Friday, March 30, 2012

FAST FRIDAY: The Grand National: Part I- Inspired by NASCAR

There's no doubt that the decision by Buick to enter the Nascar circuit in 1981 led to the development of one of the most revered Buicks of all time. Buick had gone into Nascar in 1981 with the goal of turning the heads of younger buyers.  The newly restyled 1981 Regal was a good looking car that turned out to have excellent aerodynamics. It was said that the car was born to race, and race it did very well- allowing Buick to win the coveted Manufacturer's trophy in 1981 and 1982. What it didn't have was the V-6 engine, due to a GM decree that all divisions would use the 358 cubic inch Chevrolet engine, and that ultimately proved problematic for the folks in Flint. But they had a couple of amazing seasons in 1981 and 1982.

Here's what Stock Car Racing had to say:

"The first Buick season came in 1981, and it was gangbusters. Darrell Waltrip won the championship in a Buick, posting 12 wins and 21 Top-5 finishes. The second-place finisher, Bobby Allison, also drove a Regal. But there were a lot more Buicks in the Top 10, with Harry Gant in third, Terry Labonte in fourth, Ricky Rudd in sixth, and Richard Petty (who drove Buicks for this single season) in eighth place. Other drivers wheeling Buicks that year included Tim Richmond. The coming dominance of Buick certainly came to light when Richard Petty took the Daytona 500 that season with a total of 14 Buicks in the starting field."

"The 1982 season was even better for Buick, with Waltrip again taking the title, followed by Allison and Labonte in second and third, Gant in fourth, Dave Marcis in sixth, Ron Bouchard in eighth, and Morgan Shepherd in 10th. The domination was again overpowering for Buick, with 25 total wins. Next in line was Chevrolet, with just three wins. Twenty-five of the 42 cars starting the 1982 Daytona 500 were Buicks. Bobby Allison took the win."

So Buick was riding high in the Nascar world in 1981 and 1982. It is into this reflected glory that the first Regal Grand National was launched in 1982, hoping to turn Nascar victories into retail sales for Buick dealers. A dealer bulletin was released on February 8, 1982 and said the following:

"The New "Grand National" Regal is a luxurious commemorative version of the winning Grand National Vehicle.  Buick designed this magnificent Regal to be a one-of-a-kind car. With its special "GN" styling treatment and appointments, it is a distinctive vehicle inside and out.  Our objective in producing these "Grand National" Regals is to offer an attraction that will stimulate sales of all the 1982 Buicks  We also want to capitalize on the momentum being generated by the Grand national racing competition and take advantage of enthusiast's magazine coverage to increase Buick's penetration of the enthusiast market!"

It was based on a Regal coupe, with charcoal and silver two tone exterior and interior color scheme, red striping, and special BUICK graphics and wheels. It featured two tone Lear Siegler seats and a special dash plaque. Grlles and wheel opening moldings were blacked out and modest front and rear spoilers were fitted, Produced by Cars and Concepts, it was a very sporty looking coupe and featured the 125 HP Buick 4.1 litre V6 as standard. The Turbo V6 was offered, developing 175 HP. Of the 215 cars produced, only about 50 had the Turbo V6 engine. 

Who would have thought that from this modest beginning, one of the most desired cars in Buick history would arise?

Coming next: Part II- Bad to the Bone

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