Anyone even remotely interested in Turbo Buicks knows the name Red Armstrong. But few people know that it was Red's wife Jane that got the turbo spinning in the Armstrong household. Oddly enough, the story begins with tthis yarn of a stolen Chevelle. "Red used to have a '70 Chevelle SS454 with a bubble (cowl-induction) hood. I loved how the hood looked on that car, and when it came time for me to get a new car, I wanted something similar." As luck would have it, Jane soon found herself on a test drive behind the wheel of an '86 Regal T-Type. "I fell in love with the first Turbo Regal I saw, it was gray and had a bubble hood like Red's Chevelle. I knew right then that I had to have one."
"I would have to say Red was not in favor of me buying a Turbo Regal," Jane recalls. "He said I didn't want a six-cylinder; that I should buy a Chevy with a V-8. But my mind was made up. I went to the dealer in February of 1987 and ordered the car just the way I wanted. When it arrived in May, I was there when it was backed off the truck. I wouldn't let them wash it or detail it, which the people at the dealer just couldn't understand. Within minutes of me getting the car home, Red had it up on jack stands, painting the underside components to prevent them from rusting, gutting the catalytic converter and using a spring off of a screen door or something to increase the boost. He hasn't stopped modifying it yet..."
"Red loves to tell people I bought him the Grand National (which currently runs mid-9s at 145 mph!) because I wanted him to leave my car alone. The truth is that I bought him a GN because I just really wanted him to have one." Regardless of whose version you believe, having a GN of his own did little to discourage Armstrong from continuing to modify Jane's Limited. Its present configuration is based on a 231-cubic-inch Stage I block filled with a forged crank, Carrillo rods and Wiseco pistons. Bolted to the decks are Champion-ported iron heads sporting 1.77/1.50 valves and T&D 1.60:1 roller rockers. Boost is by way of a Limit Engineering TA-66 Q-trim turbocharger, restricted to 25 psi by an integral wastegate in the Houston 3.5-inch downpipe. Red told us, "There was a definite performance gain, perhaps as much as 20 horsepower on this car, in moving from a 3-inch to a 3.5-inch downpipe." The balance of the exhaust system consists of a 2.75-inch stainless steel cat-back with Magnaflow mufflers.
The intercooler is a one-off piece constructed by Red from two Garrett cores, and mounted in the stock location. The key to its effectiveness is efficiency: it exhibits less than one psi of pressure drop across the core. At the same time, it provides a massive drop in charge temperature: from 160 degrees with the previous modified intercooler to just under 120 degrees with the new piece. An easily overlooked feature of the intercooler is its pneumatically operated scoop, which is automatically lowered once 10 psi of boost is attained, forcing additional air through the core. The only hiccup is that the mechanism is unable to retract the scoop at over 100 mph.
Ever the proponent of small camshafts, the 206/206 hydraulic roller is a favorite of Red's. What's the secret? Nearly instant boost production. Armstrong has engineered an interface for DirectScan that monitors boost pressure and charge air temperature. The key to his quick times is not in the leave (60-foot times average only about 1.50) but in the speed at which the boost comes on. "I typically leave at just 6 pounds of boost," he revealed, "but I have 24 to 25 psi in just .6 or .7 seconds. I credit the small camshaft and reasonably sized turbo for this. It allows me to launch the car soft and lessen the likelihood of driveline breakage, yet still achieve the numbers I'm looking for at the top end." Though a Hemco plenum is bolted to the port-matched intake manifold, some may be surprised to find a stock throttle body metering the inbound airflow. "I'm a firm believer that nothing more than the stock throttle body is required for nearly all of these cars," he stated.
Another Armstrong innovation found here is the Raptor mass airflow sensor. This MAF removes the sizeable restriction of the stock unit and is suitable for cars with approximately 500 to 900 horsepower. It utilizes a 4-inch (100mm) Ford Lightning meter and custom electronics. Tested on a flow bench the Raptor showed just 25 percent of the pressure drop of a "cleaned up" (i.e. screens and retaining ridges removed) stock sensor. Though the demand for this item has been quite high, Armstrong is not yet ready to release it as the idle quality is not quite up to his admittedly high standards.
The 200-4R transmission is stuffed full of heavy-duty components from PTS Xtreme Transmission and prepared by Vince Janis. Mating trans to engine is the familiar Precision Vigilante 5-disc lock-up converter. The remainder of the drivetrain is mostly stock, with the exception of an Eaton posi and Moser axles.
Armstrong is quick to point out that there has never been any effort to lighten the car or do anything that would compromise its drivability in any way. "Jane won't let me get crazy with it. As a matter of fact, the car keeps gaining weight. For instance, the intercooler is twelve pounds heavier than the stock unit, but I was able to counter that with an LT1 starter that is eight pounds lighter." How then does he explain the car's amazing performance? Simple: torque. On a chassis dyno with the torque converter locked, the Limited belted out 700 horsepower at 5200 rpm and an astounding 1000 lb.-ft. of torque at 4300 rpm. That translates to 10.20 ETs at nearly 135 mph for decidedly non-aerodynamic car that weighs a none-too-svelte 3,635 pounds. "Jane's car is super easy to drive at the track," says Red. "Unlike mine, it goes straight every time. The only exception is the column shifter, that thing is hard to shift!"
Though the car is mostly driven as a toy or for product development, Jane still enjoys the occasional romp around town. She reportedly comes back grinning from ear to ear every time. "I still love this car." With over 700 horsepower, who can blame her?