On December 11, 1987 at 5:00 p.m., the final Buick Grand National rolled off the line at the assembly plant in Pontiac, Michigan. The G-body ‘80s-era muscle car had its run and GM decided to retire the platform altogether. First introduced as a trim option on the Buick Regal in 1982 and then as a standalone model between 1984 and 1987, the Grand National was a powerhouse in its own right.
The last of its breed, the final model of the Grand National has a 245-horsepower turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. For the last three decades or so, this Grand National has lived a pampered life as a garage queen but with a twist: it has been on display in one man’s Louisiana home in its own checkered-floor bedroom.
With a mere 33 miles on the odometer, the Buick is set to cross the auction block at Barrett-Jackson’s big event in January and is expected to fetch $500,000 or more. That’s a big jump from the original sticker price of $17,862, which includes $1,275 in options like a vanity mirror for $50 and an automatic power antenna (remember those?) for $75.
Owner Bob Colvin took possession of the Buick the day it was completed. He was happy to get on the phone with me to tell me the story, joking that I might not be able to understand his charming Louisiana accent. And there’s a lot to talk about. The car has been a part of his family since 1987, and in some ways that’s a literal description. He and his wife even went so far as to build an addition onto their house so the car could have its own checkered-floor room.
Colvin, who is the co-owner of Springhill Motor Company in northern Louisiana, launched a campaign in 1987 to convince GM to sell him the last Grand National off the line. His dealership, which has been in business since 1945, sold a slew of the rear-wheel-drive muscle cars and having the final version would be the proverbial icing on the cake.
His efforts landed him in front of then-GM CEO and Chairman Roger Smith. GM finally agreed that Colvin could purchase the next-to-last Grand National, but Buick was going to keep the final assembled vehicle for itself. It wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but it was close enough.
The Louisianan was invited to Michigan with his family to see the final process in person, and he went to fetch his car. It was to be a momentous occasion: it would be the last vehicle ever to be assembled at this particular plant, which was scheduled for closure. When Colvin arrived in Pontiac, the plant manager surprised him with the news that the final Grand National was tagged for Springhill Motor Company.
“’That’s not GM’s wishes’,” Colvin says the plant manager told him. “’But I’m running this plant and you’ve gone through the effort to be here. It will be a real celebration.’ He’s the one who made it happen.”
Colvin starts several of his sentences with an affable “Let me tell you…” and relays that no one in the plant that day was wearing a hard hat or safety goggles. His then-four-year-old son stood on a box and helped to lower the engine into the car with the help of the workers on the line.
“We roamed all over the plant,” he said. “None of that would happen today.”
When he brought it home, the Buick was rolled into its place of honor in its new room and has been out for just a few occasions. One of those was the Buick centennial celebration in Michigan in 2003, which accounts for a couple of its 33 miles. Other than that, it has been up on jack stands in the Colvins’ home. And this time of year, Colvin’s wife has typically used the trunk as a safekeeping area for Christmas gifts.
“It has literally been in a bedroom for 35 years,” Colvin says. “I love the car; it’s part of the family. It’s lived a life of luxury. But it’s also an investment, and as these cars are reaching their prime right now I think this is the time to do it.”
Colvin warned me that the Last Grand National video GM produced in 1987 would bring a tear to my eye, and it did. The pride – and even joy – on the line is evident even as the assembly plant was closing and some workers were undoubtedly about to lose their jobs.
“It was a real emotional day,” Colvin says. “The people in the plant were so friendly and they wanted to see that last car through.”
This Grand National has perhaps dozens of signatures on it, including those of Lloyd and Mark Reuss, the former and current presidents of General Motors. The plant manager apologized to Colvin that everyone wrote on his car, and Colvin responded “That’s the only way I’d have it.”
Owning this car has been a meaningful experience for the Colvins from start to finish.
“I even wrote to Barrett-Jackson and asked them to come get it because I’m so attached to it,” Colvin told me on the phone. “There will be some tears.”
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