Fresh off of its rearend and framerail upgrade at Cotton's, this 1987 Turbo T is not 100 percent track-ready yet, but is finally mechanically sound enough to make a few hits. With winter closing in and Raceway Park getting ready to shut down, that's exactly what I will do.
I made one last stop over to Ron's Custom Auto, where Junior assisted me in connecting the Hartline Performance Flash Selector Switch Module for my XFI box. We did a quick oil change, and then I headed out to get a new set of Mickey Thompson wheels and tires mounted. With the slicks and skinnies loaded into the G-body and a tank full of VP C16, I cruised the 50 miles from NYC to Raceway Park.
November 6, 2006 dawned sunny and cool, with temps in the mid-50s and only a slight breeze blowing down Englishtown's famous strip. It was a good day to be racing a turbo Buick. I popped the hood, threw some ice bags on the intake and up-pipe, and began unloading the T. Assisting me on this day was contributor Brian Reese, who brought his git-r-done GM truck, a sweet lightweight jack, and air tools. While Reese swapped the ghetto street rims for the new M/Ts, I connected a laptop to the XFI box and got them up and running. The Flash Selector Switch Module allows you to flip between tunes, and one flick of the switch and a turn of the ignition key changed the XFI tune from Street to Race. This is a great time-saver, and combining it with a full tank of race gas left me with lots of time to double- and triple-check the engine bay, XFI settings, lug nuts, tire pressures, and all other necessary measures. After a two-year wait, I wasn't about to let anything go wrong.
Today's track session was all about the shakedown. I had no idea what to expect from the Hartline LC2 and the built driveline, although 559 ponies at the wheels and lots of new upgrades certainly pointed to something good. The front QA1s were set full loose, the rears were put on 8, the ET Front tires were inflated to 35 psi, and the ET Drags got 16 psi.
For this first run I set the boost low; I put on my Simpson helmet, turned on XFI's data logging, and rolled to the water box. With the Drags wet I did a quick spin, pulled ahead, and did a massive burnout. Up at the line, I bumped the pre-stage light and started to build boost-or attempted to, anyway. At the first hint of power, the vacuum booster/front disc/rear drum setup gave way, pushing the T ahead and nearly out of the stage beams. I was able to keep from fouling, and left with no launch boost. But even with a soft launch, 1.96 60-foot and only 20 pounds of total boost, I wasn't ready for the violent Buick torque being channeled through the rear wheels. My entire upper body was sucked into the grey bucket seat as First wound out, Second engaged, and the Buford-induced whiplash receded enough for me to focus on the track, madly correcting the wheel to make up for the uneven launch. Once the T was straight, Third gear came and I flew through the traps. With the brakes applied, everything except my heart rate began to slow. Once on the return road, I saw an 11.71/121. Oof. That was the most intense high-11-second run I've ever made-and it was already more than half a second quicker than my best run with the previous bolt-on combo.
Once parked, I reviewed the data log. The air/fuel ratio looked fine, but due to the fact that the IAT sensor hadn't been moved to the intake and so was reading underhood air (as opposed to intercooled intake air), the O2 correction was working a bit. I twisted the wastegate rod to get a few more pounds of boost, let it cool for an hour, and pulled into the water again. I hadn't been able to install a line lock yet, and I spun one wheel a couple of times before both caught and heated up. As I rolled toward the beams, I threw it in Neutral, revved, and shifted into Third. Once pre-staged, I stood on the brake pedal and gently brought the boost gauge up to 2. It started to roll, so I held it until it was staged and the lights dropped, and then I nailed it. The T lost a little traction, but hissed to a 1.72 60-foot time, and two gears later I could feel the 24-psi boost. The run was over before I knew it, and I was looking at an 11.26 at 124.
An hour later was the next run. It was a near-carbon copy of the last, with burnout trouble and a slight loss of traction after launch because of a small amount of water on the tires. The launch boost was the same at 2 psi and the 60 got worse, at 1.74. Oddly enough, I only saw 23 total pounds of boost going down the track, even though I attempted to add more. Ultimately, I was able to improve on the previous ET, running an 11.11 at 125.
This time the data log didn't look so good. The current O2 correction was maxed at -5.5, but the air/fuel ratio started to drop into pig-rich territory. I contacted Cal Hartline, and through some long-distance troubleshooting we determined that there probably wasn't a problem. Likely the IAT sensor location was to blame and we made a fueling adjustment.
Now I was down to my last run of the day; it was after 5:30 p.m., and getting dark. I twisted the wastegate rod two full turns hoping to get into the 25- to 26-psi boost range, checked the tires, enabled the XFI logging, and pulled to the line.
Finally, it all came together. Both wheels spun hard, the burnout was perfect, and I really hazed the Mickeys. Two quick revs in Neutral, then up to pre-stage. Stand on the brake, gently bring the revs up, 2 ... 3 ... 4 psi-LAUNCH!
Though the launch wasn't pretty (with the lack of suspension tuning throughout the day), it worked: 1.54 60 foot. The cabin filled with the evil hiss of a hardworking turbocharger, now seeing 26 pounds of boost. The eighth-mile flew by in only 6.9 seconds, and this sucker just kept pulling. In no time, the Dodge-side clock read: 10.83 126.62
This was the first serious speed the T had seen after a quarter-mile, and I was on the brakes hard to get it slowed down. What a rush, and what a way to end Power Trip's track day!
I am completely psyched about these numbers-the Buick is my first 10-second car, and after all of the blood, sweat, and tears required to get this thing built, it was an immense relief to see a "10" on E-town's scoreboard.
But I'm just as excited about the fact that the Turbo-T wasn't even close to being tuned-in. Because this was a drivetrain shakedown session, I let the suspension settings be, and didn't play with the shocks or the new HRPartsNStuff rear bar. The VSS wasn't working, so the converter stayed unlocked during the runs. The aforementioned IAT sensor has yet to be moved, so the XFI Race tune can really be zeroed in, and the stock brakes will need some love before they can allow the usual 8-plus pounds of launch boost.
When you add all of that up and realize that I just went 10.8 with a measly 4 pounds of launch boost, you can begin to understand how bad this Buick has become.
You'll be seeing a different type of Buick performance next time, as I'll be in the process of fixing these problems before visiting the track again. Does this T have a solid mid- to low-10 in her? We'll soon find out.