Buick’s uncharacteristic ‘Bad Boys' are the focus of a new documentary being shot by New York City Indie filmmaker, Andrew Filippone.
The 1980s were lean years for muscle car enthusiasts. There were some bright spots: Corvette, 5.0 Mustang, IROC Camaro, Firebird Trans-Am and turbocharged-intercooled Buick Grand National/GNX. Arguably, the rare, high-boost GNX was the car to beat on the street and strip. BLACK AIR: THE BUICK GRAND NATIONAL DOCUMENTARY treats the revered GN & GNX as high-powered cultural phenomenons. If heavy metal music was a car, it would be a GNX!
NOTE: In 1982 Lloyd Reuss brought me in as a PR consultant/contract agency to represent Buick and handle media relations on the East Coast. We (PMPR, Inc) had the GM PR contract from 1982 through 1999 and, in 1987, I authored BUICK GNX, the VIN-numbered coffee table book, left, Buick gave to each GNX purchaser.
The GNX program was kicked off on April 25, 1986 with a memo and a presentation to Buick’s Chief Engineer, David S. Sharpe. It was titled: 1987 REGAL GRAND NATIONAL ‘SPECIAL EDITION.” The program was to create a dramatic "send off" for the final 200 production Grand Nationals. In a presentation to Buick management on August 25, 1987, Mike Doble, Manager, Buick Engineering’s Advanced Concepts Group, clarified the Special Edition project’s objective:
1987 GRAND NATIONAL GNX“Create a limited-production Grand National that achieves a memorable place in the history of high-performance automobiles, one that car collectors will want to own and that automotive writers will never forget.”
While Buick built the basic Grand National ($17, 865) ASC, partnered with legendary race-engineering firm, McLaren Engines, was responsible for its modified (15-psi boost) engine and transmission, installing Goodyear Eagle Gatorback tires and special wheels, and engineering the performance rear suspension and exhaust system. They also executed interior and exterior body modifications including instruments and trim. GNX Prototypes #s 1 & 2, below, at Milan Dragway, Milan, MI, October 24, 1986 ran 13.30s and 13.40s with trap speeds as high as 104.38 mph.
Buick and the GNX pissed off a lot of people at GM in 1987. Chevrolet management and the Corvette Group believed that whenever quicker and faster cars were built at GM, Chevrolet would build them. They also didn’t appreciate the red & yellow “I Brake For Corvettes” bumper stickers that were popping up around Flint, Buick’s hometown. The GNX was quicker on the street and the quarter mile than a Corvette and at GM, that’s usually a NO-NO!
Then there was the late GM Chairman, Roger Smith who passed down the edict, “No GM cars would be subject to the (1978) Federal Gas Guzzler Tax.” However, the Buick GNX Team must have missed that memo! The 1987 GNX was rated at 15-mpg City and 23-mpg Highway and was subject to a Gas Guzzler Tax of $650.
After almost three decades, Grand Nationals and GNXs, left, are still respected as iconic performance vehicles that have achieved true cult status. Andrew Filippone has done an incredible job telling the story of what he respectfully refers to as Buick’s “Misfits.” He has spent a couple of years tracking down GN & GNX owners, racers and collectors, media who drove the cars and the key players responsible for engineering, styling and marketing at Buick & GM. He’s doing it all: Interviews, shooting the video, editing and taking it to final cut. And, he’s doing it on his own dime! It’s scheduled to be released in 2012.
For more information about BLACK AIR, THE GRAND NATIONAL DOCUMENTARY, and the Buick GNX:
Check out Andrew’s two-minute “Misfit” teaser video at, http://www.vimeo.com/27452222
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Air-The-Buick-Grand-National Documentary/199753063411653?sk=wall
In 1987, Popular Mechanics ran a stock GNX against a twin-turbo Callaway Corvette: The GNX blew the Corvette's doors off: http://youtu.be/C0F-MdFIuOk
For more information about the GNX, please visit, http://www.buickgnx.com/