Thanks to the hard work of the crews at Hartline Performance and Ron's Custom Auto, as well as some elbow grease on my part, my Buick is nearing completion. At this point we've reassembled the '87 T, but attempting to control a 10-second, mostly street-driven LC2 with the stock computer is not recommended. In keeping with the completely streetable, reliable, and low-maintenance theme of this build, I needed a high-tech ECM that had the skills to manage this roller LC2 not only at WOT on the drag strip, but at idle sitting in traffic as well. It had to be advanced enough to offer features that the high-tech Buicks need, like a wideband O2 sensor, boost and torque converter lockup control, fuel pump control, and the like. And finally, it had to be user-friendly enough so a guy like me, with some tuning experience but far from a pro, could get up and running with it without too much trouble. I found my answer in XFI.
As this was my first aftermarket ECU, I spent some time with the guys at FAST to learn more about the system and figure out the logistics of installing an XFI on a Turbo Buick. FAST sells model-specific XFI wiring harnesses, but as I had purchased a replacement harness from Casper's, the only item I needed was the XFI ECU, part number 30-1000.
FAST includes a base program with its XFI box, but here's where I called in a specialist: expert tuner Cal Hartline. Cal, proprietor of Hartline Performance in West Melbourne, Florida, is well known for his wicked-fast Buick Turbo builds and a lively retail parts business. A well-kept secret is that Cal is one of the best aftermarket ECU tuners out there. His programs can be found from Buick Turbos to 6-second Pro 5.0 Mustangs-and his LS1 calibrations have started to raise a few eyebrows as well. Hartline tunes most of the major boxes, but specializes in FAST/XFI. He had good things to say about FAST's latest offering.
"Compared to the classic FAST box, the XFI's speed is really impressive-you can tell in places like the O2 correction," he explains. "The faster processing speed, even at idle, allows XFI to react so much quicker. And XFI's features are great, one of the most important being the variable scaling. Being able to set up the rpm and MAP scales is invaluable from the tuner's aspect. And for the end users, the flashable memory means you will never have to send XFI back in for a reflash when new features like the internal datalogger become available.
A few hours were spent at Ron's Custom to install and connect the XFI and its wideband O2, then I was off to Newark to pick up Hartline so we could do the streetability and dyno power tuning in nearby Toms River, New Jersey.
ConclusionNeedless to say, I was blown away by the power and torque numbers that this XFI'd Turbo V-6 put down. But I was even happier that I had Cal Hartline there to zero in the tune. This session wasn't cut and dry, as a time crunch meant that I wasn't able to move the air temp sensor into the upper intake before the dyno session. This is important because the ECU had been reading the underhood air as opposed to turbocharged and intercooled air going into the motor, throwing off the tune a bit. This will be fixed eventually, but it altered the tune enough to where I was glad I had a pro making keystrokes when the boost was set on 24.
Could I have tuned the car myself, made OK power, and not grenaded the motor? Maybe-but to spend all this time and money on a project only to wing it with the tuning would have been downright foolish. Contacting Hartline Performance to create a smooth-driving, high-horsepower and, above all, safe, tune for my Buick was the smartest thing I could have done. When it comes to tuning, Cal gets it. Keep that in mind when it comes time for your project to get tuned.
559 ponies at the wheels, more boost to be had, and almost ready for the track-be sure to check out the next installment when I do some break-in maintenance then head up to Cotton's Performance Center. Jack and Brian will be upgrading my rear to handle this sick power, and cutting the frame rails to fit a fat rim/tire combo in the back. It's nearly time for a date with E-Town...