Black Air is the Buick Grand National documentary we always wanted

New York filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr. has chosen a righteous topic for a documentary: the Buick Grand National, the factory hot-rod that kept hope alive of a real renaissance within General Motors — rather incorrectly, in hindsight.

So far, the promo has a few grandees and graybeards of Detroit talking over the arrival of the GNX into the moribund world of mid-80s Buick dealerships. This makes us want to see video of GM's great turbocharged hope that much more.

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That's the biggest problem with Detroit right now. They keep trying to "fit".

The Buick Grand National/GNX, the Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird, Ford's Lightning...none of them fit. But look at the places they hold in history. The GNX is the arbiter of turbo boost for many Americans. Sure there were others before it and many more after it. Yeah, there were some that were right there with similar power but we never saw them here. They were admired from an ocean away. The GNX is what the Americans can do with a turbocharger. It was so successful, GM took the Sonoma and Jimmy, turbocharged the 4.3L variant of their corporate V6 and made AWD barn stormers out of an anemic mini-suv and a mini-truck you saw more of on farms than anything. All 3 are held up as prime examples of American turbo charging that even today, 20 years later, they can stand toe to toe at the dragstrip with anything out there and compete.

You look at stuff like a Superbird. It's a race car for the street. They only needed to sell enough to homologate and they sold those out with 3/4ths of the demand left empty handed. All the kids with the Civics and the big wings constantly get the Superbird shoved in their face as a "REAL wing". It's one of the first images that comes to mind when thinking NASCAR or 426 HEMI. There was nothing like it then and still is nothing like it now. It is instantly recognizable not just because it's different but also because it had the performance to back it up.

You look at Ford's Lightning. Yeah, the Sy/Ty twins came first and so did the SS454 and Lil Red Express but they weren't much more than a sticker and body package taking advantage of more lax emissions laws for trucks. Aside from the Sy/Ty twins that is. When Ford brought out the Lightning, it sparked an entirely new market. It had real performance accelerating, braking and handling better than a Mustang GT. It was that most American of vehicles, a pickup truck, doing what it shouldn't be able to do. Ford wasn't even done yet! In 97 laws got stricter and the old Lightning wouldn't hack it. So Ford went and said "You ain't seen nuthin' yet!" The next Lightning was all new, faster, handled just as well and braked shorter than the previous one (and Mustangs as well) AND it qualified as an LEV!

Where is that "different" now? I expect a Mustang or Camaro to be hairy chested. I expect a Corvette to be a world level car. So does the rest off the world but where is the unique, all-American "different" that was the GNX? Where's the car/truck that doesn't fit? Why is it that we have to look back 20-25 years to see anything that really broke a mold from the Americans? I mean, there's styling there, love it or hate it, people in Detroit are imaginative. The Chevy HHR, the Ford Flex, the Buick Lucerne or Lacrosse, the now defunct Sky and Solstice and even the Chrysler Crossfire were or are all departures from the typical American jellybean. Even if the Buicks still fit the 3-box-mold and are conservatively styled, when they came out, they didn't look like a Buick. Or anything else for that matter. And people noticed.

I think that's what people are saying when they say they want another GNX. They don't necessarily need another GNX. They just want that car that doesn't fit. They want that car that is that American tourist that sticks out like sore thumb in Paris. Not because it's obnoxious, uncouth and uncultured but because it's American and it just doesn't fit what the rest of the world thinks is acceptable.

So goddamnit Buick! I WANT MY GNX!!!