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1987 Buick Grand National - Black & Blue

A Two-Tone 11-Second GN That Can Even Put The Beat Down On Racecars At The Circle Track

Jim McIlvaine Mar 15, 2007

If the character Marv from Frank Miller's Sin City has taught us anything, it's that being an old school bruiser means being tough. Pretty boy show cars sound nice on paper, but what good is a trophy without the satisfaction of driving your prizewinner home and giving a few Mustangs the hard goodbye along the way? Don't be fooled by the super clean two-tone paint job on Julie Schmittinger's 1987 Grand National, this midwestern bruiser is not for the faint of heart.

Sporting the latest and greatest Innovative 66mm dual ball bearing turbo, a Duttweiler motor, and a road race suspension, Julie's GN is all business. However, this turbo Buick's rise to fame began with humble roots. After finding the GN in Massachusetts, she had intended to drive it all the way back to West Bend, Wisconsin. Unfortunately the car broke down half way into the trip, which prompted her husband Jim to tear the motor and tranny out once they got it back to their garage. But then one thing led to another and, "I came home from work and all I had was a frame." Unbeknownst to Julie, her husband had begun a frame-off restoration and was having the body painted by Rick's Autobody in Farmington with a custom two-tone pattern with her favorite shade of blue. "I never really liked the plain black, and I saw this blue on a Honda motorcycle and I always liked it. And then the PT Cruiser came out with almost the exact same color."

The finished product wasn't revealed to Julie until Mother's Day, at which time the bodywork had been complemented by a fresh powerplant and drivetrain. After having so much success with a recently purchased Stage 2 motor, Jim called Buick guru Kenny Duttweiler for a stock rebuild LC2 adding only a set of JE forged pistons to the OEM crank and rods. Billet main caps were installed to support the balanced crank and the increase in power afforded by a Comp Cams 218/218 duration, .511/.511-inch lift cam. McKenzie's Cylinder Heads ported the stock iron castings, adding 1.77 intake valves and 1.50 exhaust valves, to flow 208-cfm at .500-inch lift (160-cfm exhaust). The stock intake manifold was also ported and matched to a Kenne Bell 76mm throttle body, which would be provided with cool atmosphere via a Kenne Bell front mount air-to-air intercooler. The stock stamped steel rocker arms were retained, but actuated by Comp Cams hardened pushrods.

After receiving the motor from Duttweiler with a set of MSD 50-pound injectors, Jim tidied up the rest of the fuel system and exhaust in order to get the GN ready to fire. A Holley 250-lph in-tank fuel pump with a Holley adjustable pressure regulator was added to keep tabs on the fuel supply, while a homemade chip influenced the stock computer. A 160-degree thermostat and custom Howe radiator with a built in oil cooler stave away power-robbing heat soak. Hooker Super Comp 1 5/8-inch coated headers scavenge exhaust for the recycled energy, which is dumped out a Terry Houston 3-inch downpipe and an ATR 3-inch exhaust.

The renowned Jimmy's Transmission in Mundlein, Illinois, was contracted to rebuild the 200-4R to be strong enough for its new duties in the 11-second street car. A 10-inch, 3,000-stall Precision Industries Vigilante was the torque converter of choice, so as not to take away from the GN's streetability. The stock driveshaft was treated to a fresh set of Mark Williams U-joints, and the 8.5-inch 10 bolt received an Auburn posi and Moser 28-spline axles keeping the stock 3.42 gears.

As an avid circle track racer, and knowing what a fan of NASCAR Julie is, Jim insisted on setting up the GN's suspension in the same manner as his racecars. Hotchkis lowering springs dropped the nose approximately 2.5 inches in the front and 3 inches in the rear. Lefthander tubular units replaced the front upper control arms with a Hotchkis 1 3/8-inch hollow front sway bar tightening up the front end. Hotchkis boxed upper and lower control arms make up the rear suspension, guided by a Hotchkis 1-inch solid rear sway bar. Twelve-way adjustable PRO shocks are used at all four corners, and polyurethane bushings are used throughout. Baer 13-inch front and 12-inch rear brakes with drilled and slotted rotors replace the primitive stock disc/drum combo. The final ingredient was a custom set of Boyd Coddington 17x9-inch chrome wheels with Nitto 555 rubber to really draw attention to the slammed cherry.

Even with the Nitto 275/40R17 drag radials, the torque monster still managed a 1.63 60-foot time and an 11.12 ET at 110 mph down the 1320. Even more impressive though is the cash and prizes Jim has taken home at Slinger Super Speedway. "It's turned faster times at the circle track than full on racecars. It even outperformed our C6. We wound up getting rid of the C6 because it just sat since she loved driving the GN so much. She doesn't let me drive it, and she's already been through three sets of tires in a year and a half. I am sure the neighbors don't appreciate that, but they'll get over it."

Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, either. Julie said, "Whenever my [8-year-old] daughter, Jayna, is in the car she giggles when I step on it and she says 'faster, faster.' She says she wants to drive a Vette when she is 16." Good luck with that one, Jayna. In the mean time, she can continue to enjoy many miles of excitement in her mom's GN. And who knows, maybe when she's old enough to drive, mom will hand over the keys. Then again, maybe not!

Car: 1987 Grand National

Owner: Julie Schmittinger
Block: Stock LC2, 231 cubic inches
Compression ratio: 8:1
Heads: Stock iron, ported and polished by McKenzie's
Cylinder Heads, 1.77 intake, 1.50 exhaust valves
Cam: Comp Cams hydraulic roller, 218/218 duration at
.050, .511/.511-inch lift, 115 LSA
Pushrods: Comp Cams hardened
Rocker arms: Stock 1.55:1
Pistons: JE forged
Rings: TRW
Crankshaft: Stock
Rods: Stock
Throttle body: Kenne Bell 76 mm
Fuel injectors: MSD 50 lb./hr.
Fuel pump: Holley 250 lph
Ignition: Stock
Engine management: Stock, homemade chip
turbo: Innovative GTS 66mm
Boost: 24 psi
Intercooler: Kenne Bell air-to-air
wastegate: Stock
Exhaust system: Hooker Super Comp 1 5/8-inch headers, Terry
Houston 3-inch downpipe, ATR 3-inch exhaust
with cutouts
Transmission: 200-4R built by Jimmy's
Torque converter: Precision Industries Vigilante 3000-stall
Driveshaft: Stock
Front suspension: Hotchkis lowering springs and sway bar,
Lefthander upper control arms, PRO struts
Rear suspension: Hotchkis lowering springs, sway bar, upper and
lower control arms, PRO shocks
Rear end: Stock 8.5-inch 10-bolt, 3.42 gear, Moser 28-spline
axles, Auburn posi
Brakes: Baer 13-inch front, 12-inch rear
Wheels: Boyd Coddington custom 17x9
Front tires: Nitto Extreme 555 255/40/17
Rear tires: Nitto Extreme 555R Drag Radials 275/40/17
Fuel octane: 110
Race weight: 3,600 pounds
Best ET/mph: 11.12 at 110 mph
Best 60-ft. time: 1.63
Current mileage: 57,000



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