You knew there was an entire world of street legal, NASCAR replicas and tributes, right? Of course you did. Any gearhead who’s even watched an hour of motorsports has imagined themselves driving a proper race car on the street—even if it only looked the part.
Ours is a world filled with livery. From the classics like Gulf, Rothmans, John Player Special, and Marlboro, to more contemporary designs from Renown, Advan, and Redbull, race cars are often as much fun to look at parked as they are at speed.
I wasn’t looking for a NASCAR replica when I found Michael Halver’s 1986 Buick Regal V8. I was actually browsing Grand Nationals and T-Types when I happened upon his incredible NASCAR tribute. You know what’s even more incredible about this one? It lives in Switzerland.
It’s an amazing machine!
[tgp] Introductions: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you, and what do you do for a living? My understanding is you’ve got a Ron Bouchard Buick Valvoline Nascar replica. Is that correct? Anything else you’d like to mention?
[mh] My name is Michael. I’m 36 years old and I live in Switzerland. I work for a large German car manufacturer as a parts and accessories specialist, so even in my job, I deal with cars.
Even as a child, I was very interested in cars and that enthusiasm is still there today. I am particularly interested in cars from the 80s and 90s—especially cars from the USA and Europe. I turned my 1986 Buick Regal V8 into a replica of Ron Bouchard’s No. 47 Valvoline Nascar from the 80s.
It was very important for me during the build that the vehicle is still street legal. In Switzerland this is quite difficult because we have very strict rules here when it comes to making changes on a vehicle. You don’t have as many possibilities here as in the USA.
For every change, you need a confirmation from the manufacturer of the component that you want to install and you have to register this with the authorities. And if you want to install a part that you have made yourself, you can actually forget that it will be accepted by the authorities. Unless you do an individual acceptance, but there are costs that are far above the value of the vehicle.
Buick & NASCAR in Switzerland
[tgp] There are plenty of Buick Regal owners in North America, but I’m going to guess they’re fairly rare in Europe. As a Swiss Regal owner (and presumably, NASCAR fan), could you tell us how this car came to be?
[mh] Yes that’s true. In Europe, the Buick Regal is very rare. In general, the G-bodies like the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, or the Oldsmobile Cutlass are difficult to find. Even if you attend a US car meeting, you are only lucky to see such a vehicle standing there. Here in Switzerland, the big classics like the Ford Mustang or Dodge Charger are particularly popular.
I got my Buick Regal by luck. I have a long commute to work and I also drive by a US car specialist every day; JTW Motorsport. At some point, there was suddenly a black Buick Regal outside for sale. I drove past it a couple of times but never stopped. I figured I don’t really need a second car now. But since I had to drive past the Buick every day, I took a look at the car at some point.
Well what can I say, I fell in love with the car straight away.Michael Halver
It’s a Buick Regal V8, which was one of the reasons why I really wanted the car. Of course, the Buick Regal Grand National V6 Turbo is faster and more valuable than the V8, but for me there has to be a V8 engine in such a car.
The Buick was at the dealer and looked like the Buick Regal from Fast and Furious. Everything was black. That was the reason why I had to have the car. The price was fair and the mileage was low, so a very good deal!
Fast and Furious Replica
I drove the car as a Fast and the Furious replica for almost one and a half years, but at some point I thought that had to change. I googled Buick Regal race cars. Of course, I immediately thought of the NASCAR racing series. I looked at a lot of pictures and then found the Number 47 Valvoline Buick Regal Nascar driven by Ron Bouchard. I liked the design of the NASCAR so much that I really wanted one for myself.
Sure, the Buick Regal looks really great in black. No question about it, but somehow the most of them are black ones and I just wanted to have something different that is not commonplace.
I have a buddy who owns a car wrapping company. I searched for as many pictures of the Valvoline NASCAR as possible and told my buddy that I want my car exactly as it is in the pictures. After seven days, the car was finished with wrapping and I was just happy and proud of this great and unique ride.
[tgp] What do you like most about your Regal? What do you not like so much?
[mh] I really like the look of the car. The interior is very cool too and looks like a race car, but has still the comfort to take three friends with you. It’s unique here in Switzerland and that makes me proud. The Buick is very reliable and never lets me down and runs and runs and runs.
The V8 sound puts a smile on my face every time. It is the ideal cruiser machine to enjoy life on a sunny day.
There is nothing I don’t like about the car.Michael Halver
Of course, more power would always be great for any car, but as already mentioned, that’s not so easy in Switzerland. You can’t just put in a more powerful engine here and then drive around. That is forbidden, so I have to be satisfied with the performance I have and that is completely sufficient for a great V8 sound and relaxed cruising.
The Swiss/Euro Buick/NASCAR Community
[tgp] Who do you hang out with, at car meets and so on? Is there a Buick or NASCAR or American car club you associate with? If not, are you a lone wolf who just shows up places? I’m curious what the car community is like for you with such a unique machine.
[mh] Here in Switzerland, the NASCAR scene is very small. Formula 1 and various hill climbs races are popular around here. Not a lot of people care about NASCAR.
I’m a member of a Facebook group that also has street legal NASCAR cars in America. There I can talk and discuss with like-minded people.
You can say that I’m a lone wolf. I’m not in a club, but I really enjoy going to US Car meetings and showing my Buick there, and of course I also enjoy looking at other vehicles.
Because NASCAR is not as popular here as it is in the USA, many people don’t even know that my car is actually a replica from the old NASCAR days. That’s why I always have information sheets at every meeting so that people know what the vehicle is about.
But they love the look of the Buick and take a lot of photos all the time, precisely because you don’t see such a car on the street very often. I’ve opened my own Instagram page for the Buick where I regularly post photos. So I have a much greater range and can get more people excited about the car and talk about it.
This Gearhead Life
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[mh] The automotive culture is, of course, in a major change at the moment. Electrification is on the rise and that unsettles or annoys many people. There are now constant discussions about the sense—or nonsense—of the new mobility. This often degenerates into endless discussions in which pro-gasoline and pro-electric fans fight.
I don’t think this was to be that extreme in the past. There were just discussions about which manufacturer you lived for and that was it. The cars of the past also had a soul and character. You choose a car that you knew was made for you. And then you had years of pleasure with it.
Today, the time is moving much faster. Cars are often only seen as a useful object that look nearly the same next to each other and are usually exchanged again after just a few years. The years-long bond that used to exist, I believe, no longer exists in the same way as it was in the past.
What can be done about it is difficult to answer. I think the easiest way is just tolerance. Everyone should be able to drive the vehicle they want, regardless of whether it is gasoline, diesel or electric, because ultimately most of us only have one thing in common—the love to drive a car, and that is what should count.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[mh] I have always been able to share my passion for cars with my brother. He’s just as much a petrolhead as me. In the past we always had old cars that we liked to work on. We once had a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS together. Even today we like to go cruising together. Not with the Chevelle anymore, but me with my Buick NASCAR and he with his Lotus Evora. Petrolheadbrothers till the end.
Old School NASCAR FTW
I’ll be the first to admit it—I am not interested in NASCAR at all. The “stock” cars are not stock, or even based on the shells that support their endless lists of brand logos. And all that left turn only business is boring.
But you know what? Rewind the clock 30-plus years and it was a completely different animal. Maybe they still drove in circles most of the time, but the cars were special. The Regal on the screen in front of you may have very well been converted to a NASCAR contender—just like the Monte Carlos, Grand Prix, and Cutlasses that rolled off the Michigan assembly line around it.
The rumble of a big V8. Power surging to the rear wheels through a Hydramatic of some sort. Those plush, velour seats we all know and love from 80s GM products. It used to be said you’d win on Sunday, then sell the car on Monday, as people who watched the race came into the dealership to consider an amazing machine of their own. Those were seriously good days for NASCAR in this gearhead’s mind.
Not gonna lie. I barely recognize the Bouchard name these days, but I remember this car. I remember it from so many weekends spent in front of a TV with Dad, casually watching race cars roar around and around in circles.
Michael’s Regal V8 is an amazing machine. It looks just as good today as it might have looked in 1986—maybe even better. Thank you for sharing your story with us! We love the thought of an old Buick burning rubber outside Bern.