1987 Buick Regal Grand National Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology
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: 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: 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: 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: 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
1987 Buick Grand National: Cars and Coffee and Vipers, Oh My!
December 18, 2012
I recently took our Buick Grand National down to the weekly Cars and Coffee event in Irvine, CA. It's a bit of a commitment to make it down there, since cars usually start lining up just before 6am. That meant I had to leave my place by 4:30am. Ugh.
But that's all fine by me, really. I like informal events like these. The real reason some of my Edmunds cohorts and I made the trek was to show off the next Dodge Viper. And it was this bright yellow Viper that stole the show. We also brought down our new Edmunds Nissan NV as a support vehicle. We all managed to chat up some of our readers and hopefully gain a few more followers.
The Grand National was a champ throughout. The drive through the thick morning fog was a bit dicey, but in general, it has good highway manners. The seams on the 405 freeway were soaked up with ease by the high-sidewall tires and compliant suspension. Those fabric seats are also quite comfortable for long stretches, even though they have zero lateral support (hey, whaddya expect? It's a straight-line car).
I was really most pleased with the repaired stereo. I plugged in a tape adapter and piped in music from my iSomething. The music and my horrible singing managed to drown out the many creaks and squeaks that the car emits. If it weren't for needlessly logging precious miles on the odometer, I could see myself taking this on my next road trip.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 7,680 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: The Regal Rocks Again
November 28, 2012
After way too much time of cruising without clear tunes, we had the Buick's buzzy audio system fixed. We used the folks over at Santa Monica Car Sound, as we were happy with the radio restoration they performed on our Acura NSX long-termer.
As we similarly wanted to keep the Regal's stock system, they troubleshot it (bad output and blown rear speakers) and performed the required repairs, which included installing the Pioneer coaxial speakers seen here. The total for the job was $411. Not cheap, but now we can enjoy the most that the Buick's "Concert Sound" system has to offer, which includes cranking out what should be the Grand National's theme song.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor
1987 Buick Regal Grand National: Quiet(ed) Riot
November 20, 2012
After lamenting about how the G.N.'s audio system can't do our Def Leppard, Van Halen, Cars and Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes any justice due to its one-sided output, we're getting it fixed. Kinda hard to fully enjoy the Car's "Moving in Stereo" when the sound can't properly swirl around the speakers as the boys intended. As you can see the head unit is out; we'll let you know how the operation went.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 7,522 miles
1987 Buick Grand National: Big City Nights
November 14, 2012
I finally remembered to bring my tape collection with me when I left last night in our Grand National. It's amazing how period-correct music can enhance the classic car experience.
My choice: Scorpions - World Wide Live.
Sure, George Thorogood may make sense to some of you (Bad to the Bone was used in the Grand National commercial), but for some reason, the Scorpions made perfect sense to me. You see, in 1987, there were three radio stations that I would rock out to in Los Angeles. Only one, 95.5 KLOS, survives. The other two were 94.7 KMET (the Mighty Met!), and 105.5 KNAC. KNAC has gone to the web, by the way.
KLOS and KMET both had more of a classic rock program, but KNAC was the metal station. I can still see the black bumper sticker emblazoned on the cars of like-minded rockers. I can really see our Buick with one, too.
Certain cars lend themselves to a specific song/artist/genre of music to me. If you were going to drive our Grand National for the first time, what would your song be?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
1987 Buick Regal Grand National: Meow?
October 31, 2012
Is it me, or does the seatbelt warning chime sound like a robot
Sorry, you have to make the jump to watch the video...
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton
1987 Buick Grand National: To-Do List Addition
October 29, 2012
I like our Grand National. There, I admit it. It's cool in the same way I think Harley's are cool. It's not particularly fast or inspiring, but it just makes me feel like a badass (and I'm not). But one thing that kept me from really enjoying the whole experience was the stereo.
I didn't have any expectations of what it would sound like, but I was still very much disappointed. As it is, only one speaker is working properly; the front left. The entire right side is silent and the left rear sounds blown. Swapping out speakers should be a simple task, so I'm hoping the head unit itself is good.
I won't be trying out any of my beloved mixtapes in it until the speakers get fixed and someone else tests it out on their tapes. And that was one of the big bummers when I took it home. I really wanted to rock out with some period-correct music. So. Many. Memories of 1987.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
UPDATE: I have it on good authority that the tape deck works fine. Scorpions will be blasting Rock You Like a Hurricane shortly!