3.8 Budget build


Sep 9, 2012
Hey guys, got a good deal on a stock complete engine that has a bad piston.
Anyway I wanted to get a price on a bare bones budget build, nothing fancy.
I was quoted around 3k from a local engine shop. Does that sound about right?

Thanks for the input.
depends on what kind of work is needed, when you say "bad piston" is there any damage to the bore?
whats included for 3k?
I have the same issue and am currently rebuilding a motor with bad piston in my dining room on a budget. In fact you can see a lot of the details on ihadav8.com (search for bryes or "newbie with new gn"). 3k seemed high to me, but this is probably what you will wind up spending to get a stock rebuild done "right". I am trying to do it for less than 1k myself, but I have to take a bunch of shortcuts that most wouldn't be comfortable with doing. Also, I have a lot of tools already to do it myself and my engine had only 50k. So, if you haven't done too much yourself before, and don't plan on making it your hobby or have a high mileage engine, you are better off to put the $$ into it. Good Luck and you have come to the right place to get advice.
I didn't do a budget build but I tried to keep costs down. Had my crank turned, block hot tanked and magnafluxed, cylinder walls were cleaned up, resized rods to crank, had line bore checked, all new bearings including cam bearings, new piston rings an cleaned up old pistons as they were fine, new custom grind cam, new lifters and timing chain, new valve springs for heads and had them cleaned an checked. Only thing I'm missing as of now is gaskets an I'm right around 1100. So I would say 3000 is a lot for a stock rebuild but depends on what your motor needs as mine didn't need a whole lot. Plus machine shop that built mine has built few before an guy that works there has one running mid tens so I know the work is good on it and not just some machine shop. Hope this helps.
Buicks are not well known by most engine builders. They like to apply chevy tolerances, not realizing the close tolerances are nescessary to maintain good oil pressure. You will save a great deal of time and money by going to a reputeable buick engine builder. If there is none close, then get a list of what the shop is going to do for the money . What tolerances are they going to use on what parts. i.e. main bearings cleavite 77- .0018", rod bearings fed mogul-.0021", etc. 3k seems a litlle high for a stock rebuild. I don't remember, but if you check out a company like Jaspers, they offer engines in different stages for less than that. In fact they will probably be at the gs nats in bowling green next week taking orders.
I don't know who owns this quote, I think I read it first by Grumpy but it's the absolute most true thing I've ever read about engine building.

"Cheap,Reliable,Fast....you only get 2 of them"

if your crazy enough.......

id tear it down, hand hone it, re ring it, re bearing it, pop in new gaskets and call it a day. you can pick up a used slug here for next to nuthing.

cost? under 500.........

I do this myself all the time. no sense in destroying good internals learning. and once you perfect what your doing on a garbage engine, be amazed at the results of a professional one when the time and money allows.

NA motors are dime a dozen... use em.
Dr.-hey I have thought about doing an n/a motor before.......Id love to hear your experiences with them. Just asking as this would by me sometime on my current project. Just for fun! Thanks
Dr.-hey I have thought about doing an n/a motor before.......Id love to hear your experiences with them. Just asking as this would by me sometime on my current project. Just for fun! Thanks

I have had decent experiances with them if you treat them as they are.

kinda like buying a harbor freight power tool.... you have to expect the worst so that your not pissed when it chits the bed.

but I will mention, not to discourage anyone, but to help.... ive been building engines for awhile, and between measuring and inspection, i can tell what is gonna fly and whats not, so if you know somebody who has built a buick or 2 before it would be to your benifit to have them atleast look over what your doing.

Ive done them both ways, as they sit and rebuilt? (slapped together) using used turbo guts. Using a NA motor as it is will hold fine if your very conservative with boost and mindful of even the slightest detonation. You do however have to atleast open it up to add the drain back port. But this is minor. And in my case does not apply since my drain is in the Intake.

Ive also just torn the NA motor down and used it as just a base platform. reusing basicly only the block, crank, covers, and heads. the NA block and crank will hold atleast 400hp before any real problems are encountered. for pistons id buy the used sets that would come up for sale in the classifieds on here. 35 bucks plus shipping bought me a decent set of stock used pistons that werent too baddly worn or scuffed. using a Cheap-O re-ring kit purchased from either Summit or PAW provided the rest. I hone my blocks myself using a bottle brush hone. Though Ive found that the bore on these motors isnt usually very worn out. Same goes for the crank, just fresh bearings and a quick hand polish on the journals with 1200grit is enough for use. The cam is one thing though that generally is worth replacing. but again, a cheapy flat tappit grind from either above sources works fine.

Again, dont expect this to not have its problems, low oil pressure, smoke on start ups, wiped lobes, etc etc... your basicily building a buick like a chevy and that alone can be a dangerous endevor. So i would highly reccomend NOT using your 1500$ turbo or other premium items.

but for a motor that runs in a pinch and may last a summer of being driven easy.... its not a bad route.

For me, they generally get pretty fried. but thats because I push the envelope on them... for me there what I use to test different turbo combinations or manifold configurations. Since I am Carbed turbo, and technology is very very limited, I have to look outside the box to make any kind of performance improvement. Most test were major failures, too much detonation, too much heat, un-responsive intake manifolds etc etc... and at the rate different trains of thought are made, there would be no way for me to afford to loose one premium build. Though Charlie would agree ive probably spent a mint on re-ring kits and fresh blocks already. I will add that its super easy for me to pull my engine and drop one. I dont have miles of electronics or vacuum lines. No EFI, Intercooler, pretty much anything that makes it difficult on a regular GN. So maybe this applys only to me? I dunno.... but it can be done.

I agree with all the post above, A proper Buick build is expensive and difficult. It requires tools, quality parts, and a well experianced machinest and assembler. For a Buick that will last, its best left to the professionals.

But you wanna have a little fun, learn something about tuning your car, then this is the way to go..... cheap and nasty! Just dont be mad when it blows. cause it will.

let the flaming begin!

Hey guys, got a good deal on a stock complete engine that has a bad piston.
Anyway I wanted to get a price on a bare bones budget build, nothing fancy.
I was quoted around 3k from a local engine shop. Does that sound about right?

Thanks for the input.

Just pull it apart and inspect it for damage. If nothing else is damaged buy some cheap fed mogul forged/dished pistons and slap it all back together. (people having great luck with hypers too) I used a stone/ball hone (std bore 140k miles) and did just this on my current motor.

Oem rods/crank/etc right down to the hardware. I did spend some money on Used ARP studs, RJC steel shim head gasket and a 218/218 cam. All factory valve train through the factory ported iron heads. Factory exh manifolds intake etc... Been making right around 600whp at 28-30 psi for 2 years now. Using e85 fuel. :D

No way I'd blow 3k for a stock rebuild on these oldschool engines. Buy yourself a 5.3 or a 4.8 ls GM motor for $300-400 and drop that in with a turbo. You'll be light years ahead the game.
X2 on ls motor with turbo. If mine ever messes up again that's what I'm replacing it with. Have ls2 in my nova all stock and it makes tons of power and gets 26mpg driving around town. Throw a turbo on low boost and will be fun as could be!!
Depends on if you want ls1 or ls2 and so on. After ls1 the other ls motors have electronic throttle bodies. Can Change over to manual but they're like 500 dollars, if you keep electronic throttle (drive by wire) then the wiring harness is a lot more. For my nova the harness was 950 but came with everything needed to make the motor stand alone and plug an play. Have to buy motor mount adapters to offset the motor set back where original motor sat. If you still have stock radiator it won't be enough to cool the bigger motor I would imagine so a aftermarket radiator aluminum would be enough with electric fans. Custom exhaust for turbo an to fit in the car, bigger fuel pump unless have double pumper set up. My ls2 stock runs at 60 lbs factory so with turbo have to have plenty of fuel pressure. You can keep the factory transmission but I would throw in either the 4l60 that came behind an ls1 or turbo 400. Can't think of anything else right off the top of my head but you can pick up an ls motor out of a junk yard pretty cheap (like 800 to 1200 bucks) and parts for them are becoming cheaper and more available.
mateo is right. i have had both. just something about the v6. i loved the off idle booty of my turbo 6.0 but the gn has a certain heritage. 3k is too much i think
Well I dropped off the engine today at the machine shop. He said he will give me the info in a few days.