Home Car Stories One Owner 1987 BUICK Regal T Type- Gary Gerstner
1987 BUICK Regal T Type- Gary Gerstner PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 18:55

1987 BUICK Regal T Type- Gary Gerstner


Writing copyright D. S. Brown/ Photography courtesy of and copyright Gary Gerstner.

87 buick regal t type gary gerstner front

The number seven has been considered lucky since antiquity. In modern times, the winning roll in dice as well as songs like “Seventh Son” and “Hootchie Cootchie Man” have kept this mystical concept alive in the general consciousness. Lyrics like “Born on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month…born for luck” were floating in the air when Gary was growing up.

Gary’s personal attachment to Sevens traces back to the fact that he was born in 1947. This was the same year Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, which is as good as any rationalization for why Gary has spent a lot of his life racing cars.

When Gary turned 20, he thought it fitting that he bought cars from the years with the same trailing digit as his birth year. He has aimed to buy a new car in the seventh year of each decade. The story of Gary's 1967 Chevelle appears in the ONE OWNER section of this website. The Chevelle was Gary's first “Lucky Seven” car.

Gary Gerstner kept his lucky seven streak going when he ordered a 1987 Buick Regal Turbo T-Type in fall, 1986. Gary liked the look of the Grand National but wanted his car to be white.

The Grand National was really the ultimate choice for a new musclecar in 1987. But if you wanted one it was like the old model T. "You can have any color you want as long as it's black". The imagery of the Grand National was savage and sinister and black was necessary to the package. The performance of the Grand National reproduced the 1960s formula in all ways. Here you had an intermediate sized car with some unique body identification coupled with a savage drive line priced at an affordable cost.

The difference this time around compared to the sea of choices in the 1960s is that this was 1987 and nothing other than the Grand National could match the performance standards of the 1960s. The Grand National met and exceeded the good old days straight line muscle while also passing emissions. The GN also returned decent fuel mileage when driven moderately enough to not invoke the turbo.

This wasn't the first time Buick came out with a musclecar that dominated the competition. Buick sat out a large segment of the 1960s musclecar wars under the radar with restrained styling on the Buick Special GS and Riviera GS. Buicks were hindered by the derogatory 'nailhead' reputation of small valves used on their engines.

Coming from seemingly nowhere, Buick stunned everyone with the 1970 GS 455 Stage 1. The new induction system of huge valves feeding into massive cubes worked right. Buick was in Hemi territory with this engine. Buick didn't stop with King Kong power. Buick dazzled everyone by combining the 455 with the wild striped and spoilered GSX. If Dodge or Pontiac had unleashed this atom bomb of a car everyone would be knocked out, but because it came from modest Buick the car nuts were absolutely flabbergasted.

Like most of the other car companies, once the musclecar flame went out, Buick moved onto other things. The GS was kept around on the colonade A body now renamed Century, but it was a forgotten car by the mid seventies. As the 1970s flipped over to early 1980 Pontiac kept the faith with the Trans Am, while Chevy held on with the Corvette and Camaro.

After the Duster 360 died, Chrysler revived the Road Runner (an image package developed with some help from Jim Wanger's company Motortown) to fill its spot, but they didn't really have anything happening until the turbo Laser and Daytona briefly appeared. These turbos were fast up to 50 mph and then lost ground to their contemporary V8 competitors. Ford also played with a turbo GT Mustang before getting serious about developing the V8 Mustang 5.0. After briefly dabbling with turbos, everyone was making their way back to the old faithful V8 as the solution to lost peformance.

Olds revived the musclecar days with a few 'tape package' 4-4-2s and 'Hurst Olds' cars that were reasonable with the 350, and even made the 307 smog engines pump out OK hp. Chevy came out with a fabulous looking 165 horsepower 305 smog engine Monte Carlo SS. Everyone had an 'almost' musclecar. Guys could build them into the real thing with some 'Day Two' work, but out of the box they were 15 to 17 second quarter mile cars. Meanwhile no one noticed that Buick hadn't given up on the turbo, despite Chrysler and Ford losing interest.

With the developing market of quasi muscle cars available it was evident that buyers wanted looks and handling and would pay for it. If someone could duplicate the lost 1960s straight line performance then you would have a complete package. Suddenly out of nowhere Buick got their turbo worked out and dropped the bomb: the Grand National. Just like 1970 and the GSX 455 Stage 1 all over again, everyone was blindsided.

Significantly, Buick linked the Grand National option numerically as a progression of the GSX option. The GSX option is designated WE1 and the GN is WE2. Like the GSX, the Grand National wasn't just blindingly fast. The GN came with a similarly wild appearance package, spoilers, heavy duty suspension and fast ratio steering. Interestingly, the standard rear axle in the GN (which came standard with A/C) was the same as the GSX 'A/C' axle ratio: 3.42:1.

The Buick turbo had been around for a few years. Buick surprised everyone when a turbo powered 1976 Buick Century went around Indy 500 as the official pace car. Buick brochure tech articles mainly pointed to the turbo as a way to improve fuel economy and emissions. Buick extolled the virtues of an engine that only paid the gas and smog price under conditions of hard turbo use, otherwise you sailed along in luxury but with econo box numbers.

Aside from purportedly solving the CAFE standards, Buick was intently focused on developing some performance. Buick paced Indy 500 again in 1981 (4.1 V6 naturally aspirated Regal) and 1983 (twin turbo 4.6 V6 Riviera). Buick placed the 3.8 V6 turbo into a few 1978 Regals and Le Sabres. The availability expanded in 1979 to include the Century and Riviera. Still no ripples in the pond of complacency. People were vaguely aware of the fine tuning being done over at Buick.

Turbos were lost in a sea of GM innovation. Olds was also busy solving the CAFE standards in their own fashion by creating automotive diesel engines. Cadillac grabbed some attention when they tried out the V8-6-4. The Olds diesel and Cadillac V8-6-4 pissed off owners who perceived them to be problematic experiments. The Buick turbo thing seemed to be just another experiment destined to fizzle out and dropping sales seemed to support that perception as the 1980s unfolded.

Then suddenly Buick had it together in one package. You got the blacked out exterior, the seats with the turbo logo that were reminiscent of the old 1970 GSX prototype (those seats didn't make it to production in the GSX) and of course, a turbo with its issues solved and the ability to smoke everything else built that year. Over the next few years, the intercooler was figured out and a switch to SFI induction brought the Grand National together. It looked like a musclecar, it seated four like a musclecar, it performed like one but it was a new car with a warranty.

Finally in 1987 you could walk into a new car dealership and drive away in a real musclecar that could pull off classic quarter mile times immediately after leaving the dealership floor. Better than the 1960s musclecars, you could also drive it to work every day because the V6 without turbo delivered terrific gas mileage. Gary timed his lucky seven very well didn't he? But he had to do it his way.

When Gary took delivery just before New Year’s Eve he had a white 1987 Buick Regal T Type. Essentially he had a sleeper car at this point but this didn't last long. Gary purchased Grand National trim pieces at the dealer parts counter.

87 buick regal t type gary gerstner crown buick

By spring, 1987 Gary had added the Grand National trim pieces from the parts counter. Gary's Regal caused some people to wonder if Buick had built a White Grand National. The photo below compares Gary's transformed T Type with a factory stock Grand National.

87 buick regal t type gary gerstner w GN

After a few years of building up a legend around the Grand National the rear drive Buick Regal platform was being phased out. Buick wanted to go out with a bang and announced the ultimate bad ass muscle car: the GNX. This car channeled the legendary status of the 1970 Buick GSX and managed similar drag strip times.

Gary was keenly aware of the GNX. He saw an artist's rendering of the impending GSX in Marty Schorr’s ‘Cars Magazine’. The artist used his imagination to include C4 Corvette wheels which allowed the car to run 16” Gatorbacks. Those were huge tires in the late 1980s.

Gary decided to make the GNX artist rendering the basis for the next step in the transformation of his T Type. Gary used billet adapters from Vette Brakes to compensate for the deep back-spacing. He used a 9.5” wide version of the base model 16 x8” Corvette rims. Gary peeled the Corvette logos off the center caps, and painted them black. He placed a fender emblem for 1984 Turbo Regal to the center which provides the Buick ID and mimics the center cap of the chrome Grand National rim. Gary added GSX graphics to break up the oceans of white bodywork. It also falls into place with the original GSX which was available in either white or yellow. Gary feels that it shows the arc of the body line too.

87 buick regal t type gary gerstner side

Gary got one of 6 ‘Best of Show’ awards when he took his T Type to the GS/GN Club’s annual show despite being handicapped by defects in the factory paint.

GM began using water based paints for environmental reasons in the late 1980’s. Many GM cars developed serious paint problems roughly 5 years after being sold. Cars outside and exposed to smog showed ill effects sooner than garaged cars.

Gary got a letter from GM in 1992 stating that his dealership would repaint his car for free. In 1992 Gary's T Type hadn't shown any signs of paint defects. He also knew that his dealer lacked a high end body shop so he elected to stick with his factory paint.

Around 1999 the paint checking began and by 2004 the problem was severe. The paint began falling off revealing the gray primer underneath.

Gary switched gears at this point and started getting his 1967 Chevelle back together. During this process the Buick T Type sat under a car cover in a friends shop for 12 years.

Recently Gary built a car barn behind his home called ‘Mom’s Garage’ using an inheritance from his Mom to finance it. Gary has the final answer for his wife who kept saying "You need less stuff." His reply was always "I need more space!" With this garage the Chevelle and Buick T Type are back home for good.

87 buick regal t type gary gerstner rear

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 May 2021 22:32 )