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Project Car Opportunity: 1987 Buick Grand National

When a car reaches a certain level of collectability, the buy-in likewise rises to a place where it can be impossible to get in for anything less than the cost of a new entry-level commuter car. This was what drove much of my decision-making around buying the 1986 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth out of a junkyard for $800, as decent, driver-quality examples had risen to almost $20,000 to start. While the smart money is almost always on buying the best you can afford, sometimes there’s wisdom in buying a project if you’re patient and don’t mind the extra work. This 1987 Buick Grand National here on eBay needs both mechanical and cosmetic restoration, but it’s way cheaper than buying a driver with glossy paint.

We just don’t see the Grand National pop up all that often in project-car form. Many of them were preserved from day one, being kept as collector’s items that didn’t get driven and never had the plastic taken off the seats. If you’ve got the means, you can step right up and buy the closest thing to a brand new Grand National at one of the big auction houses, likely for six figures or just under. But if that’s not in the cards, you can feast your eyes on this car, with its tattered interior that’s missing a passenger seat and its turbocharged engine that had bad compression in one cylinder. Actually, you can’t see the engine yet as the hood won’t open.

The paint is pretty bad as well, with evidence of this car cooking in the sun for years at a time. The fragile bumper trim is, of course, trashed, but that seemingly happens even on garage queens. The original wheels are gone but the factory badge is still visible on the trunk lid. The seller doesn’t give us any sense of the backstory here as to why a well-known collector car succumbed to the ravages of the great outdoors, but we wonder if it developed bad compression long ago and just sat outside as a project the owner kept intending to get around to but never did.

On a similar note, what happened to the passenger side bucket? This is a strange one to me. Most of the time, if a spare seat is needed, it’s the driver’s side bucket. Was this Grand National a parts car for a time, as its perceived value continued to plummet before the GN emerged as a real-deal collector’s item of the last five years? It’s entirely possible, as my Cosworth would have absolutely been a parts car for someone before I came along and decided to get in at an extremely cheap price despite the work the car needed. If this GN isn’t rusty underneath, I think this is another one of those times where taking on the work and buying at a low price makes a lot of sense long-term.


  1. Cadmanls Member

    These were not born as collector cars. Someone or numerous owners ran the snot out of this car. Which is what the engineering department was building. Cheers to them, this one did what it was built to do. It was driven and used, maybe used up. Values have gone through the roof with these cars. Started with turbo Regals and even the Riviera I get it, performance was next to non-existent when GM pulled out this wild card and the collector age has changed. These were quick stock and modified they run really well with todays technology. Passenger seat probably was pulled to loose weight. Reading Hot Rod one trick to get lower ET is dropping weight, dump the spare tire etc. My guess get that hood open and that V6 has some mods. Might be worth rebuilding.

    Like 4
  2. greg

    Door sills look rusty. If body and frame are solid a lot of the parts a regular regal or are available. But will need a lot of work. Mileage 215k?

    Like 1
  3. Tom


    Like 2
  4. Naptown mark

    This one probably sat around decaying on account of the salvage title.

    It may be an obstacle worth overcoming at current values (or least would be if the car wasn’t so rough), but fifteen years ago when these could still be picked up for a couple thousand bucks, that would have been a deal breaker.

  5. Emel

    Looks like an abused Regal.

  6. Bill West

    My brother went through 3 of these back in the day. He always kept them immaculate, but accumulated well over 200k in all of them. This is a parts donor at best. Better examples are out there for far less than it would cost to resurrect this.

  7. Al camino

    Is it possible that this car could have been beaten any more?some people should not be allowed to own a car

    Like 1
  8. Rw

    No under hood pic WTF.

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