Black is Back

Buick Gran National/GNX“There are only two Buicks worth owning,” said my boss one afternoon.  “The Grand National and the GNX.”  I had just returned from the Kansas City Auto Show, basically a dealer showcase with a few goodies thrown in, and was expressing my interest in the Regal GS and all its six-speed, turbocharged righteousness.  I wouldn’t want to own one, no, but it was a step in the right direction for Buick, a brand so long sodden with anti-sentiment and blue-hair stereotypes.  (“It’s called a Century because that’s how old you have to be to drive one,” and so on.)

But if the Regal GS was a step in the right direction, it seems that Buick just kept walking down that path.  Tentative news has emerged this morning that Buick is planning three new cars, all based on the Cadillac ATS’s Alpha platform, all RWD, and all named after classic Buicks – the T-Type, the Grand National, and even the GNX.

The late ‘70s and early ‘80s were a dark time for the American automobile.  American consumers were stuck on the idea that their cars should be huge and comfortable, but a fuel crisis and emissions restrictions severely limited power.  Even performance cars were smothered with this dual curse.  The 1984 Corvette, for instance, produced a spanking 210 hp and could barely manage a quarter mile in 15.1 seconds.

But then Buick came along with their…Regal.  That boxy grandma-hauler?  Yes.  But with some clever turbocharging, and later electronic fuel injection, they ripped three small, shining holes in the fire blanket that had been thrown over the US car industry.  The Regal T-Type, Grand National, and GNX were some of the quickest cars available, and ran from 1982-1987.  Most of them were black.

The turbo Buicks have since become legend.  Someone is making a documentary about them.  Their value has skyrocketed.  The survivors are mostly in impeccable shape.

And now Buick is bringing them back.  Sortof.

We all hoped that when Cadillac released news of their ATS performance sedan on its slick, new, Alpha RWD platform, that it would extend beyond just the little luxury 3 Series fighter.  Now we’re hearing that Buick will be the first to share the platform and will use it to revive all three classic nameplates.

The T-Type, which was the only one of the three Buick turbos of yore that didn’t come exclusively in black, will still be offered in several colors, and will likely sport GM’s 3.6 V6.  There is also some scant evidence that it could be twin-turbocharged to 350-400 hp.  The Grand National will probably share the same power train, but will only come in black.  I’m guessing we’ll also see some suspension upgrades and such.

And for the GNX, we don’t know.  But if I can put forth a hopeful guess, perhaps we’ll see a turbocharged V8.  The Alpha platform would fit one, and what better way to satisfy the fans?

A six-speed could plug into all of them, or automatics if you want to be a little more turbo-Buick authentic, and there will be some interior changes from the ATS.

The sad kicker is that this could all just be rumor at this point.  Inside Line says it all comes from an unnamed “reliable source,” but doesn’t it all sound too good to be true?  Perhaps, but I’ll choose to remain optimistic about it.  We’re not exactly drowning in the dregs of automotive malaise as we were in the ‘80s, but Buick still needs all the youthful image they can muster, and I think a new trio of turbo cars could be very profitable for GM.

The other sad kicker is that there isn’t much chance of any of these arriving as a coupe.  It’s understandable, but breaks tradition, since every original turbo-Regal variant was a coupe.

Do you think these new nautilus-charged Buicks will sell?  Do you think GM will greenlight this at all?  Is it all a bunch of hype engineered to generate pageviews?  Sound off in the comments.


One Reply to “Black is Back”

  1. I’m incredibly hopeful for Buick with this news. However, I think they need a new image. The cars they produce just look too neutral. They have almost Asian-automaker-looking headlights, which is no compliment on a car that should be American, the waterfall grille looked right in ye olden days but does nothing for me on modern cars, and the badge itself is in need of an overhaul I think. It wouldn’t be the first time the badge was redone, but it would be the first time in my life.

    These things are pretty common under the GM umbrella though. Chevy badges are too big on grilles that are too uninspired. Cadillacs look alright, but could be better. At least they look American. And I’ve just remembered that’s it for GM’s car brands. Shame.

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