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Stories from Steve: 1987 Buick GNX – 27 miles

Updated: Apr 17

Gary Cave has been involved in cars his whole life, either collecting car parts, buying large numbers of classic cars, restoring many of these cars, or working on contemporary cars at his body shop in Clinton, Maryland.


I met him at a Carlisle show in the 70s and from then on, he would always stop by the space to say “hi” or buy a Pontiac part if I had the right one. I knew he had a large collection of cars – all of which were a mixed breed and not just Pontiacs.


During the 80s, I was running Interstate 95 to reach new car dealers that had NOS parts for sale. I had a chance to stop by Gary’s shop on occasion and was always impressed with the huge number of unrestored classic and muscle cars that were stuffed into the shop’s back yard. He and his wife Renee made a good team and produced fine automobiles. We had even traded cars back in the 80s, but he seldom had one for sale.


At the 2005 Fall Carlisle Meet, Gary and I had a very interesting conversation about his future plans. I was caught by surprise when he said that the body shop would be going up for sale and that he and Renee were going to build a new house, a restoration shop, and a building for many of his cars near Hagerstown, Maryland.


I asked him how this was all going to happen. He answered, “We’re going to move it all over there.”


“But Gary, you’ve got enough stuff around your shop and house to build a small town!” I said.


“I’m going to use my trucks and trailers and haul it all myself.” 


Knowing his work ethic, I believed he could do it. “Ok, I can understand everything up to now but you aren’t the kind of guy who runs around with a mortgage or loans.”


“You’re right,” he said. “and this is where you come in. I’m going to sell off as many cars as necessary to cover the costs.”


“I like the idea, but which cars will be for sale?” I answered.


He amazed me with his answer: “Every car is for sale until I reach my projected goal.”


Whoa, I thought to myself. I’d better get down there, and fast!


As he left, I said, “See you after the Hershey Show!”


He nodded and walked towards the gate.


Later that month, I headed south to see Gary and two other folks – one with a car for sale and another with NOS parts.


After arriving, I realized little had changed outside. But man, there were a lot more cars in the collection.


The first thing I noticed was a hole in the collection.


“Gary, what did you have stored there?” I asked him.


“That was a ’66 Corvette – sold it yesterday to a guy from Canada,” he replied.


Farther down the row was a 1987 Buick GNX with the original 30-day dealer plate still attached and only 27 miles on the odometer (actual miles to Dealership – about 19 miles). I asked if it was really for sale.


“Yup, like I told you, they are all for sale,” said Gary.


We threw possible prices at each other and found one we could both live with.


“I’ll buy that one,” I told him.


He agreed. I was still in shock because I was aware that he bought it new. He never registered the car; he only drove it from the dealership to his shop. It was possibly one of his favorite cars.


The next group of cars were mostly restored. Then, we came upon a great-looking 1970 Buick GSX. They only made 678 of those, and this car had the rare combination of a four speed plus a stage one engine. He said he had a very interested buyer in town and had offered him first refusal.


“Ok, Gary, let’s play the numbers game on this car and you find out if he’ll match or beat it,” I said.


We agreed on a price. He called the following week and said it had been purchased for more money.


Again, we looked at car after car – none of which fit my criteria. Suddenly, in building number 2, a great-looking “mutt” appeared. It didn’t fit either my low mileage collection or the “one of” group, but it was a great silver 4 speed ’66 GTO from my favorite part of the country – Oregon. These cars are not subjected to acid rain, salt, excessive heat, or excessive cold and snow. Even with the 40,000 miles, it was beautiful and completely original. I bought that also – so I had bought two and was about to lose a third.


After I returned and brought the cars home, I started to further research the brand new GNX. There were fewer made than I thought (only 547). This car was number 241 (noted on the original window sticker, on the glove box door, and on the original Buick GNX factory promotion book in a box in the trunk). Also, in the trunk was the untouched GNX jacket.


I knew Gary was the original owner (bought the car Aug 27, 1987) and I found the original odometer statement upon sale (8 miles) and that the dealer – Temple Motor Co., 1912 Diagonal Road, Alexandria, VA – was just across the Potomac River from Gary’s shop in Clinton, MD.


I also wanted to know why they made this car in the first place (the GN had been very successful since 1982) and how they got such tremendous power. 


First, I found that Buick wanted to produce a very limited production car to express the success of the GN – thus, they contracted with McLaren Performance Technologies to alter the 3.8-liter turbo charged Buick V-6 to produce 276 hp at 4400 rpm with 360-foot pounds of torque at 2400 rpm. Thus, the GNX was born. GNX stands for Grand National Experimental and the production limit was set at 500. However, as mentioned, 547 units were made. The MSRP was about $29,000 – but most dealers sold them for $35,000. In factory-tuned condition, they ran the quarter mile in about 13.2 seconds with a 60 mph in less than 5 seconds.


I found two other interesting facts.


Number one was that Star Wars had been released in 1977, but many people still nicknamed the GNX “The Dark Side.” Number two was that the word around the block was that the government ATF (Alcohol-Tobacco-Firearms) Division purchased between 50 and 100 of these cars for pursuit vehicles. However, this was not so. I’ve now learned these were probably GN Buicks and not GNX.

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