When first released, the GNX captured every aspect of the “breakout” that GM and other American car brands desperately needed. The malaise of the late ’70s wallowed into the 1980s begetting such venerable foolishness as the Cadillac Cimarron. There was no sign of improvement on the horizon. The most interesting development was the 1986 Ford Taurus, a softened invitation to the organic architecture that would launch a new era of car design. So it was all the more fitting that the black GNX with its sinister angular presence, upright formality, and awkward plankiness, would arrive in stark contrast to the prissy aged, bloated Elvis Regal that Buick had become.
Buick wasn’t always the stodgy grandma of the GM lineup. Back in the heyday, Buick offered top performance models, speed and innovation, along with award winning design, truly setting the Buick brand apart. But, by 1987, all that innovation had long worn off. So when the GNX arrived, the hearty juxtaposition of the Buick brand trussed around the powerful Darth Vader aesthetics, it hit the formerly unknown sweet spot of ridiculous and captivating. The GNX was the Def Jam-era, Beastie Boys of the American Automobile industry, delivering a guttural war cry of power and stealthy presence formerly banished from brand offerings. If ever there was a slap in the face of the car industry, the GNX not only did it, it landed hard and fast against everything that the auto industry was supposed to be doing, but was afraid to do. Arguably the GNX was the first car of the 1990s. Opening the door for performance cars like the Viper, the SHO, the SOHC motor Mustang, and other beefy beastie boys, which led a second Muscle car revolution that lingers still today.
Fast forward 32 years and we find ourselves witnessing a bidding war for the ultimate pristine GNX; a $200k smack down car, with plastic wrapping still on the seats, perfect factory markings, and virtually no miles. A time capsule for a period that lasted only briefly but set the standard for a whole new way of looking at performance and excess, wrapped in a deceptively conservative blanket. Every time I see a GNX I think of one of the first scenes in Star Wars. Darth Vader is introduced to the audience by a challenge from one of his generals. We don’t know Vader’s power yet, but within moments, Vader clutches the general by the neck, lifting him while administering a motivational speech. No one in the audience saw it coming. Just like this auction, just like the Beastie Boys, and very much like the next generation of collectors will also find – the GNX will always capture its audience by the throat and deliver the good, the bad, and the ugly in a strangely beautiful way.