discontinued after the front wheel drive A bodies came out but the price of gas went down and the economy took off after the early 1980s recession. So they still hung on after 1983. The tooling was also long paid for and I am sure GM had a good profit margin on the mid 1980s. I remember going to a car show and seeing a Grand National must be in 1986 or so. The sales guy said they were $18,000. I said that is not too bad.Thanks for the look back!
A very elegant range of cars. I thought the Monte Carlo was the best-looking.
G Bodies are my all-time favorite. As a kid when they were relatively contemporary, my favorite was the Monte SS. Today, of course, I wish I had a Grand National to speed around for fun. I had two Cutlasses as a young, reckless driver: the anemic v6 in a black 1985 model, and a maroon 1987 with 307hp v8 and Holley four-barrel carbuerator. The 307 was extra Broughamy, but also fast and smooth on the highway. Got about 12mpg, and it met its demise with an engine fire in 2004. Hard to believe that was 16 years ago!