At the time they called it the winningest facelift in history’. After a restyling for 1981 improved its aerodynamics so much that it swept the NASCAR Grand National race championships, the Buick Regal was the ‘it’ car of the USA. It reflected well on the perception of Buick’s entire range. Seizing the moment, in 1982 Buick introduced an option package of a limited edition, charcoal and silver grey, red-pinstriped, 4.1 litre V6 engined coupe, dubbed the Buick Regal Grand National.
That year, a Buick Regal won 25 of 30 races in the Manufacturer’s Championship, a further 12 races to win the Grand National Championship, and provided seven of the first eight, including the winner, at the Daytona 500. The 215 Grand National options sold out. By now Buick had resolved the reliability problems of its turbocharged V6 engine, which it had not wanted to inflict on the super prestige Grand National edition. Instead of an edition, the (from now on mandatory) all-black Buick Regal Grand National with the fuel-injected turbocharger straining at the V6 leash was a production model of its own.
Seen in any quantity, the GNs looked like the legion from hell, their glossy blackness set off by the small amount of chrome in the wheels. They were mean, fast and redefined the term ‘muscle car’, forgotten for more than a decade. They dazzled with their apparent air of self-entitlement: in the era of George Lucas’s Star Wars, the sinister Grand National was called `Darth Vader’s car’. It could lift its rear wheels in a drag race, and for three years its power was increased. Then, as Buick dissipated all its individuality in other models, the Regal Grand National was neutered into automotive memory.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1982 (until 1987)
ENGINE: 3.8 I (231 cid) turbocharged V6 (1984 production model)
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Major car manufacturers don’t get starry-eyed about their product. In their 1982 Dealers’ Bulletin, Buick bluntly stressed that the objective in producing ‘Grand National’ Regals was ‘to offer an attraction that will stimulate sales of all Buicks. We also want to capitalize on the momentum and take advantage of magazine coverage to increase Buick’s penetration of the enthusiast market’.