Powered by a turbocharged V6, KEVIN HART’S CADILLAC-POWERED BUICK GRAND NATIONAL broke cover at the 2022 SEMA Show; boasts 650 horsepower.


Comedic actor and consummate carguy, Kevin Hart attended the reveal of his latest addition to his high-performance fleet, the Dark Knight, at the Magnaflow booth at SEMA 2022. Like his ’69 Plymouth Road Runner, dubbed Mike Myers, the Dark Knight GN was designed by Sean Smith and built by Wisconsin-based Salvaggio Auto Design.

Aside from its theme, Hart wanted to create a Grand National resto-mod that would redefine its key elements with modern technology. However, he insisted Salvaggio and Smith retain the car’s character, including its stock fenders, to create a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Already the proud owner of a Grand National GNX with its factory flares, Hart didn’t want the new car to overwhelm it.Using 3D CAD technology, the front bumper was scanned and a new design was 3D-printed, incorporating functional air ducts to improve cooling of the turbocharged Cadillac engine and aerodynamics. The printed bumper was then used to mold the final piece in carbon fiber. Carbon fiber from Brothers Composites was used sparingly, limited to the hood, chin spoiler, rear spoiler and mirrors. It can also be found inside; under the hood.

The next task was to “tighten” the body lines, giving them a crisper profile with a premium fit and finish. This involved reprofiling the shut lines on the doors to allow everything to flow better with the primary surfaces. The metalwork was fabricated by Randy Russell, Telly Violetto and Craig Ness who expertly created the engine bay, floors, rear seat delete and trunk interior. Smith designed new door handles that subtly update the original parts. Machined from billet, they have carbon fiber inlays to echo the carbon mirrors, which were molded from the Grand National’s stock parts.

With all the custom parts, the Buick’s lighting and front grille are stock, but Smith couldn’t resist reimagining the Grand National badge, creating a modern interpretation.  With the bodywork complete, the car was painted in straight BASF black – no tints or effects. It’s offset by the nickel-plate finish on the 19-inch HRE 501 wheels, which were chosen for their resemblance to the original equipment but with a modern twist.

Sitting on a laser-cut and TIG-welded custom Salvaggio chassis, KEVIN HART’S CADILLAC-POWERED BUICK GRAND NATIONAL features a Detroit Speed & Engineering X-Gen 595 front suspension package. The bolt-in sub-frame increases rigidity for superior handling from the Ultimate Performance coil-overs. The rear-end has a DSE four-link set up with Panhard bar. Brembo GT six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers provide Supercar braking. HRE 501 wheels with 265/30 R19 (front) and chunky 325/30 R19 (rear) Toyo Proxes R888R tires get the power to the pavement.

When it came to the heart of Dark Knight, the team sat down with Mario Abascal from Gearhead Fabrications to discuss the options. Inevitably, the Chevrolet LS V8 was a topic of heated conversation but Mario suggested the LF4 3.6L V6 Twin-Turbo engine from the Cadillac ATS-V. “It was the obvious choice for what Buick might have installed if the Grand National GNX were around today,”  said Abascal.

KEVIN HART’S CADILLAC-POWERED BUICK GRAND NATIONALHaving made the suggestion, it was Mario’s mission to see it through; no easy task given the complexity of the direct injection engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Undeterred, Gearhead sourced a running ATS-V drivetrain assembly. Installing the drivetrain required not only new mounts but the oil coolers, oil filters, turbo coolant system and more had to be relocated to clear the Salvaggio frame rails. The team also had to painstakingly extend 300 wiring connections to relocate the power control module (PCM) under the newly created carbon fiber engine covers.

As a homage to the factory GNX, Mario removed the twin-turbo setup, building a single-turbo kit around a 67-mm Boost Labs BL67R ball-bearing Turbo with a billet wheel. It was mounted to a custom header once Salvaggio Design fabricated flanges to fit to the Cadillac’s integral manifold. Abascal built a custom exhaust from Magnaflow sections for the unique engine swap. He also fabricated the plumbing, including pipes for the factory air-to-water intercooler, which mounts in its stock position on top of the engine. The Cadillac engine’s fuel supply is governed by a lobe on the factory cam. And by fitting a Comp Cams “fuel cam,” Abascal increased the fuel flow to feed the turbo. He then controlled engine boost, fuel, ignition; transmission shift points via an HP Tuners module.

Running at about 20 psi boost, the single-turbo Cadillac V6 was dyno-tested at 650 horsepower on 103-octance fuel. The intention is to fit performance camshafts and reach a projected 700 horsepower on race gas. This is a considerable increase over both the Grand National GNX at 276 horsepower and even the ATS-V at 464 horsepower. A Cadillac eight-speed automatic and 9-inch Tru Track 3.7:1 rear complete the powertrain.

Inside KEVIN HART’S CADILLAC-POWERED BUICK GRAND NATIONAL there’s blue and grey leather upholstery by Gabe’s Custom Interiors with bronze stitching and pinstripes, bronze accents on cooling vents and Salvaggio billet steering wheel, 3D-printed dash with Holley gauge pack, Vintage Air system, bronze billet door trim with carbon fiber inlays, billet shift knob and shift boot bezel.

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