Look, after thirty years how many of us really remember a time when Buick had a full line of image and performance vehicles? It’s more than likely that most of our audience were either too young to remember, or not even born yet.
However, back in the ’80s, General Motors was determined to fight their German and Japanese competition with everything that they could throw at them — even if it meant turning their Grandma cars and subpar compacts into performance vehicles.
In this dealer promo film from 1987, now-retired NASCAR driver Patty Moise who then campaigned Buicks, wheels and reviews a LeSabre T-Type, Skyhawk Turbo and last but not least, a Grand National. All stellar performers for their day, especially the GN, it’s still a bit of a culture shock to look back on what was considered to be impressive performance.
For instance, the Skyhawk Turbo packed a 2-liter, SOHC 4-cylinder with a larger turbo than the previous year, that produced a whopping 160 hp and just under 200 lb-ft of torque to the flywheel.
It set itself apart from its J-body clones, especially the Chevy Cavalier and the oddly-placed Cadillac Cimmaron. However, with its turbocharged MPFI engine, sport-tuned suspension and Getrag 5-speed gearbox, you could argue that it played too closely to the Sunbird GT Turbo’s demographic, especially with those flip-up headlights.
The LeSabre T-Type looked aggressive, especially compared to the 112 LeSabre GNs from the year before, but it had a lot of bark but very limited bite. It sported only four color choices, a rear spoiler, upgraded suspension, leather-wrapped steering wheel and aluminum, 5-star 15-inch wheels.
It packed a naturally-aspirated, 3.8L fuel-injected V6 that fell short of 200 hp. Roughly 150 hp, if we remember correctly for 1987. It was a sporty-looking car, a perfect daily-driver, but offered very little in the way of true performance.
Despite a near complete line of sporty Buicks on-hand, the Grand National continued to reign supreme on the performance front; with 245 hp and 355 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged, intercooled 3.8L V6. The grand-touring suspension, 3.42 gear set and its 12-psi of boost all attributed to its high-13 to low-14 second quarter-mile times. It was a sheer straight line performer, despite the improved suspension. For a few hundred bucks in mods back in the day, you could get the car into the 12s.
The Skyhawk Turbo would eventually drop from the Buick lineup, 1987 would be the GN’s swan song and the T-Type LeSabre would go the way of the dodo just two years later, as Buick wanted to redirect its focus to luxury and away from performance by 1990.
Out of the three Buicks featured in this video, only the Grand National (and its T-Package Regal twin) would remain a relevant performer in today’s world. The Skyhawks are nearly nonexistent and the LeSabres can still be had, if you look hard enough, for a song. However, this is truly an interesting look into Buick’s motorsport past, and we thank TestDriveJunkie for unearthing this video for us to share.
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.