Whereas early-on many of the TR (Turbo Regal) cars were over-boosted (over 18psi w/ pump gas) causing engine components (usually head gaskets) to fail; Tim's "new" 1987 Buick GN was well-maintained and unmolested, so it lasted many years and miles.
Back in the day we remember these black Buicks bursting on the scene running low to mid 14's right off the showroom floor. Its carbureted V-8 cousin (the Monte Carlo SS) would run mid to high 15's. TR's were known to trounce on TPI Vettes, TAs, IROCs, 5.0 Muskrats and even the baddest of the imports-the Nissan 300ZX Turbo. This well-know fact gave the Turbo Buicks a reputation--don't mess with that badass Buick.
Tim's chilled boost `87 will give us the opportunity to go back to the 80's and upgrade his ride using today's technology and higher quality components. Recent electronics are much faster to enable the precise amount of air/fuel and timing for a safe amount of added boost. There are many affordable (20-30 grand) late-model performance cars that run 13 to 14 second ETs out-of-the-box. The competition is much faster these days. Our goal is to update this early GM high-tech performer to surpass today's performance standards along with rock-steady reliability.
For the baseline, we drove the Buick to our happy testing grounds (Raceway Park, Englishtown, NJ). Tim changed all the fluids (engine, trans, rear) to Torco's line of synthetics. The filters (oil, gas, air and trans), ignition wires and plugs were replaced before the strip-test. We hoped this blast-from-the-past Buick would still run its number. Just like back-in-the-day we launched at roughly a 5-6psi boost (LED gauge hard to read and inaccurate), any more and the brakes won't hold. We let the trans shift for itself and ran a respectable 14.43 at 93.18mph with a 2.16 sixty-foot. That's actually great for a 23-year old, high-mileage, 3.8 Turbo. A half-hour later a back-up run showed us a consistent 14.45 at 93.18mph with another 2.16 sixty-foot.
The aforementioned ignition wires were the best-quality, carbon core (suppression) OEM type wires available from a local parts store. For a good comparison we ordered a set of spiral core "Livewires' from our friends at Performance Distributors. These much lower resistance wires will provide optimum spark to the plugs. We installed the Livewires during the usual 30-minute cool-down period. After a quick 2-second burnout we approached the starting line. After our launch the scoreboard lit up to a quicker 2.13 sixty-foot, and a 14.37 at 93.47 going through the traps. Considering the barometer was falling fast as the humidity increased (along with a 5-degree rise in temperature), amazingly the plug wires still managed to reduce ET.
It's understood that a turbocharged motor needs more air to inhale as it forces additional air through it. K&N has been the air filtration, air-flow leader for over 30-years. Tim brought along a K&N air-inlet system he purchased at the E-town Spring Swap Meet. Again we used cool-down time to remove the restrictive stock air cleaner and replace it with the hi-flow piece. Right away response improved as did the 60-foot (2.10) and the 1320-ft (14.25 at 94.53). Quite satisfied gaining 2-tenths for the bone-stock baseline we called it a day.
Dyno Tune Time
We pondered how much power this throwback to the 80's would produce. At the time GM underrated its turbo V-6 at 245 net horsepower. Would this stock boost (12-13psi) six-cylinder show us 200hp to the tires? To find out, we visited our close-by friends at Tune Time Performance in Toms River, NJ. Tune Time uses a Mustang Dynamometer, which will accurately monitor our test results.