Movie Review For Black Air: The Grand National Story

Movie Review For Black Air: The Grand National Story

Black Air is the documentary about the 1984-1987 Buick Grand National (a turbocharged Buick Regal), that was cloaked in black and looked like a Buick but as fast as any car running in the mid 80’s. Especially the very limited Buick GNX which was the fastest US made production car in 1987.

The movie Black Air is the well done story behind the car, the people that built the car, owned the car and to this day love the car. I actually watched it on iTunes and it was mesmerizing, now I admit I am a fan of the Buick Grand National and have been since I saw it for the first time when I was 10 years old in 1986, so I completely agree on putting so much passion into and about a 30 year old car.

The producers of this movie do a great job showing the passion of the people associated with this car; I guess you can call it an obsession. Two guys in particular take better care of their cars than some museums do. The movie takes you in their garages, shows you the painstaking steps they take to preserve their cars, call them crazy if you want but it’s the admiration of car at its highest point.

I’m a car guy, I get it that some cars just have a cult following and the movie Black Air makes no bones about it, this was a unique car and despite a very short run has amassed a following that some cars takes decades to get.

I go to plenty of car shows myself and you always see at least one Buick Grand National (an if there is more than one, the owners and cars are usually sitting together), and this is a car that only had higher production numbers for two years (1986 & 1987), its first two years barely 2,000 were made per year. And that lauded GNX I mentioned, only 547 were ever made in 1987. And there is footage of car shows that feature the Grand National, some exclusive to the car, others where people do race it and just enjoy the car.

The beginning of the movie takes you down the assembly line of General Motors then oldest facility as the very last Buick Grand National is being made, the auto workers actually signed the turbocharger and other parts of the car, really special. You get to see and hear the pride of the workers and though now it’s common to see assembly line footage of a car in various car shows. Here someone took their video camera to work to show a great American can being manufactured, its timeless TV.

Also you get good in depth interviews with the engineers, designers and executives who help create, design and market the car. You learn about the decisions behind the car, what was expected and then how the car took on a life of its own.

Better still you get interviews with the automobile writers who initially road tested and wrote about the car and how from the minute they drove the car, it was different. You also get to see those initial quotes that the auto writers used to describe this car (“An ax wielding barbarian” is my favorite), and then some footage of the car being tested. And better still some footage of the Buick Grand National beating other legendary sports cars like a Chevrolet Corvette.
The point is made over and over that this was not a supercar, it was just a quick GM car that ended up being faster than more exotic supercars (Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini etc), that were 10 times its price.

You know how if you study physics that bumblebees aren’t supposed to be able to fly, well the reason for this movie is that the Buick Grand National is that bumblebee, it’s not supposed to be able to fly.

The movie even interviews the aftermarket people who worked on the rare and superfast GNX version of the Grand National and you get to see  their old facility in Livonia Michigan and footage from when they were making the legendary GNX..

Basically if you have any knowledge and love for this car you HAVE to see this movie. And even if you don’t, this is your ticket to see in the window of a great American car and a great story about a car.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul grad (LA&S '99), and know and love Chicago. Writing is my passion, what I write is what I feel and there is no half steppin' with my work. I simply want to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions. And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say.

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