1987 Buick Regal Grand National Long-Term Road Test - New Updates
1987 Buick Grand National: Proud New Owner
December 26, 2013
Our 1987 Buick Grand National has safely made the trip to Texas and is now with its new owner, David. "The car wasn't even off the truck when someone driving by complimented it," said David.
David is an avid car enthusiast and has closely followed the long-term blog. He made contact with us through the Edmunds Live Advice team. He had wanted a Grand National for a long time and now that he has one, it is living up to his expectations.
"The car is an absolute blast to drive. It was everything you advertised," he said.
The Buick will share the garage with David's other car, a well-kept 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS with a period correct 396 (402) CTX engine.
"I purchased this vehicle about 3 years ago," said David "I was dead set on a red/black, 4-speed and a working exterior cowl hood. The first year I owned the car, I spent most of my time making the car reliable and safe (new steering components, rebuilt brakes, new carb, new HEI distributor, shocks and springs). The second year I replaced all electrical wiring, had the instrumentation gauges rebuilt, replaced the interior carpeting after having the floor pan fixed and welded up as necessary."
"This year I was planning on pulling the engine to have all gaskets replaced and cleanup the compartment while it is out. Next year will be all new seat covers, headliner and door panels. I figure after spending 20K it should be worth an additional 5K. It's funny how attached one can get to these old cars."
"Although I love wrenching on the older cars, the time and effort spent on the Chevelle was the reason I was looking for a 100-percent pristine example of a Grand National. Luckily, I found it."
We wish David well and hope the Grand National brings him miles and miles of pure driving joy.
Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor
1987 Buick Regal Grand National: Bound for Texas
November 29, 2013
This morning we stood in the pre-dawn cold and watched as Zane (a fitting name for a truck driver) inspected our 1987 Buick Grand National. "Clean car!" he said after circling the Buick with a flashlight. Moments later the Buick was hoisted to the upper deck of the transport truck and disappeared inside.
Yes, the Buick sold. After nearly two months for sale it went for an even $25,000. Our apologies to anyone who tuned into the Mecum Auction. The Buick sold days before going on the block and saved us the fees and time spent babysitting it. Furthermore, we now have the peace of mind from knowing we found an owner who really appreciates what this car represents.
The sale process took a lot longer than the typical car coming out of our fleet. But this wasn't just any car and we knew that. We had another buyer contact us from Virginia but he eventually backed out due to high shipping fees. We had lots of casual interest from other shoppers who said something along the lines of, "I've been looking for a car like that for a long time."
Ultimately, our Buick sold due to a combination of these factors: condition (perfect), options (highly desirable), and mileage (low). Take the small pool of buyers in the United States, and the even smaller pool of available Buick Grand Nationals, and you have a satisfied seller and a happy buyer.
Three or four days from now the Grand National will arrive at its new home in Texas, an early Christmas present for the new owner. Enjoy.
Safe travels, old friend.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 15,570 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: The Right Wardrobe
November 20, 2013
After much time in our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National, I've found that there is a dress code for it. Wearing flip flops and beach attire is acceptable in the GN, but it just doesn't feel right. Here are my wardrobe recommendations for would-be future owners of our classic Grand National.
Matte black, Ray-Ban Wayfarer X sunglasses (or the pictured cheap knock-offs), a black fedora, and maybe even a black skinny-tie. Invoke Jake and Elwood Blues and you'll be on the right path. Ladies, this goes for you, too. Being seen in this 1980s' icon should look just as good as it feels.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Smog Inspection
November 18, 2013
Mecum Auctions requires that all vehicles 1975 and newer have a current California smog certificate when they're being registered for the upcoming Anaheim auction. Time to take our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National to get inspected.
The car had been sitting a few days, so I took it for a quick spin to warm it up. I was parked at a red light and heard someone calling out to me.
"I've been looking for a car like that," said the co-pilot of a city garbage truck. "Let me know when you want to sell that thing."
I told him it actually was for sale, pointed out the low miles and named our asking price. He gave it some thought, but didn't counter or hand me a wad of cash. The light turned green, and I yelled: "It's on AutoTrader if you want to see more details on it."
I drove the car about five miles and then pulled into the nearest smog inspection facility. I wasn't sure if the car would pass, given its age. I crossed my fingers while the mechanics rolled the Grand National onto the dyno. "Nice Buick," said the shop's owner.
About 20 minutes later, he told me that the car passed with flying colors. It was well below the maximum limits, impressive performance for a 26-year-old car.
Total Cost $67.95 (This includes a $10 discount coupon)
Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 15,555 miles
1987 Buick Regal Grand National: Back to the Auction Block
November 8, 2013
There hasn't been much activity lately on our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National's sales listing. We offered the car on eBay, and while it had a number of bids, none of them met our reserve. The highest bid ended up being $18,200. We decided to take our Grand National to a more discerning audience, a place where it could stand tall with other, equally collectible cars. We've entered the Grand National in the 2013 Mecum Auction in Anaheim, Calif.
The Buick is getting the recognition it deserves and will be listed as a "Star Entry." This means that it will be part of the afternoon auctions on Thursday, November 21, 2013. It also means that the auction will air live on the Velocity channel from 3-7 p.m. (PST). Our Grand National is scheduled to hit the stage at approximately 4:10 p.m.
Be sure to tune in, wish us luck and feel free to guess as to what the final sale price will be.
Ronald Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 15,500 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Mark Reuss' Joy Ride
October 22, 2013
We'd been talking about this moment since last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Finally schedules converged. Mark fires up the turbocharged V6 and scans the gauges but he takes an extra beat before reaching for the shifter. Instead he wraps his hands around the Buick's leather wrapped steering wheel. "Man, this brings back some memories," he says.
Back in 1987 Mark Reuss was a young GM powertrain engineer. He had just finished working on a new engine calibration for Buick's turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 to be used in the Buick GNX, the Grand National to end all Grand Nationals.
In those days Mark was so black Buick crazy he bought a GNX for himself. His car was #449 of the 547 built. And when he sold it, which of course he regrets, he kept the scale model of the car and the black leather jacket each GNX buyer received.
Today, Mark Reuss is still a huge GN fan. He also happens to be the President of General Motors.
Walk into his office, high above downtown Detroit, and one the first things you see is an office chair made from the driver's seat of that very Grand National Mark used for development work at Phoenix's Firebird Raceway back in the '80s. It's one of his prized possessions and absolutely one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
In a world where 99% of auto executives have never even heard of a Buick's iconic black muscle car, Mark Reuss has flown to Santa Monica to drive ours. Oh sure, it's under the cloak of real business, he has even brought along a new pre-production C7 Corvette Convertible to show off, but make no mistake, he's here to drive our Grand National. And after a quick walkaround and peek under the hood, Mark is behind the wheel.
Standing outside the car are a hundred Edmunds employees and several members of Mark's PR machine. He pulls the shifter into gear, and inches the big coupe through the crowd. We're soon out of the parking garage and into the California sunshine.
I don't say anything for a while. I want to give Mark a moment alone with the car. He steers around a cliché in a white Prius and accelerates down Colorado Blvd. A big smile takes over his face. This car makes Mark happy.
"I drove it earlier this morning," I say. "So it's warm. Feel free to get on it."
He lays into it. Not full throttle. There's too much traffic. Just enough to feel the boost and a firm second gear upshift. "The condition of this car is remarkable," Mark says over the wind rushing in the open windows. "Even has the original paint with all the orange peel. That's how you know it's original. If a Grand National has good paint without orange peel you know its been repainted."
After a few more blasts through the gears we're back in the Edmunds parking garage. The smile is still on Mark's face. And I think it's going to be there for a while.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,435 miles
1987 Buick Regal Grand National: For Sale
October 9, 2013
All good things must come to an end. A year is up and, after 10,000 miles worth of fun, it's time to sell our 1987 Buick Grand National. This isn't something we can sell just anywhere. And CarMax, where we sell many of our test vehicles, isn't an option. So here's our strategy.
First of all, we want this to go to someone who will appreciate this car. Someone with great taste like, well, us. So we will advertise it in AutoTrader.com, Hemmings and hold an auction on eBayMotors.
We got it for a good price a year ago, fixed a few things, put some new tires on it and kept it in great shape. Our asking price is $27,000.
Yes, we know it won't sell overnight. But it still has low miles. Besides, we're prepared to wait for someone with great taste in American metal to step to the plate.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 15,195 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Rear Brakes Fixed
September 20, 2013
A couple of weeks ago the rear drum brakes on our 1987 Buick Grand National began to squeal worse than Ned Beatty. Any brake pedal application would cause the Grand National to sing a loud and embarrassing tune.
And so it was back to Morgan's Auto Service in Santa Monica for a check. Leaking wheel cylinders was determined to be the culprit, and of course they were leaking all over a set of worn shoes.
The service was performed in just a few hours. New cylinders and shoes cost us $148, and we were charged $226 for the labor. With tax we were out the door for $389.05.
But the brakes are back to good.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,195 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Cruising to a Dodger Game
August 30, 2013
It was a good week at Edmunds HQ. There was a flood of sports cars in our lot, and quite honestly, I was in heaven. As fate would have it, I actually needed a vehicle that could accommodate four adults. My first pick was our Tesla Model S, but sadly, it was spoken for. It seems like our 1987 Buick Grand National has been languishing in the lot most weekends, so I figured it'd be a safe bet.
Every now and then, my friend Loretta invites me to tag along to a Dodger game. She has season tickets at field level, so who am I to turn down such a generous offer? I usually volunteer to drive, and when I do, I try to secure something really nice or at least a car that is a bit of a conversation piece. Enter the Grand National.
Loretta insisted we cruise with the T-top out and I dutifully obliged. They were super easy to slide out and into the vinyl bags in the trunk. As we wound our way east to Chavez Ravine, I heard a very loud squealing coming from the rear brakes. Every time I touched the brakes, there was a loud Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal. Irritating, but we still enjoyed the ride.
Just as we turned off Sunset Boulevard, a passenger in the back said, "I'm sorta surprised we haven't gotten a lot of compliments for the Grand National."
Just then, and practically on cue, it happened. A fine gentleman selling bootleg memorabilia howled, "Is THAT a Grand National? Dayuuum...that is CLEEEEEEEEEEAN! Better be careful, my brothers would be eyeing that thing like a Philly Cheesesteak, man!"
I think that's a compliment. In any case, we were amused.
As we approached a stop sign on our way to the lot, one of the workers screamed out, "GRAND NATIONAL!" I gave a peace sign out of the T-top. Yup, the Buick still gets respect. Too bad the Dodgers didn't, though. They got owned by Boston that night.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 15,100 miles
1987 Buck Grand National: Burnout Video
August 19, 2013
Doing a burnout in our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National couldn't be easier.
Left foot on the brake, right foot on the throttle, wait for the boost to build up and let her rip.
Our Buick hasn't seen much action since the Hot Rod Power Tour, so I decided to take the GN out and stretch its legs a bit. Click through to watch the video.
Yup, this never gets old.
For more photos of our long-term cars, videos and other automotive eye candy, follow us on Instagram.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 15,050 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for July
August 5, 2013
Our long-term 1987 Buick Regal Grand National didn't see much action in the month of July. All of its fuel economy numbers stayed exactly the same.
Worst Fill MPG: 8.5
Best Fill MPG: 21.4
Average Lifetime MPG: 17.3
EPA MPG Rating: 17 City / 25 Highway
Best Range: 301.9 miles
Current Odometer: 15,106
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Hot Rod Power Tour Photos
July 19, 2013
In June the Grand National and I bonded on the Hot Rod Power Tour. And I've written a bit about the adventure. But there's always more to the story.
And there are always more pictures to share.
So, here's another blast of images from the trip. They include landmarks, fellow Power Tour participants, some great cars, a BBQ stop, the Buick jumpstarting a pickup truck, a drive-in movie, farm equipment, Elvis and, of course, a Waffle House.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Will the Sandwich Fit?
July 11, 2013
Will a small Quizno's sub fit in the Grand National's center console? Why, yes it will! Will I eat the small Quizno's sub in the Grand National? Why, no I won't! I like my job thank you very much.
As for a more practical question, why didn't GM extend that center console bin upward so it could serve as an armrest? The nearly cookie cutter Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Chevy Monte Carlo cabins had one, why not the Regal/Grand National? One, it would be a handy place to rest, well, your arm. And two, just imagine how many more sandwiches could fit in there.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,000 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: 15,000-Mile Milestone
July 10, 2013
Back in May our Buick Grand National had covered its 10,000th mile. And now, just two months later, its odometer is reading 15,000 miles.
That means we've driven the Buick 10,000 miles since we bought the car back in September of last year, and its price per mile has gone way down recently.
In May I calculated the Buick's cost of repairs. At the time we had spent $2,791.08 (not counting fuel costs) to drive the car 5,000 miles. That's about $.56 a mile. Ouch.
However, in the last 5,000 miles of driving we've only spent another $500 or so dealing with that oil cooler problem, which we have well documented over the last six weeks. That means our cost per mile is down to about $.33 since we bought the car.
Fuel mileage is up, too. We're now averaging 17.3 mpg since September.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,007 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Oil Cooler Installed
July 5, 2013
Our Buick Grand National is whole again.
Although driving the car without its factory installed oil cooler hasn't been an issue, we were very anxious to reinstall the system as soon as possible.
We hit Gbodyparts.com and ordered a new oil cooler adapter o-ring ($6.00) and new oil cooler lines ($139.95). With ground shipping it added up to $165.98. A few days later we delivered the car and the parts to Morgan Auto Service in Santa Monica, which has become our local go-to shop. Greg Morgan is a Grand National owner himself and always takes good care of us. And this time was no different.
The next day the work was complete and the bill was $231.35.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 14,937 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for June
July 3, 2013
We drove the Buick Grand National quite a bit in June. In fact, the car began the month in Dallas, TX on the Hot Rod Power Tour. From there I drove it to Memphis, TN. A few days later, Mark Takahashi jumped behind the GN's leather-wrapped steering wheel and drove it all the way back to Santa Monica, CA after a quick stop in New Orleans.
Obviously the bulk of that trip was spent on America's interstates and the Buick's fuel mileage reflects those highway miles. In June the car's fuel economy ranged from 17.3 mpg to 21 mpg.
Overall, the Buick is averaging 17.3 mpg since we bought it last September.
Worst Fill MPG: 8.5
Best Fill MPG: 21.4
Average Lifetime MPG: 17.3
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): 17/25
Best Range: 301.9 miles
Current Odometer: 14,952 miles
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Time Warp Trunk Release
June 25, 2013
After driving the Grand National 10,000 miles we're still discovering things about it. Cool things.
This discovery was made on day two of the Hot Rod Power Tour. I was looking to unload the contents of the Buick's trunk, but I was trying to avoid turning off the car's ignition. No, I don't remember why, but this was my dilemma.
If the Buick was a modern car this would not have been a problem. I would have easily opened the trunk one of three ways. 1) Hit the trunk release button on the key fob. 2) Use the exterior trunk release, probably in and around the rear license plate. 3) Hit the interior trunk release button, which is either on the driver's door or console.
But the Buick is not a modern car. It's 25 years old. And back in the 1980s you opened the trunk of a car one of two ways. With the key. Duh. Or, if you drove a GM product, you could use The Big Yellow Trunk Release Button hidden in the bowels of the car's glove compartment.
Which is exactly what I did.
This was cool stuff back in 1987. Back then most cars didn't have a remote trunk release of any kind. And honestly, until that very moment the Buick's button had gone under my radar. I only found it after a timely flashback to my Mom's 1985 Cadillac Eldorado.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Las Cruces to Los Angeles
June 24, 2013
Unlike Austin and New Orleans, I found little to occupy my time in Las Cruces. I did a little research on local restaurants and opted for La Posta de Mesilla, which was reviewed as being one of the few places in town that serve food on real plates with real silverware instead of plastic. It was in the neighboring historic town of Mesilla, which was dotted with traditional adobe structures.
La Posta was very generous with their portions and before I knew it, I was drifting into a meat-induced coma. I crashed in my modest hotel room early. So early in fact, that I woke up on my own at 3:00 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for a while I decided that I might as well get back on the road.
Under cover of darkness, the Grand National and I clicked off the first of 769 miles that it would take to get back home to L.A. A short time later I had to slow to a stop at a border checkpoint. As I crept up to the agent, I noticed an unusual amount of medium-sized birds darting all around the portable floodlights. Then it dawned on me those weren't birds, they were bats. I hate bats. I know they're essential for insect control and serve a useful ecological purpose, but that doesn't ease my mind one bit.
I barely cracked the power window of the Buick as I approached the stop, lest I get entangled with one of the rats with wings.
"U.S. Citizen?" the agent asked.
"Yup," I replied.
He waved me through before I even came to a complete stop.
More and more miles piled onto the odometer as the night gave way to a deep blue, followed by a beautiful warm glow on the horizon, silhouetting the distant mesas.
Before I knew it, I had crossed over into Arizona. I could almost smell Los Angeles.
The drive through Arizona was mostly uneventful. The most excitement I got was when I spotted this awesome piece of military hardware. Whatever it is, it looks fast and mean. I want one.
The gas stops came and went with plenty of fuel left in the tank. That was, until I neared Phoenix. I was edging closer to 280 miles and the needle was still showing a quarter tank left. Could I break the 300-mile mark? Up to that point, the record was 284.3 miles on a single tank, which was logged by yours truly a few days earlier between New Orleans and Austin.
I went into conservation mode, with the lightest of touches on the gas pedal. The needle began its customary plummet, but I soldiered on until I finally hit the 300 mark. I immediately exited the interstate right near the Phoenix Airport and found the closest gas station. With 301.9 miles on the trip meter, the Buick took 14.405 gallons. That figured out to 21.0 mpg, just shy of the overall best of 21.4 mpg. Hitting 300 miles was a small victory, but in my boredom, it was welcomed.
Mile after mile, I grew more impatient. I just wanted to get back home. The roadside mile markers were the equivalent of waiting for water to boil, drawing out the distances even further. Finally, the California border. I stopped once again for fuel, the final time, in Coachella.
This made it the ninth tank fill since Memphis. I had logged 2,144.2 miles at that point and was still 140 miles from home. More Red Bull. Dig deep.
I arrived home several hours early thanks to my inability to get back to sleep in Las Cruces. The fuel log reports that I used 113.506 gallons to get to Coachella from Memphis, which figures out to 18.89 mpg. I also realized that I had consumed 96 ounces of Red Bull and 6.5 ounces of Beef Jerky in the process. I returned as a shell of who I normally am, and it took a few days to return to my old form, both physiologically and emotionally.
Still, I'm glad I made the trip. It got me over my prior dread of long road trips. If I had to do it all over again, I'd make an effort to have a traveling companion. I think having another human to talk to would have made the trip seem much shorter.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 14,800 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Oil Cooler Parts
June 21, 2013
So our Buick Grand National is back in Santa Monica. It's in need of an oil change and its leaky oil cooler assembly is still in the truck, but it's home.
Running the car without the oil cooler isn't an issue, but we'll feel better when the GN is whole again. So we jumped on Gbodyparts.com and ordered up some replacement parts. We ordered a new oil cooler adapter o-ring ($6.00) and new oil cooler lines ($139.95). With ground shipping it added up to $165.98.
As promised we received the parts this past weekend. Installation is imminent. Stay tuned.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 14,907 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Austin to Las Cruces
June 20, 2013
Austin is a party town. It's got a real fun vibe, and you can bounce from place to place all night. We didn't. I started feeling my age and needed to turn in for the night. I was a little slow to get started in the morning, but since I had no plans for the evening, I could afford to take my time. I was also dreading the drive ahead.
Between Austin and Las Cruces, NM was 602 miles of Texas highway. The week before, my girlfriend warned me about that drive (she had driven it twice before). "Whatever you do, don't think," she said, "you'll make yourself crazy."
In my mind, I pictured a barren wasteland of never ending brown and gray. I imagined a sign that said "last chance gas for next 300 miles" and endless straightaways. It was nothing like that.
The scenery from Austin to Interstate 10 was actually quite lovely. The vegetation was much more robust than the hellscape I had pictured. The road even had some nice bends and curves in it. Every now and then I'd have to slow down from highway speeds as I approached a few towns, but it was well worth it since these towns had all sorts of old-world charm. Fredericksburg, in particular, has an idyllic Main Street feel to it, with architecture right out of a Western.
I finally merged onto the Interstate after about 118 miles. Things got decidedly boring at that point, but at least the speed limit was 80 mph. The Grand National got up to speed with surprising ease. With the cruise control set, those miles blew by, but it was still a very long slog.
My mind wandered all over the place. Inevitably, I started deconstructing my life and then I remembered my girlfriend's sage advice. Don't think. I cranked up the volume and drowned out any thoughts. I did wonder why so many drivers weren't taking full advantage of the 80-mpg speed limit, though. I mean, I was passing a LOT of cars.
My answer came as I blasted into the Pecos territory. There was a Highway Patrolman parked in the median. I gave it no thought, since hey, I'm doing the speed limit. In my mirror I saw a plume of dust explode from the rear of his Crown Vic as he barged onto the Interstate. He lit me up and I slowed and signaled my intention to pull off onto the next exit.
I pulled into a gas station lot, rolled down my windows and kept my hands on the wheel. In the mirror I saw him walk up to the Buick and give the trunklid spoiler a friendly tap. This incredibly polite officer let me know that I was clocked doing 87. When I saw him, I was at an indicated 82 mph. Well, that's one way to find out your speedometer is off.
I explained why the registration wasn't under my name, then we started talking about cop cars and stuff. At that point, I figured I wasn't getting a citation. He let me go with a printed warning. In hindsight, I was glad I got pulled over. He was the first person I had talked to in quite a few hours and I was staring to go crazy. At that point, I still had 265 to go.
After I got back on the highway I paced myself against the mile markers. In order to hit the mile markers in 45 seconds, I had to slow down to an indicated 76 mph. Well, that explains why I was passing everyone. The car was rock solid at that prolonged speed, though, and could easily keep pulling past that.
I was once again pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the Grand National was, too. Not a single ache or pain and the AC was blasting cold air without a hiccup. I was starting to get mentally exhausted, though. I was planning on stopping in Fort Hancock, TX to send myself a blank postcard (bonus points if you know why) and maybe visit a bunch of missiles in White Sands, NM.
By the time I neared the New Mexico border, though, I was fried. I needed a beer and a bed. Pronto.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 14,058 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: New Orleans
June 19, 2013
When I rolled into New Orleans, I realized that I had skipped breakfast and lunch, and had been surviving on Nutter Butter Bites and Red Bull. Once I had a moment to relax, my body began shutting down.
My original plan was to drive into the Bywater section to grab some barbecue at The Joint. That was the last place I had a meal when I was in town a year ago, and it made an impression. But in my exhaustion, I realized that I was in no shape to drive and a beer sounded really good at that moment.
Then I received a text from my friend, who was flying out of the city as I was driving in.
"FYI, there's a severe thunderstorm warning in place. Stay inside."
I checked the weather service Web site and the warning also included damaging hail. Oh no. I couldn't get the car to a protected spot, and maybe just driving around looking for one could be worse, I thought. I envisioned golfball-sized hail pelting the Grand National and imagined the call I'd have to make.
Fortunately, no hail materialized, just buckets of rain and an impressive thunder and lightning show.
I decided to get a cab and head into the French Quarter and dine at a fancier restaurant, NOLA, which is Emeril Lagasse's spot. Parking isn't very friendly in the Quarter and I was expecting to partake in the excesses that make New Orleans famous. The city did not disappoint. I rolled myself out of the restaurant after eating everything in sight and cabbed it back to my friend's house.
I slept like the dead.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 12,946 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Memphis to New Orleans
June 18, 2013
I took a redeye flight out of Los Angeles to Atlanta touching down in Memphis around 9:00 a.m. Knowing what lay in front of me, I tried my best to get some sleep on the plane. By the time we made our final approach into Memphis, I got just enough shuteye to get me to New Orleans, some 389 miles away.
Scott left the car in a covered lot just outside of Memphis International. I found the Grand National with absolutely no problems. It had a light coat of dust and grime and a full tank of gas. I set up my iPad on the center console, a-la Tesla Model S, plugged it into the tape adapter and started charging my phone. Then I suction-cupped my camera to the underside of the T-top glass so I could shoot and drive at the same time. A couple of tweets and texts later, I was heading due south on Interstate 55. The finish line for this leg of the road trip is my friend's house in the Milan neighborhood of New Orleans.
As soon as I was on the highway, I was struck by how clean, straight and beautiful I-55 was. The tree-lined interstate seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon and my fellow travelers understood the concept of making way for faster cars. It didn't take long for the drone to take its toll on me, though, as I started to feel some fatigue set in. I pulled off to pick up my typical road trip provisions: Red Bull, beef jerky and Nutter Butter bites. I was back to normal in a matter of minutes.
All was right with the world until I neared Jackson, Mississippi, when the rain started to fall. And the rain intensified the further south I traveled. By the time I hit Wesson, MS, I had slowed to 35 mph and had the hazard lights flashing. If conditions worsened, I was planning on pulling off the highway to wait out the storm, but they never did. In the middle of the downpour, I stopped for 14-plus gallons of gas. That was plenty to get me the rest of the way. With 245 miles on the trip meter, that figured out to 17.28 mpg. Not great, but it was pouring rain.
As the Louisiana border approached, the skies parted and the sun shone through. I didn't think I was overly stressed by the rain, but a wave of relief washed over me as the blue skies took over. The Grand National's wipers work great, by the way. I rolled into New Orleans right around 3:00 p.m. and the Buick performed like a champ.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 12,946 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Hot Rod Power Tour #3
June 17, 2013
Here's a quickie on the fuel economy. For us, the Hot Rod Power Tour lasted from Sunday to Tuesday and covered 821.7 miles from Arlington, TX to Memphis, TN.
Obviously, we only drove about 200 miles a day. And the pace was mild. With the exception of a few smoky burnouts performed for the small town crowds with the homemade "Burnout" signs, the Buick wasn't really working hard.
It was hot, however, and the air conditioning was cranking about half the time. Still, the Grand National drank the 93 octane at an average rate of exactly 20 mpg.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Hot Rod Power Tour #2
June 14, 2013
Our flight landed about 1:00 p.m. Dallas time. We grabbed our bags, picked up the Grand National, which had been stashed for two weeks in the corner of a friend's warehouse, and drove straight to see our friends Richard and Aaron at the Gas Monkey Garage.
OK, truth is we've never met Mr. Rawlings or his helper with the beard, but we're big fans of the show Fast n' Loud (on the Discovery Channel) and rolling through Dallas without stopping by their shop would be like reading Playboy for the articles.
Ain't gonna happen.
Cool place. Ugly neighborhood, but a cool place. We arrived to find a few dozen other Power Tourers with the same idea.
We parked the Grand National next to the Gas Monkey Garage Swag Van and went inside. Not to the shop itself. That's off limits to groupies like us. In fact it's behind an enormous chain link fence topped with razor wire. And it's hard to miss the huge orange and yellow sign that reads, "No Entry, Filming in Progress."
What you do walk into is a store. A store selling Gas Monkey merch. T-shirts. Underwear. Bumper stickers. And mostly T-shirts. The people were nice and Christie, one of the Gas Monkey employees who appear on the show, was hanging around taking pictures with fans.
In the rear of the store there are some large windows that allow you to look into the shop and see some of the cars from the show, including Richard's Shelby Mustang convertible and a couple of '32 Fords. But no Richard and no Beard.
Although the Gas Monkey undies were tempting, we managed to escape without any swag.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Hot Rod Power Tour #1
June 13, 2013
This is Rohan Ellis, a proud member of the US Army, and the very proud owner of this 1987 Grand National.
Rohan is the very first person we met on the Hot Rod Power Tour last week. We pulled into the kick-off party, parked the Edmunds Grand National, which you can see in the background of the photo, and there was Rohan. He immediately recognized the clean condition of our car and was quick to show his enthusiasm for our low-mileage example and turbo Buicks in general.
After a few minutes he started telling us about his Buick, which was parked in another lot. "It's got ghost flames," Rohan told us. "You can only see them from certain angles."
Next thing we know, Rohan is off to get his car and bring it over to show us. The Ghost flames are cool, and the modifications under the hood are serious. This is a hot rod. Rohan says he's making 650-700 horsepower at the wheels on pump gas (93 octane in Texas) with 15 psi of boost. On race gas he said he can turn the wick up to 30 psi and the V6 produces 1,200 hp at the wheels.
Because he's afraid of breaking parts, which can get expensive, he rarely runs the engine at that level, but he admits to shifting the Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission at 9,000 rpm.
We did not challenge him to a race.
It was truly a pleasure talking turbocharged Buicks with Rohan and an honor to shake his hand and thank him for his service to our country and my family.
Godspeed my friend.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 11,895 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Featured in 'Fast & Furious'
June 12, 2013
While perusing some old Edmunds videos, I came across one that just happened to feature the 1987 Buick Grand National in Fast & Furious. That would be the fourth movie. How about that?
Take a peak after the jump.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Ramblings From the Road
June 6, 2013
Right now, Mark Takahashi is driving the third leg of our Grand National road trip. He'll pass through New Orleans, Austin and Las Cruces on his way back to L.A. Of course, he's sharing photos and amusing anecdotes from the road so follow @Mark_Takahashi on Twitter to stay up to date.
My leg of our road trip in the long-term 1987 Buick Grand National may have ended, but that doesn't mean I've stopped thinking about the car.
One thing I'll never forget is its superb driving position.
I know we'll never get to go back to the days of spindly A-pillars and low beltlines, thanks to modern-day expectations for crashworthiness, but just look at this steering wheel. It fits perfectly in my hands at nine and three, and it doesn't need a thick rim to do so. I never got tired of gripping it. And although the wheel doesn't telescope (it has a small range of tilt adjustment), the driver seat itself offers enough power adjustments to put me (a 5-foot, 10-inch adult) in a comfortable position to drive the Grand National.
The visibility from the cockpit is also striking, of course. With the hood as low as it is, you can have a hood scoop and still see beyond it. And with such small pillars, the tiny side mirrors are actually somewhat useful.
Finally, let's talk storage. I'd assumed this would be a problem on our trip, but the Buick met my needs and then some. The center console was large enough to hold our canteens when laid on their side, and at various times, an open bag of cashews.
Meanwhile, the ashtray cover was a secure spot for my iPhone 4S in its jelly case. My spouse's outlandishly large Samsung Galaxy S3 did not fit here, though.
The only convenience I missed having was a cupholder to hold a hot cup of coffee. So I drank less coffee during the trip, which wasn't a bad thing.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,795 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: What's Wrong With Us?
June 4, 2013
Of course I'd like to give the impression that I took great care of our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National during the 1,600 miles I spent with it. But the reality is that I'll probably never be allowed near the car again because of the above scene.
Yep, here we are at Circuit of the Americas (no, this update is not in chronological order and takes place before I got the oil leak repaired). The second race day of the V8 Supercars Austin 400 is over, and our Grand National won't start. With a car this old, you're inclined to imagine all sorts of exotic causes, but in this case, it's plain old driver error: I left the headlights on when I parked the Buick, and six hours later the battery is drained.
This is the only Grand National in the parking lot, though, and a friend spots the car with its hood up. "Need a jump?" he shouts from 400 feet away. Yeah, I need a jump. Good thing we brought our own cables.
The Buick starts pretty quickly, which is good, since I need to drop my husband off at the airport exactly right now. I then drive it around for about 40 minutes in afternoon traffic before stopping for gas. (There's a toll road that runs between Austin and the racetrack, but most people use the farm roads instead. It's a longer trip, but the scenery is pleasant and, most importantly, it's free.)
The Grand National is now doing fine and has started reliably ever since this incident, but Scott assures me I've ruined the battery.
The other driver-induced mishap that occurred during this trip was also electrical in nature. The Grand National has a single cigarette lighter, and during all the hours in the car, my spouse found it difficult to keep our smartphones and our portable Garmin navigation unit at a usable state of charge. Oh, the cigarette lighter will charge your device all right, but a single power source is hardly enough for the modern, tech-addicted couple.
So we purchased this multi-port charger with both 12-volt and USB inputs.
It worked great. For five minutes. Then, we blew fuse #19, which has dominion over the radio, air-conditioner and most of the interior lights. Immediately, the Buick grew quiet, hot and dark.
The owner's manual has a nice diagram of where all the fuses are located.
But access to the panel is poor, as you have to pull up the carpeting in the back of the driver's foot well. We replaced the 20-amp fuse, borrowing from the stash Mark Takahashi had packed. Then, in a nod toward the inevitable, we purchased additional fuses at a truck stop.
Upon hearing this story, a colleague advised me, "You probably shouldn't be doing anything in the Buick that you couldn't do in 1987."
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,795 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for May
June 3, 2013
Road trips always help fuel economy, and the results were pretty dramatic on our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National. Of the 1,779 miles we logged in May, 1,607 of them came during my road trip to Texas. And as soon as we hit the interstate, fuel mileage immediately picked up: The Buick's lifetime average jumped from 15.8 mpg to 16.4 mpg.
Save for my pre-road trip fill-up in Los Angeles (which netted 12.8 mpg), we never saw a tank below 17 mpg on the journey to Texas. Frequent stops to top up the oil precluded a best range run (the number to beat is 281.9 miles), but we set a new high for mpg on a single tank: 21.4 mpg over 230 miles. Sadly, I can't take credit for it, as we'd done a driver change and my spouse was at the wheel for the majority of that tank.
The Grand National received its usual 91 octane for the first four tanks, but as soon as we crossed into Texas, we were able to put in 93 octane. And the Buick should get plenty more of that during its travels back East with Scott Oldham and Mark Takahashi.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,795 miles
Worst Fill MPG: 8.5
Best Fill MPG: 21.4
Average Lifetime MPG: 16.4
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway/Combined): 17 city/25 highway
Best Range: 281.9 miles
Current Odometer: 11,795 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Repaired in Hillsboro, Texas
June 1, 2013
Monday begins early for our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National and me. To clarify, this is not Monday as in last Monday, rather the Monday after the V8 Supercars Austin 400 at Circuit of the Americas. Got it? OK.
We leave Austin at 6:00 a.m. My flight to Los Angeles leaves at 12:40 p.m., and before then, I've got to get the Buick repaired and drop it off at our previously arranged Grand National kennel in Carrollton, Texas.
At this point, we suspect the repairs to the Grand National will be fairly simple: We think it's the oil cooler as a couple of you suggested, and it turns out this is a common malady on Buick Grand Nationals. Still, we don't want to take our GN just anywhere. Fortunately, Editor in Chief Scott Oldham has arranged a visit with a highly regarded Grand National mechanic named Charlie Frierson in Hillsboro, Texas.
His shop is a few miles off the beaten path, however.
I hop on Interstate 35 and drive north for two hours. Just north of Waco, I exit onto state highway 22 and head west, and then, there are quite a few turns, so it's a good thing Charlie provided really specific directions. That said, the Garmin Navi we've been using throughout the trip gets me pretty close to his shop. I pull into his driveway at 8:20 a.m.
Charlie runs a one-man operation, and he's the nicest person I'll meet the whole time I'm in Texas. He's a true car guy: His heart bleeds for the turbocharged V6 Buicks (he fell in love with in the late 1970s, he tells me) and he actually knows how to fix them.
Understanding my ambitious schedule, he goes right to work. Within two minutes, he confirms that a bad oil cooler is causing the leak. The quick fix is to remove the cooler assembly completely. The GN can temporarily get by without it, he says. That said, he certainly advises ordering a replacement oil cooler assembly and having it installed sooner rather than later. We've decided to defer this repair until the Buick is back in California.
Before he can remove the oil cooler, the oil filter obviously has to come off. Charlie is positively horrified (as many of you are, no doubt) that we have a Fram filter on the Grand National. I've already told you I bought that particular filter in New Mexico, but on this morning I don't have the guts to tell Charlie that I've personally committed this act of cruelty. (Of course, I've sent him the link to this update so now he knows I'm responsible. Sorry, Charlie.)
Fortunately, Charlie has a much more deluxe, Napa-branded oil filter in his personal storehouse, and he assures me this is the oil filter of choice in the turbo Buick community. He wants to put it on our GN, but he's concerned he might not have the right kind of oil to top up the Buick afterward. I walk to the trunk and produce the last quart in my stash of 5W30 Valvoline Max Life. Perfect, he tells me.
Once the oil cooler assembly is off the Buick, Charlie points out the disintegrated gasket in the main housing. He thinks the hoses for the cooler probably went bad first, though. They're cracked. Charlie notes that they'd lost their retaining clips and had been free to bang against other under-hood components for who knows how long, so it's no surprise that they're goners.
Charlie completes the job in about an hour. He makes out a receipt for me. The bill comes to $45 for the labor to remove the oil cooler assembly, plus $30 for the new oil filter. No question, it's a very fair price for a badly needed repair.
Before I hit the road, Charlie takes me around to see his two Buick Grand Nationals rustomods. You can read about his progress on the '83 Grand National on the TurboBuick forums. "I'm just about to put the drivetrain in it to set the chassis up the way I want," he says. After he's done with the '83, there's an '82 Grand National waiting for attention.
Now it's time to leave and I'm running on adrenaline, because I never had time to eat breakfast (well, other than the handful of cashews I had in my computer bag) or caffeinate myself. I'm still about 90 minutes from the garage in Carrollton that will board our Buick, and I need to get gas. Can't leave The Boss with an empty tank, right?
The garage turns out to be harder to find than Charlie's shop thanks to construction and general mayhem on I-35E. Scott calls to check on the Buick right as I'm about to take the wrong exit. I make an abrupt lane change to avoid an unwanted detour into Dallas and shout, "I don't know where I'm going!" above the wind roar (there's plenty at 70 mph thanks to those leaky T-tops). "I'll call back later," Scott offers.
I find my drop point in the nick of time, and as I'm handing the key off to the GN's caretaker for the next week and a half, he points out the sizeable puddle of water pooling under the car's air-conditioner (it was already a hot day).
"Eh, small potatoes," I say. "At least it's just water, not oil."
I check the oil before I leave, and the level is holding steady. Good news. It would have been nice if we could have added another half quart after the filter change, so Scott may decide to add some when he takes the wheel.
I'll regale you with a few more stories from this road trip in coming days, but until then, if you're not already following our Editor in Chief Scott Oldham on Twitter, do it now, man. Scott's currently driving our freshly repaired Grand National on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Check out his photos and anecdotes at @RealScottOldham .
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,795 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: We've Arrived in Texas
May 31, 2013
After our extended stop in New Mexico, I can't waste any time getting to Texas. So we get right back on Interstate 10 and cross the state line just in time for rush hour in El Paso. Nice. I guess we'll stop for coffee.
Later, we stop for gas, and I feed the 1987 Buick Grand National about a half quart of oil. And it gets its first taste of 93 octane fuel since we've owned it.
Long after sunset, we arrive at the exit for U.S. 290, which winds through the Texas hill country, passes through Johnson City (yep, LBJ's hometown) and eventually deposits you in Austin. It's a scenic road with some nice turns, but it's full of speed traps and, in my experience, heavily patrolled.
But it's not like we want to outrun the Grand National's 1980s headlights anyway. As I mentioned in a comment, they throw enough light on the road to qualify as adequate by today's standards.
But the beams don't reach far, and I've been spoiled by high-end adaptive HID headlights. Highway 290 empties out at night, though, so we're able to use the high-beams more than we were on I-10.
Meanwhile, the front seats remain shockingly comfy after two days on the road. They don't feel that supportive and, honestly, the seat-bottom cushions feel kind of narrow for 21st-century Americans. And of course, forget about resting your head on the dainty head restraints. Maybe it's the frequent stops we're making, but I never once feel kinked or sore on this trip. These are, apparently, decent seats.
I'm not even going to tell you what time we finally pull into Austin. What I will tell you is that the following day, we make a beeline for Circuit of the Americas to watch the V8 Supercars races. It's the first time this series has come to the United States, and if you like hanging out with Australian car guys, it's the place to be. The four Nissan Altimas on the grid are, of course, rear-drive and V8-powered, but the bodywork was cobbled together from Altimas that were once part of the U.S. press fleet. The Red Bull Holdens will dominate this weekend, but the back-of-the-pack Mercedes-Benz entries catch our attention simply because they sound fantastic coming down the front straightaway.
Before we go to the track, though, I check the Grand National's oil. It's down a whole quart. Good thing I bought plenty.
Driving to Circuit of the Americas in a 1987 Buick Grand National is undeniably cool. Everyone here is apparently a car guy and knows exactly what it is, including the security staff, who are obliged to come by when I linger in a fire lane while taking photos of the car at COTA.
Clearly, though, we need to have the Buick repaired sooner rather than later, because it dumps oil every time I park it. That's my task for Monday morning, because I'll be leaving the GN in Dallas.
Why Dallas? Because our Editor in Chief Scott Oldham will pick up our Grand National this Saturday and take it on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Word has it a whole contingent of GNs will be part of the tour this year.
Naturally, you'll want to follow Scott on Twitter: @RealScottOldham, as he'll be sharing thoughts and pictures from the road. And I'll share details on the repairs to the Buick in my next update.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,563 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Road Trip to Texas, Day 2
May 29, 2013
After enjoying a complimentary hot breakfast at our motel in New Mexico, we're ready to hit the road for Austin, Texas.
But, wait, there's that burning oil smell again. And sure enough, our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National left a puddle of oil in its overnight parking spot. Old cars are liable to leak a bit of oil here and there, but these symptoms are too much to ignore. We pop the hood.
The dipstick is in convenient reach and there's enough space to get your hand in there without burning it on hot engine parts. Of course, the engine's not that hot right now, but we'll appreciate this ease of access later in the trip.
For now, the news isn't good. The Buick is down more than a quart of oil. What to do?
There's an AutoZone just down the street, so that's our first stop. I park the car in the shade around the side of the store, but every employee at the AutoZone is talking about our Grand National within 5 minutes of our arrival.
Initially, I'd only planned to buy enough oil to top up the Buick now, plus a few just-in-case quarters for later. But the more we peer under the hood with a couple of the employees, we collectively decide that oil is leaking from the oil filter. So maybe the filter's bad. That would be an easy fix.
So I buy five quarts of oil, plus an oil filter (OK, it's not deluxe, but at $39.94 before the store's oil + filter discount is applied, it should be decent, right?) and a bottle of zinc additive. There's a quick lube shop up the street.
It's not busy when we pull in, so the staff is able to take care of the Grand National immediately. I'm invited down into the trench to take photos, and sure enough oil has sprayed all over the underside of the car. The techs agree that the oil filter appears to be the source of the hemorrhage and move ahead with the oil and filter change I've requested.
It takes them all of 15 minutes to do the job, and it appears to have solved our problem for just $16.13 in labor. But, wait, no it hasn't, says the tech. The leak has slowed, but the oil's still coming. Closer scrutiny suggests the receiver/adapter to which the filter attaches is the more likely source of the leak. The manager of the shop suggests they could open that part up and try to replace whatever worn gaskets they find, but at this point, we want to talk to someone with a bit more expertise with Buick Grand Nationals.
Sisbarro Chrysler-Chevrolet is as close as we'll get to that in Deming. The parts manager there listens to our story and description of the suspected faulty parts under the hood, and pulls up the original part diagram.
That's it right there. The original part number, he tells us, is 25530999. At this point, we suspect that Numbers 6 and 12 are the bits we'll need to replace (that's just speculation from a couple of armchair mechanics, and we'll learn the real truth later). Not that it matters, because the part has been discontinued, and the parts manager informs us it would be days before this dealer (or a Texas dealership) could source a present-day alternative.
We're on a schedule, though, so waiting around in Deming is not a good option. The Grand National is running fine, just losing oil more quickly that it should. We buy another four quarts of oil, and decide to press on toward Austin. We'll check the oil and top it up at every fuel stop (approximately every 250 miles).
It's not the greatest plan, but our stops are frequent enough that we're able to stay on top of the oil loss, so that the Buick's engine is never in danger of oil starvation. That said, there won't be any detour to Roswell, as we've decided the shortest, fastest, most heavily traveled route to Austin is now the most prudent. This road trip will still be an adventure, just not the kind of adventure we thought it would be.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 11,050 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Road Trip to Texas, Day 1
May 28, 2013
My road trip in our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National starts predictably. I don't even need to tell you I'm leaving late. ("You always leave late," our editor in chief advises me.) This time, though, I had the presence of mind to refuel the night before, mainly because the Grand National doesn't have quite the cruising range of our Porsche 911, which is of course 26 years newer. We've never gone farther than 282 miles on a tank in the GN.
Packing the Buick takes no time at all, because its trunk is huge for a midsize sedan of any era. Mark Takahashi has already loaded a backpack with tools and supplies for fixing the Buick on the fly, and my husband and I add a couple of rollaboard bags, a large messenger bag with my laptop, and an emergency roadside kit with jumper cables. Still, there's room to spare. No wonder GM's midsize cars were so popular with families in the 1980s. Mine had a 1980 Olds Cutlass Cruiser (different chassis code, yes, but same rear-drive, body-on-frame architecture), and I used to sleep in the cargo area, with the luggage, on road trips.
Honestly, I've barely driven our Grand National since we added it to the fleet, and my expectations aren't that high. I know this is one of the best cars to come out of the '80s, and ours has such low mileage. But it's also 26 years old. How good can it be?
For its age, our GN drives shockingly well. The turbocharged, 3.8-liter V6 is old-school in that you have to wait for it to spool (quite a contrast to modern turbocharged engines like BMW's N55, which is practically ready to go off idle), but once it's feeling its oats, it has plenty of punch for passing and it's still quick by today's standards. The biggest thing I have to get used to on the interstate is the four-speed automatic transmission. It's not quick by today's standards. Gear changes feel slow, and of course I'd like another forward ratio or two. Fourth gear is really tall, too: At 70 mph, the engine is hanging out at 2,750 rpm.
I figured I'd hate the steering in our Buick Grand National, but I don't. Effort levels are light, as I thought they'd be, but there's genuine steering feel and a definite sense of what's going on with the front end. Amazing. This atones for the abysmal steering in my mom's '87 Custom Cruiser. Brake pedal feel, on the other hand, is as lousy as I thought it would be.
We log 700 miles on the first day of the trip, and we could easily go a few hundred more. Actually, under the original plan, we would do exactly that and land in Roswell for the night. Instead, we only make it to Deming, New Mexico.
This certainly isn't the Buick's fault: For a body-on-frame car, it has excellent ride quality. I'd expected it to float and crash over various road imperfections, but it's actually quite composed and, most of the time, pretty compliant. The main thing that keeps the GN from being truly relaxing on the highway is the wind noise from the T-tops. I'm sure it's quieter now than it was before Mark's temporary fix, but really, T-tops don't seem like nearly as a good an idea in 2013 as they must have in 1987.
In keeping with the theme of oldness, we stop for dinner at Tucson's El Charro, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. If you stop here, make sure to order the carne seca chimichanga in the elegante style. As we're finishing our meal, the owner of the restaurant comes up to talk. He spotted the Grand National parked on the street and set about tracking down its owners. We learn that he used to race a heavily modified turbocharged Supra and that he regrets not buying a Grand National back when it was new. This is the first of many conversations we'll have with car guys this weekend. Of all the cars I've ever driven, the GN makes friends the fastest.
Sometime in the wee hours, we pull into the Days Inn in Deming and drop $50 on a room. (Nope, no Super 8 this time around, but rest assured that this Days Inn is not high-end. It is quite tidy, though, and it's located a mile off the interstate and is thus much quieter than the more expensive Hampton and Holiday Inns, which are right on top of Interstate 10.)
After a day on the road, all is well with the Buick, but we notice a faint smell of burning oil when driving at low speeds, especially when the A/C is running. We'll take a look under the hood when the sun comes up.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 10,830 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Temporary Fix
May 16, 2013
With our long-term Grand National about to embark on a multi-state road trip, we figured it'd be a good idea to get a better seal on its weatherstripping. We didn't have time to perform a more permanent fix by buying all new rubber seals, so I did my best MacGyver temporary bodge job.
On my Las Vegas road trip, my girlfriend noted that there was a pretty strong whistling coming from the upper rear corner of her window. I figured it was coming from the T-top. When I set out to fix this problem, I used an index card to test the seal. As you can see from the photo above, there was no seal to speak of.
I had an idea of filling in that gap by pushing the rubber closer to the window. I had some expanding urethane foam left over from a previous project and briefly thought of injecting it into the core of the weatherstripping. But that stuff is pretty messy and if it touched the paint or upholstery, it would cause permanent damage.
Instead, I headed to the local pet store and bought some aquarium air hose. I slid a small length between the body and the rubber and it almost did the trick. I built up three sections of tubing and taped them all together with some electrical tape. That gave a good strong seal, at least on the training edge of the glass.
Unfortunately, the top edge posed another problem. There's no useful gap to squeeze some tubing next to the T-top. The gap is pretty small, though, so I cut another section of tubing lengthwise and ran it across and down the corner of the glass edge. It's not all that noticeable, and it can be easily removed and replaced.
I realize these are pretty cheap fixes to the problem, but in the interest of time, they should work out just fine. Hopefully, when we're all done with this epic road trip, we'll order a full set of fresh rubber to get it done right.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 10, 070 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Next Stop? Texas
May 15, 2013
You didn't really think we'd do a long-term road test of a 1987 Buick Grand National without taking it on a real road trip, did you?
What you're looking at here is just the first leg of the trip, which will take us from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas. I have two full days to get there. That won't leave time to detour through Zion or Taos, but it does mean I won't have to take Interstate 10 all the way into Texas. Instead, my spouse and I will overnight in Roswell, New Mexico. I've never been there and I figure that's a strange enough place to take an '87 Grand National that looks like it came out of a time machine.
Once in Austin, we'll take the Buick to the V8 Supercars races this weekend at Circuit of the Americas. Come Monday, I'll drop the Buick in Dallas, where Editor in Chief Scott Oldham will pick it up for the second leg of the trip. Word has it that Leg #2 will see the Grand National reach Tennessee, while Leg #3 could involve a stop in the Big Easy. We'll keep you posted.
Naturally, I'll be tweeting from the road, so you're officially invited to follow @eriches on Twitter. Questions, travel tips and assorted jeers will all be read and no doubt I'll respond to some or all of them.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for April
May 7, 2013
We filled-up our Grand National's gas tank four times over 704 miles during the month of April. Without any additional crazy lead-foot shenanigans, our Buick's lifetime average remained a steady 15.8 mpg.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 9,952 miles
Worst Fill MPG: 8.5
Best Fill MPG: 20.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 15.8
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): N/A
Best Range: 282 miles
Current Odometer: 9,952 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: The Dark Side
May 3, 2013
Yes, it's that time of year again! May the fourth, Star Wars Day. First up, the Buick Grand National Tie Advanced.
Based on the regular old Tie Fighter (not to be confused with a kickboxing Thai fighter), this Tie Advanced employs the unusual blending of land-based vehicles. The bent solar panels are right from the Tie Advanced, but the fuselage is a Regal landspeeder from the planet Byooik.
Commissioned by Lieutenant General Mortars, this abomination was nicknamed the Grand Moff National and never quite caught on. Despite its sinister look, the turbo thruster didn't deliver the kind of acceleration we had expected. Still, there is a select group of collectors that keep prices high on the black market.
Poor General Mortars never lived to see his creation reach cult status, though. He was found asphyxiated in his garage. Famous owners of Grand Moff National include none other than dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. Vader has said he is a fan of the dark-side styling, but found the lack of torque "disturbing."
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 9,850 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Breaking 10,000 Miles
May 3, 2013
When we bought our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National back in August its odometer read just over 5,000 miles. No joke, the car had only been driven 5,000 miles since its birth 25 years earlier.
Well, now its odometer reads 10,000 miles. In the past nine months we've doubled the distance this Grand National has been driven in its lifetime, and the more we drive it the better it seems to run.
Of course, there has been some maintenance along the way, and I thought this was as good a time as any to tally it up.
New tires: $721.65
Oil change: $63.32
Transmission Fluid change: 132.60
Sound system repair: $411.10
New shocks: $370.53
Antenna repair: $51.10
Oil change: $62.00
Heater core replacement: 700.18
New Battery: $140.00
Do the math and that all adds up to $2,791.08, which is more than $.50 a mile, not counting fuel costs. Ouch.
Although the GN has been to Phoenix and Las Vegas recently, the majority of those 5,000 miles has been in Santa Monica traffic. For instance, I drive it to and from work quite a bit, but that round trip adds up to less than 20 miles.
To stack on some distance we've planned a sizable road trip for the Buick. Next month we're going to drive it from Los Angeles to Elvis's hometown of Memphis, TN and back. Please stay tuned. And wish us luck.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 10,005 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Adding Oil
May 1, 2013
It has only been about 1,000 miles since we changed the oil in our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National. But the abundance of that mileage has been short trips in city traffic, which we all know is harder on an engine.
Yesterday I gave the GN a little love. I reset its tire pressures at 35 psi and checked its fluids. Sure enough, its oil level was down a bit. So I topped it off with a half quart of 5W-30.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9.984 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Adam Ferrara Likes It
April 29, 2013
For the record, Adam Ferrara is not allowed to drive my personal cars. Our friendship is just better off if "the wrecker," as he's known on the American version of Top Gear, doesn't drive my cars.
In a weak moment I did once let him sit behind the wheel of my '69 Camaro, but even that made me nervous. It won't happen again.
That said, I don't own our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National. And I knew Adam, an Italian kid from Long Island, would appreciate the car. So when we met up for our regular monthly lunch a couple of weeks ago I threw my friend the keys and braced myself for the worst.
Don't worry, the Buick is still in one piece. Our ride was brief but eventful. First of all, Adam was really into the car. So much so he insisted on driving it home to show his wife Alex (who is also very cool) and the contractor that was there retiling the upstairs bathroom. For about 20 minutes the four of us stood in Adam's driveway talking about the Grand National and the virtues of travertine tile.
Although he's an extremely accomplished stand-up comedian and actor, Adam's Top Gear gig is no stretch, he's a car nut. In fact, we met because he was a frequent Edmunds reader and he had just read my father's book Muscle Car Confidential. Our conversations usually fall back to cars.
As we drove around Santa Monica in the Grand National, it was clear Adam was digging the drive. At first the slack in the Buick's brake pedal (welcome to the 1980s) wasn't to his liking, but he adjusted quickly and began to get into the head of the car. Soon it was all hammer down and turbo boost.
At one point we stopped at a red light and the guy in the next lane began to compliment us on the car. As Adam said thank you, the man's eyes lifted from the Buick's black flanks. When he saw Adam for the first time, it was obvious he recognized my famous friend. What came next was easy to predict. The guy took a deep breath, pointed rudely and yelled, "Top Gear!"
I had to laugh.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9.954 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Mulholland Raceway and The Rock Store
April 18, 2013
I'm always thinking of places to take our 1987 Buick Grand National. I think of the GN as a destination car, not a grocery getter or a daily commuter. I want to take it where it will fit in, and The Rock Store in the Santa Monica Mountains is definitely on that list.
The Rock Store is a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts located north of Malibu, CA that began life as a grocery store and gas station in the 1960s. Now a weekend watering-hole and restaurant, it's home to would-be road-racers and casual cruisers alike. Passion for motoring is what matters most here and that's what makes it a perfect place to take the Buick Grand National for a cruise.
The walls of The Rock Store are more like a museum than a burger joint, lined with photos of riders and regulars from the past. The history here is the reason the Grand National mixes so well with a bunch of motorcycles. The gearheads here know what they're looking at when they admire the GN. They know its history. One admirer even asked if I had seen Black Air.
After fielding a few questions about the Grand National, I headed up the infamous Mulholland Raceway. On the curvy two-mile stretch of mountain road known as The Snake, I expected endless body roll from the Grand National, but the 25-year-old Buick handled flatter than I expected and held its own.
While back roads aren't a perfect match for the Grand National, it doesn't feel like a complete slouch. Focusing on the spooling turbo and the view through the wide-open T-tops is how you enjoy this car. There's no doubt I'll be back here before our time with the GN is up.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 9,357 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: We Brake for Corvettes
April 16, 2013
There's an old joke: If you remember the 1960s you weren't there.
Well, there's a similar joke about New Jersey in the late 1980s: If you remember New Jersey in the late 1980s you're too stupid to have forgotten it all, no doubt including the lyrics to the Bon Jovi anthem "Never Say Goodbye" which was absolutely the final song of your high school prom.
That said, I can tell you with full confidence that I remember every single Buick Grand National in New Jersey in the late 1980s having a license plate frame that read "We Brake for Corvettes." It was a thing. And in the late '80s it was absolutely factual.
It's obviously no longer truthful, however, our long-term 1987 Buick is now at least period correct.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9.494 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fraternal Twin
April 15, 2013
From every angle, you can see the distinct styling similarities between our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National and this Chevy Monte Carlo SS. I spotted the SS on the way home from the office and stopped for a quick comparison. The body lines, windows and headlights are almost exactly the same.
A year ago, if someone asked me to pick the muscle car between these two, I'd have chosen the V8 Monte Carlo SS, thinking it packed a bigger punch than the turbocharged V6 in the Grand National. I would've been wrong.
Spending some time with our 1987 Buick Grand National has given me some great perspective on an era of cars that wasn't characterized by high-performance. The most output you could get from a Chevy Monte Carlo SS in 1987 was 180 horsepower and it was provided by a 5.0-liter V8.
When it was new, our 3.8-liter, turbocharged V6 Grand National was rated at 245 hp. This likely depressed SS owners as they watched the GN's taillights fade in the distance. These cars may look the same, but the execution is miles apart.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 9,280 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Tape-Deck Adapter
April 11, 2013
Editor in Chief Scott Oldham got the gift of 1980s hair rock in the mail a week ago. Specifically, he got cassettes for proper rocking out in our 1987 Buick Grand National. This inspired me to make a trip to Best Buy to get an iPod/Tape-Deck adapter.
The original stereo in the GN is in mint condition (just like the rest of the car) and it's going to stay that way. Minus an expensive/custom stereo install hidden away in the trunk, this $25 adapter should help me do some head-banging of my own when I take the Grand National out for some much needed California sun this weekend.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Hot Rod Power Tour?
April 4, 2013
I need to road trip our Buick Grand National this summer. I need it.
I'm thinking Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. I've always wanted to check it out and road tripping the GN just might be the right excuse. This year it runs from June 1-7 and covers most of the southeast, starting in Arlington, TX and finishing in North Concord, NC.
I'm also considering The Bandit Run, which is really for Screaming Chicken Trans Ams, but all are welcome. This year it leaves Lincoln, NE on July 13 and ends up in Golden, CO a few days later. The problem with this event is that it drifts up to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore and I just did that in our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG.
What do you think? Where should I go? Please tweet me your suggestions at @RealScottOldham.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for March
April 2, 2013
We hit an all-time low for fuel economy in our 1987 Buick Grand National in March. It's not really fair to judge the car on this score because it was only a half-tank fill-up. But with so few fill-ups this month, I didn't want to discount the half tank.
For March we only managed to add 258 miles to our GN's odometer. We averaged 12.4 mpg for the month which dragged our lifetime average down a bit.
Worst Fill MPG: 8.5
Best Fill MPG: 20.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 15.8
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): N/A
Best Range: 281.9 miles
Current Odometer: 9,248 miles
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Hair Bands in the Mail
April 1, 2013
Got a box in the mail yesterday from my pal Sage Marie. Sage is in charge of all Automobile Public Relations at American Honda for both the Honda and Acura brands. He's also a car guy that gets it. He's a winning racer, the owner of a Ferrari F360 (he recently traded up from a 328) and he spends most of his Saturday mornings at the local Cars and Coffee.
Still, I figured it was a press kit for the 2014 Fit and I let the box sit on my desk unopened for hours. I could not have been more wrong.
Sage sent me a stack of old hair band cassettes, including Bon Jovi's New Jersey (I'm from the Garden State.), with a note that reads, "These are for your listening enjoyment as you're cruising along in your Buick Grand National."
Thanks Sage. The Buick's T-tops are out and I'm going to rock my way home tonight. I'll think I'll kick it off with a little Poison.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: American Muscle Car Nostalgia
March 27, 2013
Peggy and Elena are coworkers of mine at Edmunds, and over the years we've developed a birthday tradition of going to the Cafe 50's diner in West Los Angeles for milkshakes. When Elena's birthday came around this year, I couldn't think of a better car in our long-term fleet to take than the 1987 Buick Grand National.
Sure, the GN's from the wrong decade and it doesn't have a big-block V8. But my nostalgia doesn't discriminate and this '80s muscle car looked right at home parked on Historic Route 66 (aka, Santa Monica Boulevard) in front of the themed diner.
Peggy had the Coffee Shake with Oreos, Elena had the Chocolate Elvis, and I opted for the S'more Shake. They all looked pretty much the same but tasted great.
The Cafe has tons of period ambiance and plenty of cool memorabilia on the walls. The Grand National didn't get nearly as much attention as it received at Deus Ex Machina, but in my mind it was just as at home here amongst the rusted license plates, vintage movie posters and classic American fare.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 9,215 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Hipsters Like It
March 21, 2013
Truth is our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National has been sitting around. More than it should. Staff travel schedules have combined with too long a list of new cars to test to shove the GN into the corner.
Even I have turned my back on the Buick, having been seduced by a steady diet of AMG. First I drove our long-term SLS Roadster to Mount Rushmore and back and then I made homes in an SL65 and a C63 Coupe Black Series, which is downright tasty.
Last night, however, I grabbed the key and drove the Buick home. Felt good. Not C63 Black good, but I was quickly reminded why the Grand National is a special car, even if my wife thinks it looks like something driven by an FBI Agent.
And then this morning I took the long way to work and I stopped at Deus Ex Machina, a supercool motorcycle/surf/clothing/coffee shop in Venice that has become a hub for both the local hipster crowd and the café racer motorcycle resurgence. It's one of those places that feels like a movie set, and everyone in there feels like they've written a screenplay. It's a cool joint, even if I'm not really cool enough to hang out there.
The Grand National emptied the place. The hipsters knew what it was. And they loved it. I was shocked, pleased, but also a little dismayed. I sat and drank my flat white watching more than a half dozen screenwriters, all wearing black rim glasses and skinny jeans, admire and compliment the Buick.
Maybe these are my people I thought. Maybe hipsters aren't as big a stain on our society as I think they are. Maybe I should write a screenplay.
I think I'll drive the Buick home again tonight.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9,207 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for February
March 5, 2013
With so many new test cars in and out of our garage during the past month, our 1987 Buick Grand National was a little underutilized.
After the addition of just one tank of gas, the fuel economy averages remain unchanged for February.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 9,038 miles
Worst Fill MPG: 14.0
Best Fill MPG: 20.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 16.1
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): N/A
Best Range: 282 miles
Current Odometer: 8,810 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Childhood Flashbacks
February 22, 2013
Sitting down in our Buick Grand National, I'm immediately reminded of two very distinct experiences: driving my mother's 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88 for the first time and driving my father's 1953 Studebaker Coupe for the first time.
The controls on the GN look and feel like 100 other cars from that era of General Motors. It is a level of boring that is almost evocative. There are no steering wheel controls, only four presets and the most basic 'digital' display ever conceived. This thing feels old, but the rumble under the bonnet tells me to expect different.
It's my first time driving our Grand National and the same fear inhabits me as it did with my dad's Studebaker Coupe. After 15 years of tearing it apart, painting it pink (calling it salmon), building the motor and suspension and repainting the car a gorgeous orange, my father finally finished his Studebaker. I got to take it for a lap around the roof of the parking garage.
After about 10 minutes of driving our GN, I'm feeling very American. I'm hanging an arm out the window and hoping for red lights on every street corner. Getting seen in this car is almost as important as driving it. I decide that it's required of me to go for a burger. I don't dare eat it in the car so I hit up the drive-thru at In-N-Out.
Fearing that I'll get a fry or a piece of my Double-Double somewhere between the mint condition seats and not be able to locate it, I park on the roof of a local structure and let the GN cool as I eat. I've decided that driving the Grand National feels more like a time machine than an automobile.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 8,996 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Nice Cabin Materials By Modern Standards
February 19, 2013
Today, if you want a car's cabin to seem high-end, it's basically automatic that you must slather the dash in some sort of squishy, soft-touch material. If you want to go that extra mile, cover it in a vinyl that looks like leather to evoke a Bentley or some other top-dollar car. To top it all off, stitch that vinyl.
Guess what? All of that applies to the 1987 Buick Grand National. The dash is squishy, it's covered in a reasonably nice vinyl and then stitched. Plus, it has something that very few cars have nowadays: actual metal.
Of course, the air vent plastic is brittle and both the turn signal stalk and shifter move with the fluidity of a dislocated shoulder. So you win some and you lose some. In the end, though, the Buick Grand National isn't as antiquated as you might think.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,025 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: The Battery Died
February 15, 2013
"What's that?" Mark Takahashi asked, pointing at a receipt taped to the Buick Grand National's right-side warning light cluster. It looked like a fuel receipt or something. We both looked at it briefly, but more like a pair of baboons would, because neither of us actually read what it said.
Flash forward 25 minutes and we're outside Pep Boys following a purchase of items for an upcoming video. Mark tries to turn on the Buick to no avail. Unlike my turn with the SLS, it's quite obvious the battery's caput. We look at that receipt again: it was from a repair shop warning us that we needed a new battery. I picked up a banana and threw it at Mark.
Thankfully, however, as we were next to a Pep Boys, this was not a problem. We picked up a new battery for about $140 and bought a cheap socket wrench set because we weren't quite fortunate enough to have one on board. After a mere 7 minutes and 45 seconds, Mark had swapped out the new battery while I exchanged the old one.
So here's an Edmunds.com Top Tip: when your battery dies, make sure you're parked next to Pep Boys. Reading comprehension is also recommended.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,030 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Back on the Road for $762.18
February 13, 2013
Thanks again to Morgan's Auto Service in Santa Monica, CA, our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National is back on the road.
Greg Morgan and his team replaced our leaking heater core, which turned out to be a bit more complicated then we all originally thought. Turns out the Grand National uses a specific heater core that's different than one used in a run-of-the-mill Regal.
And, once we finally got the right part ($196.88), which of course cost more than the Regal unit, Greg's team went to the extra effort of reusing the original Harrison "brand" top and bottom portions of the original heater core. They removed them from the leaking core and soldered them onto a new brass American-made core so the car doesn't appear to have been molested. Nice touch guys.
Because we had driven the Buick 4,000 miles since its last oil change, we also asked Morgan's to change the oil and filter and give the car a thorough check.
They used 15W-40 conventional oil and added a bottle of Justice Bros. zinc additive to the oil to protect the GN's flat tappet camshaft. They also told us the battery needs replacing and there's a small leak coming from the radiator.
Stubborn and cheap as we are, we said we would deal with that stuff down the road and we settled the bill, which totaled $762.18, including $411.75 for labor.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: GNX Video from 1987
February 8, 2013
In 1987, the Buick Grand National was essentially the quickest car around. But there's always room for more. So Buick took it up a notch with the GNX. Only 547 were built, none with T-tops.
If you had the money to own one, you owned the street. Check out this 1987 local news video of the GNX construction process and what things were like in Detroit and the auto industry 26 years ago. Even Jim Wangers, the father of the Pontiac GTO, is interviewed and was surprisingly down on the GNX program.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9,005 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Heater Core is Leaking
February 6, 2013
Our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National is sick. And it has been bed ridden for a week.
Last Friday I drove the GN about 45 miles east to Pomona to check out the Grand National Roadster Show. It was raining. All was well.
That night, however, on the return trip home, it quickly became obvious that the Buick wasn't right. I could smell coolant inside the car when the air conditioning was running, and the defogger would not work. I drove home looking through a fogged up windshield with a severe headache from the coolant fumes. I would occasionally put the windows down for some fresh air, but it was raining quite hard and soaking the Buick's pristine interior just felt wrong.
Obviously, the Buick's heater core is leaking. The parts are ordered and we plan to get it fixed this week.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
1987 Buick Grand National: The Impostor
February 5, 2013
All of you naysayers were right. We editors just couldn't keep our long-term 1987 Buick Grand National in good condition. Despite Takahashi's extensive detailing efforts, what you see above is how our car looks just after a few days in my care. "Care" being a term open to interpretation.
Okay, that's a lie. I found this car near our office, and was struck by the contrast to our GN. Who would let one get this bad? But a second glance revealed that it was not what it seemed. This car is a wannabe, a clone, an...impostor.
There are a number of cues proving this is not a true GN, but it was the seats that first tipped me off. No swirly logo in the headrests. That, and there's only one real-deal GN on Earth that's anywhere near this level of crummy condition, and it resides at a makeshift restaurant called Captain Bob's Chowder House on Redemption Rock Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. If you've been there at any point in the past twenty-five years, you've seen it.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Fuel Economy Update for January
February 4, 2013
Our 1987 Buick Grand National is a fuel-thirsty beast. No surprise for a car of its era, and intentions.
The Grand National managed to earn 20.6 mpg from its best tank of fuel so far, and a lowly 14 mpg from its worst tank, resulting in an average of 16.1 mpg over the life of our test.
Automotive Editor Mark Takahashi was behind the wheel for the Grand National's best tank. Read more about his recent trip to Las Vegas here.
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 8,810 miles
Worst Fill MPG: 14.0
Best Fill MPG: 20.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 16.1
EPA MPG Rating (City/Highway Combined): N/A
Best Range: 282 miles
Current Odometer: 8,810 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 3
January 30, 2013
It was a whirlwind trip on a number of levels. I intended to leave Las Vegas at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning so I could meet up with Riswick, new staff writer Mark Holthoff and blast-from-the-past editor, Josh Sadlier for a round of golf in Malibu. When the clock struck 3:00 a.m. I realized I wasn't going to make my tee time and kept going. Considering the latest developments, I was quite all right with this.
We took our time leaving Las Vegas, checking out at 10:45 a.m. and hitting the road for L.A. around noon. There were a couple of pockets of traffic, but for the most part the Grand National handled the intrusion well. At one point the engine did die, causing a very brief moment of dread, but it fired right back up.
The fatigue I felt from the drive up was amplified by the revelry from the night before. It felt like my body was wrecked before we even hit Barstow. It seems that this Buick from 1987 was in better shape than I.
On the return trip to L.A., I managed to get 20.6 mpg, which represents the best tank of the trip. The worst tank was the first, from L.A. to Barstow, which registered a lowly 14.1 mpg. The average came to 17.6 mpg over the 600-mile road trip.
After all was done, I was glad for the experience and gained yet another deathbed memory. After we unload the Grand National after its Edmunds tour of duty is up, I think I'll have fond memories of this car.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,805 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 2
January 29, 2013
The road-trip conversations inevitably drifted from obscure music and movie quotes to more serious matters. Right around 245 miles into our journey, we both came to a very poignant conclusion.
We decided that we didn't want to keep dating other people. My relationship status changed a few miles before I shot this picture.
We weren't that far out of Las Vegas. We pulled onto the strip just as the sun went down around 6:00, and that's when I started working. I broke out the camera equipment and setup my signature night shot out the windshield. It was especially easy to rig the suction cup mount to the glass T-top.
In all honesty, we were growing tired of the Grand National at this point. The seats aren't very supportive and the ride is on the bouncy side. We also couldn't find any kind of a recirculation button or lever for the air conditioning to keep from inhaling the fumes coming off of a big rig's brakes. She was a real trooper, only complaining that the seatbelt was crossing her ummmm...chest in an uncomfortable fashion.
I'd probably pick a more modern and luxurious car for road-tripping duties, but our old Grand National certainly has an appeal all its own. Compliments were given from complete strangers, with one telling me, "You're rollin down the strip like a straight-up gangsta!" I think that's a compliment, right? Big Black also turned plenty of heads as we cruised our way to the Venetian. Apparently, it's big with European tourists.
The accommodations at the Venetian were exquisite and we dined like Henry VIII at Carnevino in the Palazzo Tower. I highly recommend the dry-aged rib eye and egg ravioli. Sorry, but photos and details of the next 12 hours are ummmm…not available.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,517 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Las Vegas Road Trip, Part 1
January 28, 2013
It was a three day weekend. Actually, it was an uncharacteristic four-day weekend, as I decided to take Friday off, too. On Saturday morning an opportunity to spend a night in Las Vegas presented itself to me, but as much as I like Vegas, I was initially hit with a strange twinge in my gut.
Basically, I didn't want to go to Las Vegas alone. I can't think of anything as sad as spending a night in Sin City by myself. I went ahead and took the offer, thinking, "What's the worst that can happen?" Images of me waking up in a tub of ice and missing a kidney popped into my head.
Then I started texting a girl I was interested in. The thing is, we had only been on two dates so far. Granted, the dates went exceptionally well. "Fortune favors the bold," I told myself.
She responded 90 minutes later with, "Vegas? Tonight? What time did you need to leave? I've never been to Vegas." The fact that she was even entertaining this idea started to make her stock climb. Scheduling intervened, however, and we decided to head out on Sunday afternoon instead.
I hopped online, got a reservation at the Venetian. Scored a great deal on a sweet suite with two queen beds (I didn't want to be presumptuous) and then headed into Edmunds HQ to pick up the Grand National. I figured four hours in a car together should either make or break this endeavor.
We ended up leaving CasaHashi at 12:35 pm.
She was strangely familiar with the Grand National. As it turned out, she once owned an 80s-era Buick. Cool chick factor: climbing. We plugged the tape adapter into our iDevices and realized that we had similar tastes in music. Still climbing.
The stereo setup really doesn't sound too bad in the Grand National. You can really hear the tape adapter spinning in the player, so we just turned up the tunes louder. That also helped to drown out the numerous creaks coming from the interior. Seriously, I think there's a ping pong ball in a red Solo cup stuck in the driver's door.
At one point, I started hearing a weird humming coming from the back. It sounded like something was wrong with the car. Panic. It turned out, it was a rear speaker making some odd noises. Whew.
As we got up to highway speed, she noted that the weather-stripping around her door was whistling pretty noticeably. We just turned the stereo volume up higher.
Somewhere around Victorville on the 15 Freeway, the gas gauge was hovering between half and a quarter full. I wasn't sure how much range we had, so I stopped in Barstow at 2:50 pm. The time we spent in the car flew by. Still climbing.
11 gallons of premium fuel later, I pointed the Buick north.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,361 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: What's Different?
January 25, 2013
Photo by carguychronicles.com
While recently watching "Black Air", the documentary movie about the Grand National, I noticed something different about the last Grand National ever produced. It was a fleeting and somewhat blurry image of the front of the car, so I went back and froze the video to get a better look. Yep, seems those guys at the factory added a little something extra to mark the last Grand National to roll off the assembly line.
I then did the obligatory internet search and came across this photograph by carguychronicles.com that puts it into plain sight. Can any of you Grand National fans pick it out?
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor
1987 Buick Grand National: Great Visibility
January 21, 2013
I hear a lot of complaints from modern car owners about how thick A-pillars have gotten. Before crash tests got so restrictive, rollover protection and roof strength tests were alien to U.S. cars in the 1980s. Just take a look at how thin the pillar is on our Grand National. There's no need to bob your head back and forth to see through turns. The same held true for our departed 1985 Porsche 911.
I remember seeing concept sketches in design school where someone used a thick trellis-type A-pillar that had the windshield overlapping it. I thought it was brilliant because it allowed the driver to pretty much see right through. I so wish that concept had survived into production somewhere, but I suppose the big issue today would be where to place a side curtain airbag assembly. Someday, perhaps?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,198 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Adding Oil
January 18, 2013
Between detailing duties, antenna repairs and my usual duties, I finally managed to fulfill a request to check the Grand National's oil. The requestor said that the last time he checked, it was about a half quart low, so it didn't register as an urgent issue.
I took it out for a short drive to get the engine up to temperature and checked the oil as I topped off the fuel. Sure enough, it was down by half a quart. I poured in some Valvoline Max Life High Mileage 5W-30, which is the same stuff that our mechanic has been using.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,192 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Learning to Detail, Part Three
January 16, 2013
In the last installment of my detailing day at Meguiar's, we just finished the cleaning part of the procedure which included using clay bars and a liquid compound. This pretty much eliminated those offending swirl marks, but we weren't done yet.
The next step, polishing, is actually optional. It adds a deeper glossier finish, but depending on how much time and effort you want to commit to the project, it's one that can be skipped. We swapped off the heads of our dual-action polishers and loaded them up with Meguiar's Ultimate Polish. We selected a slower speed setting on the polishers and also lightened up on the pressure.
The key here was to keep in mind that we're just transferring the polish from the bottle to the paint. We're not trying to press the stuff deep into the surface. We were left with a very thin film that wiped away easily with, you guessed it, microfiber towels.
The next step, waxing and protection, is mandatory, as it'll ensure that all the hard work up to this point won't be wasted. Because our Grand National is mostly garaged and not exposed to harsh environments, I opted for their Gold Class Carnauba liquid wax. The Mikes said it would impart a deeper luster to the black paint and was only marginally less effective at long-term protection. The application process was identical to the polishing.
Through the whole process, we used the polishers to tackle the big areas and used the foam applicator pads for the smaller sections, like door handle pockets.
In the end, the Grand National looked absolutely stunning. Seriously, I couldn't stop looking at it even if Amber Heard showed up and started juggling flaming chainsaws next to it.
I learned quite a bit about detailing from the Mikes that day, and here are some of the important nuggets of wisdom that I'll pass on to you:
Read the directions and follow them.
Buy a lot of microfiber towels.
Only wash microfiber towels with other microfiber towels. DO not toss them in with cotton.
Don't use too much product. You're only wasting it and making it harder to remove later.
A lot of car care products are equally effective. Proper technique is the key.
There's nothing wrong with "all-in-one" products. Using a wash/cleaner/polish in a bottle could be a good thing to use between more serious detail jobs like this.
If you use a good dual-action polisher, it'll save a TON of time and it's virtually impossible to screw up the paint unless you drop it on the car.
There are more, for sure, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here (it actually works for this long-term car) or find me on twitter (@mark_takahashi)
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,105 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Learning to Detail, Part Two
January 15, 2013
If you're new to this detailing series, head on back to part one to catch up, I'll wait.
Great! You're back and you know that we're doing a pretty decent detail and we have a lot of time on our hands to do it. Now on to part two: after the wash, cleaning.
Mike Pennington and Mike Stoops from Meguiar's and I determined the next course of action: clay bar. I'm an old dude and clay bars are still fairly new to me. I always thought of them as something to use when you really want a good detail and have a lot of time. I was wrong, and I've been doing it wrong.
The Mikes taught me to flatten the clay bar into something resembling a small pancake — you don't need a big brick of the stuff. Use plenty of whatever spray that comes with the clay bar to lubricate it over the paint surface. Use light pressure and just wipe that clay pancake all over the paint (that's Mike Stoops demonstrating it above).
Check it to see what kind of contaminants are coming off the surface and knead the clay a bit to give yourself another clean piece. Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth (seriously folks, buy these things in bulk) and you're left with a glassy-smooth surface.
This took no time at all and very little effort. If you're tired or your arms are sore, you're using way too much effort. The wash cleaned off surface contaminants. The clay bar cleans off what they called "attached" contaminants; the stuff that has embedded into the paint.
Now for the liquid part of the cleaning. We used Meguiar's Ultimate Compound for this step. You can use the foam applicator pad or, as we did, a dual-action polisher. DO NOT USE A PROFESSIONAL ROTARY POLISHER, you will likely damage the paint. We applied the compound in an "X" to the foam polishing pad and set the polisher to a higher speed setting. With moderate pressure, you press into the paint and move it in smooth overlapping strokes in areas that are about two-feet-square.
It was surprising to me how little compound was needed to clean the entire car. You don't even need to load up the pad with compound with every new section; only when it needs it. You should be left with a thin film, not a caked-on mess or even a white hazy veil. Less is more, here. Wiping it off (microfiber again!) is another art.
Fold the towel in quarters. The initial wipe "breaks" the surface of the wax. You should get about 75% of the wax off with this wipe. Flip the towel over to the clean side and wipe the remaining compound off. It's way easier if you don't use too much product, and just like the clay bar, effort should be light.
We kept evaluating the surface with the xenon light to see if it required another pass or two with the polisher. The results were stunning, as you can see in the test area shown below.
That concludes the cleaning portion. Next up: polishing. Look for Part Three shortly.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,105 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Learning to Detail, Part One
January 14, 2013
I woke up early one morning and staggered to my backyard to wash our Grand National. The sun wasn't up yet (then again, neither was I) and I could see my breath in the cold air. Oddly enough, I still wasn't miserable. There's some strange gratification I get from hand washing a car. As someone who once had aspirations of being a car designer, the washing process often gives me a peek into designer's thought process; as if I'm getting a feel for the car when it was still made of clay.
But this was just the beginning of the day for me and the Buick…
I headed south into Orange County, headed for Meguiar's HQ in Irvine. Yes, that Meguiar's; you know, Barry, Car Crazy, car care products. I was going to get a lesson in detailing cars from the Meguiar's experts: Mike Pennington and Mike Stoops.
Step one was done in my yard; a wash with real car wash products, a clean mitt and a gentle drying. Once at the Meguiar's shop, the Mikes started my education. The wash removes surface contaminants. That makes sense, right? But the miles between CasaHashi and Irvine probably deposited a fine layer of dirt and grime, so we wiped down the cool surfaces (keep it out of the sun, people) with clean microfiber towels and a quick detailing spray.
Now we had a clean surface to work on, but next was an all-important evaluation.
When you set out to detail a car, you have a lot of variables to consider.
What is the condition of the car? Our Grand National was suffering from a lot of swirl marks; likely caused by our weekly car wash (they don't use microfiber towels). It's not easy to illustrate swirl marks in paint, but the picture below is a pretty clear indication of the paint, and those swirls were everywhere. Using harsh sunlight is a good way to evaluate the surface, but we used some bright handheld xenon flashlights to bring out the flaws.
What are your goals? That's easy, let's get rid of the swirls. But we also had to maintain the "character" of the Grand National's crappy orange peel factory paint.
How much time do you have? I planned on begin at Meguiar's all day.
What is your skill level? I'm a novice, at best, but I'm with pros and I'm here to learn. I'm also here to pass this info on to you.
Your answers to the above questions may vary. Fortunately, there are a lot of options that change with the amount of time required, effort involved and ability of the detailer. Of course, the easy and quick route won't give you concours results, but maybe you just want your car to look good, right? Me? I wanted the Buick to look badass.
Look for Part Two shortly.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,105 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Detail Oriented
January 10, 2013
I love black cars. But as most people know, black cars require a bit more care when it comes to maintaining the paint. A few weeks ago, I was approached by someone representing Meguiar's car care products to see if there was something they could do for us. Well, yes...yes there is.
Even though the Grand National gets a hand wash every time, there are plenty of swirl marks from the dry off. And this offense shall not stand.
So I'm heading down to Meguiar's in Irvine, CA to get the full treatment. But I'm not just dropping it off to go shopping or surfing. No, I'll be right in there working on the car. They're going to tech me everything I need to know about the latest detailing products and procedures. Good thing, too, because my skills are at least 20 years old.
But there are concerns I voiced prior to agreeing to this. You see, Grand Nationals are notorious for having bad paint jobs. Not only is the paint delicate, but the orange peel (pictured above) on the surface is pretty prominent. Some call it personality, I call it a flaw. In any case, I made sure to tell them that the orange peel must remain.
There's a story that some guy decided to eliminate the carbon fiber weave pattern under the paint of a Ferrari F50. He ended up with a perfectly smooth red surface, but inadvertently stripped the car of $100,000 worth of resale value. I know the Buick is no Ferrari, but original is original, and I'm in no mood to hear it from Grand National purists.
Look for details shortly.
Mark Takahashi @ 8,000 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Fixing the Antenna
January 9, 2013
The replacement nylon antenna cable and the instruction booklet showed up at Edmunds HQ last week, so it was time to get down to some repairs. I've noted before that electricity and I aren't friends, but I figured there wouldn't be too much in that arena that would keep me from completing the task. But there was plenty other stuff that got in the way.
The instruction booklet from GBodyParts.com was very detailed, with 27 steps and 40 pictures to guide me through the process (more if you have a GNX). My first read through the pages terrified me. At one point, I would need to unbolt a good part of the front fender and pry it away from the rest of the car to get the antenna assembly out.
The instructions noted to be careful not to bend the panel back too far or you'll end up putting a crease in it. So the possibility of turning this minor repair into a major screw up exists. Great. Add that to the boss telling me that I better not "mess" up his car, and the pressure was on.
I followed the instructions to a T. I disconnected the wiring to the antenna motor and attached a long wire so I could fish it back through the engine bay. Then I took to unbolting the front quarter panel after taping up any possible areas that might get scratched by the socket wrenches.
Then there was the dreaded "pull the panel away from the rest of the car," bit. I knew this would be the hard part, so I moved slowly and deliberately. I could see the assembly inside, but I couldn't quite get enough of a gap to pull the motor out. I tried and tried to no avail. Out of frustration, I walked outside for a break and started texting the bossman.
"I don't think I can fix it," I tapped into my phone, "I'm afraid I might…"
It was that last part that stopped me before I hit "send." Afraid? C'mon, man-up. I deleted the message and stormed back inside. I pulled the panel a little more than I was comfortable with, then reached in and yanked that sucker right out. There was much celebration and taunting of inanimate objects.
Wait a minute, this antenna assembly doesn't look like the metal one in the pictures. It was a replacement unit made from plastic. Turns out, I wasn't the first to fix this problem. That changed things a bit. I was prepared to drill out some rivets, but instead, I just had to pop some clips, unscrew a few bolts and pry the thing open.
I fished out the old broken nylon cable, cursing its very existence. Then I fed the new one in and wrapped it around the spool. After the whole thing was back together, I gave it a quick test. Success!
Putting the car back together was much easier than I expected. I made sure to line the bolts up with the old witness marks so that the fender would fit the way it should. The instructions noted that this could be very frustrating, but I had no problems. We now have a working power antenna again and there wasn't a single scratch on the car.
In the end, the part and instructions set us back $51.10. Our local stereo shop quoted $185, but their estimates seem to be pretty optimistic compared to the final bill. In the worst case scenario, I saved us $130 or so, and the whole thing took about four hours. When it happens again (and it probably will), I'm confident I could get it done in one hour.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 8,017 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: It Can Haul Other Stuff Too
January 7, 2013
You didn't think we bought our Grand National just to do cruise '80s nights and do burnouts did you? Well, yeah, we did, but that doesn't mean it's useless when you want to pick up some groceries.
Just look at the size of that trunk, it's huge in the way that only GM cars of the mid-'80s can be. There's no need to wedge things in, they just fit. Of course, we've never really tried to put anything sizable in there so as not to scuff that lovely carpet. You might note the T-top covers there on the floor. Those have been used and they work great.
Also note the original spare tire. It's labeled for temporary use only, something we could have discerned just by looking at it. Would you go farther than a few miles on that thing?
Trunk full or not, the GN is driving quite nicely these days. Took it home in traffic and it was supremely comfortable. No errant noises or squeaks to speak of and a ride that is shockingly precise for a car of its age and lineage.
Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor @ 7,945 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Stuck in the Middle
January 4, 2013
As noted in the last Grand National post I put out there, the power antenna has been stuck at half mast. After consulting with Scott Oldham, we decided on a plan of attack.
Since the antenna motor sounds like it's trying to retract, that means it still works. The likely problem is a flimsy nylon cable that runs up the mast. According to many sources, these cables snap quite often.
I found a replacement cable from GbodyParts.com for the very reasonable price of $34.95 and promptly ordered it. It should be in this week, so I'll attempt to get at this project soon.
Until then, there's no radio. When I last went to drive the Grand National, the battery was almost dead. It turns out the antenna motor must've been trying to retract for a while. A quick jump from another vehicle got it back to form, but I had to pull the fuse for the radio to keep this from happening again.
Look for my attempt in a week or so.
Mark Takahashi @ 7,900 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Watch Black Air
January 1, 2013
Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary is not The Godfather. Or Scarface. Or Smokey and the Bandit. It's no cinematic masterpiece.
Watch it anyway. Buy it and watch it. You'll love it. I did. I watched it on Christmas Eve with my father. And when the film was over we didn't say a word, we just walked outside and went for a ride in our long-term Grand National.
Black Air is a documentary about the origin, development, and the lasting legacy of the Grand National, Regal T-Type and GNX that Buick produced between 1982 and 1987. It includes telling interviews with the people that designed, engineered and assembled the cars, the journalists that tested those cars 25 years ago and the man that bought and still owns the very last Buick Grand National ever produced.
Black Air was released to the public on December 11, 2012, 25 years to the day that that last black turbo GN was built at GM's Pontiac, MI production plant. And there are moments when the film feels like it was written, produced and directed by one man on a very small budget, which of course it was. Andrew Filippone Jr. is that man, but his passion for these turbo Regals is wonderfully captured in his film, which he spent four years creating.
For me, the best part of Filippone's 70-minute creation is the old images. He got his hands on 25-year-old video footage of that last GN going down the assembly line and photos of the 547 GNs being converted to GNXs at the ASC/McLaren facility in Livonia, MI. Very cool stuff. And stuff I've personally never seen before.
I also really enjoyed the presentation by Ronald Yuille, who was a powertrain engineer on the Grand National project back in the 1980s. It's part of the bonus footage on the DVD, and it's filled with behind the scene stories never heard before about the development of Grand National, including a drag race at the GM proving grounds between an intercooled GN prototype and a 5.0-liter Corvette prototype. The Buick beat up on the Vette so badly that the embarrassed Corvette engineers canceled plans for the smaller-engined two-seater.
Another gem is about another drag race. This time on the street between the Chief Buick Engineer Don Runkle and an old big-block powered Buick LeSabre. Runkle was driving a 1984 GN and got spanked. The next morning he ordered his engineers to build the quickest car sold in America. The result was the intercooled 1986 GN. By the way, after all that Runkle went onto Chevrolet and was the driving force behind the 1990 Corvette ZR-1.
Trust me, Black Air is worth the $20. Visit www.gnmovie.com and order yourself a copy.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 8,007 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Do I Still Love It?
December 27, 2012
We've been driving and writing about our 1987 Buick Grand National for exactly three months and in that time we've driven it exactly 3,000 miles.
Get the calculator out. Ok, carry the two. Hit equal.
At this pace, we'll drive the Buick 12,000 miles during our planned 12-month test. In other words, it's falling on the same use pace as our previous long-term old cars, including the 1984 Ferrari 308 and our recently departed 1985 Porsche 911.
The problem is that it feels like we're already getting bored with the Buick. Everyone on staff claims enthusiasm for the car and those that have driven it return with a smile and an apparent desire to do it again. But they don't. The number of staffers grabbing for the GN's keys is down to just a few.
Buying it was my idea and I definitely drive it the most, along with Mark Takahashi, but even I'm losing my enthusiasm for the black Buick and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out why.
Part of me says it's just too normal. You fire it up, adjust the air conditioning, put it in drive and go. No muss, no fuss. Another part of me says it's just not fast enough, but that argument is lame since it would smoke the Ferrari and 911 in a drag race, and those cars held my interest longer. Maybe it's the mild performance combined with its lack of sound. The 308 and the 911 were slow, but they sounded sweet. They also had manual transmissions.
Bottom line is that driving the Buick doesn't feel like the event I thought it would. It's fun and I'm still enjoying it on many levels, but it isn't making runs to the grocery store feel like special moments in my life.
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe if I fix the annoying T-top rattle I'll fall back in love with the Grand National. Maybe I need more time to bond with the car.
All I know is that right now our relationship is on the rocks and I'm cheating on it with several other cars.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 7,904 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Left Hanging
December 25, 2012
So our long-term Grand National is showing yet another sign of its age. The power antenna is stuck in the half erect position (snicker, snicker).
I tried to turn it on and get it...ummmmm...up, but it just wasn't feeling it.
I swear, this is the first time this ever happened. Maybe it's the cold weather.
The good news is that the radio works fine. But with the antenna stuck out there for more than four hours, we're going to be seeking professional help.
I took a look under the hood, but the mechanism appears to only be accessible through the wheel well. I am currently looking into treatment options.
Oh, and I REALLY hope the comment function is working now!
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 7,850 miles