John Lehman is the original owner of this 1987 Buick Regal which could be mistaken for just a clean, rather well preserved sleeper, chrome trim and all. You know, the kind of car your grandparents might drive. Long-time readers of Turbo may remember this Buick, as we featured it a few years ago in an article titled, "The Beast."
The Beastly side can be seen under the hood manifesting itself in the form of a Buick 278 Stage II engine, a remnant of the Indy and/or Busch Grand National racing programs. The builder of the domestic street fighter, Lou Czarnota has bored and stroked the prized block to its limit and pulled all his Buick Turbo 6 tricks out of the hat. "This thing has about all you can do to a Turbo 6 done to it," says Lou. "The cylinder head ports are big enough to stick your fist into."
Through the years Lou has taken this car and evolved it through several different engine combinations. All the while managing each time to keep Lehman happy for about six to nine months. Things finally progressed to a point that the production block could be taken no further. The only route left was to search out every Buick freak's dream, a Stage II bullet. But these are rare pieces. Now it just so happened that with Lou's connections one was located sitting in a corner of someone's garage in upstate New York and a deal was struck. Upon delivery the engine was disassembled and the block was sent to Lou's long-time friend, Dan Benson, of Benson's Machine in Santa Ana, Calif.
The block-prep regime started with sonic and pressure testing. Since some of the early blocks had a history of cracking between the center freeze plugs a block hardening process was performed for additional strength.
Then, Benson zero decked, align honed the mains, punched out the holes to 0.040-over with a torque plate and then the casting was de-burred and machined to proper clearances. A Buick Motorsports billet steel 3.625-inch stroke crankshaft was kept standard and sent out for magnafluxing, heat treatment and polishing.
With the battle-ready block back in Lou's possession it was time to build the Beast again. The Motorsports crank swings 6.350-inch Cunningham connecting rods and 8.0:1 JE forged pistons. Often overlooked, ring selection is critical in a forced induction build-up because the added cylinder pressures involved make blow-by more of a concern. To address the matter Lou selected Speed Pro moly top rings, cast second rings and chrome oil rings. The rings were file-fitted to 0.022 inches for top ring and 0.018 inches for the second ring.
One of the Stage II motor's strong points are its superior breathing 18-degree cylinder heads with 64cc chambers. With proper porting and massaging big power is possible. The task of unleashing a power stampede was given to Steve Bronson of BPE Racing Heads of Placentia, Calif. After working his magic, a Super Flow bench was used to verify results and it yielded a healthy flow of 340 cfm on the intake side.
The heads were fitted with Manley stainless-steel valves (2.150-inch intakes, 1.160-inch exhaust). Because of high EGT temps that can be generated at high boost levels, Beryllium-copper seats were installed as an added safety factor. Comp Cam springs were installed at 230 lb seat pressure using hardened titanium keepers and retainers. Finally T&D 1.65:1 roller rockers and lifters take cues from a Comp Cams solid billet, turbo grind roller cam.
On the fuel side 83 lb/hr Siemens injectors, an adjustable pressure regulator and Red Armstrong Quad Air dual intake fuel pumps supply enough go-juice to support 1,000 horsepower. A FAST batch-fire system takes care of fuel management.
Since pump gas is used, an SMC dual-nozzle alcohol-injection system was added to yield the equivalent of 100-octane in the heat of battle. Lou is a big fan of alcohol injection and has installed many similar systems on Grand Nationals with great results. Also part of the detonation police is a Precision Turbo Engineering suitcase-sized front mount intercooler and three-inch plumbing.
Rick Head of Innovative Turbo built a hybrid T-74 dual ball-bearing unit, which is bolted to a set of 1-7/8-inch custom headers. Lou fabricated a 3.5-inch downpipe, which leads to a 2.5-inch Hooker cat-back exhaust. Street boost is set to 20 psi. To keep the spark plugs firing an MSD DIS 4 ignition and 10 mm wires allowed the use of the stock crank trigger, coil pack and BHJ SFI balancer.
Another challenge was the gearbox; an original 200R4 with all the best upgrades expired after the third test drive. Word was out that Chris Kokkinos of CK Performance in Long Island, N.Y., was developing a Ford AOD conversion grafted onto a GM bell housing with a 3,400-rpm Pro Torque stall converter consisting of a GM Front section that bolts to the BHJ SFI flywheel and the rear portion is Ford.
In this configuration the trans brake button is also used to engage reverse while another switch activates fourth gear overdrive. The cross frame, driveshaft, shift linkage and center console required modification. A Turbo Action gated shifter is used to operate the manual valve body, which allows 7000 rpm shifts (stratospherically high for a Buick).
The next driveline refinement saw the stock rear end being swapped out for a Currie Enterprises Ford 9-inch unit filled with a 3.70 ratio, a Detroit locker and 35-spline billet axles.
Stopping power consists of tasty 12-inch Baer disc brakes up front and 11-inch F-150 truck rear brakes modified to fit the Regal. Rolling stock is an odd combination of Weld Draglites; 5-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels. The 15x10 rears are shod with 11x28 M/T Drag Radials that are supremely challenged to keep the Regal planted.
Lou has built this same engine combination before and it dyno'd at 720 whp which should be enough. "This should be it," says Lou. "At least I shouldn't be seeing John for a solid 18 months this time."