• 💡Did you know you could subscribe to threads with email alerts without being a member? Simply hit the button at the bottom of a thread you find interesting, and you're good to go. No longer wish to receive emails? Go back to the thread and remove yourself (note: you may have to use the same device as previous).

🔧 BUILD Quarter Life Crisis. It's a thing. v.GN

General Information

Your highest dreams will not come true overnight, and even if they do your life will never be perfect. It took me way too long to realize that, but this car was the expensive lesson I needed to get me there. Let me explain.

I've been a Buick fanatic nearly my whole life. Being the owner of a show quality intercooled Grand National race car was a life goal of mine. After being fed up with an overly ambitious restoration project that wasn't even Buick bodied nor powered I dropped everything and gave up. The project got parted out, and I started shopping for something better. I couldn't afford a good Buick yet, so I looked for something I could fix up and flip. Meet Nacho!

14.jpg
12.jpg


I had always had a little thing for El Caminos and I picked this beauty was only $3800. It ran like complete garbage, but it was completely rust-free! I thought that fixing the obvious vacuum leak would make this an easy $5000 car.

I brought it home and immediately removed the carb. Some goof put a spread-bore to square-bore adapter between the stock intake and quadra-jet.

1589747357462.png


Score! I didn't want to fall in love with it, so I started taking it to cruise nights with a for sale sign in it. I even tried to road trip it home to Lisle, but I didn't make it far.

Blown head gasket.png


I was about to stop for gas when I noticed white smoke rolling out behind me. I knew I was not going to make it, so I turned around. I knew it was officially game over when I heard a loud pop and saw a big splash hit the windshield. Only I would blow a head gasket and pop the radiator hose on a stock low output 305. :rolleyes: A tow truck got me the rest of the way home.

I wasn't taking a lot of pictures of my work back then, but here's a little taste of my first major start to finish engine repair!

Head swap.jpg


I had always wondered why the car ran so consistently rough and painfully slow, but I figured that was just the 305 life. As it turned out, this POS had terribly mismatched heads! One side was stock, and the other side had some kind of large chamber 350 head with a 305 gasket. The fact that it ran without blowing the head gasket for as long as it did was a miracle, but I was not happy about blowing the flip.

After scoring some very cheap ebay reman. heads, painting a few parts, and slamming it all together I got serious about selling. Within a couple days, I sold it to a very motivated buyer for $5100. After the purchase, tires, engine repairs, plates, and insurance, I made $200. Those were not the profits I wanted, but a profit nonetheless. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Once again, I was without a project and still without a Buick. Depression resumed. I started my search for the "perfect" 30 year old car. Not wanting another basket case, but also not wanting to get hosed, I turned to the family friend who got me into Buicks in the first place. He helped me find "the one". Here I am in 2016 about to drive a Grand National and call it my own for the first time in my life.

Closed the deal 2016.jpg



...Now the real story begins.

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Can you put your flange and everything on before dropping it in and then do your lower connection with all that put together?
Nope. It has to be tightened to the block first. Heater hoses have to come off to get to the block side with a wrench. Hoses are not accessible once the turbo is on. This car was not designed in favor of the mechanics.
 
  • Sad
Reactions: sktchy

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Ok. I figured out the magic order for installing this turbo relatively easily. It's strange but effective, and I should probably write it down.

1.) Place turbo on header flange, but don't install nuts.
2.) Loosely torque downpipe bolts until the gasket doesn't move anymore.
3.) Install and torque drain pipe to turbo.
4.) Install oil feed.
4.) Loosely install turbo bracket and block ground.
5.) Install and torque all remaining nuts/bolts.

The bracket is in the way of torqueing the rear drain nut. The bracket is a pain in the ass no matter what if you have a larger exhaust housing, but impossible to get aligned right with the turbo already mounted to the header. The downpipe is a piece of cake if the turbo moves. Here's the rear drain nut. It's pretty accessible with a 3/8" ratchet without the bracket. The Remflex header gasket is supposed to be torqued to 22 ft/lbs but there's no chance of getting a torque wrench on them. I just put my entire purse into a 3/8" ratchet.
1682600309141.png

It paid off!

But there's still work to do. With the booster looking acceptable, it was time to very carefully install this master cylinder. This is one of my least favorite things to do because I always get brake fluid somewhere it doesn't belong. If anybody has a trick other having carefully placed fingers, plugs, and caps, I'm all ears.
1682600678697.png

It went fine for the most part, but I did have to quickly dump water on the frame and fender liner. :( Hopefully I washed it away fast enough that the paint only stains.

I was happy but not fully satisfied. I still couldn't believe that my alternator was bad. It just didn't make sense. My buddy sent me a couple Alldata screenshots to help ease my mind.
1682600913388.png

It's even more simple than I expected. The volt light is in series with the L pin on the connector. So why is it on? My gut said bad regulator like I had been saying all along, but looking at diagrams makes my brain light up a little brighter.

This is never the problem, but it's very possible that my ground is bad/non-existent. I painted everything including the once bare accessory brackets and alternator case, so this is not a far-fetched thought. I turned the key to run, so that I could see the bulb check. Sure enough, the volt light isn't on very bright then either. I removed the connector and jumped pin L to a header bolt and the light came on as clear as day. This eliminates cluster issues and bad block grounds. The fact that a small light bulb can't turn on bright via the alternator ground tells me that there's no chance of the alternator doing a damn thing. I will clean up the mounting points for the alternator as well as the accessory brackets tonight. It should be simple, but hopefully I don't have to clean up bolt holes in the head or anything like that. I also hope that my fancy coated ARP hardware is able to pass electrons. I may need to make extra sure of that too. I think running a ground strap from the head to the alternator would look a little silly.

TLDR: one way or another, this car is at least getting shifted into gear TONIGHT. I'm not going to say it's getting on the road because who the hell knows what I'll find next. :LOL:

I had been too lazy to put the torque converter inspection cover back on. It's more fun to trip over it and fling it's bolts across the garage every night anyway. I blasted the rust off and coated it with chassis paint.
1682601902700.png

I can confidently say that we're getting REALLY close now. :cool: I should probably bleed the rest of the brake system, but I have enough of a pedal to go for a test drive.
 

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Thanks! I'm getting really excited again. Wife wants to go to some kind of baby stuff consignment sale tonight. :squint: Poor timing, but I can't say no to cheaper baby stuff. I personally hate the idea of buying all brand new shit for a baby. They're going to outgrow everything within a couple years. Hopefully I can get some car stuff done before we leave.
 

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Engine block to alternator case. This alternator is toast, so I installed the new one.
1682680347506.png

1682680378229.png


Ready for first drive.
1682680287047.png

Taking the covers off gave me an opportunity to find out if the Killmat made any difference. I'm satisfied.

I made it this far before noticing that some things weren't right.
1682680857731.png

The trans fluid was low so I added some. I don't know why adding fluid is so difficult, but I never do it correctly. I had the car running, put the shifter through all the gears, and filled the trans through the dipstick tube in park. Checked the dipstick. Dry dipstick. Fill, check, dry. Fill, check, dry. Fill, check..... wet dipstick several inches above the "full" mark. WTF. I was also noticing that the shifter was really messed up. It was really stiff and wouldn't stay in 1 unless I held it there.

Oh yeah, the stock radiator I said was looking great a few months ago is cracked at the upper neck and leaking pretty bad. There goes $1000.

I said fuck it and drove it anyway because I planned to drain the trans and put a new filter in anyway.
1682681535445.png

Since the lack of excitement in this post is probably seeming apparent, I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The car made it home in one piece, but this was not a good test drive. I will admit that the new brake booster and throttle adjustment are amazing. However, every take off from a stop had a small hesitation first. The steering wheel is off because I clearly splined the steering shaft wrong. Then I decided to step on the throttle. It didn't really pull. My RPMs went pretty high, but not much boost and not much go.

I limped it home, played with the column side of the shifter so that I could at least remove my key, and checked the TV cable for piece of mind. Despite changing NOTHING (throttle, transmission, and cable are all the same as before) the throttle valve was out of adjustment by about 1/4".

Knowing I would lose sleep if I didn't test drive it again with the adjusted cable, I took the car out in the rain. If felt great for about 50 feet. No more hesitation. However, even less go now. There were grinding noises coming from under the car and it refused to shift into 2.
Angry Michael C Hall GIF

So it's in the garage. Mission failed. I need to back out of the Grand Prix deal because this car just ate all my car money for the foreseeable future. I might have this thing trailered up to Jimmy's for a full rebuild so that I can get it to Nats, but I really haven't decided. His turnaround is about a week, but who TF knows what else is wrong with this POS?
 

sktchy

⚠️🫠
TCG Premium
Jul 27, 2021
7,783
12,100
Don't you have a perfectly good Camaro for a backup? You need to stop stressing yourself on this thing. Pushing too hard only results in broken parts and hurting your own feelings.

I feel like I remember you telling me the same thing at one point so just returning the favor lol
 

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Don't you have a perfectly good Camaro for a backup? You need to stop stressing yourself on this thing. Pushing too hard only results in broken parts and hurting your own feelings.

I feel like I remember you telling me the same thing at one point so just returning the favor lol
You aren't wrong, but I feel like I took my time on every aspect of this thing and just got completely shit on by entirely unrelated parts. It's bullshit. I only pushed in the sense of not quitting, but now I'm thinking about it. Spending the money that would otherwise go into a transmission and a GTP on a down payment for a new truck sounds pretty nice right now. I wish I 3800/TKX swapped this thing like I initially considered. Better yet, I wish it sold to the couple people who asked me about it last summer.

At the same time the Camaro is here, but it's no replacement for a true turbo Buick. :(

I'm probably going to race this pile up to Jimmy's to have him go through it unless daturbosix daturbosix has better ideas. I'm sure a rebuild and a radiator are still not going to fix everything. The turbo drain does in fact still leak. I can't wrap my head around that one either.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sktchy

Five-0

TCG Elite Member
TCG Sponsor
Oct 5, 2015
1,037
3,288
I've been passively following along. The engine bay looks great and you drove it enough to get some seat time, find a couple wins and pick up a few things you still need to address. I'd still consider it a success. Projects are never really done anyways. That first full rip is going to be so worth it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mr_Roboto

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
oh, woof.

able to yank it out? and whats your time frame?
I can yank it no problem. I just don't know if I trust myself to set up the TV cable and all that right.

I thought TV setup was supposed to be really simple, but I would never know. I've only touched one after it's too late. Press and hold the button, hold the throttle to WOT, and release the button, right?
Will the speedway adapter and a th350 thing work with the earlier 3.8s like it does with our newer ones? I know you can do better things but it might be quick and do what you want it to without spending a lot right now?
I thought I wasn't supposed to be cutting corners on this one. ? A BOP TH350 would be cheap and strong, but OD/lock-up or bust. I need those interstate gears.

The fate is officially sealed due to completely unrelated circumstances. My wife is currently awaiting an unexpected surgery, and not going to make it to the Nationals. ? Therefore, I can only take one car. The Camaro is running and driving while the GN is not, so I'm going to continue taking my time on this. It'll get done when it gets done.
 
  • Care
Reactions: sktchy

sktchy

⚠️🫠
TCG Premium
Jul 27, 2021
7,783
12,100
It may take a few months your side gal is there for you. Don't rush it.....
This, there's so much I'd like to do or get done but any time I push, things go sideways. Better to just do it as it comes than to speed through it and screw things up you'll have to fix later.

I hope your wife and baby are going to be ok man, that's far more important than these cars
 

b4black

before black
Jun 6, 2008
1,331
542
Oswego
Press and hold the button, hold the throttle to WOT, and release the button, right?

Press the button, shove the cable all the way in, release the button and then press the throttle WOT and it will shelf adjust. Some people push back in one click to firm it up a little.

Jimmy's in Union Grove is the place to go.

A THM350 will fit, but will need the correct crossmember. Just get the 200-4r redone.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sktchy and v6buicks

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
Press the button, shove the cable all the way in, release the button and then press the throttle WOT and it will shelf adjust. Some people push back in one click to firm it up a little.

Jimmy's in Union Grove is the place to go.

A THM350 will fit, but will need the correct crossmember. Just get the 200-4r redone.
Well shit. My method probably just killed it more then. lol I think a Jimmy build is the only thing worth doing if I have to throw the car on a trailer anyway. That's the thing though. I have neither a trailer nor a tow vehicle. It's not stopping me for getting the trans rebuilt, but at the same time it kind of is. I've put off getting a good truck for way too long.

I may let the car sit long enough to pay off a new truck first. We'll see. Trans rebuild is put off indefinitely for now. I'll try fixing the rest of the stuff I mentioned over the course of the summer.
 
  • Care
Reactions: sktchy

v6buicks

TCG Elite Member
TCG Premium
Oct 22, 2018
6,489
16,116
Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
A buddy came over and convinced me to give the GN another look. I adjusted the TV cable correctly this time and went for a spin. Trans is not blown afterall. However, it's still shifting really late and the adjuster tab barely moved after resetting and opening the throttle. ?

I'm thinking I pinched or stretched the TV and shifter cables. The trans wasn't supported very well when the engine was out which makes this a very solid possibility. I have just over a week before Nats and I'm suddenly feeling a bit of FOMO. I have to try getting this car to KY.

Oh yeah, add power steering leak to the ever-growing list.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sktchy

Thread Info