To the delight of brooding geeks everywhere, HBO has a new TV series based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ iconic graphic novel Watchmen, and going off the first episode alone, it looks to be complex and engaging and very well done. I’m not going to spoil anything for anyone, I promise, but I will reveal one of the cars used in the episode because it’s a very good bit of car casting: a Buick Grand National.
The series takes place 30 years after the original Watchmen, which itself took place in the 1980s, and tells the story of an alternate universe America. The Watchmen world is similar to ours but with a number of important exceptions, mainly in politics—and the existence of costumed vigilantes. They had presidents Nixon and Robert Redford and superheroes; in our reality, we got Nixon to resign, kept Redford out of politics, and, generally speaking, are pretty superhero-free.
Car-wise, the original Watchmen graphic novel used cars that seemed to be evolutions of Buckminister Fuller’s Dymaxion car, or maybe the Stout Scarab:
By the book’s 1980s setting it’s implied that most cars were EVs, and in the Watchmen TV show it seems modern cars are electric too. We see at least one EV-converted truck at the beginning, and other cars, despite being regular Infinitis and the like we’d drive today, seemingly make electric noises instead.
The 2009 movie adaption used cars that we recognize from our reality:
HBO’s series appears to just use cars from reality as we know it, but at least they’ve picked a good one to use as the hero car for this first episode’s main protagonist, police detective Angela Abar, who is the alter ego of goth-bondage-nun-looking Sister Night.
The Buick Grand National was one of the most underrated muscle cars of the 1980s, unless you knew what it was. It doesn’t really show up in pop culture all that often. That’s part of why it’s refreshing to see it so prominently here.
The Grand National had a turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 that made 245 horsepower, good to get to 60 from a dead stop in a respectable 6.1 seconds.
I originally thought this was a 1987 GNX—a slighter hotter Grand National with a tweaked turbocharged V6 making about 300 horsepower (under-reported by Buick as 276) and 420 pound-feet of torque, which let the car go from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, on par with a Lamborghini Countach of the same era. Though General Motors kept this under the radar, it was definitely faster than a Corvette at the time as well.
Without revealing too much about what’s going on in the show, I think I can still safely mention why a Grand National seems such a good choice for Sister Night’s vigilante car.
It’s an unconventional choice—powerful, but in a somewhat unexpected package, and very stealth. The era of the car is from the original Watchmen time, so there’s that, too.
I can’t really say much more without spoiling, but, if this is an indication of the thoughtful car-casting to come later in the series, I’m excited to see what comes next.
CORRECTION: It’s a not a GNX, just a Grand National, as commenters have mentioned. Sorry!
Even if it’s a Grand National, it’s still a good choice.