Archive for the ‘Buick Stories’ Category

14 Sep, 2010

Buick Stories by Phil

Posted by admin under Buick Stories

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being the editor of is the Buick related email I receive daily. Emails from people who are just as – if not more – enthusiastic about Buicks than I am. Usually they’re packed with photos of someone’s pride and joy lining up for parking spot on BuickStreet but occasionally it’s just someone who wants to share their Buick experiences with someone they know is interested. Well, they certainly found the right audience here at BuickStreet.

Below are stories by Phil who worked for Buick for over 30 years. Phil has many stories and has given me permission to share them with you. Take it away Phil…



My main interest in cars is with General Motors starting in 1955 and ending with 1970. Those years were the most fun for me and the cars were made of metal rather than plastic. Because of my job (I worked for a Buick dealer for 30 years, 1968-1998. I was the Service Parts Director) I kept knowledgeable thru 2001 until I retired. Right now I only have the three 1987 Buick turbos but have had a lot of older GM cars in the past. I love “restoring” old cars and have done quite a few. I sold them off for a variety of reasons (lack of storage space etc…)and have regrets on doing so. Over the years I have collected a lot of Buick information and pictures.

Phil's 3 Buicks

Phil's 3 Buicks

These stories are written entirely from memory and I am sure that I forgot some things. The ones I do mention are stories that stick out for me. I have pictures of concept cars, experimental cars with tid bits of trivia to go with them. Three of my favorites are the RWD GN powered Reatta, GN powered Electra Estate wagon and the 1954 Wildcat II. Did you know three Wildcat IIs were built? One is in Slone, one crushed, and ONE IS MISSING!! I currently own three Buicks. All 1987, GN, T-Type Limited and a GNX 528.”


9 Buick Stories by Phil – Index

The Dow Guard Story

Technical Information For Older Buicks

Buick Engines Over The Years

Buick Firsts I Remember

The Grand National and GNX story

The Walnut Shell Game

1954 Wildcat II Concept Car

A Carburettor Story

The V-6 Story 1961 to 2002

Complete List of Stories

Choose a story from the list above then press the ‘<– back’ button on your browser to come back up here to the index.

14 Sep, 2010

Buick Stories – The Dow Guard Story

Posted by admin under Buick Stories
Story by Phil

The do it yourself guy would put in pure Prestone!… Pure antifreeze is like 10 weight motor oil, thick…Water pumps had a hard time pushing it.”

From 1961 thru 1963 Buick used the 215 all aluminum V-8. At the same time GM hooked up with a company called Dow Guard. Dow Guard made a product that was pre diluted antifreeze. Half water and half antifreeze in a quart can. They also produced a radiator cap that said “Use only 100% Dow Guard” Many a 215 left the assembly line this way. This lead people to believe the 215 used 100% antifreeze!

The do it yourself guy would put in pure Prestone! I believe it was around 1963 or 64 there was a legal problem with Dow Guard. Selling water in a can was not legal unless stated on container. So much for Dow Guard. We had many problems with the 215 because of this. Pure antifreeze is like 10 weight motor oil, thick. Water pumps had a hard time pushing it.

Also antifreeze gets corrosive with age. Average life is around 2 years weather you drive the car or not. Aluminum and old antifreeze don’t get along. Internal corrosion from inside the block would plug up the radiator. Most of the time you could not rod them out a recore was necessary. Overheating was a common problem with the 215. Not that it was a bad design but because the antifreeze wasn’t changed often enough. When an overheated 215 came in with blown head gaskets you held your breath when removing head bolts. Most of the time them threads in the block came out with the bolt. We had to retap the holes from 3/8 to ½ inch and use Pontiac head bolts.

This engine was put together with anti seze on most of the bolts that went into the aluminum casting. Most mechanics didn’t recoat the bolts on reassembly. This made it a lot of fun for the next guy. Thermostat housing bolts were a big problem because anti seze was not used.

The engine got an undeserved bad rap mostly because of the corrosion problems and overheating. With the proper maintenance it was a good little lightweight engine. We won’t mention the Dual Path 2 speed air-cooled transmission it was bolted to.

GM sold the engine to Land Rover and it is still being used today. The wrecking yards were cleaned out a few years back because people were converting them to a dry sump engine and using them in airplanes. I have seen several kit cars with them. Light in weight, high torque and good horsepower.


Story by Phil

You know when it happens, a loud bang then the oil light is on…”

Here is some technical information that some owners of older Buicks might find helpful. Being in a Buick only dealership you get to see common problems related to only one car manufacture. The items below are things we saw a lot of and sometimes could be prevented with proper maintenance. Again this is done from memory and I am sure I have forgot some things.

The “Nailhead engine” 1953-1966

Lifter Noise

The rocker arms would cut there way into the rocker arm shaft. This changes lifter piston position and creates excessive clearance between camshaft and valve causing the noise. Shaft replacement is necessary along with a few rockers. This was caused by lack of oil changes. About 1965 we did at least one a day.

Water Pump Failure

Early failure is caused by drive belt tension being too tight. A V-belt grips on the sides and as it wears it get narrow and drops down into pulley. It then becomes necessary to over tighten to eliminate slippage. This puts too much pressure on the water pump bearing and causes failure. The belt should be flush with the top of pulley. A/C cars use a dual drive on the compressor. This was done because the A5 and A6 compressor uses 15 horsepower to drive it. With two belts less tension was needed. It is important to purchase these belts as a matched set and always replace in pairs. For the correct tension a belt tension gauge is nice but a good mechanic can do it by the finger test. We saw a lot of pumps fail around 35000 miles because the belts were just too tight.

Broken Piston Skirt

This is caused by over revving. Don’t wind a nail head up too high, they don’t like it. They are a high torque, low rpm engine. I pulled the head off a 63 Riviera (401) and one piston was missing. I was looking at a connecting rod and wrist pin but the entire piston was in pieces laying in the oil pan.

Broken Oil Pump

This happens in real high mileage engines only. The shafts the oil pump gears both the drive and idler wear down. This causes the gears to bind up and explode the housing. You know when it happens, a loud bang then the oil light is on. If the engine is shut down right away a new oil pump is all that is needed.


The main reason we saw was a plugged up radiator. The main cause was over age coolant. Radiators plug up from the bottom to the top. Looking thru the fill hole is not a good indication of condition. Of course old hoses and water pump failure caused a lot of it too.

Coolant In Motor Oil

From lack of coolant changes a small hole will develop in timing chain cover behind water pump. These can be welded up if a new cover cannot be found. Change coolant every 2 years.

Blown head gasket from being driven in an overheated condition.

The temp light goes off at 280 degrees. There is no safety zone at that temperature. Shut off engine immediately and you will save the head gasket. Other than 1962-63 215 cu. in. aluminum V-8 and the 1964 300 V-8 I have never seen a head gasket go bad for any other reason than an overheat.

Throttle won’t return after being floored

Broken left (driver) engine mount. Rod type throttle linkage binds under air cleaner housing when engine rolls up due to broken left mount. This was the first federally mandated recall I can remember. We installed a cable around the upper suspension control arm and attached it to two head bolts with brackets. Starting in 1968 cable throttle controls solved this problem. Later models have hooks built into engine mounts. I have had this happen to me several times. It’s most unpleasant. Remember go for the ignition switch not the shift lever if you want to save the engine.

Binding Throttle With AFB Carburetor

Metal plate under carburetor has holes in it where it covers exhaust passage. This has allowed wet exhaust to eat thru the aluminum casting of carburetor binding primary throttle shaft. If not too bad the carburetor can be repaired. A stiff throttle spring is not the fix.

High Oil Consumption

Other then the usual worn piston rings common to all engines the nail head likes to wear down the valve guides. This allows oil to be sucked in around the intake valve. Also the 1959 thru 1965 used a stem seal that did a poor job. In 1966 the top of the guide was cut down to accept a positive seal. The nail head is the only GM engine I know of that has replaceable guides. They merely drive in and out with a hammer. The 1966 guides and seals will work with the earlier models. Valve grinding was common with the older engines because of poor gas additives, conservative driving and low spark voltage. It all but disappeared in 1967 and returned in 1975 and left permanently in 1977.

Crankcase Full Of Gasoline

The internal seal would fail in the fuel pump. This allows gas to be pumped into crankcase via the pump actuator arm. Yes the engine will still run when this happens.

Constance velocity universal joint 1962 thru 1970

Because of the long wheelbase of most Buicks and the desire for a smooth vibration free car the CV joint was used in the long drive shafts. The Rivera uses two. It is a ball and socket between two u-joints tensioned by a very stiff spring. Lubrication is done thru a small hole in the part between the u-joints. This requires a needle type grease gun. Also high-pressure grease is necessary. We were replacing three to four of these a week in the old days. The problem was one of two, they weren’t getting lubed or regular chassis grease was being used. When they go bad you will feel a shutter on take off. I had one customer ask for a tune up because he thought it was an engine miss.


Excessive brake pedal effort or brake pull. During the drum brake era thru 1970 we had a lot of this. Mostly the cars had a brake job done elsewhere before coming to us. GM used only new riveted brake shoes. The aftermarket brands were generally bonded rebuilt shoes. Bonded lining is hard and rebuilt shoes won’t re-arch themselves to the contour of the drum. Simply replacing the shoes solved the problem 90% of the time. Bendix still makes new riveted shoes for older models.

The 1956 models with power brakes left the assembly line with what was called a displacement master cylinder. Instead of an internal piston it used simply a large rod going thru a seal that displaced the fluid in the sealed reservoir. The failure rate was high. Most were converted to the piston type master but there still may be a few left out there.

In 1967 and 68 the disc brake system was made by Bendix. It used a 4-piston caliper. One of the pistons would become stiff and cause uneven pad wear. Also the piston seals would leak. This ended in 1969 with the Delco Moraine single piston floating caliper.

Front Suspension 1957 & 1958

The 1957 models came out with A-arm front suspension unlike the king pin used in 1956. The arms were made from cast iron. Iron is a brittle metal and when exposed to a lot of pressure it will snap like a pretzel. At the same time power steering was becoming popular. If you curbed the wheels and turned them into the curb the upper A-arm would snap. This could also happen if a large hole was hit in the road. The 1958 model had the same problem. The fix came in 1959 with stamped steel control arms. There was many a Monday morning we came to work and saw a 57 or 58 in the service yard listing like a sinking ship due to a broken A-arm.

Rivera Engine Size

All 1963s had a 401. All 1964s had a 425 and yes dual quads were available in 64. 1965 single 4 barrel was a 401, dual quads were a 425. All 1966s had a 425. In 1966 the 425 was painted red.


Story by Phil

“In the old days bigger meant better. From 1959 thru 1966 the air cleaner decal on Buick was the engine torque not the cubic inches. Starting in 1967 cubic inches was used…”

1959-1966 401 cu. In. Nailhead
1961-1963 198 V-6
1962-1963 215 cu. In. all aluminum V-8
1964-1967 225 cu in V-6
1964-1967 300cu. in. V-8 aluminum heads in 1964 only
1964-1966 425 cu in Nailhead (optional dual quads)
1965-1966 400 cu in Nailhead, this was really a 401 engine
1966-1967 340 cu in
1967-1969 400 cu in new design
1967-1969 430 cu in
1968-1980 350 cu in
1970-1976 455 cu in
1975-current 231 cu in V-6 (optional turbocharger or supercharger)
1982-1984 4.1 liter V-6
1982-1985 3.0 liter V-6
1989-1991 3.3 liter V-6

Other GM engines used in Buicks

1968-1974 250 cu in inline six by Chevrolet
1976 260 cu in Oldsmobile
1977-1980 350 cu in Oldsmobile
1977 350 cu in Chevrolet
1977-1979 403 cu in Oldsmobile
1978-1980 305 Chevrolet
1980-1985 2.8 liter Chevrolet V-6
1981-1990 307 cu in Oldsmobile
1981 265 cu in Pontiac
1986-1991 Quad four Oldsmobile 4 cylinder dual OHC
1982 1.8 liter Chevrolet 4 cylinder
1982-1986 1.8 liter OHC Pontiac 4 cylinder (optional turbocharger)
1987-1989 2.0 liter OHC Pontiac 4 cylinder (optional turbocharger)
1988-1991 3.1 Chevrolet V-6

The 1977 California emissions standards were the cause of the disappearance of the Buick built V-8 engines in California. Pontiac V-8 engines also failed to comply. Gone were both the 350 and the 455 Buick V-8s. Federal emissions standards weren’t as tough and the engines stayed around until 1980, both failed the 1981 federal standard.

Starting in 1977 GM started substituting engines the same way Ford and Chrysler had done for years. The engine manufacturer was determined by the size. When you opened the hood you never knew what to expect. The first 1977 Regal we got in with a 350 Chevrolet V-8 under the hood got quite a laugh from all of us. It was also a sad day as we all had a lot of pride with the Buick heritage.

Up to 1976 items were added to engines to reduce emissions. Starting in 1977 reduced emissions was considered when designing an engine. Reducing the bore while maintaining the same stroke was one way to accomplish this. A good example of this was the 403 Oldsmobile V-8. Introduced in 1977 it failed the 1980 emission test. For 1980 its replacement was the 350. The 350 failed the 1981 emissions test. Starting in 1981 was the 307. These three engines all have the same stroke, the pistons kept getting smaller. When this is done you loose low-end torque and the maximum horsepower is developed at a higher rpm. Fuel injection was not around for these engines and they were all gutless wonders. To get the desired acceleration you really had to put you foot into the throttle and as a consequence the gas mileage was bad.

Starting around 1985 with the technology, computer and fuel injection available, engines started to get back the torque and horsepower of yester year and meet the emission standards of today. The pick-up trucks need for high torque at a low rpm you see the V-10 by Ford and Chrysler. Turbochargers are common now as well as superchargers. In 1957 the Chevrolet Corvette with a 283 cubic inch engine produced 283 horsepower. One horsepower per cubic inch was impressive and had never been done before. Today that’s nothing. Take the Buick V-6 for example, 231 cubic inches, 285 horsepower and 30 miles per gallon. We have come a long way haven’t we.


14 Sep, 2010

Buick Stories – Buick Firsts I Remember

Posted by admin under Buick Stories
Story by Phil

“Great care was taken to achieve a smooth shifting transmission. We weren’t sad to see the Dynaflow and Dual path go…”

Around late 1963 Buick Motor Division took over the GM Hydromatic division. Their first project was to be the Turbo Hydromatic 400 three-speed transmission. It came out in the upper series Buicks in 1964. They also developed the Turbo Hyrdomatic 300 two speed for the lower series. Engines were developing more horsepower and the days of the fluid drive Dynaflow were gone.

Great care was taken to achieve a smooth shifting transmission. We weren’t sad to see the Dynaflow and Dual path go. The Dynaflow had a cast iron case, was almost as heavy as the engine and not easy to remove. The air-cooled Dual path would overheat in city driving. The two new transmissions had an aluminum case and weighted a lot less than iron. The 1964 ’65 and ’66 models had a switch pitch torque converter and an anti creep feature.

Two electric switches on the throttle linkage controlled these. The one adjacent to the carburetor controlled the variable pitch torque converter. A high stall speed from the converter gave you a great take off from a stop and a low stall speed gave better fuel mileage with lower engine rpms. A second switch was mounted up by the firewall on the vertical throttle rod. This controlled the anti creep feature. At idle it would reduce the oil pump pressure in the transmission. The idea was you could remove your foot from the brake while the trans was in gear and the car would not move.

1967 would be the last year for the THM 300 to be replaced by the THM 350 again designed by Buick. Both the THM 400 and 350 would be the most common transmissions used in GM cars and trucks for years to come. The THM 400 was the favorite choice for the racing enthusiasts and was considered the strongest transmission available for a long time.

In 1971 the Rivera was the first GM car to use the integrated voltage regulator. Internal inside the alternator was this little circuit board taking the place of the box mounted on the firewall. It was later used on all GM cars and trucks.

The 1974 Buick had a dual air bag option on the Rivera and Electra – we sold one of each. The mechanics were cautioned to disable the system before electrical work. Should the bags deploy it would total the car. Cost of repair exceeded the price of car. Also in 1974 the high-energy ignition system known as HEI was an option on both the 455 and 350 engines. It became standard on all 1975 and later GM cars and trucks.

1977 brought rear disc brakes to the Rivera. This was a Delco Moraine system with a single piston. The disc system was also the parking brake unlike the 1963 Bendix system used on the Corvette with the four-piston caliper. Cadillac also used this system.

1978 Skyhawk late production had what was called at the time a C-4 system. An on board computer controlled the fuel mixture and ignition timing. The system became an option on the 1979 V-6 Regal and optional on all 1980 GM cars. In 1981 it was standard equipment on all GM cars and renamed the CCC system. CCC stands for Computer Controlled Combustion.

1978 a turbocharger was available on the V-6 Regal. It increased horsepower from 105 to 165.

1979 the Riviera went to front wheel drive. This wasn’t a first because it was basically a copy of the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. This was not a transverse engine. The engine was like a rear wheel drive car with a transmission that made a U turn to a front differential.

The 1986 Riviera was a nightmare. A 9 inch CRT on the dash made by Zenith. This little television screen controlled the heater-A/C, radio and information display. To make matters worse it had five on board computers. It stayed this way thru 1989 and drove the mechanics nuts. Buick was the only one with the CRT, big mistake!

1991 a supercharged V-6 came out in the Park Avenue Ultra. It was not a racecar but impressive for what it was.


Story by Phil

“One day a car carrier pulled up with nothing but Grand Nationals on it…”

In 1984 Donald Hackworth was general manager of Buick Motor Division. He was into performance cars and decided Buick should be also. Buick had two Indy 500 cars powered by the 4.1 liter V-6 racing version. He also decided to make the 3.8 Turbo Regal a real performance car.

The first Buick turbocharged model was the Regal Sport Coupe in 1978 later to be called the Regal T-Type. The first Grand National came out in 1982 but it was nothing but an appearance package added to the Regal T-Type. Starting in 1984 fuel injection was added to the Grand National along with a drastic appearance change.

Like the Model T Ford it only came in black. Two-tone black and gray interior was the only choice. It had lots of power once you got the rpm up but from a standing start it was sluggish. 1985 didn’t change from the ’84. All GM divisions have an experimental lab. Buick called theirs “The Hobby Shop”. In 1985 the guys that worked there asked Hackworth if they could make the Grand National a REAL performance car. He gave the go ahead and the 1986 model was drastically changed.

A larger front mounted Garrett brand turbo, intercooler, larger exhaust and many other small changes. A regular production car that would run the quarter in under 14 seconds and the Buick class to go along with it. Affordable too, with a window sticker on a fully loaded one around $18000. Two versions of this were built. The Grand National and for those that didn’t like black the Regal T-Type.

The T-Type could be had in any color you wanted both interior and exterior. It also could be built with leather seats and a column shift. Mechanically the cars were the same. You don’t see too many 86 models because they got delayed in the emissions testing lab for about 6 months. The same two cars were built in 1987 and are considered collector cars.

The dealer network was also the cause of low sales in 1986 and the first half of 1987. At that time most Buick dealers were up there in age and had been in business a long time. Mine for example was 60 years old at the time and had been in the same location since 1946. The Buick customer tended to be of the older generation also. Dealing with the younger generation wasn’t something the dealers were used to or liked. Test drives were a real problem, my dealer wouldn’t allow it. After 1978 and 79 most Buick dealers had had it with turbocharged models because of customer complaints. Starting in 1980 at my dealership they became a special order car only with a warning to the customer and a large deposit.

We weren’t the only dealership that felt this way. From 1980 to 1985 we sold around two per year. In 1986 sold one Grand National and two Regal T-Types. In 1987 due to several magazine articles about the 1986 and early 87 Buick turbo cars the word got out about how fast and nice they were. The show room was flooded with customers wanting to see them. The customer was different than before. Most were male between 30 and 45 years old. They knew all about the car before coming in, didn’t want a test drive, and had the money to pay for it.

Most dealers love cars that make them money and the 1987 Grand National became one of them. We started stocking lots of them, fully loaded with exception of the T bar roof with removable glass panels. The Regal T-Type also was in demand. At our dealership the “Limited” model with leather seats was the most popular. Because of dealer demand for the car GM ran the assembly line on the 87 Regal till late December. An additional 10,000 Grand Nationals were built between September and December 1987. One day a car carrier pulled up with nothing but Grand Nationals on it. I should have taken a picture of it but didn’t have a camera.

1987 was to be the last year for the rear wheel drive Regal, T-Type and Grand National. The assembly plant in Pontiac Michigan was getting old and was one of the few remaining rear wheel drive plants GM had. Sales had slowed down on the model as a whole and the car didn’t have the popular “Euro” look. The name Regal was carried into 1988 but it would be a smaller front wheel drive car powered by the Chevrolet 2.8 V-6.

The engineers in the Buick hobby shop wanted the Grand National to go out in great style. The plan was to pull only 547 of them off the assembly line at random. Two companies outside of Buick would modify these cars. ASC and McLaren were selected to do the modifications. The car would be called the GNX. It stands for Grand National Experimental. Both appearance and performance changes would be made to the GNX. Each car would bare its own number on the right side of the dash. The project, headed up by Mike Doble, started mid 1986 and the cars to be released in late 1987 and 88.

August of 1986 saw a change for Buick. Donald Hackworth left and Ed Mertz took over as general manager. With the departure of Hackworth gone was the Indy 500 car and the hopes of a Buick performance car in the future. Surveys were taken and it was learned Buick owners weren’t interested in racing and 80% of them were golfers. Hence the Buick marriage to the game of golf. Mertz almost stopped the GNX, as he didn’t see the need for it. It was learned he loved the portholes on the older Buicks. At the last minute portholes were added to the GNX before it was shown to Mertz. It was hoped this would help in obtaining permission to complete the project. Whether it helped or not, is unknown but Mertz gave his approval.

After the GNX project the Buick “Hobby Shop” was renamed the “Craft Center” and built the 1988 Reatta. Ed Mertz did find the GNX useful as a marketing tool for dealers. There was more then 547 Buick dealers in the USA in 1987-88 and not enough cars for all the dealers. Dealers had to qualify to get one. The 1988 FWD Regal had a 6-month early release. Mertz wanted to get a jump on the new design 1988 Ford Thunderbird. It was thought the T-Bird was its biggest competitor. Qualifying for the GNX was based on how many 1988 Regals the dealer sold. Two my knowledge only one dealer got two.

There are a lot of good web sites out there with GNX information about the car along with some very good books. It was truly the “Grand National to End All Grand Nationals”.


14 Sep, 2010

Buick Stories – The Walnut Shell Game

Posted by admin under Buick Stories
Story by Phil

“We would remove the spark plug and pour in a small bag of ground up walnut shells…”

In 1953 Buick introduced the V-8. Commonly called “The Nail Head Engine” 1953-1966. It had a high compression ratio and dome pistons. If it was driven conservatively carbon would build up in combustion chamber. When a piece would break off you would swear the engine had a rod knock. This became a common problem because most of the Buick customers didn’t use wide open throttle much. Liquid chemicals introduced through the carburettor would dissolve the loose piece but not clean up the combustion chamber for a long-range repair. This was the where the Walnut shells come in.

We would remove the spark plug and pour in a small bag of ground up walnut shells. Insert an aerator into the plug hole and apply air pressure. As the walnut shells swirled around they would scour out all the carbon. Then a vacuum attachment was inserted into plug hole to remove shells and carbon.

This worked very well with one exception. If you left any walnut shells in the cylinder when the engine started it would break a piston. We got so we would hold our breath, cross our fingers and say a prayer.


Story by Phil

“Buick knew the car would never make it into production because of the protection GM gave the Corvette…”

There were 3 Wildcat II concept cars built in 1954. In 1954 Harlow “Red” Curtis was president of GM. His daughter, who was a teenager at the time, was a customer of my dealership. He lived in Flint and New York City in the summer and Florida in the winter.

In the winter of ’54 one Wildcat II was shipped to Florida for Harvey to use and he let his daughter have it. It was fun to hear her stories of driving it around and the attention she got from it. Hers was dark blue with white leather interior.

A while back I read somewhere, I think it was in Old Cars Weekly, that someone had a Wildcat II in their collection and that it might be for sale. I was talking to my factory rep about it one day and he confirmed one was missing. He said apparently there was an older man running the car crusher at the time that was due for retirement soon.

When there were multiple cars of the same model to be crushed he would hide one. Later it would disappear. This happened to more than just the Wildcat II. In his last trip to Flint the word was GM was actively looking for the car. One is in the Sloan museum in Flint.

Buick knew the car would never make it into production because of the protection GM gave the Corvette. De Lorean tried the same thing with a two-seated fiberglass 1966 Firebird and was told, put a rear seat in it and you can produce it.

Some where under my house I have a nice color photo of the one in the Sloan museum. When I get a chance to did it out I will send it to you. There is a photo of it in the book “Buick the First 75 Years”


14 Sep, 2010

Buick Stories – A Carburettor Story

Posted by admin under Buick Stories
Story by Phil

“The Q-jet is the easiest carb to work on and has the best interchange of all GM carbs….”

From the old Carter WCFB the Buick 401 went to the Rochester 4 GC. It was a better carburetor but presented a problem with Buick. Because most Buick owners never floored their cars and the 4 GC used four float chambers the gas in the secondary float bowls would go stale. This gas would varnish up and clog up the rear half of carb.

Then came the Carter AFB. Only two float chambers, both primaries and secondarys share a common float chamber. The AFB had a better throttle response but NO gas mileage.

You guys with the Carter AFBs watch the steel plate between carb and manifold. It will develop holes in it where it blocks exhaust passage. This allows wet exhaust to eat into the carb and bind the throttle shaft. We use to change these plates at the 12000 mile tune up. Because the Rochester 4 GC has a cast iron base they don’t use the steel plate.

Also you fortunate few that have a 425 dual quad set up (1964-1965) watch that front carb. If you never put you foot in it the gas will varnish up. The front carb does not have an idle circuit and they are hard to get. If you never floor it block the fuel line off to it.

First introduced in 1965 on the Chevrolet 396 engine the Quadrajet became GMs carburetor of choice. Refined for 1966 the Buick 425 was the next guinea pig. Because of the small primaries and large secondary the gas mileage was improved over the Carter AFB. Finally we are down to one float chamber. The Q-jet is the easiest carb to work on and has the best interchange of all GM carbs.

I have the Delco master carb book listing all the internal specs for GM carbs from 1962-1985. If you have replaced your carb with a rebuilt and it just doesn’t seem right the rebuilder probally changed something internally. Holly brand remans are known for doing this. This book can give you the proper internal specs i.e. jet size, primary rod size, primary piston and spring size, secondary rod size, secondary rod holder size and more.

There are about five different casting if the Q-jet the choke set up being one of the big ones. Using the correct casting for the engine you can change the internal parts to make it work on different engines.


Story by Phil

“If someone had told me in the 60s that the Buick V-6 would be the most common engine found in all GM cars I would have laughed at them…”

In 1960 Buick was interested in producing a small car with higher gas mileage. AMC’s Rambler American, Ford Falcon, and Chevrolet Corvair were all doing well. Buick thought a small luxury car would do well also. Introduced in 1961 were the Buick V-6 Special and Skylark series. It was a 198 cubic inch one-barrel carb ODD fire engine. They were called odd fire because like the V-8 two connecting rods shared the same crankshaft journal. This meant that a 360-degree rotation could not be divided equally with only six cylinders. Four cylinders would fire on equal degrees, and then a coast period, then two more would fire then another coast. If you look at the distributor cap you will see the wires are not spaced out even. Because of this the engine idled very rough. Soft engine mounts were used to try to prevent the shaking from being transmitted into the body of the car.

In 1964 the V-6 was enlarged to a 225 cu. in two-barrel carb engine. Rated at 155 HP it had a lot of torque and was quite peppy. Still an odd fire engine with the rough idle. It stayed this way until 1967. Buick decided they no longer needed the engine and would use the 250 cubic inch Chevrolet in-line six in its place for 1968. They sold the engine to AMC for use in the Jeep. The Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) also used the engine for its stringer mount out drive boat applications.

In 1973 Buick came out with the Apollo, a modified version of the Chevrolet Nova. Two engines were available, the Buick 350 V-8 and the 250 Chevrolet in-line 6. They were sorry they sold the V-6 and went to great expense to buy it back. Reintroduced in 1975 it came back as a 231 cubic inch. odd fire engine rated at 150 hp. The Apollo was renamed the Skylark and the V-6 was the primary engine. Also the 1975 Skyhawk came out and the V-6 was the only engine available. In 1976 it became available in the Regal.

The rough idle from the odd fire V-6 was getting to be a problem. The rough idle just didn’t go with a luxury car. In 1977 ½ the crankshaft was reworked. Each rod had its own journal. Now the 360-degree circle was divided equally. Still a 231 cu. In. engine it now had a smooth idle. Horsepower was now at 105. The EVEN fire V-6 became the primary engine for the redesigned 1978 Regal. At 750 pounds lighter than the 1977 model the engine was adequate.

In 1978 a turbo charger was add on the Regal Sport Coupe. The idea was good gas mileage AND the extra power when it was needed. This version was rated at 165 horsepower. It was a great idea on paper but Buick wasn’t the car for a turbo in 1978. These engines mandated a 3 month or 3000 mile oil and filter change to maintain the turbo. Buick owners tend to over look service intervals. Many turbos failed because of this at a high expense to the owner.

Because of gas mileage concerns the V-6 found its way into the Electra 225 and even the Cadillac Deville in 1981. GM had been delaying fuel injection for a long time because of the expense. New smog standards forced them into it in 1985. Buick’s first model was the 1984 Grand National. Fuel injection and a turbo made it a runner for its time. This gave the V-6 a real boost in horsepower. The engine was also reworked for use in front wheel drive cars like the 1985 Century at 150 horsepower. A very lightweight car it was a good runner also. Up to this point the V-6 was referred to as a “231” or “V-6″. In 1985 it was called the “3.8”

1986 brought Buick back to the performance car it was in 1970 with the GSX. The Regal T-Type and Grand National sported the 3.8 with fuel injection, large Garrett turbo, and an intercooler. At 275 horsepower it ran the quarter mile in under 14 seconds. Zero to 60 times in less than 5 seconds. These intercooled cars were built from 1986-87 and are considered collectors cars now.

1987 ½ the 3800 came out. This was a front wheel drive 3.8 with a counter balance shaft. A real smooth engine rated at 165 horsepower. We called it a “thirty eight hundred” so as not to be confused with the 3.8

1990 a tuned port intake plenum was added and horsepower now 170. We called this engine the “3800 tuned port”. 1991 on the Park Avenue Ultra a super charger was added. Unlike the turbo that had a low rpm power lag the belt driven super charger didn’t have this problem. It was no Grand National but had a lot of kick for a front wheel drive car.

The current version is called the “Series II”. Its smooth as glass, high torque, good horsepower, can take heavy loads, and great gas mileage. It is used in many GM models including the Camaro and Firebird. If someone had told me in the 60s that the Buick V-6 would be the most common engine found in all GM cars I would have laughed at them.