Scratch And Dent: 1986 Buick Grand National

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Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

A few days ago, Jesse inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite activities: perusing Copart’s collectibles section for a down-on-its-luck project car. While it’s safe to assume most hobbyists know there’s potential gold to be struck in these salvage auctions, it’s still fun to imagine you’re the smartest guy in the room. That’s how I felt upon discovering this 1986 Buick Grand National up for grabs, one of the most collectable GM products of the last 30 years. Find it here on Copart in Long Island, NY with a current bid of $5,100.

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I don’t claim to know how Copart works or where they get their cars, but this fast Buick seems awfully clean for a salvage title. The primary damage listed seems purely cosmetic in nature and not the result of a major collision. Given its location, Hurricane Sandy damage is a possibility but Copart listings typically specify if a vehicle was a flood victim. I see some signs of damage along the edge of the front fascia, but with the value Grand Nationals tend to hold, it’s surprising to see one branded with a salvage title – unless more significant damage is lurking in places not visible in photos.

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With under 50,000 miles and an interior that looks like it just needs a simple cleaning, I think it’s safe to assume this car was loved before it ended up in a holding yard with other accident victims. One of the first things I did with my hobby cars was to move them to a classic car insurance policy, as I didn’t want to risk either of them being totaled for some minor collision damage. Assigned value lets the owner set a reasonable valuation for cars like the Grand National that command big prices among the enthusiast market. Seeing a car like this largely intact and seemingly operable is a head-scratcher to me, so we’d welcome your theories as to how it ended up here in the comments below.

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The production numbers for 1986 Grand Nationals was under 8,000, making this turbocharged Buick quite desirable beyond its impressive performance that put it ahead of its corporate siblings, the Corvette and the Camaro. Enthusiasts easily upped the ante with modifications that showed the true potential of the turbocharged drivetrain, and the Grand National was vaulted into muscle car history. Perhaps that’s why this example on Copart stood out to me – it’s a significant vehicle that needs to be saved, not locked behind a barbed wire fence. What’s next for this Grand National? Will it go to a new home, or bounce around salvage yards to an unknown future?

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Comments

  1. Dave Wright

    One of my GI’s had one of these when they were fairly new. He was not really a gear head but liked the looks of the car and bought it……in the 2 years he worked for me, I am sure he went through 3 engines……..they just would not hold together at that horsepower rating. Off course, we poo pooed the V6 performance idea in those years when there were still so many great mussle cars comonely on the road. It was not GM’s best effort.

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  2. Rich

    I love browsing Copart, but have seen too many negative comments about them to trust ever making a purchase from this place.

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  3. skloon

    I am a bit concerned about their biohazardous/chemical tag, not on this car but their is a nice looking 2008 7 series

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  4. Warren J

    I have bought a few old cars and trucks with a salvage title and as long as you understand there may be some concerns when it is time to sell, I do not see the branded title as a big deal. Do your homework as far as researching the history and do a downtown inspection for damage repair. Know what you are purchasing. Know if you can register and drive a salvage titled unit in your state. Know the disclosure requirements. A branded title is a big deal on a $30K car, not so much on a $5K car.

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    • Dave Wright

      I agree……particularly if it is a car that you intend to keep and drive. Take advantage of the lower purchase price. This “branded title” thing is a phoney deal in the first place. It was sold as a program to tell people they are buying a car that had been heavily damaged and rebuilt……but today it only means that some insurance company paid a claim or a salvage company resold it. So……if a nice car is stolen, insurance company pays the owner, the car is recovered in good condition…….it gets a salvage title. It is another evil government program.

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      • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

        Put me in the ‘agree’ column as well. My M3 was a theft recovery from California. Thieves took the seats and door panels, and at the height of the depreciation curve, insurance did not see the need to replace a full leather interior. Didn’t bother me one bit as I intend to drive it for as long as possible – which will be a while since it’s nice and rust-free.

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  5. John

    Well,we know it runs,from the exhaust vapors in one of the pics. If I had the $$ I’d be on this like white on rice!

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  6. cory

    I believe co part is a dealer only auction. most of their business is insurance write-offs. salvage titles vary greatly by states, and sometimes can mean the vehicle is not able to be legally returned to the road. if this vehicle was paid out by insurance for any reason (theft, flood accident) it will have a salvage title. no insurance company wants the liability of someone buying a damaged car, so they will stamp them as salvage regardless of the level of damage.

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  7. Dave Wright

    They have both dealer and non dealer sales, I buy boats from them and have a buddy that buys autos from them……….insurance companies are thieves and don’t like any competition from normal people. There is a federal list on salvage cars today…..

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  8. Todd

    Since both my brother and I both have 87 Grand National’s it looks like the only under hood modification I can see is that it’s been converted over to vacuum assisted brakes instead of the factory system that was called a powermaster and had it’s own pump and air reservoir. The car looks to be in pretty good shape considering the salvage title.

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    • The Chucker

      Agree with the vacuum booster modification and that is a wise upgrade as I did this on my ’86 T-Type with the 3.8 Turbo. All else looks right on this car engine-wise.

      These are fun cars…as long as you’re going in a straight line.

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  9. C.M.Bendig

    One Guess why a car that appears with No Major damage is at a Salvage Auction:;
    Recovered Stolen Vehicle, Insurance already had paid out full coverage on.

    Laws Very State to State, Here in Ohio a car recovered that the insurance paid off, would be property of the underwriter. Then it would go to a salvage auction with a salvage title.

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  10. Rancho Bella

    I often wonder when looking at these what was going through the minds of the head office when they told the design staff……..”make sure it looks like a shoe box on the bottom and a smaller shoebox sitting on top”………….” and make double sure…….it is un-attractive”

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      “And then make sure it runs out like a scalded cat!” Personally, I love boxy cars that have no right going as fast as they do.

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  11. Ron D

    Good point Cory, most states offer some kind of branded title on salvage cars. Three of the 4 vehicles in my current fleet have branded titles. All are licensed. and Insured. So I know you can insure and title them in Oregon.

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  12. Charlie

    The advantages: fast, rare. The disadvantage: rare. Some of the parts for the turbo/engine are very hard to find, since they made so few, and so many had failures. You may wait a long time to find a part and end up taking the turbo off, for example, and then, it is just rare.

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  13. George Hemenway

    Take another look at it. The ad doesn’t say its a Gran National and many things point to T-Type or clone, With a salvage title no one wants it, 0 bids.

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    • Andrew

      The seats point to Grand National. The digital dash is not a Turbo T. My brother had an 87 Turbo T in light metallic blue.

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      • George Hemenway

        It could be a clone. Nowhere in the listing does it say its a Grand National and I ran the VIN, it doesn’t exist. Current bid is $4,550, If anyone thought it was legit it would be a lot higher.

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  14. Davew833

    I buy cars from Copart. They’re really not a bad company to deal with– at least the location where I live in Utah. Different states have different requirements about who can buy salvage vehicles, but in Utah you just have to have some kind of business license– it doesn’t matter if it’s auto-related or not. Now re-selling them is another matter entirely, but I usually buy them just for myself, family, or friends. I’ve gotten some pretty amazing deals. My favorite was the 1989 Accord LXi Coupe with only 64k miles that had been garaged and was in near-mint condition aside from needing a front bumper and left fender which I got for $250. The Copart buyer’s fees can be pretty steep too though, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re ultimately spending.

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Dave, this is great info. My brother and I often chat about whether or not it’s worth it to get a Copart license just to buy those oddball cars (like a minty Accord LX-i, I had one of those!) and tinker with. If you don’t mind my asking, what are the buyer fees like?

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  15. davew833

    Just for example, I bought a 2002 Subaru Outback wagon from Copart for $750 last month. With fees, the total invoice I paid was $1059. There’s a buyer’s fee which is dependent on what the winning bid is, ranging from $75 up to $700. There is also a variable fee if you bid online (which 99% of their buyers do) which ranges from $29 to $79. There’s a $30 gate fee for them bringing your car out of the yard to the delivery area. There’s a $50 document fee if you’re not a licensed dealer. There’s also storage fees if you don’t complete the transaction within three days of purchase. Copart does NOT collect sales tax, so it’s your responsibility to take care of that with the State.

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  16. davew833

    In Utah Copart handles a lot of the cars donated to charitable organizations as well as cars involved in insurance claims. I think they even take cars on consignment from private individuals, so pretty much anything could show up at a Copart auction.

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  17. Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

    This is great info. I may have to look into the further, as even with some of the fees, you’re still getting a decent deal on a collector vehicle (likely with some needs).

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  18. Patrick

    SOLD! Went for $6,600.00 to some lucky chap in Indiana……

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Lavery Staff

      Seems like a very fair price, salvage title or not.

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    • George Jemenway

      No, it is still available with a current bid of $4,550. I ran the VIN and it isn’t a legitimate one.

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  19. Cameron Bater UK

    As a budding petrol head I love muscle cars and whilst this isn’t one I’d buy I have been considering a GNX for a while now, perhaps its because Ive grown up with 240 and 940 Volvos that I like the blocky styling that might put others off but when I get the funds I shall be adding one to my collection.

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  20. Johnathan lee

    Yes it looks real but I own 3 GN’S and the vin is totally wrong but it looks ok

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