Beyond the Black: Historical Reflections, Tales, Tidbits

The GNXtravaganza 25th Anniversary Event

Fellow owners and enthusiasts from across the nation and around the world proudly participated in the 25th anniversary celebration of the turbo Buicks, among them the incomparable GNX. Sean Ryder, Chairman of the Buick Performance Group (a.k.a. BPG), organized this successful event marking the quarter-century for these special cars as part of the BPG Nationals at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio.

Among the many special guests were those who were involved with the GNX Program and owners of famous and one-off vehicles. In addition, the filmmaker behind the critically-acclaimed movie Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary was also able to join the festivities.

Rick Hunt with his famous X-Ray

Rick Hunt, who serves as a Director of the GNX Registry, was employed by ASC and was instrumental in the design and fabrication of many of the special parts used on the GNX. As a member of the build team, he had a hands-on role in transforming GM’s hand-picked vehicles into GNX’s. Fortunately, Rick had the foresight to retain many of the prototype parts and materials which would normally have been destroyed at the end of the Program.

Rick presented many artifacts from his collection, all of which had been in storage for 25 years, and most of which had never been seen in public before. Of course, he shared a number of interesting stories behind their creation, as well as his extensive work on the GNX vehicles during production.

Rick is also the builder and owner of one of the most famous Buicks of all time, the X-Ray. His one-off turbo Buick was transformed with authentic GNX parts and painted a semi-reverse color scheme featuring white panels and trim, hence the name. In addition to spawning numerous imitations, Rick’s car is also the subject of a limited-edition scale model which is highly prized by collectors.

Lou Infante speaking at BPG’s GNX event

Lou Infante was Vice President at McLaren Engines (now McLaren Performance Technologies). He was the executive responsible for leading program development and execution on the McLaren side for the ASC/McLaren joint venture for all limited-edition vehicles, and served as Program Manager for the GNX.

For his significant efforts in making the GNX Program a success, Lou was fortunate enough to be presented with the keys and title to the fixture car, known as GNX 000. This is the vehicle that was used for prototyping, fitment, and other early development and testing. GNX 000, though not released by GM as a normal serialized build, is arguably the most significant prototype in existence. It is said that Lou’s test car, GNX 000, was the “first car in” before production started and the “last car out” of the ASC facility after the GNX run ended.

Lou Infante with his GNX 000, the “first in, last out” prototype, proudly displayed at the 25th anniversary celebration

The Prototype GNX dash plaque assigned to Lou's car

Dean Battermann speaking at BPG’s GNX event

Dean Battermann was a Program Manager for McLaren Engines, and was responsible for overseeing the building of all prototype vehicles including the GNX. He was involved with the vehicle durability testing as well as the McLaren powertrain content assembly at the ASC facility. In addition to these duties, Dean had the unique role of handling field service calls and issues for several years after production ended on the GNX.

We were fortunate to have Rick, Lou, and Dean share a number of behind-the-scenes stories about their time at ASC/McLaren, answering many audience questions, dispelling rumors and long-held myths, and providing insight into the GNX Program and its place in automotive history.

Andrew Filippone Jr. speaking about Black Air at BPG's GNX event

Andrew Filippone Jr. is the filmmaker of the critically-acclaimed independent release Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary. The first 20 minute segment of the movie was premiered at the 25th anniversary event to a very enthusiastic audience, after which the pre-release buzz began in earnest.

Andrew discussed the genesis of Black Air from his own personal memories of those mysterious black cars. He recounted his very first phone call with Doug Nigro of the GNX Registry back in 2009 for contacts to help get the project rolling and how he used his cameras to weave the yet-untold story of the “strange and curious misfit of the Buick family.”

Since its release on December 11, 2012 – exactly 25 years to the day since the last Grand National rolled off the assembly line – Andrew’s film has been praised by the automotive press and enthusiasts alike. A more detailed review of the movie is available on this site in the Black Air section.

Andrew Filippone Jr. in quiet contemplation with GNX 305 on the final day of filming Black Air