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birdmayne GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/16/22 4:10 p.m.

In reply to V6Buicks :

If you're going to blow it up, blow it up all the way! 

That's my theory, at least 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/16/22 4:42 p.m.

This might be of interest.  Looks like Derrick is rescuing an '86.  I had no idea about the brakes.



A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/16/22 5:14 p.m.

I saw a video here recently of a black GN lined up beside a black Hellcat at a drag race.  It occurred to me just how clean and svelte the GN looked beside the modern day pork chop bloat-mobile.

Mr_Asa UltimaDork
11/16/22 6:36 p.m.

Most recent pics aren't working for me


A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
11/16/22 6:42 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:

Most recent pics aren't working for me



V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 7:58 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Dang it.  I'm able to see them even if I'm not logged in on my phone.  I believe you though because toward the end I started copy/pasting the pictures instead of actually uploading.  Is that required here?

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 8:09 a.m.

I edited the wheel post from yesterday with actual uploaded pictures.  Let me know if they're visible now so I can continue the story!

Mr_Asa UltimaDork
11/17/22 8:12 a.m.

In reply to V6Buicks :

Copy paste works, but it depends on the host.  Google Photos generally makes everything hidden by default except for the user.  A hosting service like Imgur allows you to drag and drop from their site to here 

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 8:16 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Dang.  Yeah, I use google photos.  Hosting got to be too much of a pain.  Are my pictures showing up now?

NY Nick
NY Nick GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/17/22 8:25 a.m.

In reply to V6Buicks :

The problems start with the post at 2:07 yesterday and they still aren't working. This is a great thread though, thanks for taking the time to make it.

Mr_Asa UltimaDork
11/17/22 8:26 a.m.

In reply to V6Buicks :

From the "throttle cable bolt broke" post I can see up till you have the screw driver in the broken bolt, nothing after till the "those things made me fall in love with the car" and then I can see everything again.

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 8:30 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

Oof....  Thank's for letting me know.  At least I know what the fix is.

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 8:31 a.m.

In reply to NY Nick :

Thank you!  I will try to get it all fixed this morning and move on to the next chapter.

RandolphCarter Reader
11/17/22 8:55 a.m.
V6Buicks said:

In reply to NY Nick :

Thank you!  I will try to get it all fixed this morning and move on to the next chapter.

If the car is occasionally a chore to work on, it makes sense that posting about it should sometimes be a source of frustration too.

I had forgotten how ahead of their time these cars were. I love what you're doing to keep this one rolling.

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 10:21 a.m.

In reply to RandolphCarter :

Hahaha!  That is too true.  I'm glad people are enjoying this.  I think all the picture problems are fixed.  In fact I even found a few more to throw in there.  Let me know if it looks better!

obsolete GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
11/17/22 10:47 a.m.

After following your Camaro thread for a while, I'm really glad you started a thread for the GN! Thanks for posting, really enjoying the story.

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 11:16 a.m.

Let's wrap up 2021.  Although, I made those nice updates at the beginning of the season and once again narrowly got the car to the Nationals, I was still not completely into this car.  I made it run better, but not great.  I still randomly saw KR, and the Camaro project was reaching a new level with its TKX conversion.  I didn't have the time, space, or money to be diving into another car let alone the expensive Buick and little stuff was starting to drive me crazy!

Exhibit A:  The serpentine belt tensioner was broken.  This was my fault.  I broke the eyelet off of it by installing the bolt without an alternator.  Doh!

I bought a brand new one from Gbodyparts.  It's specific to '86-'87 turbo Regals and '89 TTAs so it's not a cheap or common part, but I thought it would be better than trying to source a used one.  That was a mistake.

At first I thought that I could live with this, but the difference in color sticks out to me like a sore thumb.  I'm not sure if it's just the glossy finish that's throwing things off or if the type of aluminum is completely different.  Either way, I hate it.  It's just one of those things I have to live with for a while though because there are too many more pressing issues to address.

It's nice to just forget about the issues and have fun every once in a while anyway.

I got married in November of '21 so there came a point where I was too busy to enjoy the GN.  Even if I had time, I was more interested in installing the Camaro transmission which finally arrived that summer.  In order to free some much needed space up to work, I put the GN away very early.

It's finally noticeable that the ATR air dam/scoop is finally gone.  I found a very cheap set at the Nationals that year, so I sold my broken ones for the same price.  I love free upgrades.  I still have the ATR dam as well, but it probably just needs to be trashed.  I liked the look of them, but there's no practical way to make them functional.

I felt bad putting the car away so early.  I thought I had finally found some peace with this car, but I still wasn't REALLY into it.  Why am I not wanting to drive and upgrade my dream car all the time??  It shouldn't be a chore!

This was a topic I would think about a lot in the coming year.  I know I didn't love everything about the Camaro more than the Buick.  However, it was certainly more satisfying to upgrade a car that was such a turd to begin with.  Anything I did to that car made it better than I found it where the opposite was often true with the GN.  I hadn't really "bonded" with the GN because I had never done any extensive work or repairs.  I felt like I didn't know anything about it.  This line of thought made me start asking myself how I could change all that.

At this point I felt like I had the knowledge to strip the car down a lot further, clean it up, figure out why it wasn't running right, and put it back together in much nicer condition.  The problem was my lack of space and tools to do it without hating every minute of it.  I do everything out of my suburban basement and two-car garage.  There is no room for a lift and not much room in the back yard to expand the house.  I've barely gotten away with doing the Camaro project in this space, so there's no way I could get away with a presumably multi-year GN project at the same time.  Even if I COULD do it, I still don't think I would want to!  The Camaro was so much easier to play with, so I got over the GN.  It was out of sight and out of mind.

Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy UltimaDork
11/17/22 11:21 a.m.

Oh what fond memories:

V6Buicks Reader
11/17/22 1:14 p.m.

All that being said.... 2022 ended up being a very different year for the Buick.  The Nationals were in May again, and for the first time I had two Buick powered options.  The turbo 3800 in the Camaro was ready to show all the turbo Regal guys what their cheap baby brother could do.  I spent the spring making sure that car was prepared for the long trip which meant the GNs long hibernation would be extended even further....

Wakey wakey!  It's June!  There was a local car show going on with a mobile dyno on-site.  I thought it would be cool to get some updated numbers from the Camaro, but my wife wanted to drive the GN.  We compromised and took both!

The show was blah, but still brought two major highlights to my summer.  One is finally showing off two Buick turbo 3.8 cars side by side, and the other was surprising myself with over 50 more hp and ft/lbs in the Camaro since 2020.

However, the GN continued to be overshadowed by the Camaro.  I was so proud of the my work on the 3800, and it was finally at a point where I could just drive it and beat on it everywhere without worrying.  I drove the Camaro to shows all summer and even across lake MI!  (See my other thread for details lol)  I wouldn't say I completely neglected the GN all summer, but.... I kinda did.  It was so bad, that I actually came close to selling it. frown I wasn't even getting my money's worth out of insurance.  I put a sign in it during our community garage sale.  I didn't expect to get any serious offers but the market was HEAVILY in my favor and it started a lot of good conversations with neighbors I had never met.

I almost listed it for sale on Facebook and Turbobuick.com where it would have sold for sure, but I decided to take it up with my wife first.  Shockingly, that was a hard "NO".  I am not allowed to sell this car even to buy a GS Stage 1 or GSX (my other dream car).  She said not only does she love the GN too much but so does everyone else.  She loves the quirkiness of it being the only V6 muscle car that people loved.  She loves going to local shows and everyone bananas for it.  They know what it is and they all want to talk about it.

I was blown away by that response.  I had talked on and off about selling this car for a couple years, and I thought for sure she would be all about an easy $30k.  She was right though.  I needed to keep this.  There's nothing else like it, and someday I would be able to do right by this car.

Since selling was off the table I figured I'd at least get started fixing some annoyances.  Remember how I said that I bought a SET of bumper fillers from spool fool back in 2017?  I meant the FULL set.  I had been tripping over the single piece rear filler for 5 years waiting for the original to explode like the fronts did.  That never happened, but they were still looking really poor.  While I did that I figured I would go in and correct an old mistake of mine.

I knew that there was a lot of dirt hiding back here so I took everything apart and washed it.  Also notice the brown gas tank?  That's my bad.  When I installed the Racetronix 255lph pump and hanger a few years back, I thought I was doing a good thing by cleaning the dirt off the tank with brake cleaner.  All that did was make a mess out of the factory undercoating that came on '86 Regal tanks.  It was pretty unsightly.

Rustoleum undercoating matched pretty nicely!

The single piece filler is such a good look.

All back together!

I am so glad I took the extra time to spray the tank.  That was bothering me a lot more than I thought!  It was also nice to not have that bumper filler hanging over my head anymore..... or sitting on the floor of our spare bedroom.

Here's a little bumper filler demonstration for you guys.  A common misconception I often hear when a super low mile GNX goes across the auction block with grey, cracked, or mostly missing bumper fillers is that there's no way the odometer hasn't rolled over or the car is junk because plastic doesn't just degrade.  Well.... yeah it does.  In fact it's a miracle that even these single digit odometer cars have their original fillers.  The only reason mine survived as long as they did was because they were replaced with NOS and repainted.  Keep in mind that NOS parts are still the same age though!

Here are my fillers on the floor.  I thought about giving them away to somebody interested in doing a concours restoration.

....but here it is again collapsed under its own weight and in several pieces after just sitting there for an hour.  This is why most people opt for fiberglass replacements.  They aren't as pliable, but they will last forever!

It wasn't noticable in other pictures, but now you can see why I wanted to get rid of these.  Not only does it look gross, but I couldn't wash them.  They were sticky, and you would ruin a microfiber the second it touched.


That was done, but it only took me a night.  I wanted to work on something else.  The fact that the car still had vacuum brakes was another annoyance that I couldn't shake.  I had parts to fix this for a long time, but never took the time to do anything with it for a couple reasons.  One was that I just wanted the car to work right, and the vacuum brakes did.... they always would.  The second was that there was that I had no way to check the Powermaster on a bench before installing it on the car and crossing my fingers.  I still think there's a good possibility of the unit being junk.  Third was that my car wasn't really stock enough to justify putting that back on.

Since selling the car was off the table, I decided that I should do what I want!  If I could make a bench tester and prove that this frankensteined unit works before installation, I would be a lot more confident.  I grabbed a bunch of scrap metal, boogered it together, and bolted up the powermaster.  It's ugly but solid!

I also made a test harness with an LED for diagnosic purposes.  It will illuminate if the motor is supposed to be turned on.  If the light is on but the motor is not, it's a bad motor.  If the motor is off but the light is off then the pressure switch is not closing.

This was all good stuff, but my progress came to grinding halt when I started noticing that the tool I made wasn't the only ugly thing on the bench.... My vacuum booster was ugly and wrong, but it was in nice condition.  Even if the Powermaster worked fine, I don't think I could justify throwing it on the car with all that rust and corrosion.

By the way, we are almost up to current times so I might start throwing questions into my posts.  I still want to try out this Powermaster, but I'm slightly against painting the motor and bracket.  They were originally zinc coated, and I'd prefer to recreate that if possible.  I was considering a DIY plating kit, but I worry that it would be a bad idea trying this with a motor.  I'll probably just clean it up as best as I can and paint it with rust encapsulator.

I didn't come to that determination until it was time to put the GN away for the 2022 season though.  Once again, I felt bad.  So bad in fact that I vowed to get this car to professional detailer in the spring.  I thought that was a good compromise.  I took it to another couple shows and successfully swapped the rear filler, but the engine was actually running a lot worse than usual.  It was slow and KR was inconsistent.  Sometimes there was none, but one time was so bad that I saw 11 flash on the Scanmaster and actually heard the detonation.  surprise  That was a very scary night.  I thought the engine was done.

I wasn't a happy camper.  I let the alky tank run dry which is supposed to trigger a low fuel light... I don't know why it wasn't working.  Either way, I had enough.  I refused to by another replacement pump which was probably also going bad and I had plans to finish the Camaro once and for all this winter.  Parts for that car were on the shelf and ready to go, so I was not about to dig into something else.  I was kinda ready to ditch the alky system and replace the alky chip with a boring 93 only chip, bu that was going to be spring time me's problem.

I started taking the car on a slow and safe trip to the barn.  I did try to lightly goose it a couple times to test my alky theories, but....

jfryjfry SuperDork
11/17/22 2:12 p.m.

Very interesting read!

if that bracket is still shiney and bothering you, either polish the rest of the stuff or maybe paint either it or the other stuff gloss black?

V6Buicks Reader
11/18/22 12:07 p.m.

Sorry guys, but I'm going to have to make these posts shorter or something.  I've spent a couple hours trying to write the next post twice, and each time the image uploader has errored out and forced me to reload the page.  Let's try again.  This time I'll type it on Word and paste here.


…the car had other plans for the winter.  I like to think that she knew where she was going and threw a tantrum over it.

It worked because I turned around, parked in the garage, and took the Camaro to storage instead.  At the time I wasn’t sure what happened, but I knew it was expensive, oil was everywhere, and I was low on power.  The answer would become apparent rather quickly.

I’m not sure if the chicken came before the egg here, but my guess is that the nut was ready for a change of scenery after 37 years.  It didn’t really matter though.  The turbo needed to be replaced, and I knew it was going to open a big can of worms.  I wasn’t digging that deep into this car without fixing everything it touches and everything in the way.  After all, the insecurities I had in 2018 should have been gone by now.  My goals for the Camaro had been fully achieved and more which meant I was ready to get the Buick done right.  I was scared anyway, but there was no better time to rip off the band-aid.

I decided what vision I was going to stick with and planned my “build”.  I was still a big fan of the original look and feel of this car, and I didn’t want to spend my life savings going overboard.  At the same time, I didn’t want to cut any corners, so the modifications and extent of the repairs would need to stay simple.  Besides, I think just repairing whatever was causing the car to run bad in the first place would be enough to make me happy.

Let the tear down begin!

Neglect and poor mechanics started showing themselves early in the process.  This downpipe elbow was only held on with three bolts.  The nut was missing which was surely the cause of a gross leak.

I’ve always really liked this down pipe, but this was the first time I ever got to see the cast elbow portion.  It was made by a long since defunct business called Bowling Green Customs.  They made a lot of high-quality part for turbo Regals, but unfortunately become known for scamming people.  This is still the only aftermarket turbo Regal down pipe I have seen that fits within the confines of a stock turbo shield.  Most aftermarket pipes are one piece and tubular which is great for flow but requires some hackery to fit.  I’m really impressed by the cast elbow and how much better it must flow over stock!  It should look awesome once it’s cleaned up and ceramic coated.

I was sad though.  The waste gate puck was stuck!  While this explained a lot of my inconsistencies, I was not excited to figure out how to fix it.


I was even less excited after doing my research.  This apparently an issue on all turbo Regal down pipes.  The most accepted fix seems to be drilling the weld off the lever, pulling the puck and shaft out, and drilling the hole in the flange slightly larger.  Apparently, the hole is fine when it’s new but not big enough to account for corrosion in the future.  I hated that idea.  The shaft needs to be a slip fit, and drilling any larger would just create a new exhaust leak. I have a lot of patience though, so I tried it my way.

First, I soaked the shaft in PB blaster overnight and worked the shaft every once in a while to ensure coverage and penetration.  Sometimes, I would heat the elbow with a map torch too.  This helped a lot, but it still wouldn’t move unless you used you fingers.  It should be very loose.  Then I had an idea.  I could lap it.  Anti-seize has metal in it which makes it a little abrasive.  I put some on the shaft, worked it in, and played around for a few hours.  After cleaning it all off, it felt as good as new!  No more hang ups.  I felt like a genius.  I saved a rare part!


There was still a lot to do though.

V6Buicks Reader
11/18/22 12:35 p.m.

It looks like my car became a snack at some point.  That's not a great sign either.  I'll have to do a good inspection of the harness.

By this time, I started realizing that the engine bay was way dirtier than I thought.  I wasn’t putting it back together without a thorough wipe down.  While inspecting everything and coming up with a plan of attack, I found the fruits of my failed vacuum master cylinder from 2016.

Yikes... at least there's no rot.  It's just surface rust, but I still hate that it happened.  I am hoping to scrape all the undercoating off, clean these areas a bit, and shoot it with Eastwood rust encapsulator.  I had great luck with their aerosol version on the Camaro.

I wanted to remove the down pipe for ceramic coating, but I couldn’t get the test pipe removed.  This meant that the downpipe would have to come out the bottom.  I don’t have a lift, so the car did some acrobatics.

Freedom!  The header is out too.

It needs to be cleaned it's easier to do it outside of the car, so here goes more stuff.

Well, this is escalating quite far isn't it?

surprise This is still a chilling sight to me.  It's also mind boggling how long it took me to get here.  I took my time and fixed some random parts along the way, but I could have the Camaro stripped to this point in about an hour!  After a few nights, I a decided this is about as far as I need to go.  The nylon timing gear will be replaced with an all steel Cloyes HD set, and the weak original valve springs will be replaced with Comp 980s.  Now I need to gather parts and start resoring everything I removed.

V6Buicks Reader
11/18/22 12:58 p.m.

With the timing cover removed, I thought it was a good idea to remove the filter adapter and inspect one of Buick's biggest mistakes.  All Buick engines until the 3800 had an all aluminum timing cover with a gear type oil pump housed inside.  It was driven off the distributor shaft or in my case, the cam sensor.  These steel gears would inevitably wear out the aluminum housing which allowed oil to bypass the gears and lower pump pressure.

As expected, there is some minor scoring but nothing too concerning.  I plan to check the clearances against the factory specs and reassemble with assembly lube and a steel thrust plate.  For $30, this thrust plate just sandwiches between the timing cover surface and the filter adapter so that the gears have a tougher surface to ride on.  From my understanding it can also act as a bit of a girdle.  It's just cheap insurance.

Now we get to the best part.  I was fully expecting to see this, but not to this severity.  I think this is the biggest reason why my car ran like doo-doo.

and that was the good side.  I need to pop the welds on the heat shield to see the outside.

A bit extreme!

OOF!  Factory header cracks in this location are very common on turbo Regals, but I couldn't believe how big mine were.  This would certainly cause a lean condition!  While I really wanted to replace the headers because "no cutting corners" I couldn't quite justify it.  The repaired sections would never be seen once the car was fully reassembled, and I had just received a package with damaged goods.


I was very unhappy with the seller who advertised this turbo as good condition and asked for a refund.  Just extracting the broken bolts in the turbine housing would require full disassembly.

I ended up getting a partial refund, and sent the core to Boost Lab for a full rebuild, balance, and ceramic coating.  Since the shaft and turbine wheel turned out to be junk the total damage came out to $1100.  Yeah, no headers right now.  Maybe later.

V6Buicks Reader
11/18/22 1:11 p.m.

I will say "bravo" to Boost Lab though!  I sent my turbo to be inspected and got a call back within a week of being shipped.  When I approved the repairs, the turbo was on my porch within a couple days.  I couldn't get a new TA49 that quickly!

Anyway, here it is!

Compared to stock

and stock again

I'm so excited to feel how this thing spools.  For those who don't know, the TA49 is basically a hogged out stock turbo with bigger guts.  It still has all the Garrett markings, but everything inside is Turbonetics.  While I was in no danger of maxing a stock turbo with my planned modifications, this bigger unit has no drawbacks.  Supposedly just replacing the center section and wheel with more modern parts is enough to increase spool time, so the bigger wheels are no issue.  Spool time will be slightly reduced while the bigger wheels and openings allow it to keep chugging at higher RPM.  This turbo is a big win for mostly stock builds.

As of right now, I hate the polished compressor housing, so I'll probably media blast it before final installation.

V6Buicks Reader
11/18/22 1:32 p.m.

Back to header stuff.

Cleaned up, and bent back to shape with the vise.  Yeah, the crack was so crazy that the tube split and took a different shape.

I tried to make a bit of a valley.

Then I welded it back up with an... excessive amount of reinforcement.  I'm not exactly proud of what I did here, but it is what it is.  As mentioned, you can't see it with the car assembled.

This welding caused intense warping which I was mostly able to fix with a slick trick I learned from a friend.  I installed the header with all the bolts which forced it flat.  Then I torched the welds as hot as I could get them.  I let it cool overnight, and then torched it again the next day.  After cooling again, I removed the bolts and the header stayed mostly flat! yes  For the rest, the belt sander will do.

Watching the progressing is pretty satisfying.

The turbo flange was a really rusty.

These cars originally had all their exhaust components installed metal-to-metal.  While I'm sure this worked fine during the initial assembly with freshly machined surfaces, I can't imagine people having much luck with reassembly after years of corrosion.  Instead of making a mess out of red RTV like many have suggested, I'm going to try Remflex gaskets.  Despite a lot gripes, I personally have never had issues with them even on my turbo Camaro.  I think those will do a nice clean job of filling in the remaining imperfections.

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