New owners writeup for "JM"


Well-Known Member
Dec 31, 2005
Ok here’s the deal. A lot of people like to try and tell others, about what makes the car go fast, and nothing else. What they won’t tell you is, how not to break things in half (u joints, drive shafts, floor boards, roofs, A pillars, connecting rods, and head gaskets) or how to keep her runnin’ good for a while.
This is just a list, of things to do, to A. Get familiarized with your new car, B. Learn how to take care of it, C. Things to do, to keep it running right, and D. Minor things to change out, or modify, to make the car perform a bit better if you want.

First off, get it detailed and waxed, then appraised. Then get some good insurance, a column lock, and a good alarm. Sure it won’t stop the flatbed guys, but it’ll stop most everyone else though.

Now, before you go strappin’ on all these go fast goodies, you GOT to stiffen her up, and make her reliable. If you don’t, you WILL crack the roof and A pillars and motor mounts.

Go to '' and check out part numbers 6756, 1586, 6744, 6564, and 6571. These are all the 4 frame brace kits, and the engine tie down strap. if you don’t use the strap, (or an h&r parts drivers side motor mount) and you try a brake torque launch, to spool up the turbo, you’re going to split your motor mount. Drivers side. I already did it 3 times. Take it from me. Yea, I know you’re going to get “Well I never did it, so ‘ya don’t need it." Doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Do it now, and save yourself the trouble later on.

Now that your frame and engine are secure, you have to get at least, a scanmaster and gauges (boost, tach, oil pressure, in the MINIMUM!! ). If you don’t know what the cars doing, you will blow it up. Trust me. So much air is being rammed down the engines throat, that if there's just ONE LITTLE discrepancy ANYWHERE in your system, it will become readily apparent.... reeeaaal quick. In the form of shiny parts being ejected from your engine bay. Before you start boosting these cars up to 20 pounds of boost or whatnot, things have to be in order. Or you’ll soon see why. Go to The Grand National / T-Type / Turbo Regal Buick Spring Cleaning Guide and do what they tell you. Overall its just a basic maintenance area. If it’s not already done, you may want to bypass the throttle body preheat hose, and cap off the inlet hole on the turbo inlet bell, and fill the hole on the passenger side valve cover with a little breather. When you remove this tube, you prevent the turbo from sucking in all those hot oil vapors, and coating your intercooler and up-pipe with oil. Those two little modifications are standard, and definitely should be done. You can’t run your car with half your system coated in oil. If you want to show your car, you can always throw ‘em back on when you please. Once you check those things off, go to the other areas. Quick Reference Page For the '86/'87 Turbo Regals and '89 Turbo T/A Go here, and print this page. Then, plug in the scanmaster, and cross reference this page to the numbers on the scanner. If you have any questions with these numbers, you can post ‘em here, and these guys will square you away, or you can actually contact THE MAN direct. His name is Mike Licht from full throttle speed on our boards. (it’s amazing the support we have here) He will clarify fact from fiction as far as deciphering those numbers, as he’s the maker of this product.

Now that your car is doing what it's supposed to be doing, and is solid now, go over the suspension. You can have 1100 horsepower like cal hartline, and if your suspension sucks, you’re going nowhere… fast. The things to cover are control arm/trailing arm bushings, control arm stiffness, sway bars and their bushings/mounts, shocks, springs, airbags, and frame braces. Now that you already got the braces done (right?!) do the rest. Starting with the cheapest mods, and working your way up, are the air bags, and rear sway bar. Air bags are like 60 bucks a kit, and a sway bar is like 150 or so. GET AGGRESSIVE!!. I'd get one immediately if the car doesn’t already have one.
After that, you can box (reinforce) the rear control arms. They’re a bitch getting on and off, but reinforcing them is easy. You can find out how to do that anywhere on here. H&R partsnstuff has prefabbed boxing kits you can purchase, or, you can go to the local steel place, and look for 2 or 4 pieces (its on you if you want to do the uppers as well) of scrap plate stock. You’ll need like 1.5" wide by 7" long pieces. Or whatever fits those arms. Take em to a muffler shop, and have em weld em up. Bam, stiff rear suspension. While they’re off, nows a good time to replace the 4 or 8 bushings, if you have the time, money and motivation. If not, just throw em on there and be done with it. Next is the shocks. Bilstein. Hands down. They’re the cheapest and the best. There are cheaper, but they’re not better than Bilstein. The springs are fairly cheap too. I wouldn’t do the lowering springs, as they tend to mess up the ride. Keep the stock height. Front sway bar? Leave it alone. It's perfect stock. Finally tires. If she’s a street racer, do some good z rateds up front, and whatever sticky tires you prefer on back. But be careful. You cant skimp on tires for our cars. They will go up in flames with our torque. Now that the suspensions covered, you got 5 other places to go. Fuel, air out, air in, Lightening, and heat management. Notice I stay away from the genuine HP making additives 'till last. I do that cuz they’re simply not necessary. (for now) What you already got is good enough for now. You can coax a ton of torque out of what you got already, just by tuning, saving weight, and keeping the heat down.

Radiator. Make sure its a good one. There’s several options out there, but the cheapest seems to be the camaro rads from 87 to 92. Then, there’s a myriad of fans. You can scope those options out from the board. Gbodyparts has em, as does several other places. You’ll need a harness too, as I think our stock harnesses are inadequate..
Of course, you’ll need a 160 thermostat, but there just may be one in there already. (double check of course) Also, make sure both the rad hoses are squared away. If you don’t have the fans rigged up to use a manual switch to turn ‘em on, you’ll have to have the chip programmed to turn ‘em on. In the summer (which you shouldn’t be running the car in the winter) you can also run purified water, with water wetter, or rmi 25, and I see that help a lot of guys too. Ok, after you did the basics, ‘ya gotta do fuel, air out, and air in. In order of importance.

Like I said before, address each part at a time, starting from one direction, and moving forward. Fuel is VERY important in our cars. Very important. Like I always say, start from the tank and move forward in a 'flow chart' kinda way. Gas tank. Is it the right one or an aftermarket one. Our tanks are turbo buick specific, ‘cuz they have baffles in it. Yes, they’re important. Yes, I know you “went 11.3 without baffles" but I’d make sure they’re in there if I were you. Secondly, is it clean. No use trying to clean all the rest of the system, if you’re just going to suck up more sediment eh? Clean it. Once she’s clean, address the pump. Is it a 'known good' aftermarket pump? No? Replace with a good pump. If yes, then verify it. Do whatever you need to do to make sure it works. I don’t know….grab a meter and do the little checks you do I guess, and if possible, check the 'check valve' etc etc. After you know its good, look at the fuel sock. Is it decent? Good, check the fuel line, and then re-install. Mount the tank back up, and start tracin’ fuel line. Look for kinks and/or rot. Check tightness and serviceability of the joints/connections. Fuel filter? You already know about that. If it needs changing, change it. Trace some more line. Is it good to go? If not, you know what to do. All the way up to the rails and the fuel pressure regulator. Are your rails good? Any sediment caught in ‘em? Does the regulator hold some pressure? Is it adjustable? If not, throw an adjustable one on. (every vendor on our page carries one) It's a mandatory thing. If there's a fuel gauge on there, check her to make sure she works, and holds some pressure too. Once that's done, do the injectors. "Pour in the tank" injector cleaners are only semi helpful. One bottle won’t do it either. You should use it as a regimen. Do one every fill-up for 3 times in a row. After that, you can do it once every third fill-up or so. Though, I doubt any of our cars need it, as most of them not only reside in a nice garage, but never get cheap fuel, or let their tanks run all the way dry anyway. Most TR owners, when in doubt, just pull the injectors anyways. Cleaning the injectors with injector cleaner doesn’t necessarily help them, if there’s dryrot in the seals, or actual sediment inside them. A true 'cleaning and flowing' from a reputable vendor is actually a better route. Like witchhunter or some other places around this site. Now that the fuel system is addressed part by part from the tank forward, you can start on the other mods. Fuel and air are the most important aspects because if one little part in those systems isn’t working properly, you'll be going nowhere. It could be something so minute like some faulty wiring to the fuel pump (very common in our cars) and the pump wont spin like it should be, and you’ll be leaning out bad. That’s bad juju in a forced induction car. Or let some dirt get up into just one injector tip. And hit a couple WOT bursts, and see what happens to that one piston. That’s why ya’ gotta keep an eye on these things.

Air out.
Switch to a good 3" down pipe. Externally wastegated's are better, but expensive. If you just want to bolt one on immediately and go, a good 3 incher from SE turbo or gbodyparts is the ticket. They’re brand new, and are of the latest technology. If you’re runnin’ stock, yank the exhaust elbow off, and port & polish that too. You can smooth out the inside, and open up the mouth a bit (where the donut gasket goes) once you did that, you can either go to a bigger stock style downpipe like kirbans, or you can just keep the stocker on there, and run a 'cut out' where the cat used to be. If you have to deal with emissions, slip fit the cut out on there, and clamp it on, then just bolt a cat in there when you gotta go do your testing.
Of course we all know by now, that the turbo is a HUGE form of restriction, and ANYthing you can do to help out flow after it, is always a big plus. Now I'm not saying to run a dual 4" system, like a big diesel does, cuz that’s simply not needed. But I'm also not saying, that you don’t need a really good breathing exhaust either. A decent 3" single shot, or a dual 2.5" with good downpipe and straight thru mufflers is all most people need. If you can’t get a good one for now, an exhaust cutout is just fine. (and gives you the option of performance or silence)

Air in.
Now that the air out is done, we gotta address the air in. Air out is a tad bit more important as the turbo can suck its share of air. But that’s all useless if it can’t evacuate the exhaust air quick enough to make use of the new air. Start with the air filter, and work forward to the turbo. If it’s a 'high flow' filter variation. Good. Any filter like Accel, K&N, AFE (my favorite), Air Raid, Spectre etc etc will work. Preferably mount the filter outside the engine bay, but if you cant, oh well, anything is better than a stock box. Ideally you want to make all the piping to the turbo inlet bell as big as you can, (with 4 inches being good for the fast cars, and 3 inches being pretty adequate for most of us street cruisers.) Including the filter. But do what you can for now. Address each part. Filter? Check. MAF? Try to get the widest Chevrolet MAF you can (you’ll need a translator of course, but the new MAF isn’t that important right now, as many many people have gone very fast on the stockers), after that, the MAF tube. Aluminum is the best, but get what you can. Any sort of flexible ducting, usually tears. Screw that. Get a solid MAF tube. Ok, if you’re running an aftermarket turbo that doesn’t use a separate inlet bell, there’s nothing you can do. But if your turbo (the stockers or the TA49's) uses an inlet bell, you can either fill the little oil tube hole, (with aluminum rod, or jb weld) then port & polish it, or you can run one of those billet versions from kirbans. (note that they are ¾” longer than stock. This will mess up your solid MAF pipe fitment. A table saw will cure that) They flow more, and are bigger. Now, all of that is kind of useless, if the hole on the inlet side of the compressor housing isn’t bellmouthed. All ya did, is ram all that air, right into an almost quarter inch shelf so to speak. Creating more turbulence. Round that off too.
And lastly is the air into your engine, after your turbo. Do you have a stock IC? If so, you may want to consider the "duttweiler” neck modification. It's proven to work and is relatively cheap. After that, there’s the doghouse (intake plenum). You can either get a good one (about 200 bucks new, from hemco) that flows more evenly, or you can just throw an RJC plenum plate in there, for about 30-50 bucks. It helps the air flow evenly to all cylinders. (honestly, I think the power plate is the way to go) The stock doesn’t do that so well. It's actually very important.
There’s your air in.

The typical mods that save weight, are aluminum rear drums, aluminum bumper supports, aluminum bumper mounting brackets, lightweight starter, smaller battery (your car runs off of its alternator not its battery, don’t worry about cold cranking amps. you’re not 'cold cranking' it for 30 seconds at zero degrees anyways) fiberglass bumpers, fiberglass hood and trunk, aluminum 15 or 16" wheels, leaving the spare and jack out of the trunk, and not running a 300 pound speaker box in the rear. Just those changeovers right there, is worth like a tenth and a half straight away. (and a lighter car handles better too) There’s other stuff you can do, but some of them are semi, to fully permanent, and not only do they hurt the originality and resale value, but they affect the buicks inherent comfort and luxury. They include yanking the rear seat, entire radio system, entire heating/air cond. system with compressor and condenser, pulling all the motors that make the accessories power, (windows, locks, and seats) and throwing on fiberglass doors. Those are mods best left to serious track racers. Then of course there’s the little negligent stuff you can do, but still worth a couple of lbs if you’re so inclined, are hollow sway bars, aluminum pulleys, aluminum drive shaft, and lightweight flex plate. I wouldn’t worry too much about those for now though.

With suspension, heat mngt., weight reduction and the air/fuel system checked out, you can begin to tune what you already have.
Depending on what you already have, or if you’re going to just yank everything out tomorrow, cuz you have a PT88 turbo and 110 pound injectors, then you already have a game plan. But for most new buick owners, the plan should be, to learn with what you got, and use your present combo as experimentation time. Improve what you have.
(so that you don’t blow your new 150 dollar head gaskets, or your new 1300 dollar turbo in the future) If you’re runnin a bone stock intercooler, see what you can do to make it more efficient. Try a better aftermarket shroud, from someone like Keith Mease, stripping the core (tubes and fins) to bare aluminum, to see if it will give its heat up a bit quicker, and install the dutt neck option. See what just those mods did. Record it, and move to the next project. The turbo/exhaust elbow. Port this, polish that, bellmouth this… see what that does, by itself, and record it. Have your injectors cleaned and flowed, and of course, record any changes. Add a manual boost controller, see what that does. Experiment on the core you already have (core meaning the turbo, injectors, intercooler, and heads) Make what you got fast, and learn from it, so you know what to do, and what NOT to do on your future parts.

Heres some hints here. Turbo Buick Technical Articles and Resources (Technical Archives)

Turbo Buick Performance Build Ups/Recipes

86-87 Turbo 3.8 Liter Engine Sensors

Malfunction Codes Reference

Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

And finally the history of it all.
From the military, I found out that, "Ya don’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you’ve been"

Buick V6 History

Turbo Buick Basic Information

Buick Performance - A Brief History

Study this stuff on gnttype. It’ll show you what you need to know. That’s the best weapon in racing. Knowledge. I’ve seen it time and time again. He who spends the most time in the books, wins. Don’t believe me? Ever see an older vette driver lose? All the time. Ever see the really young supercharged mustang drivers lose? All the time. Its cuz they don’t want to study. One just reads the paper and drinks coffee all day.. cuz he thinks, cuz his car’s a ‘vette’, he don’t need to study. And the other one is too dam young and undisciplined to study. All he wants to do is play the playstation, and listen to rap.... You’ll soon find out, when they become unsuspecting victims of the Buick turbo 3.8

The "quick reference pages, trouble codes, and sensor locations" should be printed out, stapled together, and stored in your centre console, along with a good powerful flashlight (like a streamlight or surefire) a tire check gauge for your rear tires and airbags, and a 'multi-tool' like a leatherman or gerber.
In the trunk, should be a small rubber mat, for getting down on the ground to look underneath your car in good clothes, and big SOFT beach towel, for putting on your fender, if you have to mess around in your engine bay. Scratches stand out on our cars, like a bulldogs ballsack. If one doesn’t carry these things around, they will soon learn why lol. Yea, they brake down once and a while, but that’s because they’re 20 year old cars, that are still street driven. That's ok, they’re still the coolest cars around, and totally worth it in my opinion. Well I hope this helps you, and good luck in the future. Let us know if there’s anything you need.

Thank you. That is an excellent primer and should be added to a "New Owners Guide" type sticky.

I now have it saved to my desktop.

I have yet to work my way through the various links listed above, but I will.

Here are a few more questions that a new owner would probably like to know.

What type of service manuals are available & which is the first one that should be purchased immediately?

What other technical manuals or reference material should be acquired when you are able?

What pieces of equipment on the vehicle should an owner expect to need to replace or rebuild at how many miles on the average?

What are some of the parts that should be stocked up whenever there is some extra cash available?

Not to hijack-turbo6smackdown- I think I can answer a few of these...

The GM Factory Service Manuals are available new or used on ebay. There are 2 very large volumes. Buy them both. You will use them. Additionally, I purchased a manual from Kirban (Welcome to Kirban Performance Products) that showed the proper adjustments for power windows (invaluable) as well as the sunroof manual since my cars have them too.

Parts that need replacing vary. Generally, you want to look at valve springs, timing chain, & of course the infamous powermaster. It really depends on the mileage of the car and the care the previous owner gave the car. I've seen low mile cars that have been abused and needed nearly everything replaced while there are many high mile cars out there that have been meticulously maintained and really need nothing.

As for stocking up on parts, I usually buy extra's of parts that tend to break like the belt tensioner- or parts that always get messed up like the fender trim. Really depends on what issues you run into.

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F-ing amazing write up BTW.
Turbo6Smackdown, Thanks for the awesome post! I was gifted my '87 from my father-in-law who already has a Chevelle, 70 Vette and a 63 GMC. Him knowing that GNs are a dream car he just handed me the keys after getting back from my deployment.

I appreciate all the knowledge you parted on us and will adhere to your guidance!

Take it easy & Semper Fí