LC2 Buttom End Engine Build - Power Trip

With This '87 T, I Want 10s At The Strip, Mild Manners On The Street, And The Kind Of Reliability Needed For An NYC Commute. Will I Pull It Off?

Rick Jensen Aug 1, 2006 0 Comment(s)

Eagle-eyed GMHTP readers may remember all the way back to June 2005, when Ron's Custom Auto yanked the 3.8 Turbo mill out of my high-mile '87 T.

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This was done out of necessity: my stock engine had been to hell and back--and she finally gave up.

I bought this car way back in 1993 with 70,000 miles on the clock. The LC2 served me faithfully through college, and when it came time to move all of my earthly belongings to Minnesota (thankfully, I didn't own furniture!), I piled everything into the T and rolled from Lincoln, Neb., to Minneapolis, low-rider style.

It was my daily driver for a good seven years, and I didn't go easy on it. Once I moved to the greater NYC area and started at GMHTP, the turbo V-6 took several years of dyno and drag abuse before finally starting to pee coolant into the oil. It didn't seize up and quit, but at that point there was no reason to push things. I needed a rebuild.

Despite racking up a ton of miles, this Buick ran 12.30s to 12.50s pretty consistently. It has been in the 12s for years--in fact, the 3.8's reliability was one of the main reasons why I'd never done a big buildup before, and instead concentrated on bolt-on parts. But now, it is finally time to make some serious horsepower.

And like all of you racers who dig having a street/strip ride, compromise is the name of the game. We'd all love a 6-second rod docile enough to get groceries with, but it ain't gonna happen--at least not on fossil fuels. And I know of lots of bad EFI GMs that will go 8s and 9s--trouble is, they wouldn't handle the Bronx's Major Deegan during rush hour very well.

And most importantly, just like your folks always said, money doesn't grow on trees, you know! There's no sense in spending money where you don't have to. Buick's turbo 3.8 V-6 engines received some special attention on the GM production line--the rods are killer, the crank is stout, and a reinforced stock block is a force to be reckoned with. Folks have been known to go 9s with these factory parts! Of course, attempting 9s like this is risky, but for these stock parts to handle 10s? No problem. With that being said, I'll be sticking with the stock bottom end and aiming for 10s, instead of ponying up the dough for an aftermarket crank and rods.

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Lastly, I will be looking past the dyno/drag strip hero power numbers and remember that my T will rack up 75 percent of its mileage on the street. This will affect turbocharger sizing, converter stall speed, cam selection, and a host of other parameters, as well as add some cost to the project to ensure reliability. But there's no sense in making 100 extra--but temperamental--horsepower, right?

With that said, here are my goals for this engine build:
•To make 150 more horsepower at the wheels than the current 390
•To run solid 10s with slicks and no transbrake
•To retain excellent street manners
•To save a few bucks where I can
•To keep engine, exhaust, and fuel system noise at current levels
•To be reliable enough for a New York City commute

With all of these miles, the engine isn't the only component of my Buick that needs some TLC. I will be addressing nearly every aspect of this car to ensure that it not only makes big power, but does it safely and reliably as well. But that's for a future issue--right now, let's build up this turbo V-6.

Stock block
Stock crank
Stock rods
Machine Work
RJC Girdle w/ studs
ARP Head studs
Champion iron heads
Champion ported manifold
COMP Cams roller cam
JE custom piston kit (includes pistons, upgraded chrome bar stock wrist pins, rings, locks, pin-fit option
Cometic head gaskets
Rollmaster timing chain
Hartline Spec
Cost to date:


Cometic Gaskets
Concord, OH 44077
JE Pistons
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Ron's Custom Auto
Kenilworth, NJ 07033
RJC Racing
Tooele, UT 84074
Hartline Performance
West Melbourne, FL 32904
Champion Racing Heads
Palm Coast, FL 32137




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