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Convert to a Carb/Turbo?

(Also read Part II, the Blow-Thru Turbo)

The most common request I get through direct e-mail and the Message Board are in regards to converting a non-turbo Buick 3.8 V6 into a Turbo V6. In order to prevent repeating my thoughts on this over and over, I will sum it up here. This just my opinion; I have done not a conversion like this, but I do know what is involved with this engine. I hope it will help others make the right decisions and know what they are doing before investing too much time and money.

WHY CONVERT? - 90% of the conversion requests come from two starting points. Either someone has found "a complete setup" cheap or someone has just learn that the 3.8 2-barrel is basically the same as the engine as the one in the '87 GN they saw at the Drag Strip (or something like that). Either way, it sounds very tempting because the Turbo is simply bolt on and the engine doesn't even need to removed from the car. The earlier 1978-'83 set up is often chosen because it is cheaper and viewed as simpler to do since it also uses a carburetor. If done properly, it could be a reliable source of power (that's why Buick did it). I think, if done right, this would be a great way to up the HP in a non-Regal application, such as a Jeep, mini-truck, Skyhawk, or anything else powered by the Buick V6.

THINK IT COMPLETELY THROUGH! - I personally do not recommend this conversion is most cases. Please think this conversion completely through. I am not trying to discourage you from having a Buick Turbo V6, I think they are great. I just believe this conversion is much more difficult than it appears. While the engines are very similar, the are many, many pieces involved other than the turbocharger. Also, the results from such a conversion, in most cases may be disappointing, because the carbureted set up does not have the power or potential for power that the more familiar 1984-'87 SFI Turbo V6's have. Please check the Acceleration of the Buick Turbo V6 page for a comparison. Also, you probably trying to do this on a budget (otherwise you would have bought an 1984-'87 Turbo Regal). You may find there are many unexpected things you will need that will put you over budget.

WHAT IS NEEDED - The more you can get the better. Ideally, you would have both the complete donor vehicle and recipient vehicle side by side and would move everything over. I know this is likely not the case (If you had a complete donor car, you wouldn't need to "Convert".) First, most "complete" set ups of far from complete. Here is what I believe you would need at a MINIMUM:

While non-Buick pieces could be used, without all the above, you may as well consider your system aftermarket since you will need to fabricate the items (expensive) and have unexpected problems. Use the above and take advantage of what the Buick engineer's designed. Keep in mind that the 1978 heads had different sized ports and they will be mismatch problems if 1978 parts are used on 1979 and later heads. I also suggest sticking with the quadrajet carburetor. It will fit and is cheap. Change it later if you think you need to.

THINGS TO CONSIDER / PROBLEMS YOU WILL LIKELY HAVE - This is a list of potential problems, in no particular order, that I predict will arise. (I haven't not done this conversion myself, so I am sure I am missing many problems).

THE RESULTS / WHAT TO EXPECT - If done improperly, there is a good chance you will damage your motor. If you are conservative with the boost, to save the motor, the performance will be disappointing. This conversion must be done right to have both performance and reliability. Unfortunately, doing it right and doing it cheaply, which is usually the motivation behind this conversion, aren't always possible.

If done right and expectations are realistic, the Turbo will certainly add a "shot of adernaline" to your Buick V6! I recommend that you purchase a Helm Service Manaul for the model/year that is most similar to your set-up and a book called "TURBOCHARGERS" by Hugh MacInnes

ALTERNATIVES - Here are some alternatives to consider before converting your non-turbo V6 to a Turbo V6.

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