Custom Cruise Friday
In the pantheon of high-performance cars from General Motors, the names Corvette and Camaro from Chevrolet are well known and recognizable the world over. At one time the Pontiac Firebird was the must-have vehicle for those looking to go fast. However, only the most ardent student of automotive performance that bleeds gasoline with horsepower as their native tongue would recognize a machine like the 1987 Buick GNX, sometimes referred to as “The Darth Vader Car” owned by Tom Mah of Edmonton. The casual high-performance fan may think they are looking at a classic Buick Grand National. They will know they are mistaken the instant the turbocharged, V-6 engine roars to life and screams down the track.
One of the most interesting elements of each Custom Cruise Friday blog post is how the vehicle managed to find its way to the current owner. The manner in which Mah came across his 1987 Buick GNX is pretty standard. However, the best part of the story came in the transfer from the first owner to the owner of the car that preceded Mah. The legend goes that the Buick GNX was one of a pair meant to be given to the sons of a dealership owner. Apparently, the owner felt one of the sons wasn’t pulling he weight at work and placed the GNX on the used car lot where it was quickly bought by the second owner.
Mah bought the 1987 Buick GNX in 2010 and immediately went to work getting it back to showroom condition. From his own estimates he has put more than 100 hours in to restoring the exterior paint job. Subsequently, he is very particular about when and where he drives and parks it on the rare occasion he take the car out for a drive. Upon taking delivery of the Buick GNX five years ago, there was 11,000 miles on the car. As of the time of interview, a little more than 2,500 miles have been added to that total.
“I keep it out of the sun,” Mah said.
Over the five years that he has owned the 1987 Buick GNX, Mah has shown the car off on some cruise nights and regularly attends a few show per year.
“You see a lot of tire kickers and dreamers,” Mah said. “You see all kinds of people at these shows, the good and the bad.”
Just as Mah finished this sentence, a passer-by pulled up to ask about the car. Which category the man fell into remains to be seen.
For Mah, a major part of owning a high-performance vehicle like this is the chance to work on the car and add a little of his influence to it. Much of the car is factory and has been kept this way to retain its collectability. Only 547 models of the Buick GNX were built. The one owned by Mah is No. 178. One of the more subtle changes that has been made to the car includes reprogramming the engine computer that gave the car an instant and significant power boost. Other performance components that can be found on the 1987 GNX include a more efficient turbocharger and intercooler, a cat-back dual exhaust, external transmission cooler and torque arm/pan hard rear suspension.
While Mah has never tested his Buick GNX on a quarter-mile track, his best guess is that it would complete the run in about 12.5 seconds. On paper, that would be faster than the same model-year as the Corvette, Camaro, Firebird or a Ford Mustang. However, that isn’t to say Mah hasn’t had occasion to see what his hard work as accomplished.
“I’m not afraid to step on it,” Mah said. “As long as there is no photo radar or police around.”
Don Wheaton would like to thank Edmonton Country Club for providing a beautiful backdrop for the photo shoot for the 1987 Buick GNX. If you have a classic or modified vehicle that you would like to see profiled in a Custom Cruise Friday Blog, contact Don Wheaton Internet Manager, Melina Kawecki by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include some photos and pertinent information.