Let’s face it, automotive performance has come a long way since the days of the Reagan Administration and Mr. T cereal. Direct fuel injection, turbocharging, dual-overhead camshafts, and active fuel management sound like normal everyday phrases to us car guys today, but thirty years ago, they were a just a tiny glimmer in the eye of the American auto industry.
In the mid-eighties, any car with over 150 hp was considered high performance, and G-bodies with 5-liter V8s were just such a case. Riddled with archaic smog equipment, low compression, and if you were lucky, a 4-bbl carburetor, quarter-mile performance in the 15- or 16-second range was commonplace.
Although respectful for the era, they paled in comparison to their forebears from the ’60s, and are downright embarrassing compared to the musclecars of today. But they were cool then, and they’re still cool now. Despite their meager performance and lack of modern build quality standards, they never really seem to go out of style. They were roomy, comfortable, classy, and thanks to their engine compartment accessibility, rear wheel drive layout, and easy to modify mechanicals, they’re the perfect canvas to make into something truly unique.
Motorweek once tested the high-peformance GM G-body musclecars when they were new. Guessing it had to be towards the end of the 1986 model year cycle, they compare the ’86 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe and Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 (a 1986-only model) to the ’87 442 and Grand National.
But there was one car that stood out amongst its stablemates, and only one that technically would normally get covered here unless updated with fuel injection, and that’s the Buick Grand National.
Equipped with a turbocharged, intercooled V6, the car brought performance that challenged the Porsche 911 of the day, and with a few bolt-ons, would be up to the task of competing against today’s mainstream V8 pony cars.
No matter where you stand on G-bodies, there’s no denying the fact that they lent a small hand in bringing performance back to the modern marketplace.
For 1988 and 1989, they would be replaced by their modern, FWD counterparts – making them more desirable to people like us. Whether or not they’ll ever be highly desirable, valuable and collectible (the GN already is), remains to be seen.
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.