Home » The Next Buick Grand National Should Be This Wicked Dual Motor EV

The Next Buick Grand National Should Be This Wicked Dual Motor EV

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Do car brands experience survivor’s guilt? You know, the crisis of conscience that results from still existing while other more worthy nameplates have died out? I’m not sure, but I can think of a few that maybe should have such feelings.

In the 2008 financial crisis, General Motors was forced to axe a number of their brands. If presented with the choice of killing Saturn, Buick, GMC, Hummer, Saab, or Pontiac, which would be your first choice to walk the plank? For many Autopians, the no-brainer first choice to kill would be Buick, a brand that my 84-year-old mother thinks is “for old people.” Of course, when that brand is one of the most popular names in an emerging Chinese market, that probably isn’t going to happen. Buick survives to this day, despite the fact that in the United States there hasn’t been a car made by the brand since the 1971 “Boattail” Riviera that most enthusiasts would ever consider owning – with one notable exception.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It’s not that Buick hasn’t tried. To be fair, the Park Avenues and last Rivieras from the early nineties had rather pleasant styling, and their current line of cars is reasonable if not exciting looking. We’ve also been shown some recent concepts from both sides of the globe bearing the brand that are rather nice:

Show Cars
General Motors

Still, “nice” is not a word that you would use to describe the single Buick product made in the last fifty years that most Autopians might want. In fact, it was a rather crude, powerful, and downright nasty machine: the Grand National.

Gn1
FastLane Cars

This brutish vehicle started out as a Buick Regal, a personal luxury coupe that most of us GenXers know as the type of car your Aunt Cassie drove to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church each Sunday. She had two Regals before this and the current one “drives real nice.”

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Regal
General Motors, Wikipedia/Greg Gjerdingen

So how in the hell did such a matronly car become a monster that ripped from zero to sixty in under five seconds? As you’d expect, it’s a strange story.

Turbo Scouts

If you were a Boy Scout in 1973, there was something called the Explorer program where you could learn real-world grownup skills in things like business and law enforcement. Sounds kind of awful, actually. Thankfully, if you were in the Flint, Michigan area at the time, you might have had Ken Baker as your Explorer mentor. Baker was a young engineer at Buick who wanted to expose kids to automotive engineering, so if you were in his group instead of getting “let’s make a balance sheet, kids!” you might hear Ken say, “let’s use forced induction on a motor until the air cleaner blows off!” With new emissions regulations and a fuel crisis in full effect, the advantages of turbocharging were exactly what he thought the people needed. According to Baker, he managed to obtain one of the newly-revived Buick V6s and worked with the Scouts to cobble together a turbocharger setup for the thing. Ultimately Baker found a scrap Skylark on the premises to drop the motor into, and reportedly the compact Nova-twin was a blast to drive.

Two years later, Baker was called into the office of a boss who was now aware of the Scout project. Ken assumed he was there to be told his current job was gone because of his skunkworks shenanigans, and indeed, it was: after hearing of the increased performance and improved fuel economy the turbocharging project had achieved, Baker was put in charge of getting the Scout-prototyoped turbo V6 into production. Actually, a perfect opportunity to show off an early turbo was imminent: Buick was to be the pace car for the next Indy 500.

The turbo V6 put into the 1976 Buick Regal used for the race ran 21 psi of boost, which was more than the actual race cars were running, and had a form of knock sensor and pre-ignition control to limit the chance of engine damage. Funny fact: the replica pace cars that Buick actually sold had a normally-aspirated two-barrel V6 as standard with a whopping 105 horsepower. Gaze in wild wonder at the monstrosity below with fifty pounds of stickers and less power than a Hyundai Accent. Seriously, people paid premiums to buy these things. When Jason talks about Glorious Garbage, I can’t think of a better example than this:

D44eea140d61b7c2f34fc2de44b31987
General Motors

It took two more years for a production turbo to appear in the smaller new-for-1978 Regal, making around 165 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor. This initial model was marketed as a product with the power of a V8 (well, a malaise V8) and the fuel consumption of a six cylinder. In reality, there wasn’t much difference in EPA economy figures: 17 city/ 25 highway for the turbo versus 16 city/ 23 highway for the V8. You can see below that Buick even put the turbo in the big LeSabre coupe – which is actually a surprisingly handsome rip-off of Paulo Martin’s Fiat 130 Coupe.

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S L1600 (1)
General Motors

However, Buick needed $557 to give you a similar-powered 305 V8 in the Regal Sport Coupe over the standard turbo – an odd fact considering the turbo motor must have cost GM more money to make than a small-block V8. This is possibly the reason why Buick seems to have slowly stopped pushing the turbo V6 on customers in the ensuing years. Still, the turbo wasn’t done with corrupting Buick – not by a long shot.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

The original 1982 Grand National was actually named in honor of Buick’s winning of the NASCAR Manufacturer’s Cup in the previous years. Of course, those NASCAR stockers didn’t have turbo power, and the turbo engine wasn’t even standard in the first Regal Grand National. Hell, the cars weren’t even black.

1982 Buick Grand National
Sunnyside Classics

Despite not necessarily delivering all that it promised at first, Buick still offered the turbo engine which gained more grunt with every model year, reaching 180 horsepower for the first Grand National. By 1984, adding sequential-port fuel injection allowed the motor to cross the 200 horsepower mark, which was more power than any of the V8s offered in the Regal. And in 1986, adding an air-to-air intercooler brought horsepower figures up to 235 – again, laughable today but heady numbers then.

What about the ultimate Grand National, the GNX? Buick rolled out the GNX in 1987, the final year of the now decade-old rear-drive Regal. Every part of the engine was further massaged for the 547 production examples, ultimately getting (according to Buick) 267 horsepower out of the 3.8 liters. I’m not sure how the engineering team avoided the ire of GM’s top brass when the concurrent Corvette only pumped out 240 horsepower – but the actual power disparity between the turbocharged Regal and Chevy’s supposed-to-bed best performer was even greater than that. Buick completely understated the GNX’s power figures, and the engine actually produced a cool 300 horses and 420 foot pounds of torque – enough to propel what was once an old lady’s car to 60 miles an hour in 4.6 seconds. As with all other post-1984 Grand Nationals, it appears that the Regal’s glass and lights were masked off before the whole business was sprayed with gallons of gloss black lacquer before monster rolling stock was added to each corner. I promise you that Aunt Cassie no longer thought that this was a “nice” car. You want sophistication? Look away. You want big, dirty fun? Here’s a set of the familiar rectangular-ended GM keys- just don’t injure yourself. Once that turbo kicks in, we can’t make any guarantees for your safety.

Screenshot (1309)
General Motors

After the Grand National died with the rear-drive G Body in 1987, Buick experimented with turbo power on some cars they showed to the press but nothing came of these. You can see them in the video below; note that they prototyped rear wheel drive Regals and Reattas out of front wheel drive models, which might have been interesting, but probably not. Actually, the only car in the bunch that we’d want is at the end: sweet Jesus, is that your mom’s woodgrain-covered full size Estate Wagon? Zero to sixty in 5.2 seconds?

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Late Turbos
Motorweek / YouTube screenshots

 

Look at that thing go, and how flat it corners. You rode around in the back of one of these as a kid, right? How can you not want that thing right now?

Anyway, that shouldn’t have been the end of absurdly fast Buicks, but it was. Let’s make another Buick that us enthusiasts can actually give a shit about.

Back In Black

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Today, electric power can give us mind-blowing acceleration, and the GNX Grand National deserves a chance to be reborn. Just like forty years ago, a “new” Grand National would be totally off-brand from the other cars in the lineup, but the exposure to the brand would hardly be a bad thing. I’ve seen some Photoshoppers make a Grand National by blacking out the swoopy Wildcat concept, which looks rather silly. My guess is that those doing the renderings thought that a blindingly fast car should be a sleek and sporting shape, meaning that they’ve totally missed the point of the original. The fact is that a Grand National needs to be an upright-looking sedan, a mild-mannered car gonebad; that pleasant-looking Electra concept would be a far better basis to corrupt. Plus, it’s supposedly a crossover so that’s even more of an enigmatic choice for a performance car.

In a concession to safety, I’d put front and back motors in this thing so that it would be all-wheel drive. Power? Let’s work backwards: what’s the fastest Corvette you can buy today? The 2.5-second-to-sixty E-Ray? Let’s make this new Grand National at least a few tenths of a second slower so that the powers-that-be at GM won’t shut it down. We’ll shoot for just under 3 seconds. You’d have a wickedly fast car that, with the right tires, could safely go out in a snowstorm with four passengers and a trunk full of luggage on board – you can’t do that in a Corvette.

2020 Buick Electra Concept China Exterior 01b
General Motors

Up front, I’ve added detailing to mimic the original car, even making composite headlamps that look like distorted Pep Boys sealed beams. The fake “grille” features vertical stripes similar to the 1980s car, and they could glow softly at night, unless you’re really punching it and then they’d glow brighter in anger. And just like the original, if Buick produced that Electra in some “stock” form then a new Grand National wouldn’t require The General to make an all-new car. See the original concept below?

Buick Electra Concept 20
General Motors

We’d just have to change the nose and tail to something slightly more upright to make a GN, plus blocking off part of the rear quarter windows to make the four-door look like a coupe (the show car had “Lambo” doors which this production model would not possess).

Buick Electra Concept 20a

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As an EV, you could easily have touch screens for the “transmission” and just a range gauge to go with a speedometer. Obviously, as a true Grand National we want to keep a floor “shifter” even though it doesn’t need it. I’d like to stage the power output either by controlling front and rear motors separately or limiting the power output, so flooring the thing would give you “turbo boost.” Note the “turbo” gauge that is repeated by lights in the back of the “hood scoop” over the frunk. “Turbo? This is an EV!”  I know that all of this would be pure theater and a complete gimmick to add drama, but this thing is all about “throwback” fun as the car throws you back in your seat.

Img20231130 21092042

It appears that General Motors is happy with Buick being the neo-Lexus brand of China, and if they can find similar buyers here in the United States, all the better. Most car enthusiasts are not as pleased. Look, GM, we know that we’re never going to see a new Pontiac G8, Saturn Sky, or Saab 9-3 ever again, but can you at least just throw us a bone with a new Grand National? It’s really the least you can do.

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Theotherotter
Theotherotter
4 months ago

There’s some more throwback opportunity in the interior there, , as the sceen format strongly mimics the form of Oldsmobile G-body dashboard (and even FWD W-body dashboards) – a retro graphic (a la Mustang) could mimic the Buick cluster.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
4 months ago

“The Next Buick Grand National Should Be This Wicked Dual Motor EV”
When I first read this, I thought to myself, “Would GM really bring Buick back just for a Grand National EV?” I guess that’s what they did for Hummer. Then I remembered there actually still is a Buick.

The floor shifter is lame, but two-piece targa “T-tops” (without the center bar) would be cool.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago

“United States there hasn’t been a car made by the brand since the 1971 “Boattail” Riviera that most enthusiasts would ever consider owning – with one notable exception.”

What about the Regal TourX?

IIRC there was a lot of enthusiast enthusiasm for this one. Its certainly nicer to look at that that 40 yo black brick.

Joe Nuttall
Joe Nuttall
4 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

YES! I love my TourX and I get compliments on it in parking lots and at gas stations all the time – usually from people in the kinds of sports/luxury cars I lust after but can’t afford.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago
Reply to  Joe Nuttall

Another satisfied Buick customer.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
4 months ago

I think the proposed prototype is a great idea and well worth pursuing, except Buick will never build such a car. GM is far to comfortable with their current line-up and has no reason to cater to our very limited market. This is similar to the many great concepts that GM has shown us over the past 60+ years that has teased us and left us wanting.

Lokki
Lokki
4 months ago

“Turbo? This is an EV!”

“When Jason talks about Glorious Garbage, I can’t think of a better example than this…”

Last edited 4 months ago by Lokki
Deathspeed
Deathspeed
4 months ago

That is an interesting and handsome concept you have there! I like it better than anything I have seen from Buick since the 2016 Avista concept.

But as a Gen Xer who grew up with GM V-8s and turbo V-6s, and fell in love with 2-door muscle cars, it is absolute sacrilege to call a 4 door electric crossover a Grand National. Call it the Special or Roadmaster or Centurion if you want, ore even T-Type, but do not sully the name Grand National. I know electric is the future whether I like it or not, but even in its day the Grand National was a throwback, and anything worthy of the name would be ICE only and wold be a 2 door car. Hell, I have not forgiven Buick for adding “GS” badges to front-drive Regal sedans in the late 80s, or Pontiac for naming that p.o.s. Daewoo “LeMans”.
Its funny how we get emotional about cars. Maybe this was how Ferrari felt when Pontiac released the ’64 GTO.

SCJeff
SCJeff
4 months ago

Is Lisa rocking a mullet?

10001010
10001010
4 months ago

I would like one of these

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Me too.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

This should be the next gen Camaro.
But clean up the rear end some first.
Buick does not deserve this.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
4 months ago

Interesting connection on the Scouts/Explorers. Sounds like a fun program compared to most of the ones out there. I did Sea Explorers and my unit had a 63′ Navy AVR from WWII that we learned how to crew, maintain, and repair. Got very familiar with 2 stroke Detroit Diesels.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

The Hyundai facility might be willing to take on a few more child workers..

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
4 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

Very cool. I did regular Scouts as a lad. My town had Explorers for the Fire, Police and Ambulance depts. but I never went into any of those.

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
4 months ago

I do have one question: If sold, will these vehicles also be assigned the standard GNX urban legend stating “well actually, the Grand National was designs as an undercover car for FBI Secret agents, but because [choose one: a) they ordered too many, b) some very specific yet obscure technical issue like the flywheel having an extra gear tooth) or c) the program was cancelled after the cars were already made] so the cars were sold through certain specific dealers and my uncle almost got one but….”

Lokki
Lokki
4 months ago
Reply to  KC Murphy

I can add some left-handed confirmation to the existence of the FBI ‘Grand Nationals’/ T-Types:

I worked for a government agency in Virginia in the mid 80’s. We opened a new facility in 1987, and needed staff cars. Being government, we purchased our vehicles through the GSA. Among the cars we received from the GSA which included a few K-cars, a Grand Fury, and a Citation, we got a Dodge 600ES Turbo. A very nice and, for the times, quick car. It seemed way out of line for our needs, so I asked our purchasing agent about it. He explained that the Dodge was part of an order for the FBI, but after the cars were made, they canceled the order because a faster Buick had become available and better for their work. It was merely a matter of location (Virginia) and timing that made the Dodge available and thus rather arbitrarily included in our fleet. The Dodge had a very plush interior including New Yorker badging but that may have been a sign of special ordering by the FBI or typical 1980’s Chrysler sloppiness in badging. 

Anyhow I heard about the FBI Buicks long before the story was in the magazines, and from a guy who really didn’t care about cars.

Last edited 4 months ago by Lokki
KC Murphy
KC Murphy
4 months ago
Reply to  Lokki

Very cool – Thank you for the post!

Travis Tiffany
Travis Tiffany
4 months ago

No mention made of the recent WAGON? The Regal TourX was handsome, and I was ever so close to buying one to replace the dieselgate golf sportwagen when VW was buying it back from me. Just could not find one in a nice enough spec to make the wife happy.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
4 months ago

I feel like Chris Bangle when he asks Jason Castriota “What makes it a Saab?”

What makes this a Buick (or GNX)?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
4 months ago

So you want a Buick Camaro Crossover.
Please, Bhudda, No.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Who’s Bhudda?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
4 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

He’s that guy who had snails on his head shielding him from the sun while achieving enlightenment whose name I frequently misspell.

Data
Data
4 months ago

If the Porsche Taycan can be a turbo, why not an all electric GNX?

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
4 months ago

What they could do is take the CT4V Blackwing, Buick it up, paint it black and call it a day.

V10omous
V10omous
4 months ago

That would provide cover for Cadillac to install the LT1 in the CT4, and allow Buick to have the V6TT. Both more in keeping with their brands’ heritage.

World24
World24
4 months ago

I thought Buick-fying the Camaro and giving it the TTV6 would’ve been the coolest plan.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
4 months ago
Reply to  World24

I like your idea better. Give it a better greenhouse so I can see out of it, and I’m in.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

DUN!

Dun-nuh-nuh!

Dun-nuh-nuh!

Squee-diddy-diddy‐dee!

Maymar
Maymar
4 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

The tune of Bad To The Bone would be perfect for the whooshy bloopy EV reversing sound.

Max Johnson
Max Johnson
4 months ago

The last Gen Regals are a hoot to drive. I have a 2014, it weighs right about 4000 pounds and with the turbo is about 260 HP. But since most people think of Buick as the official brand of Werthers Original, I was able to pick it up in 2019 with 75k miles for $9000. I really want the longroof Tour X but prices on those are standing firm for now

Last edited 4 months ago by Max Johnson
MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
4 months ago
Reply to  Max Johnson

Tour X’s are nice looking wagons.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
4 months ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

Should never have stopped making them. In fact they should restart them now.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago

I really like that body design. With some wind tunnel sculpting, that sort of shape could lend itself to a sub 0.20 Cd value. Some of the proportions might be changed a bit and the wheel size may have to shrink slightly, but I’d hazard a guess that it would still look very similar in order to achieve that number.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

If this were to be a mass produced seller in lines of a Malibu/Camry/Accord, I would agree. But I would like to see this as a special car where Cd and range doesn’t matter as much. The above image looks too much like a Camaro to me. I would like to see a whole different design.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago

If that’s the case, why not give it a modern twin turbo V6 instead of an electric drive?

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Why make the new challenger/charger an EV?

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago

I’ve wondered the same thing. If they need to meet CAFE requirements, they COULD keep the V8s if they made the platform more efficient. Lighter by a few hundred pounds, more narrow(frontal area reduction), and much more aerodynamically slippery. Maybe update the engine tech used in their V8s as well. If they REALLY wanted to build it, we could have a Hellcat getting somewhere near 40 mpg highway, as long as the driver didn’t have a lead foot. To do this, it would have to be significantly more aerodynamically slippery than a Prius, probably closer to a Tesla Model 3 in terms of CdA.

Of course, it may no longer look like a classic musclecar, but I think the musclecar needs to be brought into the modern day. Its straight-line performance and top speed would be all the better for it. Stellantis could take inspiration from streamlined drag cars for the design, and perhaps the old school Dodge Charger Daytona/Plymouth Superbird.

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
4 months ago

Yeah instantly the rendering to me was if you rounded all the edges of the current camaro.

Side note, since all US car brands are failing miserably in China, now is the time to kill Buick. My 8yr old asked what kinda of car was something at school pickup, I said it was a Buick, his next question was it fast, I said it’s an old people car. So they will never shake that image, even with all their ads showing 20 something tech people.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

It can be both fast AND an old people car. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

Marlin May
Marlin May
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Especially since more people under (fill in the blank) years old aren’t interested in driving or driving fast.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

Well. what do you expect?

An 8 yo looks at an unknown car and asks what it is.

Dad says its a Buick.

A Buick? OOOOHHH!! It LOOKS like it might be fast to an 8 yo! 8 yo asks Dad if it is fast.

Dad says its a Buick and Bucks are for old people.

Kinda hard to overcome that.

*rolls eyes*

Thanks. DAD!

Last edited 4 months ago by Cheap Bastard
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