13 April 2017

“Twin” Buick Grand Nationals: Barn find of the year or a sucker born every minute?

By now you might have heard of William Avila and Shawn Matthews, Oklahomans who bought a pair of ‘87 Buick Grand Nationals from some guy’s dusty garage a couple weeks ago. Because William’s detailed account of the deal first appeared on Facebook, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was really just some Russian ploy designed to undermine Buick turbo history. But then GM EFI Magazine, BarnFinds.com, Road & Track, The Drive, and others picked it up. And because automotive media defines a moral, civilized society, we now know it’s true.

The gist is this: Purchased new 30 years ago, the cars carry sequential VINs. For this reason, Avila dubbed them “The Twins.” Both were dusty as all get out, they’ve got saggy headliners, and probably every bit of their rubber is crunchy, but they are otherwise clean, new cars. They still wear original window stickers and have fewer than 1,400 miles combined. One of them, it is said, still has that new car smell. Ahhh.

What we don’t know, however, is what Matthews paid for them. The seller—the man who bought them new—was asking $200,000 for the pair, but Matthews balked. That figure isn’t exactly the going rate for a pair of Grand Nationals these days. Generally, they range from about $17,000 for a driver with needs to $52,000 for the best in the world, according to the Hagerty Price Guide. In fact, the record price for a Grand National at auction came at Mecum’s Harrisburg sale last year, when a 2,900-mile car sold for $50,600. The Twins, with 592 and 807 miles, respectively, could touch that kind of money once freshened up.

It bears mention that this is merely an exercise, as Matthews, who laid down the coin to secure them, ostensibly at a figure less than $200,000, has no plans to sell either car. Instead, as Avila maintains, “They will be shown locally, and always together and referred to as the TWINS.”

The value question is an interesting one, however. It’s easy enough to determine the market price, give or take, for a 1987 Buick Grand National. But just like any car with celebrity ownership history, a Pebble Beach victory, or some other X factor that sellers might affix in an attempt to boost the price, the “twin” thing—on top of the low-mileage, barn-find factor—gives these turbo Buicks a bump. But how much?

Not $200,000 much, according to Greg Ingold, Valuation Data Support Specialist at Hagerty, who follows the Grand National and GNX market. “We’re talking two low-mile GNXs for that price,” he says. The GNX was the final, most fantastic iteration of the turbocharged Buick Regal, a 1987-only model with 276 horsepower and just 547 built. They were Corvette killers and quite rightly regarded as one of the fastest American cars of the ’80s, a decade not known for fast American cars.

“Being generous, I’d say the Twins are worth $60,000–$65,000 each when sold together,” Ingold says. “If they’re broken up and sold separately, I don’t see them being worth more than #1 value at $52,000, which already assumes the car to be low-mile and in perfect condition.”

Okay, so that lowers them to $120,000–$130,000 as a single lot in an ideal world, which is no small change. But they’ll still never be GNXs. Those will always be more desirable just because there are 19,646 fewer of them. Heck, even the base turbocharged Regal, Regal Limited, and Turbo T are much, much rarer than a Grand National—with identical output and torque. And most GNXs will be low-mileage by default, either because they spun the odo a quarter-mile at a time, or because they were stashed away as instant collectibles, likely in better shape than our twins here.

For his money, Ingold would have passed. “If I was a Buick collector with $200,000 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d splurge on two well-cared-for, sub-1,000-mile GNXs rather than two Grand Nationals that have been stored in a setting of borderline neglect.”

Of course, we may never know what Matthews actually paid for the Twins. If he negotiated with the seller (who, by all accounts seemed a stickler throughout the process), then perhaps he’ll do alright in the long run. If not, well, at least he got two sequentially VIN’d Buick Grand Nationals and some 30-year-old new-car smell out of the deal.

17 Reader Comments

  • 1
    bill Oregon April 19, 2017 at 17:54
  • 2
    Salome Cavazos Texas April 19, 2017 at 22:22
    I love the pessimist point of view these guys at Hagerty have. Sure If I worked with you guys I would have valued them lower, at the end of the day, what's an insurance responsibility... Charge as much as you can on a premium, and pay as little as possible should a claim arise.. Typical insurance guy review. I love the “If I was a Buick collector with $200,000 burning a hole in my pocket" remark...lol... If I could have I would have... spoken like someone who doesn't have money to burn...lol.. This the exact same reason I don't insure my cars with Hagerty!!!!
  • 3
    Dj Simpson Delaware ohio April 19, 2017 at 23:14
    Im a serious survivor car collector of the 60's to the 80's and own 2 Buick GN's and a WE4 Lightweight. The fact that they are have 2 sequential production VIN's doesn't pull me toward giving extra cash for the two. Not a big deal to me. And from the looks of the barn and dust they were pulled out from tells me they have endured damaging and improper storage. All told, hard pressed for me to even consider 50 grand for each of them.
  • 4
    Doug Central ILLinois April 20, 2017 at 01:20
    Had one, new, kept it for 13 years. Properly stored it every winter. It had 47,800 when I sold it for $18,200 and wish I hadn't.
  • 5
    Bort U mad April 20, 2017 at 02:41
    So salty lol
  • 6
    Superformance Detoilet, MI. April 20, 2017 at 17:47
    Even at $30,000 I guess there IS a sucker born every minute... I'd give the guy $5000 and three watermelons each for those... They may be desirable for a collector when in decent shape, and semi-fast for their day, but they're just big-fat 1980's U.S. built junk if you ask me (let's face it, the late 70's and just about the WHOLE 80's really stunk for US made automobiles of any brand, in both quality of the build/design AND speed.... My brother has a good friend who did this same thing with a brand new 1970 440-6Pack Challenger, except that car only had about 35 miles on it when it went up on blocks (drove it home from the dealership and up on blocks it went)... My brother saw that car a few years ago in the guys barn; mice were living in it...... Unfortunately, what could have been a beautiful, fast classic muscle car is now an extremely low mileage "project" car... The guys still doesn't want to part with it. He says it's still one of his favorite cars. Well, next to his original 1970 Hemi Charger RT that is (which he fortunately drives all over the place and is still in awesome shape). Stupid is as stupid does I guess....
  • 7
    Gary Holland Clio/Flint Michigan USA April 20, 2017 at 07:37
    Being raised and having worked in the Flint area and for GM for 26 yrs this story is just a great way to remember a Iconic pc of Buick history. I have lots of history with this car, having worked under Lloyd and Mark Reuss at GM. My dad retired from BUICK, and helped me buy my Grand National which i still own and very passionate about. Ive talked with both of the guys who now are caretakers of the TWINS. They are class acts and its not about the money as they stated. Lookijg forward to helping in any way to keep them around for all of us to enjoy the legend of the BLACK beautys from Flint Michigan.
  • 8
    bmwloco Asheville NC April 20, 2017 at 08:47
    In the late 80's I was in college at UGA, one of the guys was a well heeled car nut. He got a Grand National. Very proud of it too. While home, somewhere in rural GA, the GNX pilot power slid it into the side of a Winn Dixie and pretty much killed it. Probably had less than 5k miles on it too.
  • 9
    Thomas Hoagwood FL April 20, 2017 at 08:59
    Replace all the rubber bits, wash & wax the exteriors, polish the brightwork, detail the interiors and you are left with mid-80s GM cars. That is like spending 2 weeks in Philly when the winner got 1 week.
  • 10
    Sal Esposito New Jersey April 20, 2017 at 09:22
    Interesting story, but who in there right mind would leave a new GN, let alone 2 new GNs to this fate? If you're going to store them away (a practice I could never subscribe to) at least bubble them or put them in some kind of climate controlled, clean environment. The cost to replace all those seals and rubber isn't going to be cheap.
  • 11
    Morley Brown Primrose, Ontario, Canada April 20, 2017 at 10:58
    Years ago, philosophers used to argue over how many fairies could dance on the head of a pin. This type of story reminds me of that story. Who cares. I buy cars because I like to drive them, not glorify them in oral history.
  • 12
    Frank Benvenuti Henderson, NV. April 21, 2017 at 17:40
    I'm not clear on what makes a GNX worth so much more then a GN. Arrant they both Turbo Charged V6's? What am I missing?
  • 13
    david rotarius AZ April 21, 2017 at 19:18
    If I were to have bought those the buying price I would have offered would been about 20k each the #s that were talked about is way out of line in my oppion good luck with them, grandma said thers a sucker born every daay and looks like he was just foud. Mr.overpaid.
  • 14
    G.Hansen Usa April 21, 2017 at 07:28
    I'm surprised critters haven't feasted on the interiors and wiring harnesses
  • 15
    Richard Bettini Edgewater NJ April 21, 2017 at 09:37
    Had similar year had trouble finding replacement parts especially with Poston Enterprises gone.
  • 16
    Matt Pennsylvania April 21, 2017 at 10:31
    I know what you mean Sal. There always seems to be (and I'll put it nicely) some Character that leaves a classic car laying around or in a field somewhere. Many times someone will offer a fair price to save the car and the person will refuse thinking some billionaire will come around some day and offer them a million bucks for it.
  • 17
    Dave Brown Marion, Ia. April 23, 2017 at 19:50
    I'll second that. Everyone gets so excited about time capsule cars. Lets not forget the Miss Belvedere fiasco.....The underhood shot shows rust on the bare metal. What does the underside look like? I would rather have a 20-30K mile one that had fussy care than either of these!

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