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Stolen, But Recovered: 1987 Buick Regal GNX

When Buick phased out its rear-wheel-drive Regals in the 1980s, that exit included the Grand National performance models. To go out in style in 1987, Buick produced 547 legendary copies of the GNX (Grand National Experimental) which included upgrades from McLaren Performance Technologies. This example was stolen in 2012 and – thanks to the perseverance of its owner – it was finally recovered a dozen years later. From a story here on PennLive, the interesting saga of this once-lost Buick has been uncovered. Thanks for the cool tip,  Edwin Alsberg!

As the saga goes, the owner bought this GNX in 2002. With some one-off upgrades over time (by the owner and those before him), the car had something of a unique footprint that would help identify it later. After about 10 years of ownership, the car was stolen from the parking lot of a restaurant in Belleville, New Jersey. It somehow fell into the wrong company and got seized as part of a sting operation in 2019. From then until recently, the GNX sat in a New Jersey impound yard.

To first find the car – and then get it retrieved, the owner hired a private investigator and a lawyer to pull the necessary strings to find it and bring it back home. It had at least five years of dust and dirt on it when delivered back to the owner and no mention is made as the whether the car runs or not. It was returned to its family before an auction led the car to go off to yet another home. The VIN had been modified, which didn’t help matters.

Now that the car is back where it belongs, we assume some sort of light restoration will be needed. The owner’s goal was and still is to pass the vehicle along to his son one day. Only two photos were used in the published story, so we borrowed a couple from the American Muscle Car Museum to round things out (what the interior should have looked like and another profile of a stellar GNX). Besides the love the owner has for the car, the fact that they can bring upwards of $150,000 on the open market probably also served as an incentive.


  1. Steveo

    I thought modern cars had multiple and hidden VIN impressions. On this one, the obvious VIN was obviously altered but I can’t believe all of them were that way.

    Like 14
    • djjerme

      I don’t recall on the G bodies – but many had just stickers on the various body panels that given the passage of time either faded or fell off. Some would have another actually engraved at some area (I believe GM liked to do it near the shock tower – but I could be wrong) again, a small angle grinder and some body putty will make it disappear.

      Like 2
      • Rich Singh

        Its my uncle’s GNX its number 6, first 5 went to upper management.
        We are happy to have gotten the vehicle back.

        Like 2
  2. willyD

    I have found VIN numbers in many different locations when doing restorations. One that seems to be common is the number stamped on the firewall under the heater box..

    Like 5
  3. Oldschoolmuscle

    First thing why would you park a GNX unattended at a restaurant??So by 2012 you should of known what Gem you had..My opinion…

    Like 15
    • Marcin

      So better to keep it home only….?🤦

      Like 9
    • jwaltb

      Thanks so much for sharing. Now go back under your rock.

      Like 5
  4. T. Mann Member

    Where is the LINK to the upcoming Barn Find auction?

    Like 0
    • jwaltb

      Read again, carefully this time.

      Like 5
  5. Ffred

    A friend of mine had his Buick stolen out of his driveway in the middle of the day just a few hundred yards to the main gate of Rickenbacker AFB about 20 years ago. It’s still out there somewhere.

    Like 4
  6. ACZ

    There are other locations for a VIN but the authorities would rather you didn’t know.

    Like 1
    • 19sixty5 Member

      The frame has a VIN stamped in it, in addition to the hidden body VIN’s.

      Like 4
    • Aussie Dave Aussie Dave Member

      Agreed, my son’s SIL80 (cross between a Silver and an SX180) was stolen. (Silvia)
      4 years later at my daughter’s (his sister) wedding, the police notified him they had his car.
      It was reported, the police were going to get have it scrapped, but one cop, she decided to look further, and discovered it was my son’s car. Sadly it was a write off, but the running gear was intact.

      Like 0
  7. 2VT

    There are a couple of things specific to them GNX that McLaren specified. One was a ceramic compressor wheel in the turbo and the asbestos line glove inside the intake manifold to keep heat from transferring into the intake.
    I’ve held a ceramic compressor wheel in my hand and it literally weighs less than nothing. One piece of dust comes down that tube and it’s got to obliterate the wheel in my own little opinion. So the fact that it’s been unattended for so long, I’m wondering if that asbestos glove inside the intake manifold would have delivered a particle subsequently destroying the compressor wheel.?

    Like 2
  8. Dan

    Reading the entire story about the recovery of this awesome car would take at least half a day. From what I see of this car, I think at least $50k would be needed to restore this back to the way it was before it was stolen. And a good chunk of money would be needed just to legally restore the correct VIN tags. But I’m glad for the owner, who surely learned a lot of painful lessons from this episode.

    Like 1
    • Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

      I read the entire story in about ten minutes. It was a good read

      Like 1
  9. Philbo427

    Agreed, new story was really nice to read and so happy the owner got it back. Cool car! Glad he kept the keys!

    I seem to remember that the 80s G-bodies were easy to steal for some reason. Back in the 80s I remember a news story during Christmas time that owners of these cars had them stolen a lot so they had to be careful parking at busy mall parking lots as they were easy targets for some reason.

    Like 2
    • 19sixty5 Member

      It wasn’t just the G-bodies, it was the GM steering column design, they all were relatively easy to steal. I used a Lok-Itt steering column lock that basically covered the the entire upper column. I also had a GPS tracker on my GN.

      Like 2
  10. Kirk Stankiewicz

    I was at the Lake Compounce swap in Bristol Ct. meet about 10 Yrs ago when a Chevelle that was stolen was discovered by its owner after almost 30yrs- He was able to ID work that was done underneath and the numbers were only slightly altered. The current owner was a victim as he bought it from the thieves. State Police called-

    Like 0
  11. RNX
  12. sam donahue

    I am looking for a 1960 Mercury Monterey was silver in color ,312 motor,two door sedan vin 0W31P533272 last seen in tennessee in knoxville area ,this car was stolen from Cummins engine company on Cherry street,if you have a two door 1960 Mercury please check the vin for a match ,no matter the current condition

    Like 0
  13. Anthony J Carl

    I didn’t read the whole article but my question is, if the insurance company paid the claim who gets the car?

    Like 3

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