My Grand National story


Hello All,

I've been visiting this forum for a long, long time and just recently registered. So now that I'm official, I can finally share some stuff with y'all!

A little bit about me- I grew up in a service station and was raised on a strict diet of 60s-70s American muscle cars. I rode in them, wrenched on them and have always had a deep appreciation for them. As many of you here can relate, I've owned a bunch of cars, many of which I wish I could have back! One of those was my old 1983 Trans Am, which I bought while I was in college back in 1995. This wasn't the first car that I'd fixed up, but it was my favorite. My inspiration was the '92 Firehawk. I did tons of stuff to this car, including new paint, a GTA rear wing and tail lights, Harwood hood, GTA seats, RHS 355 engine, world class T-5, Nitrous and a bunch of other stuff. Here are a few pictures of how it turned out back in 1997:





Over the last 12 years or so I've been heavy into Mitsubishis and DSMs. I'm not an "import guy" I just grew to appreciate the huge power that the Mitsu 4G63 engine can dish out reliably while doing it all on a tight budget!

I currently own a 1991 Eagle Talon Tsi AWD Turbo a turbocharged 1992 Miata and am most known around the web for my old 1989 Mitsubishi Mirage with a 4G63 engine swap. I've also owned a 1991 Eclipse Turbo, 1989 Starion (swapped a 4G63 in that) and a 2003 Lancer Evolution. All of those cars have been tons of fun and have taught me many new things, such as how to work on them and how to get the performance results that you want by following a well thought out plan with a strict budget. I love the "sleeper" style too, and always strive to build understated stuff. Here are some videos of those cars for your enjoyment:


When spring rolled around this year, I felt like it was time to get back to my muscle car roots! I was 13 years old when I saw the 1987 Grand National in person for the first time. It was parked in the showroom at our small-town Pontiac/GMC/Buick dealer. By this age I was a full-blown car fanatic and had memorized practically everything performance related from my monthly Car & Driver magazine subscription. I knew what I was looking at back then and I knew it was special. As I looked it over, it was menacing. All black, front to back. As you all know, this was very different in 1987, as chrome trim was still a very popular design element on most every car. Swimming in the expanses of deep black paint were bright emblems on either fender and the trunk that read "Grand National" and "3.8 SFI Turbo" on either side of the hood bulge. They were just a little hint to what was going on. This wasn't a trim package, it was the total package.

So you may've gathered that this car left a bit of an impression on me. So much so that I've been shopping for one (on and off) for the last ten years. I've just always loved the mix of American muscle car and high tech that's found in the Grand National. Recently I got serious and ramped up my search efforts. I wanted a rust-free southern car that was well maintained but not perfect. I wanted a car that I could restore over time while I'm driving and enjoying it. After a few misses, I was wondering if I'd ever find what I was looking for.

Then while browsing this forum, an interesting car caught my eye. After a few emails and phone calls with the seller, I set off to check it out. Here are a few pictures, you can see many more and read the full story on my website here: 1987 Grand National: The Find!

So without further's my new(to me) 1987 Buick Grand National! As the keen-eyed will see, it's wearing a set of 16x8 American Racing "GNX" style wheels. The previous owner also threw in the stock wheels, which I'll probably just keep in storage because these look right at home on here.

Here's another shot, those windows are DARK! It took a little getting used to, I haven't had tinted windows in a long time.

One more! The paint is likely what will get the most attention in the future. It looks OK, but has plenty of little nicks and scratches. The body and undercarriage are all in great shape though since the car spent the majority of its life in sunny Florida.

Here's the good stuff! This car came with a nice list of great modifications, like a Tial blowoff valve, LS1 Mass Airflow Sensor conversion, old school Kenne Bell Ram Air intake system and a 3 inch downpipe, to name a few.

The interior is in excellent condition. Riding home in here brought back loads of memories, as my family had various iterations of 80s GM vehicles. It was all instantly familiar and very retro feeling.

Thanks for reading my tome and I'll be adding updates soon!

VERY NICE!!! But.... If you ditch that Kenne-Bell ram air canister you'll gain power!! Guaranteed. I did a bunch of track testing with the one I had back in the 90's. I consistently ran quicker AND faster when the canister was removed. For some reason it's a restriction. :confused:
Nice Car

Thats the way an intro is done. Can I go back and do mine?:redface: Welcome aboard... I will probably have no useful advise since Im still learning, although I love looking at pictures so keep em coming. Very nice car.:smile:
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the warm welcome! I'll have some updates soon.

VERY NICE!!! But.... If you ditch that Kenne-Bell ram air canister you'll gain power!! Guaranteed.
Thanks for the advice on this, I actually took the whole shebang off and sold it last week. I like simplicity and it was just too fussy and complicated to deal with.
Hello all,

I'm not wasting any time on the old beast, I want to go cruising! Over the weekend I fabbed up a test pipe, wrapped the downpipe and re-installed the stock turbo heat shield all in the name of better performance and controlling the underhood temps. Here are a few pictures, I've got the full writeup on my website if you'd like to check it out.

The previous owner installed the 3" stainless steel downpipe, which is an excellent piece of work. The car also has a larger Precision turbo.

The catalytic converter had been hard-welded onto the downpipe outlet and Hooker catback exhaust inlet (the rectangular flange was gone) which makes removal of the downpipe for future work/maintenance impossible, so the first step was to break out my beloved sawzall and let the cat out.

Here's everything roughly mocked up.

Time to throw some fire! This would be me in my happy place.

Here's the finished test pipe and flanged catback adapter. It's all 3" round piping and I hammered out the oval shape to mate up to the Hooker catback pipe. I went with flanges so I could swap the cat back in, run a dump pipe for drag racing or even throw in an electric cutout someday.

Almost done! The only thing I hadn't done yet in this picture was weld the flanged adapter to the catback exhaust inlet. That was tricky because I had to do it on the car, but I was able to lower the exhaust enough to get a nice clean bead on it. I also sprayed everything with my favorite Dupli-Color Low Gloss Black ceramic engine enamel.

Since my Grandma won't knit me a fiberglass downpipe cozy, I had to settle for Summit Racing's 2" exhaust wrap.

All done! The wrapped downpipe is back in its happy home and the dingy stock turbo heat shield has been given new life with a little trimming to fit the bigger downpipe, some sanding and a shot of Dupli-Color cast coat aluminum ceramic paint.


Thanks for reading, more to come!


Very nice ride!Just wondering if you ever had any problem's with your downpipe being wrapped..talking about smoking etc.I've wrapped mine before not long before it started smoking:confused:...


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Very nice ride!Just wondering if you ever had any problem's with your downpipe being wrapped..talking about smoking etc.I've wrapped mine before not long before it started smoking:

Thanks David! I had a little bit of a "burning off" smell the first time I drove it after wrapping, but it's gone now. This is the same experience I've had wrapping other turbo car downpipes too.
Welcome aboard. Very nice find. Quick question though... you said this car spent it's life in Florida, you didn't happen to buy it from a guy named Derek in Tallahassee did you? He's a good friend of mine and recently sold his T-Top GN that had about the same mods as this one. If it is, he took REALLY good care of it. Just wondering...
Welcome aboard. Very nice find. Quick question though... you said this car spent it's life in Florida, you didn't happen to buy it from a guy named Derek in Tallahassee did you? He's a good friend of mine and recently sold his T-Top GN that had about the same mods as this one. If it is, he took REALLY good care of it. Just wondering...

Thank you! I purchased the car in North Carolina, but it was originally purchased new in Bradenton, FL.
Update time!

I haven't owned this car long, but that didn't stop me from promptly tearing the front end off of it! You see, I had to. This car was in dire need of a nose job, and the great thing about having an ugly nose is that we have the means to fix it! In addition to fixing the very sad schnoz were a variety of other tasks that when listed on paper read more like an exhaustive medical checkup than a simple wrenching to do list.

Here's the full story on my website if you'd like to see more pictures and stuff: Nose job, rear end exam and more!

I had taken front ends off of cars before, but never a car like this. Luckily the online tips were very helpful and made the job go smoothly. At the time of this picture, the parts were really piling up along the wall of my garage. I had just removed the stock steel bumper and bumper reinforcement and was amazed by its incredible heft.

Here are some of the parts I was referring to. Headlights, trim and bezels, parking and turn signal lenses, a bumper air dam doo-hickey, lower air dams and the various bits of hardware that were in the process of being cleaned up and painted. You can also see the newly cleaned up and painted turbo heat shield, which I installed in the last update.

Here are a bunch of parts that I painted with Dupli-Color trim paint. The headlight retainers were originally a dull silver, but I thought they'd look much better in black like the rest of the front end parts. To the far right is the windshield cowl trim, which had faded over time. Oh and my '91 Talon is not amused by playing the role of "storage rack." While all of this was going on, I also polished the turn signal and parking light lenses, which had become dull over time.

So my plan was to rip all of the front end pieces off and restore them back to their factory-fresh glory. Since I know the limits of my talent, here are the items that I'd take to the professionals at the paint shop. Everything else would be painted by spray can in my state-of-the-art paint booth, which also doubles as the area directly outside of my garage.

Why am I doing this?!? Take a close look at this header panel- heavily damaged from rock chips and corrosive Florida Love Bug guts. The pictures make it look better than it was, trust me.
With the parts clean and dry, I loaded up my truck and took my odds and ends to get some quotes from a couple local body shops that I'd spoken with. Pretty simple job right? Well it would be if our town hadn't been attacked by softball size hail en masse a couple weeks ago. This caused a serious backlog of work at every body shop in town. Most folks were telling me that they could get it done sometime around September. That wasn't the story I got over the phone! I guess it was more work than they expected once they saw the various chipped up parts. I expected this, but was still kinda bummed until I reached my last stop, which was just down the road from my house.

After my less than successful day of shopping around my truckload of parts in need of painting, who knew that the guy down the road could turn them around IN THREE DAYS!?! Well incredibly he did and they turned out beautiful!

I took a break from the nose job to examine the rear end. My plan was just a quick oil check, but after sticking my finger in the 'ole fill hole and seeing the grayish color, I decided to drain it.

Blaaahhhrrlllpph! After this metallic goo drained out, the wear pattern on the gears wasn't optimal. That would explain the gear whine until the car gets good and warm. I'll replace the fluid for now, but will have to come back and address this someday.

After sealing everything up with a new gasket and a nice slathering of Permatex's excellent "Right Stuff" sealant, I torqued the cover down to factory specs. In the future I plan to detail out the undercarriage with POR15.

I got everything back together later that night and was lovin' the results! The 'nose job' transformation was incredible and totally changed the look of the car. The combined effect of the restored trim, parking lenses, buick emblem, bright new headlights and professionally painted pieces was dramatic compared to the faded, chipped look everything had before.

Another shot:

Last one!

Thanks for reading!

I must commend your website you referred to several times here...Very interesting and detailed reads...Kinda fun following your progress. I'm actually very new to all of this...Never to old to start learning. Just purchased mine last summer and have been reluctant to start 'getting' into it. Not a lot of help in this area with Turbo Buicks, but this website has been a wealth of knowledge thus to just start applying it. thanks for the interesting reading.