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Wrenching and Racing- June 2011

After the slew of updates that we had last month, I was finally getting to the end of my "phase 1" punch list. Besides a few appearance items, most of these tasks were created to ensure solid, reliable performance under both daily driving and racing conditions. Speaking of racing, there was a Friday Test & Tune at the local track and I had just two days to get this stuff done if I wanted to make it. So let's get to it!

The first job was to install a new oxygen sensor. This is an important first step to getting the best drivability in any computer controlled car with some miles on it. Here's a picture of it tucked away in its happy home.

Comparison of the old O2 sensor I yanked out vs. the new Denso unit (#234-1001) that I got from RockAuto.com.

Next up was a new set of AC Delco spark plugs. It was my first time changing plugs in this car and all but one plug were pretty easy to reach.

While I had each plug out, I also performed a compression test. Everything checked out great, as all the cylinders were well within 5% of one another.

After the compression test and the new spark plugs were in, I started on the next project- all new coolant hoses and a 160 degree thermostat. Here's all of the old hoses that I fought off of the car. Some of these had been on there for quite awhile and did not want to come out. I shed some blood and invented at least three new curse words. One of which was 'feglet'. Try it, it'll grow on you.

I love Internet Memes. In honor of one of my favorites "FFFUUU", I present my own for your enjoyment. This depicts what happened when I was proudly removing the last of the various hard to reach coolant hoses.

So...that was a bummer! But I'd much rather find a timebomb like this in my garage than on the side of the highway somewhere. So after removing all of the cooler lines and supports, the crusty old radiator came out of its comfy home that it's likely occupied for the last 24 years.

After doing a bit of research, my radiator options were to repair the one I had, get an aluminum replacement ($$$), get a stock replacement ($$$) or go with a new 3rd gen ('82-'92) F-Body Radiator. I chose the F-Body radiator due to it's budget friendly price, light weight and superior cooling performance vs. the tired old stock radiator. Here it is just after ripping it of the box. I also picked up new upper and lower radiator hoses while I was at the local parts store.

With that little mishap out of the way, I could get back to my task list. Here's a picture of the great silicone coolant hoses that GBodyParts.com sells. I also picked up the 160 degree thermostat and PCV grommet from their website. I highly recommend them as a vendor, they are great to deal with and offer just about everything you could ever want for your G-Body!

Before re-installing all of the coolant lines and hoses, there was one more thing to do- valve cover gaskets. They had been leaking for some time and needed replacing. I wasted no time ripping them off.

Ewwww!! As part of this job, I wanted to give the valve covers a little clean up and makeover. First, I needed to strip all of the oil and gunk off of them, then it was time for paint.

Well, until this freakin' monsoon hit!

I love this time of year. 30 minutes after the 'end of days' style deluge, it looked like this:

Now we're making some progress! I used my trusty Dupli-Color low gloss black engine enamel. Oh and what, you don't buy cream cheese by the case?!?

After drying overnight, I sanded down the tops of the valvecovers to expose the natural aluminum finish. Me like!

I've always loved this look - it should've came this way from the factory!

Another small task was to see exactly what chip was in the ECU. While I was down there, I discovered the incredibly powerful and red hot interior light. How thoughtful of GM, placing a 150 watt trouble light dangling just above the passenger's legs. I burned the feglet out of my arm on this miniature sun.

Up next was another item I picked up from GBodyParts.com, the Metco driveshaft loop- a must have safety item for any drag racer- unless you like catapulting your vehicle over the trees or prefer large chunks of driveshaft introduced hastily to your thigh.

The beefy Metco unit replaced this wimpy stock brace.

And it's in! Installation required removing the driveshaft, but the whole job only took about 20 minutes.

With impeccable timing, the FedEx man arrived with my Mickey Thompson drag radials, B&M transmission cooler and used HRpartsNstuff polyurethane engine mounts that I got off of the TurboBuick forums!

Removing the engine mounts took awhile! I got dirty as heck too. As I suspected the stock engine mounts were completely worn out. These new units will improve launch, shifting and all around power delivery. I was amazed that they added no noticable vibration or noise. What a great product.

After eyeballing the transmission cooler for a bit, I decided to mount it where it would get a nice blast of fresh air at all times. To accomplish this I welded a couple brackets onto one of the factory radiator support bars to hold it in place.

It turned out pretty good! You can't even see it with the grille re-installed.

Another task was to excuse the Kenne Bell Ram Air from the car. This was cutting-edge stuff in it's day, but was just a little too fussy and over complicated for my tastes. I found a buyer for it on the TurboBuick forums and off it went.

Here's our completed engine bay! I'm liking this!

My last to-do was go for a nice long test drive and get the drag radials mounted. The drive went perfect and the newly mounted stickies looked just right. I love the design of the factory wheels.

So how did that F-Body radiator work? Perfect! The temperature usually hovers around 162-165 and I never saw it go over 170 on a 92 degree day! This is a huge improvement over the factory radiator, which would creep up to 195 in traffic.

Race mode engaged!

The threat of rain that loomed all day magically disappeared a few hours before the track opened!

Just waiting for the staging lanes to open.

Quick thing...These have to be the world's largest urinal cakes!

I always enjoy going to the local track. I got to see a bunch of my car buddies and met tons of people who really dig Grand Nationals. It's amazing the reaction that this car gets wherever it goes.

As for the racing, unfortunately I only got two passes in. The first pass was a real eye-opener. As I started to brake boost at the line, the car pushed right through the beams! Rats! I left the line at idle and the car bogged for a bit then took off. On the next pass I stood on the brakes as hard as I could and the car still pushed through the lights. It left the line a little better this time, but still returned a horrible 2.27 60 foot time onto an 8.58@87.9mph. I am pleased with the MPH, especially running just 17psi with no tuning at all. With a decent 60 foot time, this is approximately a 12.5 second pass in the 1/4 mile. Here's a video of my second pass:

So why only two passes? Well, the track burst into flames (see below- acutally this was the track staff trying to clean up a MAJOR oil down) and I knew that I needed to improve the brakes before making any more passes. With more holding power, I should be able to build 5-10 pounds of boost at the line, which will dramatically improve the E.T and possibly add a couple MPH to the trap speed. That'll have to wait for a bit though, as I've got a busy couple of months ahead of me. Maybe I'll be able to sneak a track visit in before the end of the summer. Until then I'm going to enjoy crusing the streets in my old Buick!

Thanks as always for reading!