Hemmings article: Did GM Really Sell Specially Equipped Buick Grand Nationals to the FBI?

1 RARE T

Master Mechanic
Jul 14, 2015
280
63

Attachments

  • 9E92C367-0C87-4412-A223-86A599E00612.jpeg
    9E92C367-0C87-4412-A223-86A599E00612.jpeg
    13.4 KB · Views: 46
  • Haha
Reactions: 1 user

airboatgreg

Comic Book Super Hero
Oct 2, 2016
2,661
113
From what I got from a GM instructor many years ago at the GM tech center in Atlanta was the GN's beat the Corvettes and Chevy was so po'd that they recalled all the GN's for a PROM change, which slowed them down. The government cars were not recalled
 

84 W40

Master Mechanic
Dec 9, 2009
497
93
I think Massachusetts did get turbo T spec cars, if I recall there is good documentation that supports that.
You are correct a total of three, they weren't purchased at the dealership I worked at but two were purchased at Crest Buick in Woburn Massachusetts that I know of. One was a GN the other was two tone gray/black T type it looked just liked my brother inlaws car. The third not sure what dealership that came from. There was Nothing special about them just a stock GN and T type that anyone could buy at the dealership. The cars where sent out to have the radio, special lights what ever else they need installed including the illegal tinted windows they had. GM never made special GN or T types for the FBI or Law inforcment it's a myth that's been going around even when I was working on these cars at the dealership back then. If GM was making these special cars for Law enforcement don't you think that every Buick dealer would want a piece of the action including the dealership I worked for. Those cars were used around the city of Boston and a little further north of Boston. One of cars only lasted about three months due to over heating chasing a stolen car on the highway. Other states did use them including mine but they were replaced with the Mustang 5.0

This so called Cop Chip, it didn't come from GM maybe from someone else never heard of it and if it was made by GM dont you think that the parts counter guy would have first hand knowledge of it just like GNX parts.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Clone TIE Pilot

Comic Book Super Hero
Aug 14, 2011
3,241
113
Galaxy far far away
I don't know exactly when who got what, but with the advent of more "performance" entries with fuel injection in the 80s, that's when GM started limiting speeds. Performance speed-rated street tires were still lagging behind, so with most "peformance" cars, they all seemed to come with Gatorbacks or whatever super-expensive-at-the-time tire would fit. They still weren't good for much over 120 mph or so on the street. I know Iroc-Z had them with 130 mph limiter. I think GNX used them too and I believe they got the same 124 mph limit like the regular GN IIRC.

With regular carbureted G-bodies, they didn't give them enough power to need anything to limit speed. :) I know 4th gen Camaro SS's were speed limited to 162 mph. Interestingly enough, my ZL1 has 180 limit with sticky Y-rated (186 mph) Goodyears that seemingly last 40 miles before they're worn out. 120+ with the top down on public roads is kinda scary due to the wind as it's easier with the hard top, so I'm not fearing hitting that speed limiter. More afraid of hitting a deer around here at 100+. The SS and 19" or larger wheels/tires on the 5th gens get 155 limiter, and 118 with the standard non-SS V6 18" wheels. I could be mis-remembering some of this, but somehow this is what's sticking in my head.

According to a former Camaro asst. brand manager at GM, the F and Y body limiters were based solely on factory tire combinations. The car itself could sustain more. Although I don't know how. At very high speeds, the rubber nose wants to push in on the early 5th gens and a few racers that exceed 200 mph had splits/cracks at the outer upper headlight opening corners. Not sure if that was just cheesy materials or what. They may have fixed it because I haven't heard much grumblings about it lately.

So seemingly, any limiters they used was based on vehicle high-speed handling, whether it be tires, suspension stability, or a combination of both. F cars always have been corner carvers compared to G-bodies, so the TR/GN body lift and unstable high-speed manners theory, along with the Goodyear tire ratings, likely were factored into the factory limiter settings. The way stock G-body suspensions were, even with F41, I'd be a bit worried taking them past 124 mph out on the roads anyway even if it could do it. :)

The computer systems in carburetored cars were not complex enough to have nanny features either. Also turbo engines tend to be more fragile than N/A engines. Its why the Ecoboost Taururs Interceptors were less popular than the N/A versions among Police departments. The Ecoboost versions broke down far more often as well as turbo lag caused by the heat soaking from all those idle hours.

You are correct a total of three, they weren't purchased at the dealership I worked at but two were purchased at Crest Buick in Woburn Massachusetts that I know of. One was a GN the other was two tone gray/black T type it looked just liked my brother inlaws car. The third not sure what dealership that came from. There was Nothing special about them just a stock GN and T type that anyone could buy at the dealership. The cars where sent out to have the radio, special lights what ever else they need installed including the illegal tinted windows they had. GM never made special GN or T types for the FBI or Law inforcment it's a myth that's been going around even when I was working on these cars at the dealership back then. If GM was making these special cars for Law enforcement don't you think that every Buick dealer would want a piece of the action including the dealership I worked for. Those cars were used around the city of Boston and a little further north of Boston. One of cars only lasted about three months due to over heating chasing a stolen car on the highway. Other states did use them including mine but they were replaced with the Mustang 5.0

This so called Cop Chip, it didn't come from GM maybe from someone else never heard of it and if it was made by GM dont you think that the parts counter guy would have first hand knowledge of it just like GNX parts.

I met plenty of parts counter guys at dealerships that didn't know their *ss from a hole in the ground. Plus there is a big difference between a Federal agency and a local town police department. The former generally has far deeper pockets and more sway. Its possible the FBI may have contacted GM to have a few custom parts installed while the MA cops didn't. Different LE agenices and departments don't have identical equipment among each other.

As I said before, the possible differences between an FBI TB and a regular one would be few due to the lack of economy of scale compared to regular 9C1 cars. Again its possible that if these FBI TBs did exist, they likely were only available to the FBI and not to local LE departments, hence the name FBI TBs.
 
  • Agree
Reactions: 1 user

69hurstolds

Geezer
Supporting Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,633
113
Anything is possible I suppose. It seems more plausible to me they got the "FBI TB's" tag because of it just sounds cooler than a turbo buick with the police pursuit package. Just imagine this --how many FBI muckity mucks had any clue on what to even ask for when ordering the cars? In my experiences, I've only met ONE federal agent in any capacity, DOJ, DOT, DOE, or DOD that was a motorhead. If anyone else has, I can guarantee it's far and few between.

This is probably how it went down when they got them ordered....

FBI guy: "GM, I need a TR or GN that goes really fast."

GM: "Sure. All our TR's and GN's are already really fast. But we can build them for you, no problemo."

FBI guy: "No sh*t? Cool. We'd like to order a couple dozen of those things. Can I get a quote and then I can get a P.O. to you so we can get the ball rolling on this?"

GM: "Coming right up. We can fax or mail it along with the number of our government contract fleet sales. Got a phone or beeper number that they can contact you? Thank you for choosing GM."
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Clone TIE Pilot

Comic Book Super Hero
Aug 14, 2011
3,241
113
Galaxy far far away
Most large organizations have purchasing agents or purchasing teams. Their job is to make purchases for their organization which entails being knowledgeable about what they are buying. The mucky mucks of big organizations generally defer purchasing decisions to purchasing agents, so the mucky mucks really don't need to be that knowledgeable about the purchase, as long as thd summary in the purchase agent's full report sounds good is all that matters. Of course I don't know the exact purchasing setup the FBI used in the 80's, I can only speculate from my business and organizational leadership courses from college.

It could have been either someone in either the FBI or GM pet project to try out turbo charged LE cars. Generally Federal agency cars don't get used or beat up nearly as much as town or city cop cars. If it was some weird pilot program, testing them with the Feds first makes sense. For the most part we can only sepculate.
 
Last edited:

84 W40

Master Mechanic
Dec 9, 2009
497
93
The computer systems in carburetored cars were not complex enough to have nanny features either. Also turbo engines tend to be more fragile than N/A engines. Its why the Ecoboost Taururs Interceptors were less popular than the N/A versions among Police departments. The Ecoboost versions broke down far more often as well as turbo lag caused by the heat soaking from all those idle hours.



I met plenty of parts counter guys at dealerships that didn't know their *ss from a hole in the ground. Plus there is a big difference between a Federal agency and a local town police department. The former generally has far deeper pockets and more sway. Its possible the FBI may have contacted GM to have a few custom parts installed while the MA cops didn't. Different LE agenices and departments don't have identical equipment among each other.

As I said before, the possible differences between an FBI TB and a regular one would be few due to the lack of economy of scale compared to regular 9C1 cars. Again its possible that if these FBI TBs did exist, they likely were only available to the FBI and not to local LE departments, hence the name FBI TBs.
It's very possible that dealerships in the state you live in had lot boys behind the parts counter.

Two out of three TB in Massachusetts were used by the FBI, the other was Mass state police. Nothing special about them if there was the dealerships would have some kind service bulletin on them I didn't see any.
 

motorheadmike

Geezer
Nov 18, 2009
8,993
113
Saskatchewan, Truckistan
All this talk of chips... yet not one crumb of physical evidence.

hungry potato chips GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski
 

69hurstolds

Geezer
Supporting Member
Jan 2, 2006
6,633
113
For the most part we can only sepculate.
And this sums it up completely right there. Speculation. But it's fun to speculate.

And those chips motorheadmike mentioned...

75739352.jpg


I've been involved in government purchasing before (not cars, though) and one of the reasons things don't go smooth is all the red tape and wasted funds/time. At least where I was. But regardless of who is doing the actual purchase orders, in a nutshell, they have to be first authorized for quote by the muckity mucks (purchasing did not simply originate requests for other departments), and then final purchasing orders had to be signed off by a management level of whatever department with authority to spend. And usually that meant (inbox -> usually signed without reading much more than the bottom line -> outbox). Then they could report to THEIR boss that whatever it was is now on order so they could check their box. When it came to tools/parts, etc., many times the engineering groups would spec out a part, and providing it wasn't classified and quality control approved, the specs were sent to the prospective manufacturer for quote. This could include drawings and spec sheets, or just a matter of something available on the shelf, like sending a request to a screwdriver company for 5,000 stubby #2 Phillips head screwdrivers, for example. Classified stuff was handled at a completely different level. Most of the purchasing groups normally weren't experts on everything they're buying, but they knew HOW to purchase the items. Procuring the turbo Buicks would be simple enough. Getting all these "secret squirrel" laundry list add-ons that nobody else could get? Nah, can't see that happening, although it's always a possibility. Seriously doubt they'd know what was even available if it wasn't told to them.

What's taught in the colleges is the ideal streamlined point A to B situations. You know, how it SHOULD work. In the U.S. government real life, it's more of a twilight zone. Redundancy is built-in for some reason. You would like to think that most of them would know what they're doing, and some are pretty good. Sadly, that isn't always the case. If they get it right and re-order, then it's a matter of copy and paste which becomes way easier. But if they have to reinvent a wheel? It's normally a sh*t show with layers of stupidity thrown in. Maybe it's got better, I don't know.

But as stated, we can only speculate how all the purchasing of these Regals were actually done. It would be interesting to see that layer of onion, though.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Clone TIE Pilot

Comic Book Super Hero
Aug 14, 2011
3,241
113
Galaxy far far away
And this sums it up completely right there. Speculation. But it's fun to speculate.

And those chips motorheadmike mentioned...

75739352.jpg


I've been involved in government purchasing before (not cars, though) and one of the reasons things don't go smooth is all the red tape and wasted funds/time. At least where I was. But regardless of who is doing the actual purchase orders, in a nutshell, they have to be first authorized for quote by the muckity mucks (purchasing did not simply originate requests for other departments), and then final purchasing orders had to be signed off by a management level of whatever department with authority to spend. And usually that meant (inbox -> usually signed without reading much more than the bottom line -> outbox). Then they could report to THEIR boss that whatever it was is now on order so they could check their box. When it came to tools/parts, etc., many times the engineering groups would spec out a part, and providing it wasn't classified and quality control approved, the specs were sent to the prospective manufacturer for quote. This could include drawings and spec sheets, or just a matter of something available on the shelf, like sending a request to a screwdriver company for 5,000 stubby #2 Phillips head screwdrivers, for example. Classified stuff was handled at a completely different level. Most of the purchasing groups normally weren't experts on everything they're buying, but they knew HOW to purchase the items. Procuring the turbo Buicks would be simple enough. Getting all these "secret squirrel" laundry list add-ons that nobody else could get? Nah, can't see that happening, although it's always a possibility. Seriously doubt they'd know what was even available if it wasn't told to them.

What's taught in the colleges is the ideal streamlined point A to B situations. You know, how it SHOULD work. In the U.S. government real life, it's more of a twilight zone. Redundancy is built-in for some reason. You would like to think that most of them would know what they're doing, and some are pretty good. Sadly, that isn't always the case. If they get it right and re-order, then it's a matter of copy and paste which becomes way easier. But if they have to reinvent a wheel? It's normally a sh*t show with layers of stupidity thrown in. Maybe it's got better, I don't know.

But as stated, we can only speculate how all the purchasing of these Regals were actually done. It would be interesting to see that layer of onion, though.

The courses did state that selling to an organization is very complex involving many individuals from both the selling and buying organizations. Besides redtape, there is also politics and persons who yield unofficial power behind the scenes for sellers to deal with.

What we do know are the design deficiencies stock turbo Buicks would have in the harsh environment of police duty. One of the reasons police models exist is to resolve deficiencies in consumer based cars with upgraded parts. At the most basic level a cop car needs a high output alternator for powering radios and other LE equipment.

As I said before, turbo engines tend to be more fragile than N/A engines which is why most turbo cars don't hold up well in police use like the Ecoboost Taurus PI. While Turbo Buicks have the HP for intercepting, they don't have the durability. That is not to say they are prone to breaking, just that police use is very harsh. Also police cars need good brakes as speeders often slam their brakes when they are nailed. They also need good cooling for extending idling and extended high RPM operation during long pursuits.

Nearly all Regals have deleted body bushings and lacking frame bracing which isn't conductive to police usage. Furthermore a two door coupe does not lend itself to prisoner transport. A TB would mainly only be good for speeding tickets, maybe aid high speed chases.

An FBI TB would likely have the very minimum upgrades that didn't cost GM much. Other posts already mention the cop chip and higher output alternator that are supposedly found in the FBI cars. The other low buck upgrades I could possibly see GM do would be out of their spare parts bin. A full set of body bushings, a GNX ATF cooler (which is really a Caddy cooler), perhaps use some 9C1 Malibu suspension and brake parts, and frame bracing from other G bodies. I doubt GM even did all of these. Unusually low luxury options is very likely.
 
Last edited:

GBodyForum is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Please support GBodyForum Sponsors

Classic Truck Consoles Dixie Restoration Depot Mike's Montes P-S-T Southside Machine Performance UMI Performance

Contact Admin@GBodyForum.com for info on becoming a sponsor