Tag Archives: Buick
An overwhelming majority of sources assert that the Adam of the American muscle car species is the 1964 Pontiac GTO. It was certainly the first muscle car to be marketed toward leadfooted baby boomers, but it was not the first high-performance American passenger car. Nor was it the first American car to combine one of its maker’s big car engines with one of its small car body and chassis.
In short, the history of the muscle car stretches back many years before the O.G. Goat showed up. Just how rich is that history? Take a look at the following 10 factory hot rods and we think you’ll agree it’s pretty doggone rich.
If you wind the clock back to last weekend, you’ll see that we ran a feature on a 1987 Buick Grand National for sale on Long Island. We explained how the GN came to be one of the most formidable vehicles of the muscle car renaissance of the 1980s, and also mentioned how even it was put in the shade by a rare, one-year-only super Grand National called the GNX. The following is its story; by the time we’re done, you’ll understand why we can’t possibly not add it to our fantasy collection.
By the mid-‘80s, the Buick Grand National (and the various other turbocharged Regal coupes that were essentially identical, save for different wheel styles and a choice of interior and exterior colors) was on many a car nut’s radar. Unfortunately, the rear-wheel-drive G-body platform on which the Regal (as well as other GM models like the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Chevrolet Monte Carlo and El Camino, and the Pontiac Grand Prix) was set to be replaced by the thoroughly modern, front-drive GM10 platform beginning in 1988. Buick could have adapted the Grand National’s turbocharged 3.8L V6 to mount transversely and power the front wheels, but it also knew such a car would have been atrocious from a driving dynamics standpoint, particularly with the same kind of power levels the intercooled ’86 and ’87 models were making. So the painful decision was made that the 1987 turbo Regals would be the last; however, work began in earnest on making sure they went out with a bang.
After the great muscle car mass extinction of the 1970s, fans of these quintessentially American tire mincers were justifiably worried that this particular genus of the motoring kingdom would never again occupy a new car showroom. The fear that the only place to witness these carnivores of the concrete jungle would be in museums, car shows and dragstrips was all too real.
Thankfully, by the mid-1980s, it was starting to become clear that advances in electronic engine management and emission control technology would allow some of the old magic to return (though we very much doubt anyone could have envisioned the 600hp-plus Shelby GT500s and Corvette ZR1s of today). The 1982 Ford Mustang GT with the “High Output” 302 cubic inch V8 is often credited with reigniting the muscle car flame, but a nameplate that debuted that same year is responsible for pouring gasoline on that flame. And it did so using an unlikely engine and wearing an unlikely badge.
The first automobile race, as the old yarn claims, occurred shortly after the second automobile was built. While the accuracy of this anecdote is, to put it gently, questionable, it wouldn’t at all be a reach to assume the first race took place on a public road. It would take a few years before someone would suggest racing cars on dirt ovals designed for horses, and the first racecourse designed specifically for motorcars – England’s Brooklands circuit – wasn’t constructed until 1907, a full 21 years after Karl Benz received a patent for his self-propelled tricycle that was steered with a tiller from the comfort of a park bench.
But even after the invention of permanent circuits, street racing has endured; sadly, there are far fewer legal street races (with roads closed to traffic and temporary barriers set up) staged than there are illegal ones. While we here at Sub5Zero unequivocally do not endorse illegal street racing (mainly because our legal department – which is comprised of a magic 8-ball and a law school textbook written around the time Ralph Nader started potty training – says we shouldn’t), we realize we can’t reach out of your monitor and bitchslap you for deciding to do it anyway. If you truly insist on endangering the safety of yourselves and others and risking getting your ass thrown in the pokey (You do know why they call it that, right?), at least do so in something that has a decent chance of winning. Something like one of these fine rides.