Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary Review

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By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Auto Central, December 11, 2012; Twenty-five years ago today the last Buick Grand National was built. It signaled the end of GM G-Body production and the only year for the limited-production 547-car run of the very powerful Buick GNX.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

All of you out there in auto-enthusiast land no matter if you are old enough to have seen and experienced Buick’s monochromatic black Grand National and GNX on the streets of your town, or if you today are perhaps in your 25th year of life and want to learn more about this awesome automobile, this movie is something to see.

Filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr’s feature-length documentary showcases these “Bad Boys from Flint” as he has tagged them. Filippone spent four years tracking down GN and GNX owners, racers, and collectors. He also tracked down media who road tested the cars, as well as the key players responsible for engineering, styling and marketing at Buick and GM.

Black Air takes the viewer into the culture, social class, inheritance, and privilege ingrained in the turbocharged V6 Buicks. There is less of the mechanics and performance but there are plenty of GNs and GNXs smoking tires and intimidating the drivers of other makes. Visits with the owner of the last GNX, Bob Colvin, interviews with Car and Driver editors, GM’s Lloyd Reuss talking about the desire to attract younger folk to Buick, along with the GM designers perspectives make for a complete look into these special Buicks.

The GNX’s V6 was somewhat underrated by Buick at 276HP and a very substantial 360 lb-ft of torque. A special Garrett turbocharger with a ceramic-impeller blowing through a large capacity intercooler, along with unique electronic engine calibrations, a low-restriction dual exhaust system, and a reprogrammed Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R transmission with a custom torque converter and transmission cooler gave unheard-of-at-the-time performance. Acceleration from 0-60mph was in 4.7 seconds and the quarter mile was covered in 13.5 seconds at 102 mph. It was quicker than many exotic sport cars.

Although the GNX is very quick, Black Air moves at a comfortable pace. Presented subtly and accompanied by original guitar music by Doug Mains, the film gives the viewer a 70-minute chance to ponder the relationship of this unique GM vehicle within the context of the broad automotive world…both then and now.

For more information about Black Air, The Buick Grand National Documentary and to order a DVD visit It would make a perfect Christmas gift for the car enthusiast in your family.

©Larry Nutson

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