The '86-87 Turbo Regals faced one of the most rigorous inspection processes of any OEM vehicle when assembling the 3.8L mills, which has helped to make them one of the most responsive to aftermarket modification. Since the '80s it's not at all uncommon for GNs to run 22-plus psi of boost on completely stock motors with a tank full of race gas. This combination enabled the defeat of many foolish Mustang owners who poked fun at the Buicks for "missing two cylinders."
Little has changed since the good old days of trash talking and street racing, except GN owners, such as Darren Buckner, embarrass the Mustang crowd in a safer, more legal environment. Even with the stock block, crank, and connecting rods Darren's '87 Buford has gone as fast as 9.90 at 135 mph in the quarter and 6.22 at 110 mph in the eighth-mile. The Canton, North Carolina, native has been perfecting his combination over the past four years in an effort to make the most of the 234ci V-6, and the Precision Turbo 72mm S-trim four-bolt turbo that motivates it.
"I always wanted a fast streetcar, and what started out as a mild rebuild went a little crazy. I like to be a little different, and people just cannot believe the car is that fast-even when they see it run. They think I'm lying when I tell them it's a stock crank, block, and rods motor with a stock ECM."
Darren couldn't be more truthful when he says a set of JE pistons are one of the only non-stock additions to his bottom end. The forged pistons were sized to match the .020 overbore on the stock 109 block, and compression is bumped to a slightly elevated 8.2:1. Billet steel main caps are used to tie the bottom end together while not interfering with the stock oil pan and windage tray. After PAR Automotive completed the machining and the short-block was assembled, Wayne Haydock of Haydock Racing installed a COMP Cams .581-inch lift, 224 duration, 110 LSA solid-roller cam. The billet roller was one of PTE's grinds designed for efficient interaction with the Champion GN1 aluminum heads over 30 psi of boost. The Manley 1.90 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves were left untouched prior to the install; however, Wayne massaged and polished the ports before sandwiching a set of SCE solid copper head gaskets with ARP head studs. The heads were then topped off with Champion 1.65 ratio rockers and COMP Cams chrome-moly pushrods.
The stock intake manifold and upper plenum were ported and polished by Precision Turbo before being mated to an Accufab 70mm throttle body and upgraded fuel system. Haydock Racing installed the Delphi 75-pound injectors, thicker braided-stainless fuel lines, and Weldon 2015 external fuel pump, set to 40 psi of fuel pressure. A Red Armstrong race chip manages the stock computer, utilizing a Translator Plus and LS1 MAF to meter the incoming atmosphere from the 4-inch mandrel-bent intake tubing and K&N air filter. A large PTE front mount air-to-air intercooler is central to reducing intake air temps and detonation. The ignition was freshened up with an MSD DIS-4 ignition box and a set of Autolite plugs for more reliable performance.
ATR 1 5/8-inch stainless turbo headers recycle the exhaust from the GN1 heads, then depart the turbo housing via an ATR 3-inch downpipe. A custom exhaust system was fabricated by a local shop using 2.5-inch mandrel-bent tubing and ATR Pitbull mufflers, since (under the guidance of Bruce Campbell) Darren decided the stock-style suspension would not suit his needs. Jesse Hicks of Hicks Fabrication crafted a custom ladder-bar suspension in preparation for a Stage II block, heads, and a 88mm turbo. The trick setup required sectioning the frame, and the rear was mini-tubbed for good measure. A Moser spool and 3.25 gears (believe it or not) manipulate 35-spline axles in the Moser iron center section and Hicks Fabrication 9-inch housing. Despite running Mickey Thompson 28x11.5-inch drag slicks, Darren says using a high ratio gear is not necessary with the enormous torque afforded by the 72mm turbo. "It freaks a lot of people out when they hear that, but I only shift at 5,300 rpm. A tall gear loads the motor, whereas using the 3.25s calm the motor down a bit."
In order to calm the chassis down, Darren uses HAL coilovers in the rear and Lakewood 90/10 struts and springs in the front. This is key to controlling the violent explosion off the transbrake enabled by the Cooke's Transmission Turbo 400 and BTE 9.5-inch 4,000-stall converter. Though a necessary loss was taken in terms of rotating mass for the stiffer 3-inch steel driveshaft, weight savings is achieved with Weld Pro Star 15x5 and 15x10-inch drag wheels. Kirkey racing seats and a fiberglass hood and bumpers also shave some unwanted pounds. Meanwhile, the rest of the interior and exterior is kept mostly stock, save for the Jesse Hicks 8-point roll cage.
Soon the rollcage will need to be upgraded, as he is already surpassing its certification with the current setup, which is why he hasn't been able to make very many passes down quarter-mile tracks. However, if you were to convert Darren's best 1/8-mile run to the quarter, it would fall somewhere in the 9.60s. It's really amazing how fast you can go with only 6 cylinders, let alone a mostly stock bottom end. Turns out swapping his friend a Monte Carlo SS for the '87 GN was the trade of the decade. Not since baseball players used to change teams for a carton of smokes has someone claimed so many victories for so little in return.
Car: 1987 Grand National
|Stock iron, 234ci|
|Champion GN1 aluminum, ported and polished |
by Haydock Racing, 1.90 intake, 1.60 exhaust
|COMP Cams 224/224 duration at .050, |
.581/.581-inch lift, 110 LSA
|COMP Cams chrome moly|
|Champion 1.65 ratio|
|MSD DIS-4, stock coils|
|Stock with Red Armstrong race chip|
|PTE Front Mount Air-to-Air|
|ATR 1 5/8-inch stainless headers, ATR 3-inch |
downpipe, 2.5-inch custom offroad exhaust with
ATR Pitbull mufflers
|TH400 built by Cooke's Transmission|
|Stock K-member and A-arms, Lakewood |
springs and 90/10 shocks
|Hicks Fabrication 4-link and ladder bars, |
|Hicks Fabrication 9-inch, Moser 35-spline axles, |
3.25 gear, spool
|Weld Pro Star 15x5 front, 15x10 rear|
|Uniroyal Tiger Paw 195/75/15|
|M/T ET Drag 28x11.5 or ET Street 28x13.5|
|9.90 at 135|
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