A Fabricobbler's Guide to the Turbo Buick Galaxy- Cutlass Rehash

81cutlass

Comic Book Super Hero
Feb 16, 2009
3,529
113
Western MN
Well this is going to be a slow journal of my first car Cutlass rehash. Basically 10 years of G body progress across a few cars going into one car. Goal is to end up with a mid 11 second turbo buick powered Cutlass that I can drive cross country tomorrow in relative comfort and maybe go to a cruise in from time to time. Not going Autocross on this one since I have the 2+2 for that.

Previous progress in these threads. Since pbucket killed photo links and 95% of the cutlass thread is dead and 25% of the wagon thread is dead I am redumping some info here in very limited detail.

The Cutlass, basically 2009-2013 build

The Wagon, basically 2016-2019 build

Picked up this 81 Cutlass when I was 15 since I fell in love with T types and GN's. A local guy who had GN's always showed them at the spring indoor car show Dad brought me to as a middle schooler and wanted one for my first car. I didn't want a videogame system or to go to a sports event as a middle schooler, I wanted a damn turbo buick haha.

I didn't have 10 grand for a running T type or GN and Dad wasn't going to fork the money for one my way but he did find a clean factory 3.8/th250 cutlass supreme with a 455 Olds very poorly swapped in a few hours from home. Car was laser straight and not spec of rust. Interior was bad and engine was a turd. Picked up the car.
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As mentioned the smog headed 455 was very poorly installed. It sat on Buick v6 mounts and the distributor hit the firewall so they cut a hole. Smart. It woudn't start because the distributor couldn't be rotated into time because of the vac advance hitting the firewall. It was rattlecanned sunflower yellow, overheated idling, and had rubber bands as the throttle return spring.

I think the previous owner dropped engine in and then sold it the next day.
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Interior was meh.Dasg was cracked, carpet was spray painted black, seats were flat.
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Simultaneously on CL in my home town of 3500 people a guy listed 'turbo buick' for $250. Score! Not knowing what it was I bought it. Turned out to be an 80 Turbo Monte engine. 12 years later the 80 T type turbo monte the guy removed the engine from stills its under the tree.

Engine had 2 melted pistons, spun rods, total pile. Was overbored .040, new crank, and dropped in the car.
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My neighbor was an auto detailer on the side and saw I was into cars (he had a 72 BBC caprice and a 73 c10) buffed it for me for free! It actually looked damn good.
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The interior was still garbage though. CL came through again. $400 for a pair of cutlass rollers. One 84 supreme that was rusty and one 85 salon that had a confusing backstory (low mile grandma car, no rust, Grandma have car to grandson, engine blew up week later, swapped 307 to SBC, hit deer in drivers fender and door week later, owner sold to buddy, buddy never paid, owner came back to stripped car. Sat on for 5 years and then put on CL. Real nice interior.
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The 84 donated all useable parts to the salon roller and then off to the junk yard. In hindsight it wasn't that bad but in rural MN in 2010 it wasn't much.
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Spring rolled around and the 2nd week after the snow melted a guy down the street pulled out in front of me and dented my quarter and mashed up the front end. I had intended to paint the car but now it was real.
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Side tracked. Still had the 85 salon. Put 84 parts on to make complete car. Dropped 455 from 81 into 85 with a rattle can rebuild.
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Made the best of a bad situation and put a spare header panel on the car and had a local body shop fix the quarter.
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Installed complete 85 salon interior into 81
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81cutlass

Comic Book Super Hero
Thread starter
Feb 16, 2009
3,529
113
Western MN
Tore front end off car and redid the wiring harness, core support, radiator, lines, redid the heads, replaced stock cam with a 204/214 since the stock one had wiped a lobe.
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And paint began
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Side distraction
Cutlass was now to nice to drive in winter. Bought Fbird.
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Swapped l67 into fbird
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Dad finally got back at me for all his help and we painted his 73 IH.
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'donated' 85 as a roller into a group drag car project. Oddly the new owner of the Wagon is the one who started the project idea. Pulled 455 J headed engine and trans and sold.
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Turbo LS power
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So at the end of HS I had a damn near fully restored cutlass which is what I wanted when I was 15 and got the project. Dads 73 was mostly done, and I had a beater 4th gen.
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And back at the farm where the engine swap commenced
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81cutlass

Comic Book Super Hero
Thread starter
Feb 16, 2009
3,529
113
Western MN
Went to college, and the car basically sat in storage most of the time. I got stuck driving it in the winter for a month since my Durango (never will buy a dodge again) broke and my Fbird broke a valve spring the fall before.
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Gave durango to Dad, bought wrecked rainier.
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Fleet update around 2015. Still no changes to Cutlass.
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Hauled 85 drag car back to the race shop and back home a few times in there too.
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Graduated college, moved 2 states over. Ended up with the 2+2 in there.
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Still wanted a GN, still didn't have one.
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Lived with a friend. He was working on an l67 swap fiero. All I had done with the Cutlass at this point was get my speedometer working. I had done a 2004r swap from the original th350 in college but otherwise I was just enjoying the car.
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Enter the Black (EFI grand national) phase.

Found entire intercooled SFI setup I bought off CL from a widow of a deceased guy who parted out turbo buicks. Total lucky find. I saw one photo of a T type wheel in the ad with a listing 'chevelle parts' as a title. Turned out if was mostly turbo buck stuff.
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Found wagon in 17.

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Found a pair of broken 4.1's in 17
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Built 4.1
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Had turbo wagon
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But all this time my nice cutlass has been sitting in storage. Over 7 years it has maybe 5000 miles on it.
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And where everything starts to come together. Got a good offer on the wagon as a roller. I am storing cars at Dad's and my Inlaws place. I have a nice cutlass that is sitting doing nothing. Make the decision to swap SFI 4.1 into the place where the drawthrough 3.8 lives.
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81cutlass

Comic Book Super Hero
Thread starter
Feb 16, 2009
3,529
113
Western MN
So the project plan.

Cutlass-
Body & interior is great!
Front suspension needs new parts but that's a weekend project. Ball joints, bushings, LS1 rotors.
Has a posi 3.42 7.5 that needs replaced with an 8.5. I have plans for that.
Healthy drawthrough 3.8. It runs good but has no power and is cold blooded. No real upgrade paths with the drawthrough.

Driveline
4.1 with stock GN stuff bolted to it. Mild erson cam from the 90's, trans that needs a rebuild.

Plan
1. Rebuild 2004r (actually out of the 2+2 originally)
2. Install 4.1 into Cutlass
3. Replace turbo with something more modern. $600 for used 90's era turbo upgrades (TA60/TA49) in 2020 is foolish and $1300 for a precision that has a 50% chance of blowing up tomorrow is something I won't sign up for. Thinking chyna (likely a $350 VSR) t4 in the 58-62mm range and external gate. Nothing that can't be reverted but more akin to modern turbo LS thinking. Also fab a new 3" DP instead of finding a 25 year old $350 chunk of used pipe and still deal with internal gates
4. Update turbo buick engine management. Stock chip computers worked in 1987 but flashing chips in 2020 is backwards. There are much better tuning options that have data logging and I can flash tunes for optimal performance in 2020. E85, flex if I go MS3. I'm not filling an alky tank even though it works and I am using a WB02 with VE tables like LS world.
5. Most importantly, actually enjoy the car instead of it being a garage landmark.

6. Others? Roller cam. The mild 25 year old erson cam in the 4.1 is fine but I know it's holding it back. The $200 204/214 works, but for an additional $300 going to a roller 212/218 in a 'big' 4.1 is worth it. Needs EFI tank and lines.

I'll be bouncing back to the 2+2 and this so updates will be slow, but this spring they should start to hit.


A bit sad that (probably one of under a dozen) healthy running drawthroughs in this day and age will get pulled especially since it's the cleanest install of anything I have, but it's the only thing holding me back from legit enjoying the car. Why drive a 250hp car that bucks and studders sometimes when I have a 550hp blower stick car? I want something with +400hp that just works.
 
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motorheadmike

Geezer
Nov 18, 2009
7,529
113
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
Nothing pleases me more than someone getting back to their first love. Speaking from personal experience it is weird how these special cars get put on the back-burner while we get distracted by new interests.

EDIT: I ended up with Monte Carlo SS as a teenager because I couldn't afford a Turbo Buick. Sure I got one a few years later... but, I kept the Monte.
 
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Texas82GP

Just-a-worm
Supporting Member
Apr 3, 2015
7,052
113
Spring, Texas
So the project plan.

Cutlass-
Body & interior is great!
Front suspension needs new parts but that's a weekend project. Ball joints, bushings, LS1 rotors.
Has a posi 3.42 7.5 that needs replaced with an 8.5. I have plans for that.
Healthy drawthrough 3.8. It runs good but has no power and is cold blooded. No real upgrade paths with the drawthrough.

Driveline
4.1 with stock GN stuff bolted to it. Mild erson cam from the 90's, trans that needs a rebuild.

Plan
1. Rebuild 2004r (actually out of the 2+2 originally)
2. Install 4.1 into Cutlass
3. Replace turbo with something more modern. $600 for used 90's era turbo upgrades (TA60/TA49) in 2020 is foolish and $1300 for a precision that has a 50% chance of blowing up tomorrow is something I won't sign up for. Thinking chyna (likely a $350 VSR) t4 in the 58-62mm range and external gate. Nothing that can't be reverted but more akin to modern turbo LS thinking. Also fab a new 3" DP instead of finding a 25 year old $350 chunk of used pipe and still deal with internal gates
4. Update turbo buick engine management. Stock chip computers worked in 1987 but flashing chips in 2020 is backwards. There are much better tuning options that have data logging and I can flash tunes for optimal performance in 2020. E85, flex if I go MS3. I'm not filling an alky tank even though it works and I am using a WB02 with VE tables like LS world.
5. Most importantly, actually enjoy the car instead of it being a garage landmark.

6. Others? Roller cam. The mild 25 year old erson cam in the 4.1 is fine but I know it's holding it back. The $200 204/214 works, but for an additional $300 going to a roller 212/218 in a 'big' 4.1 is worth it. Needs EFI tank and lines.

I'll be bouncing back to the 2+2 and this so updates will be slow, but this spring they should start to hit.


A bit sad that (probably one of under a dozen) healthy running drawthroughs in this day and age will get pulled especially since it's the cleanest install of anything I have, but it's the only thing holding me back from legit enjoying the car. Why drive a 250hp car that bucks and studders sometimes when I have a 550hp blower stick car? I want something with +400hp that just works.
Looking forward to following this one. I've been on here for five years and knew next to nothing about your Cutlass. I was sorry to see your good work on that wagon undone but it looks like it is going to work out pretty good.
 
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Turbo Zach

Royal Smart Person
Sep 8, 2015
2,384
113
50130
Looking forward to this build. I am glad to see you get back to the Cutlass. If you end up with a spare 200r4 you want to sell? Let me know. You better get going on all the car projects you want to do. Once the kids start coming it will slow the car hobby down a lot.
 
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motorheadmike

Geezer
Nov 18, 2009
7,529
113
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
Once the kids start coming it will slow the car hobby down a lot.

Pfft! I built my wagon and TBSS right after my crotch goblins arrived on scene. Who needs sleep or a husband? Not my wife!
 
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81cutlass

Comic Book Super Hero
Thread starter
Feb 16, 2009
3,529
113
Western MN
Looking forward to this build. I am glad to see you get back to the Cutlass. If you end up with a spare 200r4 you want to sell? Let me know. You better get going on all the car projects you want to do. Once the kids start coming it will slow the car hobby down a lot.

I'll keep you in mind. I had a brf 2004r I sold to a guy in the quad cities a few years back and a 2004r I bought locally back home that turned out to be a dud I sold a few years back also. I just have the one in the cutlass and bolted on my 4.1 now. Still don't know what's happening to that engine.

Crotch goblins are on the back burner for the time being...
 
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