COAL 1987 Buick Regal – GN Clone

There must be a correlation between when a car model is on sale and the age of the fan of that particular car.  Some younger children love cars, but those close to, or at driving age can picture themselves driving certain models.  I wonder if cars from our late teen years are the ones we all gravitate toward the most.  One of the cars I was fascinated with as a teenager was the Regal Grand National.  Buick’s most potent intercooled version became available during my junior year of high school and production of this model ended my senior year.

I vividly remember seeing one at the dragstrip not long after they came out.  It was practically silent compared to the majority of the cars there with open headers or loud exhausts.  I watched this one quietly line up against a big block Chevelle and then absolutely freight-train it when the lights came down.  I decided that someday I would have one.

The Grand National was the hot version of the standard Regal, Buick’s spin on the “G” body.  Besides the blacked-out motif, significant changes were under the hood.  The ’86-’87 Grand Nationals had a turbocharged, intercooled 3.8 V6 that launched like a typical V6, but when the boost pressure built, the car became a rocket.  It was the fastest GM vehicle you could buy at the time.  It did well in standing start acceleration tests because it did not really have traction issues off the line.  As an added benefit, softer launches extend the life of transmissions and rear axle assemblies.

Fast forward to 2007.  I was approaching middle age and had a wife, four kids and a mortgage.  There was no budget for a pricey classic car, but I did have a little money saved and still had the dream.  I found a beat out 1987 Buick Regal.  It was a base model with just a handful of options.  Then 20 years old, it had badly oxidized paint and surface rust, but the body was straight and the price was right.  Its n/a 3.8 still ran okay, but the shocks were completely worn out and the springs were sagging.

This is the same car, my car, before and after.

When I got it home I started looking at the car more carefully.  If the car were black and all the trim were blacked out, it would look almost like a GN.  If I could source the front air dams, rear spoiler and wheels it would be a dead ringer on the outside.  As an added bonus, mine came with a gray dashboard and gray interior.  If the inside were red or tan it wouldn’t have worked.

So I went to work taking that old Regal completely apart.  I found all the GN-specific parts needed, even the emblems for the fenders.  I replaced the body bushings, shocks and springs.  I removed all the exterior trim and used a rattle can to cover everything in semi-gloss black. Then, I painted the rest of the car black.

I sold the V6 to a guy who needed it for his old Toyota mud truck.  The void under the hood gave me the opportunity to be creative.  Friends recommended that I put a SBC in it.  I was leaning toward a 455, wanting to keep it all Buick.  In the end, I sourced a six liter LQ9 from a wrecked Escalade.  There was ample room under the hood and the install went smoothly.

When I was done, it was a very powerful car.  With a few mods to the engine, the car was ridiculously fast.  It could ignite the drag radials with ease.  At launch on the sticky dragstrip asphalt, it would pull the driver’s side front tire off the ground as the frame torqued.

In the end I had a much faster version of an 1987 Grand National.  It was even quicker than the fabled GNX.  It was loud though.  I didn’t know how many people would figure out that it was a fake.  It turned out, not many.  The comment I most often received when out and about was “Cool Monte Carlo.”

A guy in town fell in love with it, and I eventually sold it to him. Yes, he knew it was a clone, he called it a tribute car.

In 1987 the GM “G” bodes also included the Cutlass, the Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo.  These were the last of a dying breed.  They were body-on-frame personal luxury coupes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the time with mine.