Car Design is a wicked beast. The purpose of design is to create both alluring and engaging combinations of mechanical and sculptural elements as a means to attracts buyers willing to pay money to possess such an object. But once the car is released, a whole new series of considerations changes what makes it beautiful, important, or desirable.
For the most part, cars are designed to transport you from one point to another. But this is just their functional purpose. Cars also have aesthetic, athletic, emotional, nostalgic, and visceral purposes that continually strike a chord with a large part of the population. No one knows what makes a car lasting or enduring, but certainly performance and beauty are two components that have proven key to the longevity and perceived value of a collectible vintage car.
32 years ago GM launched a car that somehow struck that chord. The unlikely candidate to deliver this sucker punch of power was the Buick Regal. Yes, THAT Buick and that Regal – the one with the velour bench seats, opera landau roof, and wire wheel covers. You know the car. My mom had one. Probably everyone’s mom had one at one time. It might have even been a requirement. I’ll dispense with the history lesson of how the Buick evolved but somewhere along the way, the power of a turbocharged V6 engine with suspension changes and some otherwise insane upgrades courtesy of McLaren (yes, THAT McLaren) gave birth to the Grand National. Oh, and then there was the Grand National X or GNX. Just 547 of these were built and almost immediately garnered a rabid following. The GNX was capable of 12.7-second quarter miles off the showroom floor via the 300 hp engine. For context, the Ferrari 328 was 2 seconds slower. With slight modifications a GNX could easily get into the sub 10-second quarter mile. This, for a door slammer street car.
Visually the car was still just a Buick Regal, but it featured special wheels and tires, black paint with black out grille and headlight bezels, flared fenders, and tasteful ’80s era trim. If you were brave enough to pay the additional $11k for the GNX option, this put you out the door at a whopping $30k. Yes, $30k…for a Buick. If you were inclined toward enjoyment, you might put on your Member’s Only jacket, Rayban shades, tight white pants, and go cruising for Porsches to consume. But if you thought that one day this might be worth more, maybe even a lot more, you would park it and never add a mile more than the 8 miles delivered when new. Such is the case when Bringatrailer hammered the final bid on an 8 mile GNX selling it for what I believe is a record for any GNX, $200k. We can spend a lot of time talking about the merit of the sale or the foolishness of never driving it, but I would rather talk about what this car means and why it will continue to be a sought after icon of the 1980s.