By on June 14, 2012

When we last left off with Project G-Body in March, Joey was about to pull the trigger on a Grand National. Three months later, the Grand National is home, and nearly in showroom condition.

A number of ratty cars with shady owners eventually led us to a ratty car with a shady owner – and only 38,000 miles on the clock. A thorough inspection by Joey’s mechanic (which doubles as a GM performance shop) revealed a car that was in pretty good shape despite sitting in a garage for a number of years.

The main issue was the interior – the seats were in abominable condition, full of rips and tears. Joey made a bet that a rust-free, low mileage car was preferable to a car with a rusty frame or rockers, even if the fabric to re-upholster the seats might be hard to find.

Over the next three months, the car was brought up to what some call “Stage Zero” – a return to solid mechanical condition, albeit without any performance gains. A full tune-up was performed, along with new tires, brakes and suspension components.

On the cosmetic front, the window and door seals – most of the rubber components, really – were replaced, their cracked, brittle originals swapped out for New Old Stock bits. Joey was tempted to dive right in to the world of big turbos and drag strips, but wisely decided to enjoy the car in its original state for a few years before going too crazy.

Searching for the correct interior fabric took the better part of three months. All the Google searches and Ebay stalking ended up being for nought, as it turned out that a local upholstery shop that deals in high end restorations had some of the last New Old Stock fabric and seat covers. Joey bought their entire stock, though 98 percent of it is currently inside his car. The interior looks as good as new, and is good enough to go up against any low mileage garage queen. The beauty of Project G-Body is that it will be Joey’s daily driver. Joey believes that cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed, not detailed and admired from afar.

At this point, the car could use a good detail job, and perhaps a fresh coat of paint. But it’s driveable, and having never driven a G-Body, it’s certainly eye-opening. The turbo comes online right around the time you’ve finished your Philly Blunt, the steering wheel can be moved 15 degrees before the car changes direction and the novelty of peering over the hood and seeing “3.8 SFI Turbo” never really gets old.


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33 Comments on “Project G-Body Part 3: The Grand National Lives!...”

  • avatar

    When I was in high school (mid-late 80′), these were our ultimate dream car. My buddy’s mom had a Regal, and we’d ride around in it wishing it was a GN.

  • avatar

    Oh baby! The chicks at the trailer park will be falling all over themselves to get a ride in this “bitchin” machine! Somebody put on some Skynyrd!

  • avatar

    nice looking car and fast for it’s time, I beleive it was a car and driver test that revealed it was faster to 60 than that years corvette

  • avatar

    These cars were noteworthy of having nearly instant boost right off the mark and the steering should be pretty responsive as the ratio is tighter than in other G-bodies so that is suspicious with only 38K. The condition of the seats and interior only re-enforces this. A proper running 1986-87 GN should be able to white smoke the tires right off the rims in stock tune right off the line.

  • avatar

    How do you trash a car that badly in only 38K miles??

    OK, these things go REAL fast in a straight line, but they don’t stop, and they don’t turn. I fail to see the appeal. My crazy Air Force pilot uncle had a last-year GNX for a while – I found it utterly wretched to drive compared to my ’84 Jetta GLI, despite the go-fast. I guess I was a German car snob at a tender age.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a freeway cruiser that hauls ass. Seems simple to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree with you on the condition after 38k miles. I smell something fishy and it might not just be that interior. Because of the value these cars hold, there is certainly a lot of motivation to role back the odometers on cars like this and I suspect that it was done to this car. My own car sits outside a lot and has about 38k miles on it and the seats look almost brand new.

      • 0 avatar

        In Ontario, the mileage is recorded every time the tags are renewed. Any inconsistency would have shown up on the documents that the old owner must legally provide to transfer the title. Joeys mechanic gave the car an inspection before the sale and didn’t find anything suspicious. He thinks the car had a rough life and was then garaged.

      • 0 avatar

        Living in Ontario, I have to agree with Derek. I have seen many cars with 38k miles,and less beat up real bad. I think Joey’s mechanic has nailed it.

        Somebody knew the cars value,and put it away. Lots of “project cars” never get off the ground.

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Wade

        My GN’s seats looked like that a couple of years ago when I sold it with 45k. The heat and sun dissolved all the garbage GM interior bits including the seat covers and foam.

  • avatar

    How’d the oil pump look?

  • avatar

    In 1978, I bought a new LeSabre Sport Coupe with a turbo V6. I was a guinea pig of sorts for these engines. I logged 120k mi. on it without melting the turbocharger luckily. For that car, it was considered a near miracle. I attributed it to anal compulsive oil changes. I could never understand the love affair that developed with it in the Regals. A friend had the identical car with a 350 V8. I envied him for the whole 120k miles.

  • avatar


    Well, the GN was a lot faster than the LSC turbo so that didn’t hurt.

    The “Before Black” website has an old Road and Track road test where they compared a 350 LeSabre to the Sport Coupe Turbo. In their test the V8 was faster under 50 but the turbo was faster to 90- they ran the exact same quarter mile times. The turbo also returned 16 mpg compared to 13.5 for the V8.

    I think even if you had the 350 you would have wanted to keep a fairly religious oil change schedule as I’ve heard that the Buick engines of the era had weak oiling systems.

    Of course, everything I just wrote is based on hearsay. You actually lived it.

  • avatar

    I made a model of the Grand National when I was a lad. It seems it was really accurate when it comes to the blandness of the cabin, which was almost identical to my Grandma’s Pontiac 6000.

    The exterior still looks great, though. Somehow GM made a great looking 70’s car in 1986.

  • avatar

    I had a friend in ’86 who bought one of these new. Soon after, it was stolen in broad daylight on a busy street at his workplace.

    When the police found the now-stripped car, it was found laying on its frame without wheels, and subsequently dragged up onto the flatbed trailer. It cost a fortune in insurance money to repair, and he kept it a few years after that.

  • avatar

    Whether it’s 38K hard miles or 138K easy, it’s really irrelevant. It’s definitely a clean, genuine ’86 Grand National for a reasonable $10K. Probably 38K a 1/4 mile at a time, but I want to see this GN on the street and not another trailer queen or put back into cold storage.

  • avatar

    Here’s the dirty little secret that no one wants to say: this car was better in every way (except maybe looks) than every single “classic” musclecar.

    It was faster than all but a tiny handful and faster than those with a chip. It handled better. It stopped better. It rode better. It was quieter. It was built better. Let’s not even talk about gas mileage. It was light-years ahead of a ’66 but then it should be, it was 20 years newer.

    For those who say they are straight-line only I beg to differ, and I put about 40k on one with many trips up and down Arizona mountain roads.

  • avatar

    For piece of mind you need to swap the front timing cover/oil pump for one of the redesigned units from Poston or T/A performance. Buick engines, both the 231 and the V8’s were known for the oil pumps failing without warning, which usually resulted in a grenaded engine.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure I see the appeal of this thing over the SRT8 Challenger in the last article beyond realizing some boyhood fantasy. To each his own however. I’m just glad that my boyhood (early adult, actually) fantasy was a bit more modern when I purchased it (see avatar).

  • avatar

    I have a 1985 Regal T Type that is my daily driver. For those of you that don`t know: Grand Nationals only came in black, the T Types have the same drive-train but come in several colors. My weekend driver is a restored 1986 Regal T Type with numerous modifications to the drive-train. These cars are fun to drive and get decent fuel mileage IF you stay out of boost (which is hard to do). My son has owned a 1984 Grand National with ’87 Eng. since he was 16, he is 29 now.

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