Buick 3.8L Turbo Charged Engine Swap into F-Body

dave8412  Jun 16 2006 - 9:23am   

Q: Can I swap a Buick 3.8L Turbocharged engine into my F-body?

A: Steve Kaminski Turbo High Performance (Dept. CC, 2 Derby Dr., Sewell NJ 08080, 609/881-3235) does engine conversions of Buick V-6s into third generation F-cars. Some engine components used in the limited production 20th-anniversary turbo Trans Am (TA) are different than those used in the original (and far more common) Buick Grand National (GN). These revisions were needed to fit the turbo Buick into the third generation F-cars narrower engine bay.

The TA turbo engine's cylinder heads are from the '86 Buick FWD Le Sabre (PN 25536701, casting no. 22536702). This head design uses individual stud mounted rockers in place of the original Buick V-6's shaft mounted rocker arms, so virtually every vauletrain part from the pushrods on up won't interchange. However, becuase this head and similarly designed siblings were common in FWD applications, GM still stocks most parts, and they are not that hard to find in the salvage yard. The TA short-blocks use different pistons to compensate for the Le Sabre heads' smaller combustion chamber volume; standard GM pistons would bump the compression from about 8.0:1 to 9.0:1--acceptabe on premium pump gas at stock boost levels.

Turbo TA's require different exhaust manifolds (PN 25536214, right hand, discontinued; 25536215, left hand) than GN engines. With one side discontinued, custom headers are needed.

Original GN heads fit the F-car engine bay by deleting the A/C system-but custom headers are still needed. Retain proper serpentine belt operation with a Chevy V-8/90-degree V-6 belt idler pully (PN 10055890) that bolts in place of the GM R-4 radial A/C compressor. Replace the A/C evaporator, heater core, and evaporatior covers with the non-A/C heater core, heater core box, and related accessories (part numbers vary by year).

Although the GN TH200-R4 interfaces with the existing TH700-R4 shifter and shifter cable, installation of the Buick trans in an F-car requires the unique turbo TA trans support crossmember (PN 12396766) with cushions (547704, lowe; 547702 upper; three each required). The existing V-8 rear suspension torque arm interfaces with the standard F-cars trans mount (PN 17989705) and the turbo V-6 trans support crossmember via special brackets (PN 12396758 , outer; 12396756, inner). The trans support crossmember and torque arm are no longer availabe from GM.

Alternativly, mate the Chevy V-8 TH700-R4 trans case to the Buick/Olds/Pontiac engine block using TCI Automotive (Dept. CC, 1 Equion Blvd., Ashland, MS 38603, 601/224-8972) adapter plate (TCI PN 230001)--the existing trans crossmember and torque arm brackets bolt up with no additional mods. The Buick computer can control the 700 trans, but the Chevy computer won't run the Buick engine. The 700 is stronger than the TH200-R4 and Kaminski claims the turbo engines run quicker with the Chevy trans.

Kaminski offers stronger, thicker engine mounting barckets in place of the now discontinued GM items. The rubber/metal engine mounts that bolt up to the frame are still available from GM (PN 2213326, two required). The accelerator control cable is the same as used on the Chevy TPI V-8 F-cars (PN 14080202), but the TV cable (PN 25532115) and the cruise-control servo cable (PN 25525358) are specific to the turbo Buick-all cables are still available.

The existing V-8 radiator works. GN radiators had an internal engine oil cooler, but the TA used a cooler similar to the Camaro/Firebird V-8 sandwhich style cooler. On the Buick, the cooler and a special adapter were sandwhiched between the Buick oil filter and the oil pump cover. Key parts for a Buick system are not available-go with a universal aftermarket cooler.

You can still get the ECM module (its the same as the turbo GN, PN 1227148), turbo TA Engine/ECM harness (PN 12069323), and EPROM calibrator (part numbers vary-see your dealer)



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