Buick celebrated its racing success in this arena in the spring of 1982 by introducing a special Regal to the showrooms called the “Grand National”.
This was a well-planned event.
Earlier, in February of 1982, Buick had run this limited edition Regal at a Daytona press event.
The car sported a charcoal and silver-gray paint scheme with red accents; no black cars were to be found.
The production power plant of this first Grand National was the 4.1 Liter, non-turbocharged V6 with a four-barrel carburetor, a move initiated perhaps out of quality control concerns with the 3.8L V6 Turbo.
In fact, sales of the Regal Turbo Sport Coupes were severely flagging, with only 2,022 produced in 1982 – a huge drop from the high of 21,389 in 1979.
Another clue that difficulties were being addressed, or that changes were in the works regarding the 3.8L Turbo V6 engine in 1982, was its complete absence from availability in the Riviera line for six months of this model year.
It is estimated that fewer than 1000 Riviera Turbo T-Types were produced in 1982.
Despite the strong promotional campaign, only 215 of the Regal Grand Nationals were produced in 1982.
From today’s perspective, without considering the other signs that were available regarding issues with the 3.8L Turbo, it might seem strange that this first Grand National did not include in its specified options Buick’s best performing, turbocharged engine.
But clearly, Buick was having quality issues or other difficulties with their V6 Turbo engine.
However, the company eventually produced about twenty-five turbocharged 1982 Grand Nationals – with the added name of “Sport Coupe”.
One could also view these twenty-five cars as Regal Turbo Sport Coupes with the Grand National paint scheme and emblems.
At any rate, the turbocharged 1982 Grand Nationals were the only ones ever designated as Grand National Sport Coupes. They were probably specially ordered cars whose availability was not generally known by the public, or whose combination of Regal options was not readily known.
As noted above they did not come in what everyone now regards as “Grand National clothing”, that striking all black color scheme.
This story has been told in several places, with variations.
Rich George’s account of the ’82 GN Sport Coupe is a reliable interpretation of these events (see the web site “Before Black”).
Another transition year at Buick occurred in 1983, especially for those of us who are Turbo V6 enthusiasts.
The turbocharged Sport Coupes were gone and in their place was the Regal T-Type, the first time in the Buick line-up that the T-Type designation and logo was attached to the Regal name.
As for the V6 Turbo engine, 1983 was the last year for the carbureted version.
A combination of factors including better quality control measures at Buick, especially with the V6 Turbo engine, rising visibility of Buick’s racing prowess in both NASCAR and Indy, and a national mood that was much improved, led to rising sales across the board.
Sales of the turbocharged Regal T-Types nearly doubled (to 3,732) that of the prior year’s Regal Turbo Sport Coupe sales.
Riviera T-Type production stayed relatively flat at 1,331 cars.
Also, note that the 1983 Twin Turbo INDY Pace Car utilized a Buick 4.1 block, there were only two made, one went to the winner of that years race and the other to the SLOAN Museum exhibit.
It was a SFI (Sequential Fuel Injected) prototype.