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The Silver Standard

A new benchmark for Turbo Buicks

Chris Endres Jan 7, 2005

Over the years, objects that set the benchmark for quality in their field have often been referred to as being the "Gold Standard." The meaning behind this is perfectly clear; however, we now have reason to question its validity. Even the most hardcore Buick enthusiast will admit that most Turbo Regals look pretty much the same. Inside and out, there's very little variety in appearance and in the modifications performed. Much of this is due to Buick's decision to paint the lion's share of these cars in conservative grays and blacks. Though this was probably a good styling decision, as these colors complement the slab-sided, square body lines to a T, it does not make for a very diverse population of cars. Another reason is the engine configuration. Face it; there are only so many ways to suitably doll up the engine room of these cars (hint: we're not referring to chrome turbo shields and valve cover breathers). That said, we are happy to present to you a ride with a fresh look and jaw-dropping performance to match. This is Jim Lauer's '87 Turbo Regal.

Starting with a rough '87 Turbo Limited (purists, we hear your howls of protest; can 'em 'cause Lauer doesn't wanna hear it), Lauer systematically built perhaps the most well executed Buick ever to grace these pages. The three-year project commenced in the autumn of 2000 with disassembly of the vehicle. The chassis and body were trailered to Bruns Race Cars in Orfordville, WI for modification. A chro-moly cage was fabricated to ensure a solid foundation for the car's intended street/strip assignment. The frame rails were moved inboard and notched with the intention of fitting 12.5-inch slicks within the wheel wells. The rearend is a 9-inch with a Mark Williams aluminum center, lightened spool and gun-drilled 35-spline axles. The rear suspension was converted to a ladder bar system using Koni coil-overs. The adjustable nature of coil-overs allow Lauer to adjust the rear of the car to whatever ride height he deems appropriate. Luckily, he likes it low, and installed a pair of Bell Tech spindles up front to complete the stance.

Knowing the stock powerplant was not going to provide the power needed to achieve his performance goals, Lauer contacted Pete Barton at ANS Performance in Chicago. Barton began work on a 276 cubic inch Stage II capable of propelling the Regal through the quarter mile in approximately eight seconds. With machine work tackled, a Scat billet crank was installed and fitted with Carrillo rods and JE pistons. Foregoing the traditional oiling system, a Stef's belt-driven pump was fitted in its stead. An extensively ported pair of Stage II heads was sourced from Lawrence Conley. These were fitted with titanium intake and Inconel exhaust valves and topped with a set of T&D roller rockers.With heads bolted in place, work could begin on the ancillary components. A Hogan sheet metal intake manifold fills the valley and is crowned with an Accufab 90mm throttle body. The Bosch 160 lb.-hr. injectors draw from Hogan fuel rails, which in turn are supplied by a Weldon pump and Aeromotive pump controller. Barton tuned the FAST system as well.

The turbo is a PT-88 four-bolt unit from Precision Turbo and Engine, mounted on stainless steel headers. Boost is controlled with a header-mounted HKS 'gate via the nearby regulator. The 4-inch downpipe feeds a 4-inch single exhaust (both owner-built) with a Borla muffler. And what of that intercooler? It's a massive PTE double stack front-mount with more custom 4-inch tubing. B&C Transmissions in Machesney Park, IL was charged with the task of building a suitably robust transmission. It should come as no surprise to find a Turbo 400 fitted with a transbrake and JW scatter shield. The converter is from Neil Chance; it's a bolt-together Pro-Mod unit offering approximately 3800 rpm of stall speed.

In its as-purchased condition, the car seemed solid enough, but further investigation revealed it had been hit hard in the right-rear corner. Sadly, and as is often the case, the repairs were not carried out with the highest degree of workmanship, and this area needed extensive re-working. Lauer is quick to credit Mark Katalin for the laser-straight body and flawless silver metallic Glasurit. "Mark is a co-worker and a friend who went out of his way to make sure the paint and body turned out perfect," acknowledges Lauer. Exterior modifications were minimal with a fiberglass hood being the most notable. Another subtle enhancement came in the removal of the vertical "bumperettes" from the original bumpers. This necessitated welding up the mounting holes and re-chroming both bumpers entirely, but it is a thoughtful touch that subtly cleans up both ends of the car. The wheels are Weld Alumastars, which offer clean, hard lines that blend well with those on the body.

Peering inside, most observers comment how stock it appears to be. This speaks to the superb craftsmanship of the Bruns' built cage. Other things worth noticing are the leather upholstered stock seats and the B&M Pro-Ratchet shifter, which is seamlessly integrated into a stock console. "The shifter actually went in with very little effort," says Lauer. "It required only a bit of trimming to the underside of the console." The engine's vitals are relayed to driver by way of a full complement of Autometers in the dash. An engraved aluminum radio/HVAC block-off plate does away with these unneeded accoutrements.

Completed just a scant two weeks before making its debut at Bowling Green, there was no time for Lauer to get the car to the dragstrip as he had planned. That meant it would be a trial by fire at the GS Nats, in front of the most discriminating Buick enthusiasts. A tentative shakedown pass was made; flat-stabbing the throttle produced an 11.60 at 142 mph. Satisfied that the car was to behave in a predictable manner, Lauer was ready to give it hell and the car responded with a 9.52 at 147 mph. A 4500-rpm launch and maximum boost pressure at 22 psi produced a soft 1.55 sixty-foot time. Two weeks later at the B-O-P event at Great Lakes Dragaway, Lauer ran a nice 9.12 at 152. "I launched the car at 5000 rpm and turned the boost up to 25 psi." Though still short of his stated goal of consistent 8.80's, Lauer came away satisfied: "I was much happier with the sixty-foot, which was 1.40. I think the converter needs some loosening to really launch hard and get me into the eights."

It wasn't long after this that Jim got the Stage II tuned in and hooked up. With the boost at 27 pounds, a 1.34 60-foot catapulted the Limited to a scorching 8.80 ET at 156 miles an hour. It is obvious that a project of this magnitude is accomplished with a lot of help, and Lauer is happy to give credit where it's due. However, Lauer says his wife Lisa and brother Jason were absolutely invaluable in seeing his vision through: "I couldn't have done it without them!" Indeed, Lauer's Turbo Regal exhibits meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to perfection in every detail. Therefore, we say the new standard is Silver.


Doesn't look much like an eight-second car inside, does it? Credit Lauer for keeping things in the spirit of the original design with his low-key approach to safety and display of data.

Weld Alumastars are wrapped in M/T Sportsman Pros for street duty. A matching pair of 'stars with Hoosier slicks stand in for strip action.


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