Dusty Driver: 1987 Buick Grand National

It seems that any examples of the 1987 Buick Grand National that we see here at Barn Finds broadly fall into two categories. Some are pristine time capsules, while others will need some significant work if they are to be returned to their best. This car treads a middle ground because below that heavy layer of dust is a classic that should respond very positively to some basic TLC. It has been parked for years, but it now runs and drives. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, you will find the Grand National listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $18,000, and the reserve has been met. Barn Finder Larry D has had his radar working superbly to spot this beauty for us. So thank you so much for that, Larry.

It appears that this Grand National spent most of its life in California. It only found its way to Arizona when it was placed into storage 14-years-ago. The current owner dragged it out of storage recently, and what he found was a classic that was loaded with good news. He has left the car’s exterior largely untouched so that the buyer can have the pleasure of washing away many years of accumulated dust and dirt. He has checked in a couple of places, and the paint is in reasonable condition. His opinion is that with a wash, polish, and some minor paint correction, this Buick should once again look fantastic in its original Black. There is no rust anywhere, although some surface corrosion on the underside might require attention. The panels are straight, and the exterior plastic pieces like the original bumper fillers are in excellent condition. The distinctive chrome wheels show no evidence of corrosion, and I think these would look great after an attack with some polish. The original owner ordered the Buick with the Astroroof option, and the owner mentions its rarity. My research shows that these were not quite as rare in 1987 as they had been in the previous year. Of the 5,512 cars produced in 1986, a mere 198 featured the Astroroof. With production rising significantly to 20,740 vehicles in 1987, it is no surprise that Astroroof numbers also increased to 2,560 cars. That does make it unusual, and provided the seals have remained healthy to eliminate the possibility of water leaks, it is a welcome feature on a vehicle that has spent its life in warmer climates.

Anyone who lived through The Malaise Era will tell you how frustrating it was to be a performance car enthusiast. Cars touted by manufacturers as performance vehicles tended to be high on style but pretty short on substance. However, Buick found its mojo by abandoning large capacity V8s in favor of the black art of forced induction. That was what made the Grand National such a fantastic car, and it showed American buyers that they could once again park something with muscle credentials in their driveway. The starting point was the humble 3.8-liter V6 that was a solid but relatively uninspiring performer. By the time this car rolled off the line in 1987, Buick had tweaked this motor to the max. It now featured fuel injection, a Garrett turbocharger, and an intercooler. Where the base engine produced 110hp, the Grand National now had an “official” 245hp. I use that term advisedly because many well-qualified individuals have stated over the years that the reality could have been as high as 290hp. All of that power found its way to the rear wheels via a THM200-4R automatic transmission. Was it fast? Just a bit! Point the Grand National at the ¼ mile, and the journey would be over in 14.7 seconds. However, even that figure was seen to be conservative. Plenty of motoring journalists at the time had no problems beating that number, while Car & Driver magazine even managed to achieve a sub-14-second pass in an unmodified car. This Buick has been sitting for 14-years, but the seller has done all of the work required to coax it back to life. He says that it runs and drives extremely well, and he is willing to provide video footage to interested parties that demonstrates this. The only issue that he identifies is the tires, which are dry and rotted. He suggests that the buyer should change these before any extended journeys are attempted. That sounds like wise advice to me.

Apart from the exterior plastic, one of the known weak points with a Grand National is the seat upholstery. It is a distinctive mix of silver and black cloth, and it can be prone to rot. The seats in this car don’t look bad, although there is a split on the driver’s seat. This issue might be able to be addressed, but if I were the buyer, I would be budgeting for a replacement. It is possible to buy a single cover, but the aging process means that there will be a color discrepancy between the old and the new. The other alternative would be for the buyer to purchase a complete set, which can be found for around $680. The buyer will also need to replace the headliner, adding a further $250 to the total. There are also a few plastic pieces that have deteriorated, but as I’ve said in the past, I wouldn’t buy anything until I’d treated the interior to a thorough clean. That could potentially save the buyer from purchasing unnecessary items. The car comes equipped with a power driver’s seat, and the owner makes something about the rarity of this feature when combined with the Astroroof option. I haven’t been able to confirm exact figures, but I can’t imagine that every car with the Astroroof was also ordered with the power seat. Beyond that, the Grand National comes equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power locks, and cruise. It was also fitted with the standard AM/FM radio and cassette player, but a previous owner has swapped in an aftermarket unit with a CD changer in the trunk.

With The Malaise Era being such a depressing time for many enthusiasts, the Buick Grand National emerged as a breath of forced-induction fresh air. They were a sales hit when they were new, and they are highly sought today. Pristine examples will regularly sell for more than $50,000, and that figure is continuing to climb. This car isn’t likely to threaten that number, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it reach beyond $25,000. When you look at what it requires, most of the work could be completed easily in a home workshop. Just imagine the thrill of driving this Buick into your workshop looking like this, and then consider how it could look when it emerged a few weeks later. The transformation could be dramatic and also pretty satisfying. It’s a challenge that I would love to accept, but will you?


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  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    Wait, another ’87 Grand National? Say it ain’t so!

    Like 5
    • Nambu

      It ain’t so

      Like 6
  2. DON

    These things are posted like the vitamins I took as a kid “One a Day”

    Like 5
  3. Poppy

    They call it “Arizona Road Dust” for a reason. Can only imagine how much of this the engine ingested in 96,000 miles.

    Like 1
  4. Howie Mueler

    Why not wash it off before the photos?

    Like 7
    • Paul N

      as my teenage son would say, That’s too much work

      Like 1
      • Poppy

        Or, “Why? It’s just going to get dirty again!”

  5. Rant Winters

    So, mabye it’s just me, but my first question is “how many bodies am I removing from that trunk?” Because damn, it’s huge, and I’m expecting an epic rodent colony without any pictures.

  6. Stingray 67

    Why are these featured every week? Did everyone mothball them instead of driving them?

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