In 1986 when Jay Payne was just 20 years old, he was driving down Florida Boulevard when he noticed a long, shiny black Buick Grand National for sale. “The car caught my eye as I passed in front of Spitzer Buick on Florida near Foster,” he said.
Curiosity got the best of him, so Payne stopped in and began chatting with a sales associate at the dealership. Payne remembered she was pretty confident about the Buick.
“She told me it was the fastest production car in America,” Payne remembered. “Well of course this really got my attention being a red-blooded American kid who grew up hearing stories of Corvettes, GTOs and such,” he said.
The 20-year-old was not convinced the car could back up the sales associate’s bold claim, so Payne asked her if he could take it for a test drive. She said, “Yes,” and the two set off for a long stretch of Hooper Road, where Payne’s Dad, Jerry Payne Sr., met them in his new C4 Corvette.
“No Buick will ever outrun a Corvette,” Jerry Payne Sr. had told his son.
Turns out the saleslady was right, and the senior Payne wound up 3-4 car lengths behind the Buick. That was all it took to convince the younger Payne.
“We went back and the there was no negotiating the price,” he said. “It was $17,998 on the window and that's what it was going to sell for. I filled out the application and they told me I could have it.”
Payne said his monthly car note ($360) was more than his apartment rent ($250) at the time. Payne joked that he’s had his Buick Grand National as long as he’s had his wife.
The car was still new when he was dating Lisa Brecheen, and he married her in July of the same year. “We went on our honeymoon in the Grand National, and even brought home our son from the hospital in it when he was born in 1989. The car was our family car, it would haul the kids, get groceries in style, and out run anything on the street on Saturday nights.”
About eight years ago, Payne began a restoration project on the car and modified the original engine, including a bigger intercooler, a bigger turbocharger, bigger radiator, upsized fuel injectors, a larger fuel pump and a larger exhaust.
When new, the Buick’s 3.8-liter V6 engine developed 235 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque, Payne said. But after the modifications the turbocharged V6 kicks out 550 horses and 500 lb.-ft. of torque. “It’s amazing,” he said. “The car still purrs like she did.”
Today, Payne, 53, owner of Central Plumbing, no longer races the car other than an occasional jaunt over to the drag strip.
“I don’t tear it up or anything,” he said. “We mainly do car shows and Sunday drives. My wife and I still go out on dates, and we love to frequent car shows in our car, and occasionally line her up to see what she’ll do. And we still stop by the grocery store on the way home with her.”
Payne said the Buick has been an integral part of his life since that February afternoon drive down Florida Boulevard in 1986. Spitzer Buick is no longer on Florida Boulevard, but the 1986 Buick Grand National is still kicking.
“I could not have imagined what part this beautiful black Buick would play in my life,” Payne said.