Original Or Upgraded? 1987 Buick Grand National

By Nathan Avots-Smith

Let’s get pedantic about semantics. The seller of this 1987 Buick Grand National refers to it as “mostly original” in one breath, then immediately pivots to “many upgrades to fuel braking and turbo [sic] systems.” What is the relationship here between original and upgrades? Does one contradict the other? Or, is the seller using “upgrades” when they should be saying “maintenance” or “restoration”? How much wiggle room is there in that “mostly,” as in “mostly original,” anyway? It’s not often a Buick makes me this philosophical; if you feel like chewing on some linguistic imponderables, you can check out the craigslist ad for this Terryville, Connecticut-based car, offered at $20,000. Thanks to reader Bill W for the tip!

The Grand National’s centerpiece is its turbocharged 3.8-liter V6, which pumped out its highest output in 1987, 245 horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque. This mill enabled the big, boxy Regal coupe to hang with V8-powered sports and muscle cars of the time, and popular modifications could increase performance significantly. Again, it’s unclear from the ad whether the turbo has been upgraded over original spec, or just restored to its rightful glory, but either way this car should be a performer.

1987 was the last year for GM’s G-body cars (as I well know, having learned to drive in an ’87 El Camino), but it was also the year that the Grand National saw its greatest popularity. Production quadrupled over the previous year, to over 20,000 GNs (that figure is also about ten times as many as were built in 1984 and ’85), plus 547 of the even more powerful GNX. Showing just 45,000 miles (albeit on a five-digit odometer) this car’s interior still looks pretty fresh, although the remote for the modern stereo is visible on the passenger seat in the photo above, if that sort of thing matters to you.

The $20K ask on this Grand National seems pretty in line with values of other nice examples, and make no mistake, this appears to be a very nice car. As an ’87, it’s not especially rare, which doesn’t make it any less desirable, but at some point as these cars get older and even more valuable, there’s likely to be a time when the difference between “original” and “upgraded” starts to make a bigger and bigger difference. I’d want to know, before investing $20K into a modern classic like this, which side it’s going to fall on—wouldn’t you?

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  1. Coventrycat

    Not another Grand National…. I think the entire production has been shown here. More Pintos and Vegas, please. 😀

  2. Jay M

    You really need a high boost launch in a properly tuned GN to understand the appeal.
    And then a rocket launch in a Syclone.
    They may only be food at one thing…but Hot Damn are they fun.
    Even the most jaded GM critics grin ear to ear.

  3. Superdessucke

    Problem is everybody mothballed these things thinking they had the next LS6 Chevelle on their hands, so there’s tons of them on the market. There’s 20 of them (!) available on eBay right now, several with less than 50,000 miles on them . Plus probably a couple dozen more on Craigslist and other mediums throughout the country.

    Personally, I think this car is pretty substantially overpriced. Nice but there’s really not much special about it.

    • Superdessucke

      I will, however, give them credit for at least not sticking a woman in a bikini next to it, LOL!

  4. Curtis

    A friend of mine had one of these, don’t remember the year, but sold it for a newer Camaro at one point years back. One day out driving his Camaro his son told him he missed the Buick…..he agreed….to me these, aside from blah interiors, will always be great looking cars.


    88 was the last year of the gbody. 88 Monte Carlo. Most were made in 87 but still an error in the ad. Sweet GN.

    • Jeff

      That’s not the only error. He made a comment the V6 powered grand national would just hang with the v8 muscle cars of its time. In fact the grand national was “the fastest production car” in North America that you could buy at that time. Not even a porsche could hang! 0 to 60 in 4.9 and quarter mile in 13.5 stock. Also to note 1988 they built the Monte Carlo and the Cutlass both. Those were the only 2 euro clip G bodies.

      • Nathan Avots-Smith Staff

        Wow, can’t believe I forgot about the ’88 Monte Carlo and Cutlass—good catch! I think the performance specs you’re citing might be for the GNX, which is considerably rarer and put down around 300 hp; Motor Trend (just one source, I know) clocked the regular Grand National at 6.1 sec. 0-60 and 14.7 seconds through the quarter mile in August, 1987.

  6. Tyler

    I don’t care how many I see, I will always like them & wish I had been smart enough to have picked one up before the price started escalating.

    I can’t imagine putting these up & driving one only 45,000 miles in 30 years. They were made for driving, I would have put that on it in a couple of years.


    I drove the wheels off of mine and then sold it after 10 yrs for $12000. this one can easily be turned back to stock.


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