Car History Year 1985
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 13:30:13 UTC
As the year began, things were looking up in the auto industry. Gasoline prices had stabilized at the lowest level for some time and consumers were starting to look at bigger cars once again. Fuel economy was no longer the prime selling point and, rather than the subcompact models, people wanted compacts and intermediates instead. In general, this change in the market was good news for the "Big Three" and they would turn in record profits as a result. But independent AMC had based their forward planning on the continuing demand for small, four cylinder cars, and were left without any new models to compete in these areas. Labor problems, changes in the top executives that saw Renault personnel take full charge of the company, reductions in car sales and a loss of $125 million meant '85 was a pretty awful year for AMC. In total contrast. Jeep division sales improved to almost 193,000 - a new record. But this wasn't enough and rumors began to circulate about the closure of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, plant or a tie-up with Chrysler.
At this time Buick's image to the youth market was in the process of being revamped thanks mainly to the Grand National. Initially brought out in '82 as a Regal with a fancy paint job, T-roof and alloy wheels, the Grand National took its inspiration from the Buick NASCAR racecars of the same name. Performance-wise, though, the mechanically stock road version was less than exciting. After a very limited production run of only 215, the model was dropped for '83. When the Grand National came back in "84 it was a completely different animal, thanks to a 200 horsepower, turbocharged and fuel injected 3.8-liter V6 that cut the zero to 60mph time from over 1 5 seconds in '82 to less than nine seconds.
The Grand National's exterior appearance had also been radically altered, with the color scheme now all-black and devoid of any fancy decoration on the bodywork. It was sold as an option package on the Regal T Type and, as well as the paintwork, the Grand National specification included special alloy wheels and spoilers. It added $1,282 to the $12,118 factory price tag.
Apart from the black grille getting seven thin vertical bright metal bars, the '85 Grand National stayed virtually unchanged. True, the base price for the Regal T Type went up by some five hundred dollars, but the cost of the Grand National option package was substantially reduced so the overall effect was of very little change. Precisely how many of the 5,401 T Types produced in '84 were fitted with the Grand National package in '84 isn't clear, but in 1985 (when Regal T Type production totaled 4,169) a figure of 2,102 has been quoted.
The Grand National continued unaltered until the end of '87, by which time it was the last rear-wheel-drive Buick being made. The final flourish was a run of 500 GNX models-with engine, suspension and body modifications carried out by McLaren Engines and ASC Inc - that were sold at highly inflated prices. Back in '85, the Grand National television ad featured the rock song "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers - an apt description for a car with a harsh ride and that could lay rubber in any gear!
The year saw a brand new marque arrive on the scene when, after a three-year gestation period. General Motors added the first nameplate to the family since Chevrolet joined in 1918. - the Saturn Corporation. It was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary company and Saturn models were planned to be smaller and lighter than the GM J-cars (Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird). The first offerings were a 4-door sedan and a 2-door coupe. Up to 20,000 people would eventually be employed by the company and five billion dollars was earmarked to build the Saturn assembly plant in Tennessee.
At the other end of the scale, bankruptcy proceedings were filed against the Avanti Motor Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, who were still building a couple of hundred cars a year based on the old Studebaker Avanti design. The New Avanti Motor Corp was formed a year later, with the company moving to Youngstown, Ohio in late '87.
BUICK GRAND NATIONAL
V6 - cast iron block
231 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
No. of seats
FORD MUSTANG SVO
Cast iron block - 4 Cylinders in line, Turbocharged
140 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
No. of seats
84,623 (all hatchbacks)
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