GRAND NATIONAL VS. MONTE CARLO SS: PICK YOUR ’80S GM PERFORMANCE COUPE

The Grand National came on the scene in 1982 — earlier than some realize.PHOTO BY AUTOWEEK

 Hemmings Blog serves up a pair of GM classics from the late Malaise era

 

Fans of Detroit muscle remember the Buick GNX — the model occupies a special place in the pantheon of General Motors performance cars of the 1980s — but it’s easy to forget where the Grand National started out in the early 1980s. After all, this was the decade of V8s barely cresting the 200-hp mark, and a performance coupe from Buick at the tail end of the Malaise era was a surprising development.

Hemmings Blog has a regular feature that asks readers to “pick” one car out of a pairing, not as an investment but for driving enjoyment. And this week it’s the 1982 Buick Grand National versus the 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, as Hemmings offers a dive into the history of both cars.

That back end of the Malaise era was 1982, and this was when the Regal Grand National debuted to celebrate Buick’s win of the manufacturers’ Cup in the NASCAR Winston Cup Grand National Series in 1981 and 1982. Powered by a 4.1-liter V6 engine producing 125 hp, the Grand National was “tuned” after initial assembly by Cars and Concepts in Brighton, Michigan. A small number of these cars was ordered with a turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 churning out 175 hp. Originally, just 100 Grand Nationals were planned to be built in 1982, but the final production number leaned closer to 215, not counting the prototypes.

Buick Grand National

The Grand National offered performance hardware along with a sinister exterior look.PHOTO BY AUTOWEEK

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As Hemmings recounts, Cars and Concepts added fiberglass spoilers, as well as silver-gray Firemist over the base charcoal paintwork, with each car optioned with F41 Gran Touring suspension, tungsten halogen headlights, heavy-duty transmission and engine cooling. The 4.1-liter cars featured a 3.23:1 rear axle ratio, while the 3.8-liter cars had the 3.03:1 ratio. Other custom touches included a blacked-out grille, rocker panel and wheelarch moldings, Buick graphics by 3M and styled aluminum wheels wrapped in steel-belted 205/70R-14 radial wide oval tires. Inside, the Grand Nationals featured Lear Siegler seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Grand National steering cluster, among other items.

Priced at $15,480 for the 4.1-liter model and $16,578 for the 3.8-liter turbo, the Grand National was a pricey way to get into a sportier Regal.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

The Monte Carlo SS was Chevy’s answer to the Grand National, even though the nameplate had been dormant for 12 years.

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But as Hemmings points out, the performance offered by the Grand National did not go unanswered by another GM division: Chevrolet brought back the Monte Carlo SS nameplate after a 12-year absence as its own performance coupe.

Dubbed RPO Z65, the Monte Carlo SS paired a redesigned, more aerodynamic front fascia with a high-output version of the 175-hp 305-cubic-inch V8 engine. Like the Grand National, the Monte Carlo SS received a spoiler and an F41 sport suspension complete with heavy-duty front and rear shocks and springs, as well as stabilizer bars front and back. The Monte Carlo SS wore Goodyear white-letter tires wrapped around 15-by-7-inch Rally wheels. But, as Hemmings points out, the changes to the interior were minimal, with just a blue bench seat trimmed in white.

Both cars featured automatic transmissions and both were very comfortable with an emphasis on straight-line acceleration rather than carving up narrow, twisty roads. Both also brought GM coupes out of the sequined doldrums of the 1970s, offering a healthy dose of performance and style at a time when diesel fuel misers were still sensible family car choices.

Check out the full comparison of these two ’80s legends on Hemmings Blog and let us know your choice in the comments.

Read more: http://autoweek.com/article/classic-cars/grand-national-vs-monte-carlo-ss-which-would-you-rather-have#ixzz51R2cuPwH

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