It’s been nearly three decades since the last vestiges of an independent Buick division at General Motors decided to build the ultimate stock car. The 1987 Buick Grand National GNX, with a 3.8-liter V-6 turbo performance-tuned by McLaren/ASC was an awesome near-300 hp motor in its day, and even now a 0-60 mph of 4.7 seconds remains nothing to dismiss.
Since Buick built just 547 GNXs, they’ve been collector cars since the beginning; there are probably fewer miles per car in the GNX world than any other collectable, thanks to the penchant for parking them as investments rather than enjoying them. That strategy paid off last weekend, when a pristine GNX set a new record at Barrett-Jackson, selling for some 50 percent more than the previous record, and roughly $100,000 more than average.
The GNX up for auction had just 362 miles on it and was stock from bumper to bumper; the owner not only had all the window stickers, but the plastic wraps for the seats. The truth of GNX ownership is that even mild driving often requires major maintenance to keep the late-80s GM engineering humming along, so that prices can fall fast as miles go up. Classic car insurer Hagerty estimates the average GNX is worth about $69,000 today, with a concours-level car hitting $103,000 — at least before Saturday.
The Barrett-Jackson car, after some spirited bidding, sold for $163,000 including premium, a level where classic Porsches, lesser Ferraris and many Mercedes live, and certainly a record for a mid-80s GM product. Whether that money sets the new benchmark or becomes the exception to the rule will require a few more sales to confirm — and there will be plenty of GNX caretakers willing to wax up their black beauties to test it.