The Buick Grand National, and the holy-grail GNX, have been cemented as cult-classic cars. Although the cars were certainly appreciated in their time, the cars have taken on a larger-than-life appreciation in modern times.
So, let’s take a stroll through history and look back at the greatness that was the Buick Regal Grand National and the GNX—and how the latter was quicker than a Ferrari F40 in the quarter mile.
The Grand National was a product of Buick’s NASCAR Grand National series success in 1981 and 1982. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday. In its first model year, the 1982 Regal Grand National made a whopping 125 horsepower from a naturally-aspirated V6 engine, though Buick made 35 Grand Nationals with the iconic turbocharged V6 setup.
It wasn’t until 1984 when the iconic 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 engine would become standard, and the party really began. With 200 hp, it was tenths shy of beating C4 Corvettes at the drag strip, but Buick wasn’t finished. In 1986, the Grand National returned with 235 hp and 330 pound-feet of torque. The massive power figures—mind you, this was the 1980s—were enough to send the 1986 Buick Grand National down the quarter-mile in under 14 seconds. It was absolutely quicker and faster than the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
But, in 1987, the Grand National was set to retire. So, GM sent 547 of them to McLaren to concoct something really special, and the GNX (Grand National Experimental) was born. McLaren fitted bigger turbos, a new ECU, better suspension components, and more. All of these improvements made for 276 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. And it was quicker than a Ferrari F40. You know, Ferrari’s flagship supercar of the day.
Official track testing saw the car sprint down the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at 113 mph, which was 0.3 seconds quicker than an F40. Now that’s a muscle car.