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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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...Now the real story begins.

v6buicks

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Popped the hood to find that the reference lines to the regulator and wastegate actuator blew off. The regulator explains the lean running in boost, but the wastegate hose makes no sense. It was working great...

I put those back on with zip ties for extra strength, reset the ECM so that the chip would return to the base tune, and went for a drive.

GN gonna GN though. Thing only makes 16 psi now so it has no balls compared to yesterday. The AFR is way rich now which is fine because it would probably be perfect at 23psi.... If I had that. 😭

I'm really starting to think I have a blown intake gasket or something. My wastegate fix still feels great. No sticking.

Anyway, I'm signing off for a while because this constant failure has to be annoying to read. I'll let you know if I have any positive long term results.
 

Turbocharged400sbc

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Check that egr gasket at the divider wall isn't blown out if you didn't just use copper rtv.

Pcv probably isn't backflowing as I'd think you'd get more oil smoke from crankcase pressure.

Ya don't hear any exhaust leaks on a buick unless ya cold start and put it in gear asap i like cold engine feeling around/flame or cig testing...listening seems so pointless lol
 
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v6buicks

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Check that egr gasket at the divider wall isn't blown out if you didn't just use copper rtv.

Pcv probably isn't backflowing as I'd think you'd get more oil smoke from crankcase pressure.

Ya don't hear any exhaust leaks on a buick unless ya cold start and put it in gear asap i like cold engine feeling around/flame or cig testing...listening seems so pointless lol
My block off is bolted on with RTV. I really wanted to fill it in and have it welded shut, but I opted for easier.

I moreso smelled my exhaust leaks before the engine was pulled out. I couldn't drive that car more than 5 minutes without just reeking of exhaust until I showered. Now it smells fresh inside and it's much quieter on cold start.
 

v6buicks

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I get that there's no better way to do this for a simpleton like myself, but what a crappy block off plate. You can't even oring it becasue there's only one bolt at the very end of it. Welding it shut is a better option for sure. That'll probably become a "while I'm in there" project if this intake has to come off again.
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v6buicks

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I did just a quick visual inspection of the plenum gaskets. Nothing looks blown out or bulged. I'm borrowing my buddies smoker tonight though.

After saying "what?" three times while my wife was trying to talk to me, she started asking me about the car instead and told me to go try one more thing while I explain it to her. I thought that was pretty cool. She knows this thing is eating me alive, so I taught her how the wastegate worked, capped off the turbo nipple and left the actuator hose open. I let her know that in theory this should result in no boost control, infinite boost, and very little lag. I was convinced that I would either see that infinite boost because of deleted wastegate, or I would see the same 16psi because there's an intake leak somewhere that cant hold any more pressure than that.

The result was neither. It was laggy but the car made 20 psi with the pedal mashed in 1st gear. It would not go any higher than that.

I'm stumped. I have no idea what any of this is about. The mightyvac test is still showing everything working fine. My only guess at this point is that the actuator is worn out and doing strange shit when it's in the application. Exhaust pressure might be putting a lot of force on the puck (especially the higher boost gets) which results in needing much less boost pressure on the diaphragm to open the gate. I can't really test that with the mightyvac, and I don't have a way to measure exhaust pressure. I will do the smoke test first but if no leaks turn up, I'll probably go for the hail mary and buy an actuator. I'm heading down to my first Louisville turbo Buick club meet on Saturday, and I'd like the car clean and in good running order. You know... first impressions. lol

Between the ugly corrosion, the inspection hole I cut, and the sideways motion that clearly went on for a long time since the felt weather seal is ovaled, I can't feel terrible about getting a new one regardless.
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v6buicks

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I looked up the numbers on the actuator and found that despite it's adjustability, it's a standard duty (stock) spring unit. It's intended boost pressure is 8-20psi. The HD that Gbodyparts has is supposed to work from 18-30psi. I'm still very confused about everything I've seen, but I guess I know that I'm trying to use an actuator outside of it's intended limits. I can justify buying one now even if it doesn't fix anything.
 

v6buicks

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MAF translator cover came in the mail. Too shiny for my taste but better than what was there. I'll probably have it powder coated eventually.
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I went ahead and bought the damn actuator. It didn't fix anything, but I forgot to zip tie the hose so it blew off and did that goofy shit where I just had 22 psi all the time, and made me think that I fixed something.
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For what it's worth, the AFR was in check and there was no KR, so why not celebrate?
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Totally unrelated but wonder what the hell is burning? :s00ls:

The boost is 22psi every time I mash the pedal. There are no spikes, no creep, and it comes on really fast. Cruising around town I'll get 5 psi just holding 1/4 throttle which is nuts. I'm half tempted to just leave the hose disconnected, but I now something isn't right.

I hooked the hose back up with a zip tie and dropped down to about 18psi with a lot of lag. Mega lame. I said screw the mightyvac and just cranked on the actuator arm until it would make a respectable amount of boost. With the HD actuator fully cranked the best I could get was still 22psi with lag. That's BS, and I don't understand why any of this is happening.

I decided to rebuild the MBC since the theory is that it will hold back boost pressure and stop it from reaching the actuator until you're actually ready to open it. However, I don't see how that's possible with such a dinky spring. I can't put any pressure on that ball with the mighty vac. It just bleeds off immediately. With it fully tightened I can reach 10 psi but it just bleeds it out the other side which won't do me any good. Maybe this controller is junk. The inside has a little step in there, but certainly not a seal. Maybe I can shove an oring in there?Maybe it's supposed to have one? I cleaned a bunch of gunk out when I got it, so maybe it was the remains of an oring and I couldn't even tell. That would do it....
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v6buicks

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Drop ball in and give light rap or two with a screwdriver handle for it to burnish a new seat maybe.
You crazy son of a bitch. I don't know if it's fully fixed, but it certainly did something good.

I was a bit more aggressive and used a punch on the ball and gave it one nice hit with a hammer. I'll need to give it some real pressure, but I needed to crank this thing down about halfway to even block off my lung pressure before. Now I have no chance against a turn and a half.

I'll play with this more when I'm at work tomorrow.
 

v6buicks

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The good news is that if I throw this in, I should get rid of my lag with the hose attached. The thing that sucks is that I think I'm still only going to get 22psi of boost. If that's all it can do with the hose unplugged then there's no reason to believe I'll get more. If I'm right it might be time to take up smoking.
 

v6buicks

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ehhhhh I think I actually messed up that check ball. I can't see damage, but the MBC is pretty inconsistent now and I can't get it to hold more than 20psi with the hand pump.

The thought popped in my head to replace the worm gear style clamps on the rubber couplers. I did faintly hear some kazoo shit coming from under the hood when I was making boost at part throttle and low rpm. The couplers have a ton of engagement so they don't pop off, but those weak worm gear clamps might be letting some of the blowies out. I think I'd hear something more obvious if it was limiting boost though.
 

v6buicks

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I was a little sad that I couldn't figure out how to easily fix that free MBC but free is free. However, it's clearly nothing more than an adjustable check valve. I have access to those. I borrowed one from work and very carefully drilled a relief hole on the actuator side. This part was kind of funny because any drill bit of mine is going to be much too large to make a simple relief hole but I was strategic enough with the angle to just barely kiss the opening. The hole is even smaller than the one on the MBC now.
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This overbuilt plumbing masterpiece for the most part proved that a good MBC is what I needed. I took almost all of the preload off the actuator adjustment and just set the boost on the check valve. The car makes 23 psi and it gets... most of it very quickly. I can see the boost rise from 0-15 really fast. Then it slows way down until I reach 23. I don't think this is any fault of the controllers. I have to have a boost leak somewhere that's only present above 15 psi. Maybe I'm stretching those worm gear clamps and sending boost out the couplers. We all know those are shit for any boost and certainly not as much as I'm trying to make, so I'm going to add t-bolt clamps to my next shopping list along with a rear MBC because I'm bringing the masterpieces back where I found them.

This contraption was enough to let me have fun for the weekend though and the car was done enough to justify a good wash.
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She hasn't looked this good in a long while! Thanks Gav'sPurpleZ Gav'sPurpleZ for the rinseless wash tips. It's amazing how well that stuff works. It takes bugs off like butter. Getting the hand grime off all the interior touch points was pretty satisfying too.
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I didn't want to get greedy, but I also knew how friggen hot the following week was supposed to be, so I had to see if I could quickly find the issue with the only non-working system on the car.
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The good news is that I don't think I need an evaporator like I initially expected. The big stain on the downpipe was right below a loose fitting. Nice! The bad news is that I have a very bad high side leak. I switched from vacuum pump to compressed air and could feel air rushing out the front of the compressor. :( I put a lot of work into making this compressor look nice, but I think it's time to cut my losses and replace the whole thing with a new one. I'll research the seal a little, but I'm guessing that's not going to be worth my time. Oh well. I'm glad it's at least diagnosed! Now it's time for the car to somewhat redeem itself for not making it to the Nationals. Let's see how she does on a two-hour trip to the eastern Louisville suburbs with a detour in Floyd's Knobs.

There was some pretty heavy facebook advertising for a Louisville based turbo Buick club meeting and I figured I'd see what it was about. The Indiana Chapter GSCA folded a couple years ago and I was already driving a couple hours to attend those meetings. Why not see if I can find a new crew?
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I'd say it was well worth the drive. Car count was 14 which is more than the GSCA ever had when I was in it.
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I felt like somewhat of a chump because almost everyone here was still running their powermasters. I'm kinda jealous, but also happy to not have that burden on my mind.
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There were some really cool and unique cars outside of the club at this cruise as well.
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Somebody please gimme this Riviera
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I'm glad I made it here. I met some really cool folks who took me in like family, so I'd be willing to make this trip again. It's just tough leaving the wife at home with the little one. This trip was kind of a Father's day gift to me, and feel guilty for taking it. I can only hope that some day my son will be into this as much as I am and it will be worth trying to rally up the Indy sixes. Until then, I'll just keep wrenching and doing my part to keep the enthusiasm alive.
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One last funny (but not) story. Remember how I said the AC was the only non-working system in the car? That was a jinx and it's because I said it to another member during a fuel stop in Floyd's Knobs. I went to adjust the seat a little and all I got was noise. Son of bitch. This is a pre-'87 problem. This seat has an 6-way electric adjustable seat with only one motor and a plastic gear box. That gear box eventually just explodes and it's not really worth getting another one. Nobody reproduced them and 40 year-old plastic mechanicals are always a bad buy IMO. For '87 only, GM ditched the gearbox and replaced it with two more motors. This is the only one I can find right now and I think it's specifically for the split bench seats.
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This isn't a big enough problem for me to jump on it. Plus, I think the '87 system is a lot heavier. Luckily for me, it's not just one function that broke on mine but all of them at once. More than likely this means that only the little coupler between the motor and transmission broke. This is somewhat serviceable and I can get a new one on ebay for $7. The seat is stuck right around where I want it anyway, so I'll manage for a while.
 

v6buicks

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Glad to hear the rinseless process is working out.
Thanks for sharing pictures of the show, some nice cars there !

and I have seen the seat problems in Vice Grip Garage's videos. That sucks.
I'll have to rewatch that. IIRC his was an '86 and a pretty neglected POS so his whole transmission is probably dry rotted to hell. Not to mention he's just a massive human. For a car like that I'd just put manual tracks in and weld some brackets to push the whole thing back a couple inches. I'm only 6'0" and my seat is usually all the way back. I don't know hat GM was thinking.
 

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