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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1986 Buick LeSabre Grand National

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Welcome to another installment of the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the definition of what a muscle car is, and to discover hidden treasures while doing so. Many do not even know that the Buick division of General Motors produced the Grand National on a platform other than on the Regal, but there was a very unique Grand National built in late 1985: The 1986 LeSabre Grand National. This was the debut of GM’s new full-size FWD platforms, and the two door Buick LeSabre (along with its corporate cousin, the Oldsmobile Delta 88) proved to be quite slippery in wind tunnel tests. We have had this question in this series before, but can a front wheel drive two-door really be considered a muscle car?


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The main reason for building the 1986 LeSabre Grand National was to get the new body with modified rear quarter windows sanctioned for Winston Cup racing that year. The modified windows gave the car a streamline advantage over cars with the large rear quarter windows. All LeSabre Grand Nationals were produced in December, 1985 in one run, from one run sheet – some of the first FWD LeSabre Coupes produced at the then brand new Buick City plant. Around that time Buick Motor Division changed its marketing strategy from a performance car divison to a luxury car image and cancelled future LeSabre Grand National builds. Only the one production run of LeSabre Grand Nationals was completed and Buick decided to build no more. As such, the 1986 LeSabre Grand National is the rarest of Buicks wearing the Grand National emblem and one of the rarest of all “modern” era Buicks.

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Some prototype LeSabre Grand Nationals were rumored to have been turbocharged but kept destroying the FWD THM440-T4 transmissions so production vehicles were released to the dealers in normally aspirated versions. Buick planned to spend it’s research and development money on other projects and the LeSabre Grand National was toast.

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The LeSabre Grand National (LGN for short) is among the rarest of all Buicks ever made, with production numbers varying between 112 and 117 units. It was only available in black with gray interior, though one red one managed to get built. The WE2 Grand National Option Package listed for $1,237. These cars were primarily sold in the Atlanta and Jacksonville regions.

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Production of the LGN as the LeSabre’s “sport” version was ended by the inception of the LeSabre T-Type, which was offered from 1987-89. Well, even I know this car isn’t a Muscle Car, but here is why I decided to do a posting on it. We all know that the Buick Regal Grand National is a true musclecar, and an unconventional one at that, because of it’s Turbocharged V-6. The LeSabre Grand National was an attempt by Buick to get back into NASCAR, since they didn’t offer “Aero” versions of the Regal, a tactic that both Chevrolet and Pontiac did with their “G” platforms. With a limited run of 112 (or 117 as has been reported) the program wasn’t a success, and soon Buick was on the path of offering “Premium American Cars” rather than performance cars in the coming years. Tell me what you think.

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So, should the 1986 Buick LeSabre Grand National find a place within the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • X_X

    crush it.

  • OA5599

    It's hard to tell from the pictures precisely what the window treatment is, but it looks like some sort of plastic aerodynamic cover over the stock glass quarter window. 112 cars times $1200 option price (probably heavily discounted on showroom floors) is probably a drop in the bucket for a NASCAR team trying to homologate a competitive edge.

    I can probably forgive FWD in the right OMC. I know that some undisputable muscle cars were built with column shift automatics and no tachometer, so I might look the other way on that here. But I can't forgive detuning an engine so that a weak transmission can be used.

    Not just no, but hell no.

    • BlackIce_GTS

      The quarter window thing is indeed some NASCAR aero minutia, but it's not a cover. They made new tiny rectangular quarter windows just for this trim level and the plastic thing fills in the gap. Because GM.

      I've heard of these cars before because I used to have the equivalent Delta 88 (it was horrible) and I was attempting to find fast versions I could steal parts from.
      I think I determined the ideal candidate would be a W-body Regal GSX, but the LeS GN does have pretty nice wheels.

  • GTXcellent

    Plus that oh so sweet reverse opening hood!

    <img src="https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSznn0g3KqWWScp54w4OnAQuBPVr-7kX13sPMti9NVMpUTX6ml0"&gt;

    (oh, and no way in hell does this thing belong in a muscle car garage)

    • Devin

      That hood makes me wish this was a truly hot LeSabre. Alas.

  • <img src="http://www.turbobuick.com/forums/data/avatars/l/42/42559.jpg"&gt;
    I once had a used car dealer try to sell me a RWD LeSabre turbo Sport Coupe. I blew him off.
    I discovered only later that they're rare and fairly collectable, although the one I was looking at was solid black, which I'm pretty sure wasn't available from the factory. It must have been a respray.

    • mr smee

      It's so rare to see one of these now, when you do you realize how good-looking they were.

  • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

    It scores a 2 out of 3 on John McCrea's list of what makes a great car, however for a performance car it ticks none of the boxes.

    This one is obscure I will give it that, but that's the only plus it gets for OMC. Leaving this an "O no."

  • Number_Six

    150HP in a large Buick the same year the Regal GN was wrinkling pavements? No thanks.

  • Unobtainable when new, so it lacks the 'Power For The Masses' quality that muscle cars had (though, this is Obscure MCG). Homologation special.

    Wait, if you put more power under the hood it eats it's transmission? Non starter right there. This thing can't stand the heat, so get it out of the kitchen!

  • Whatever the diametric opposite of muscle, this is it.

  • I must have missed the section of the post where you described the "muscle" part. No bigger engine, no suspension upgrades? Just some badges and a goofy rear window?

    Nope.

  • Van_Sarockin

    One look at that sport steering wheel, and you know just how serious GM was. Then you look at those velour seats.

  • skitter

    Yes, it is FWD, but it's very American, not a hot hatch. So it's good there.
    But no hot engine? Nevermind the 442, less power than even a base Quad-4?
    This isn't muscle car. It's a technicality.

  • Sjalabais

    Can't vote in Opera for Android, but Imho this is no muscle car at all. I'd see it as the crappy alternative to the Volvo 780, a car that never pretended to be sporty.

    <img src="http://jeweell.com/data_images/out/53/1328632-volvo-780.jpg&quot; width="600">

    That said, the straight, no bullshit design of the Buick is pretty appealing. I like both the exterior and the dash a lot.

  • ptschett

    I have the same problem with this as with the other 1986 GM homologation special we've seen in this series recently. It's obscure, but not really muscle.

  • HTWHLS

    I think it's a handsome car and the rarity make it a "go" in my book. Besides, for those who want to drive it versus store it, there are probably better transmissions to swap in now. I wonder if an Eldorado or Toronado driveline could be squeezed in??

  • bluehillsmike

    Too bad the 3.8 super that rocks my Park Ave Ultra wasn't figured out yet. Whooosh…

  • Mad_Hungarian

    On the one hand, I wish we were still in a world where there was enough of a relationship between NASCAR cars and, you know, actual STOCK cars, that the carmakers had to produce things like this to homologate a body design. On the other hand, the rear window modesty panels are really ugly. I'll take an '87 T Type over this any day.

  • mr smee

    That window thing is horrible. However, the T-Type LeSabre was very handsome indeed. I worked at a Pontiac/Buick store in the 1980s and we had a T-Type sit on the showroom floor for more than a year. I really liked the looks of it and so when the sales manager was bitching about it not selling I checked the invoice and made an an offer. They laughed at my offer, and then then sold it a week later for less. Lesson learned, never buy a car at the dealership you work for. Having said that, I wonder if a 3800 Supercharged would fit in one of these?

  • Pete.z

    Rare enough to deserve a spot in the garage, but by no means a muscle car of course.

  • RegalRegalia

    I don't care if it isn't muscle. But I just found out that I have a new dream car.

  • topdeadcentre

    That rear window panel is *begging* for an opera light.

    Not a muscle car, but wow, an oddball car from the 80's that I never knew about.

  • mario

    9

  • mario

    Hi , I actualy happen to own this exact car a 1986 buick lesabre grand national and it is in almost perfect shape with onlu 130000 km on it ! I think it is a really rare car and it might deserve a spot on the garage ! Thought any one know how much it is worth now a days ?

    • adam

      hold on to it only 117 made? could be like money in the bank, oh you don't get any money for your money in the bank. anyways should be a very rare car to have down the road.