Can anyone give me any reason to keep a hot air turbo engine over a LS?

regalman4925

regalman4925

Royal Smart Person
May 9, 2007
1,437
48
Omaha Nebraska
In my search for a T top regal roller I ended up with a 85 grand national that I am planning to LS swap and possibly add a single turbo to. The car was not running when I got it, it is rough and getting a frame off restore. I threw a spare fuel pump in it and got it to at least move under its own power but then dies. It has around 120k on it and probably needs to be fully rebuilt if I had to guess. I am going to throw a new fuel filter, plugs and wires in it so I can move it around for the time being and then maybe sell it. From what i have read, these engines have lots of gremlins in them and are hard to find parts for. Not to mention 1985 technology vs modern, having a dependable engine that I can trust for long road trips in the middle of summer heat with AC is huge to me. Is there any reason at all to put any kind of effort into this engine vs swapping it for a engine and trans with all of the parts to bolt it in that are sitting in front of the car as we speak? I'm pretty sure my stock 5.3 with nothing done to it would kill this hot air engine even with upgrades, maybe I'm wrong?
 
blk7gxn

blk7gxn

Master Mechanic
Feb 7, 2019
272
43
In my search for a T top regal roller I ended up with a 85 grand national that I am planning to LS swap and possibly add a single turbo to. The car was not running when I got it, it is rough and getting a frame off restore. I threw a spare fuel pump in it and got it to at least move under its own power but then dies. It has around 120k on it and probably needs to be fully rebuilt if I had to guess. I am going to throw a new fuel filter, plugs and wires in it so I can move it around for the time being and then maybe sell it. From what i have read, these engines have lots of gremlins in them and are hard to find parts for. Not to mention 1985 technology vs modern, having a dependable engine that I can trust for long road trips in the middle of summer heat with AC is huge to me. Is there any reason at all to put any kind of effort into this engine vs swapping it for a engine and trans with all of the parts to bolt it in that are sitting in front of the car as we speak? I'm pretty sure my stock 5.3 with nothing done to it would kill this hot air engine even with upgrades, maybe I'm wrong?
Just something to keep in mind, the 1985 3.8 can easily transform to an inter cooled 3.8 IF you acquire all the parts needed, BUT if you have all that you need sitting in front of the car to LS swap it out, it would probably be a more cost effective way to do it that way.
 
  • Agree
Reactions: Anubis
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81cutlass

Royal Smart Person
Feb 16, 2009
1,778
113
Western MN
If you plan to keep the car for 5 years do what you want

If you plan to keep the car until you die do what you want

If you plan to keep the car for 15 years and sell it I feel a turbo 3.8 car will be worth more and be more cool in the future. LS swaps are good but in 2035 it's going to be "oh man another jerk in the late 2010's swapped the turbo 3.8 out for an LS". It's like us looking back now at someone with a factory nailhead riviera or something that they put a SBC in. Yeah an SBC riviera is faster than the nailhead but a nailhead riv is WAY cooler.

Granted it IS a hot air and turbo buick snobs look down on hot air cars but there is enough spare parts to swap to IC and only the snobs will care and you will have the HP so you will be happy. I view intercool swapping a hot air more like people converting a 2 barrel car to 4 barrel. A factory 4 barrel car is more desirable but nobody cares. The value isn't quite there but it's still good for conversation.

I know a lot of people disagree and the T-cars are the best platforms to start with on a built, but the turbo 3.8 even in all its faults is one of the more historically significant engines of its day and ripping apart a mostly complete car is something I can't live with. If it was a NA 3.8 or 307 sure, or if someone had already ripped it apart go ahead, but I feel guilty dissecting a 442, Turbo regal, or 2+2. Granted I kind of butchered my 2+2 but the car was butchered before I ever got to it so I didn't feel the guilt. Monte SS's had big enough volume that it's not as big of a deal.
 
blk7gxn

blk7gxn

Master Mechanic
Feb 7, 2019
272
43
Just something to keep in mind, the 1985 3.8 can easily transform to an inter cooled 3.8 IF you acquire all the parts needed, BUT if you have all that you need sitting in front of the car to LS swap it out, it would probably be a more cost effective way to do it that way.
PERSONALLY, I like to keep things original
 
regalman4925

regalman4925

Royal Smart Person
May 9, 2007
1,437
48
Omaha Nebraska
In 15 years I will be doing the same thing I have done with my SBC g bodies, swapping out for the next big thing lol. I am pretty certain that by the time I rebuild the stock engine and do any amount of upgrades to get it to anything respectable, I will have 10k in it. I have no intentions of ever parting ways with this one, I have pretty much carried all of my best parts and knowledge over the last 25 years and am putting it into this car. I will have far more money into it when it's done than I would ever get out of it.
 
Anubis

Anubis

Royal Smart Person
Mar 30, 2012
1,726
113
Just something to keep in mind, the 1985 3.8 can easily transform to an inter cooled 3.8 IF you acquire all the parts needed, BUT if you have all that you need sitting in front of the car to LS swap it out, it would probably be a more cost effective way to do it that way.
The Grand National is defined by a turbo 6. As you already know the logo identifies the car as a 6 cylinder. If it was mine I would convert hot air over to intercooled. Just my 2 cents. Obviously I have nothing against LS swaps but in this case I would keep it a 6 cylinder. There are a lot of comments on youtube and forums regarding LS swapped GN's like "there goes another Grand National". The LS, GN swap has been done over and over.....


 
regalman4925

regalman4925

Royal Smart Person
May 9, 2007
1,437
48
Omaha Nebraska
Does anyone think a original hot air car will ever really be worth much? A dead stock low mile near perfect example would probaly sell in the 12-15k range right now and the similar 86/87 is going to pull 3-4 times more
 
CaliWagon83

CaliWagon83

Royal Smart Person
Supporting Member
Nov 12, 2017
1,847
113
Orange County, CA
If I had a hot air turbo to start with, I’d maybe try to keep it, or convert it to EFI. But I’ve got a 231 2-bbl, so I have little guilt about (eventually) ripping it out for an LS3.
 

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