My Favorite Cars: The Buick Grand National & T-Type Cars

My Favorite Cars: The Buick Grand National & T-Type Cars

For those of us of a certain age the 1980’s Buick Grand National is THE 1980’s hot rod car. In a time when horsepower was down, gas mileage was more a priority and the muscle car seemed dead and buried, the Grand National was that cloaked supercar.

Buick first experimented with Grand National (named after NASCAR’s top racing series, presently known as the Sprint Cup), in the late 1970’s but officially came out in 1982 in a non turbo form (4.1 liter V6), these are recognizable because its two tone piant and some have Buick on rear quarter panel in large, bold letters.

Those are fairly rare about 2200 manufactured and even more rare are the turbo charged ones (using an early version of the 3.8 liter V6 turbo), maybe 30-50 of those ever built.

In 1984 the Buick Grand National we know and love came out, all in black, McLaren turbocharged 3.8 liter V6, it was making 200 horsepower. It’s less intimidating version was the T-Type (came in several colors, usually white or gray), same turbo engine, T-Type instead of Grand National badging.

But it was in 1986 when the “heat was on” and when my love affair with this car began. The turbocharged V6 was now cranking 245 horsepower and a digital dashboard option was now an option as well as an “astroroof” or as we call today a sunroof.

And then in 1987 the “gloves were off”, the last year of the Grand National (and production was increased), but to celebrate the end of the run was the best of the best. The GNX (the fastest American car of 1987), only 547 of these were built, the turbocharger was modified, black rims were on it (we called that “murdered out” now), and it costs $ 30,000 then. In good shape they are over six figures now.

But these weren’t the only members of the family, there was a non turbo Grand National Rivera & LeSabre and the T-Type models included the two door LeSabre, Electra, Skyhawk, Skylark and Century, also all non turbo engines. But these cars shared the blacked out molding and appearance package.

Ive had a Grand National poster for 30 years, it was on my bedroom wall as a kid and is in my garage today. You have to remember in the mid 1980’s the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS (which I also loved), was only making 175 horsepower and the vaulted Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z was making 225 horsepower and so was the Chevrolet Corvette. These were cars making a ton of torque (they had small block V8 engines respectively), but not even close to the speed of the Grand National.

The Grand National is a car they has kept really good value over the years, I remember 20 or so years ago checking some out with a friend and we were told “this was the time to get one”. Since then the car has risen in value and finding good, unaltered clean ones is harder and harder to find.

It’s not out of the question to pay $ 22,000 for a decent unmolested one with 75,000 miles.

One sold on an online bid near my in laws for $ 13,000 with near 100,000 miles, that’s a steal, all it needed was a paint job.

A lot of these cars were modified that’s why I say, “unaltered” or “unmolested”. Quite a few people put additional wheel packages, performance upgrades even drag racing slicks, roll cages and wheelie bars on some cars.

If you are interested in one of these cars, make sure you drive it and see if white smoke comes out of it, if so the turbo charger is shot.

But the car is still plentiful and popular as ever, in my town’s Monday night “cruise nights” (pictured), in the summer at least two to four Grand Nationals are there every week. And there is a large club in the Chicago area with a meet up and show planed in Itasca in early June.

You can even get Grand National & T-Type clothing on eBay, I just ordered a polo shirt, official with permission from General Motors.

And yes there was talk of the Grand National coming back for this generations Regal (which it was always based off of), but it didn’t happen.

But the car that Car & Driver referred to as “Darth Vader’s car”, has a incredible legacy, rabid following and the cars are more valuable every day. It definitely lived up to Buicks motto of “Fast with Class”.

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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 University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email

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