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Thread: 89 Cutlass Ciera Race Car Build

  1. #406
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    So, we are pretty new. I've done one race, and have been following it for awhile, but there's still tons to learn. I am basically counting the car as Free - I mean, I showed up, we put it on a trailer, and I drove away, so I don't know how much more Free it can get. I know we will have some leeway on the budget racing an A-body, but, like you, I still want to keep it 'in the spirit' of things. As far as a potential upgrade engine, an L67 is probably the most logical thing, but I kind of like the idea that, in a race full of Buick engines in not-Buicks, we have a bonifide FWD Buick with.... a Chevy engine. Most of my team loves (LOOOOOVES) Hondas, so I've even toyed with offering to let them put a J35/J35 in it (Hondas V6), but I don't personally think it'd be worth it. Would be unique though! I'd love to figure out a high-value 3900 swap - making it operate basically standalone has to become doable at some point, right? I know someone's been running one for a little while in an impossibly old Volvo, but I haven't been able to find any information on the build.

    For now, yes, we think we've found a good, low-ish mileage same year parts car. We're supposed to go this weekend to see if we can get it running. It would be fun to take to the track with us, but, since we're pulling the engine and transmission, that won't be super easy. Sucks too, because that car has a title and everything, and I think it would be nice to have the racecar street legal. May still see if I can find a way. And, down the road, while I know there's an off chance we could win IOE as-is (although highly unlikely), I think it would be fun to downgrade to an Iron Duke or, if the stars aligned, find a diesel V6 and attempt to get it to run around the track for a weekend. I'd wanted to do a 3400 or an LX9 3500 in it, just for something with a bit more power and, more importantly, better parts/junkyard availability, but, the old SFI 3100 has decent grunt and is far from rare.

    I do want to take the 'pool noodles' off the cage, if for no other reason than to make sure the cage really is in good shape. Painting it would be nice, but we were debating on if we're allowed (figured the judges might want a clear view of the welds). And, I highly doubt it would be kosher, but it would be great to convert the cage at the drivers door from an X-brace to a normal double-bar support - it really is a pain in the ass to get in and out (I honestly think whoever built the cage got the design backwards, because the passenger side has the reinforced double-bar design you normally see on the drivers side). But yeah, going over it and making sure everything is structurally sound prior to putting it on track has got to happen. Car has been racing at least a little over 6 years now, although I'm not positive on when exactly it started racing.

    Funny you mention a muffler - LeMons actually does have noise restrictions, and I can't believe that our basically straight-piped car passes, so we may have to look into some sort of sound reduction. Hadn't thought about it being useful for diagnosing engine issues, but that does make a lot of sense.

    And, finally, the seat. We are not really in the vicinity of Pittsburgh - Raleigh, NC - and I have no idea what shipping on something like that would be. Getting a really safe seat (I assume that's the reason for the containment style) would be really good, especially since, like you said, we don't have rowing gears to worry about. I guess it could be shipped?



  2. #407
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    The things that I would like to figure out are:

    - What's the biggest radiator we can run, that we can either buy cheaply or have a good chance of finding in a junkyard. And we'll be adding an oil cooler - I'd like to do something like an Accusump, but may hold off on that (you can't keep everything too cool, and you can't get too much oil lubrication).

    - What is going to be involved in getting the transmission to upshift at, say, 4500rpm at full throttle? And, can we convert the A/C condenser into a transmission fluid cooler (assuming the parts car has one - the racecar does not)

    - What's our option for the best brakes (I am hard on brakes, and will cook them in a heartbeat if I get focused on something else, like passing that *&*&%$$ Tercel). Someone with a U-van has put on Corvette C5 Z06 brakes, which I would love to do, but they require a 17" wheel (I believe we do have JA2 brakes, with 5x115 bolt pattern). I think that, if they can do it, we can do it, just need to figure out how. It may be a little overkill, but, brakes are a budget-exempt item. I just wonder if it's worth it to go for over something like F-body brakes (but, apparently F-bodies don't have great brakes, so I'm hesitant to 'upgrade' to something that isn't all that great).

    -What are some of our better options for improving/firming up the suspension? The car came with U-van front 'struts' (they're not quite like the struts I'm used to) - they look pretty new, but, they're in the trunk. Figure U-van struts are a good idea, may see if we can fab-up a front strut brace like Lemons Bob uses, but not sure what else we can get our hands on. A-bodies weren't hugely popular around here (not like the Midwest), but, hopefully we can find some of the better models in the junkyard (Eurosports, etc).

    -GAGES. I can't believe they were racing this car with just the stock dashboard (they didn't even put in the tachometer until the last race). We'll need gages for oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp, and voltage, but I'm guessing it shouldn't be too difficult to put inline sensors in, and then just fab up a panel for the dash.

    It'll be interesting. For our first race, I'll probably just try to have the cooling and the transmission shifting sorted (oh, and, uh, making sure we have a good-running engine and transmission in the car), and get some new race brake pads for the stock setup. *Hopefully* that'll get us a good, fun race weekend, and we can see how much further we want to go from there.

  3. #408
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    ?I cried a lot about the issues with my LX9 swap, but really, it wasn't that big of a deal. A couple of custom parts, a reworked "factory" PCM that can be flashed with HP Tuners, bigger injectors, and a couple wiring modifications, and you're in business.

    ?The main enemy of any 4T60E is heat. If you have an external cooler on it, it will probably be fine. Short shifting is a thing you could do, since GM themselves did that in the Series III supercharged cars, to try to keep the 4T65 from being overwhelmed. Would be trivial if you got the '97 W-body PCM from Milzy. Since he did mine, he already knows what modifications need to be done to the connector to work with the stock A-body harness. (Actually, if you want to send me a private message, I think I can help with the '97 PCM )

    ?If you put one of the rare '99 six bolt L82 upper intakes on the LX9 you could probably get away with hiding your swap. You really have to know what you're looking for to identify a 3.5L over a 3.1. The power loss over using the LX9 intake isn't enough to worry about, honestly.

    ?In identical configuration vs stock, my car ran about 0.7 seconds faster in the quarter mile. With shorter front tires and no interior, it gained an additional 0.6 seconds. So 18.34 @ 74 vs 17.01 @ 80.

    I recommend going over my build thread again. There's a link in my signature.

    EDIT: Here are my notes about a brake upgrade. You use parts from a van and work from there.

    Van brakes on car:
    Must use minimum 15" wheels, will not fit under stock 14s

    Need from van at yard:
    Knuckles

    Need for van, new:
    Ball joint
    Brake rotor
    Brake pad
    Brake caliper
    Brake lines, rubber
    Outer tie rod

    Bolt stock hub onto van knuckle, bolt the rest of the parts together as for standard replacement. You can also move up to "Camaro brakes" from there. You would need the caliper brackets from a junkyard LT1 car (93-97) and use calipers and pads for the Camaro, with 2000-05 Impala rotors. Your minimum wheel size would then be 16 inches.
    Last edited by Duke George V; 11-23-2019 at 06:22 AM.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 201k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. Transmission time, again. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 132k miles. Current DD.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

  4. #409
    Senior Member Keiths1976's Avatar
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    What famous rare l82 upper intake manifold do u speak of thought the grand am gt had one of them

  5. #410
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiths1976 View Post
    What famous rare l82 upper intake manifold do u speak of thought the grand am gt had one of them
    Some, but not all, L82s had a one-year-only upper intake that had the new 6 bolt design (old was 12 bolt) with the ribbed "3100 SFI V6" and horizontal EGR. It will bolt on to any later big port lower intake, and looks exactly like the stock L82 upper. I had wanted to get one back when I began my own LX9 swap, but since it's 1999 only, it's hard to come by. Milzy said he had one but wasn't willing to part with it, without explanation. It's so rare that I can't even find a picture of it, but I'm sure you can imagine what I'm talking about. It would not be a performance upgrade for an LX9, but I wanted it (and I recommend for the Lemons car) for sleeper purposes.
    Daniel
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 201k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. Transmission time, again. First documented LX9 swap in an A-body! Click here to read my build thread!
    Goldilocks: 1992 Buick Century Special sedan. 204-MFI. 132k miles. Current DD.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

  6. #411
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    Thanks Daniel. I think we definitely could get together an LX9 swap, but just not sure if it's feasible to get that, and everything else we need done with the car, plus job, plus the holidays, done and solid and tested by January 31st. The wiring in the car is also really sketchy (like, the OBD2 port is just... gone. The kill switch is very questionably wired. And there's no telling what else is weird), so who knows what kind of extra fun problems we might run into trying to integrate newer, more complicated electronics for an engine. But, it's something that's on the table for later - I'm sure that, if we don't blow the whole thing up the first go-round, we'll be wanting some more power at some point.

    As for the 4T60E, in our '96s, is it controlled by the PCM? So, is having the PCM modified the only way to modify the shift points?

    And, thanks for the brake info. I've reached out to the guy who did the C5 Z06 front brakes on his U-body to see what he did, so it'll probably be some combination of the two. Likely won't end up tackling that until after the first race, but better brakes are definitely towards the top of the list.
    Last edited by mthew_m; 11-24-2019 at 02:06 PM.

  7. #412
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mthew_m View Post
    As for the 4T60E, in our '96s, is it controlled by the PCM? So, is having the PCM modified the only way to modify the shift points?
    You can control the line pressure by installing an adjustable vacuum modulator, which can go a long way toward keeping the unit together. Cranking up the pressure will give a firmer shift, which is easier on the clutches and whatnot.

    As for shift points, yes, that is handled by the computer. To my knowledge, HP Tuners and the like are not compatible with the 1996 PCM. I have an extra '97 Monte Carlo PCM already modified for a '96 A-body. I bought a second one for what ended up being no reason, as it didn't fix the issue I was having, and I would be willing to part with it. It has a tune set up for the LX9, which I have also modified, but I'm sure it can be flashed back to a "stock" tune easily. I doubt there's any real difference between the '96 Century and '97 MC tune files.

    However, if your car doesn't have an OBD port, that would make it impossible to access the PCM to even read it. It's good that you bought a parts car. You'll need it. I would start transferring over as much of the relevant portions of the wiring harness as you can.

    Quote Originally Posted by mthew_m
    ...so who knows what kind of extra fun problems we might run into trying to integrate newer, more complicated electronics for an engine.
    I promise you it wasn't complicated. I made exactly two wiring modifications to my stock harness: extended the coolant temperature sensor harness to match the sensor's location in the rear cylinder head on the LX9 (stock L82 location is in the thermostat housing), and spliced a new connector for the throttle position sensor (stock uses a Buick-style TPS, with a three-pin inline connector, every other car has a 2-over-1 connector). That's it. I'm a clown when it comes to wiring, and I was able to do those things.

  8. #413

    Pontiac6ksteawd's Avatar
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    Well how about a crossbread Honda Engine?

    The 3.5 in the Saturn Vue is a Honda engine.. And I heard on some years of the Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 were also the same Honda 3.5 engine.

    Just saying.

    Model year changes[edit]

    In 2004:

    • The Vue Red Line was released
    • V6 models received Honda's J35S1 engine and Honda transmission. This 3.5 liter engine and 5 speed transmission boosted performance over the prior V-6. It was an important selling point at the time. This V-6 engine was used in the Saturn Vue 2004 to 2007 model years.
    Saturn introduced a special high-performance line of vehicles in 2004 under the name, "Red Line". The Vue Red Line includes the same 250 hp (186 kW) Honda J35A3 V6 as the regular model
    Brian - Carpe Diem

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  9. #414
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    Well, we took another plunge on the parts car. We decided to forego tearing into it in the apartment parking lot, and hauled it home for $300. Going to spend some time this week seeing if we can get it running - hoping it does have a good engine and transmission and only needs a crankshaft position sensor, but, we'll see. We figured, worst case, we can grab a lot of parts off of it, sell what we can, and mostly break even. I do hate to tear it apart though, it's actually in decent shape. But, 'tis the way of the jungle. Will keep y'all updated.



    Now that the engine is sorted (well, decided - still lots of work to get it running, and, you know, in the correct car), starting to look at trying to resolve some of the other issues. U-body van experts - if I'm pulling suspension pieces, do they need to be from a first-gen, or will a second-gen fit as well? Dustbusters just never were very popular in this part of the world - I've found 0 in salvage yards or pick-n-pulls, but there are a few second gens. There are, strangely, a few cheap complete (but not fully running) dustbusters on Craigslist, but I'd rather not have to buy yet another car to have to figure out how to deal with if I don't have to.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pontiac6ksteawd View Post
    Well how about a crossbread Honda Engine?

    The 3.5 in the Saturn Vue is a Honda engine.. And I heard on some years of the Saturn Aura and Pontiac G6 were also the same Honda 3.5 engine.

    Just saying.
    That seems like it would be an extremely difficult solution. I really like Vues, and think the J35 is a fantastic engine, but, probably way more work than it would be worth. I believe GM used lessons from the J-series in the high-feature V6, which would probably be easier to use, at least from a mounting perspective. And, no, pretty sure Vue production was enough to fulfill GMs contract with Honda for J35s. The Epsilon cars already offered the 3900, and then a little later the high-feature, so there would have been no need for a 3rd option with similar power.
    Last edited by mthew_m; 11-26-2019 at 03:25 AM.

  10. #415
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    P.S. - I'll try and get some pictures and get it posted in For Sale, in case anyone is needing anything. It's pretty basic, not very many options, but, you never know.

  11. #416
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    Only the 90 thru 96 u vans are compatible. 97 and up is a completely different design.

  12. #417
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlc1976 View Post
    Only the 90 thru 96 u vans are compatible. 97 and up is a completely different design.
    Thank You! I kind of figured that, but, always smart to double-check. May have to take the plunge and just buy the whole van, but, we'll see.

  13. #418
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    been a while since I checked this.

    For the U-vans you will want a 93 or up gen one van. The first few years used the same size brakes as an a-body. ALl you need from it is the knuckle, the other parts are cheap and should be bought new anyway.(they are all lemons budget exempt anyway).

    For the front suspension not sure the u-van struts will get you much. we setup followed an old thread here on how to covert the sturts to coilovers. That opens up stiffer springs and allows you to try and level the car out, I know our front end was a lot lower than the rear after we stripped the car. You don't want to go too stiff in the front though or it will induce more understeer. we also went with the stiffest rear springs we could find. Moog still sells wagon springs for the eurosport.

    As for the engine discussion earlier. the 3900 is a beast of a motor for racing. The vvt makes it so you have 200ft/lb of torque pretty much all the time. Anton is the one who set it up in the volvo and had it in a cavaliar before that. He also is the probably the only person that has what is needed to flash a ecu to make it work as a manual. From what he said, they would leave the cav in 4th and just drive it around most tracks like that, as long as you don't go below 1500 rpm that engine will always have atleast 80% of its torque available which is pretty crazy, but if you lose the vvt its loses its advantage, which is what most people do wrong. My guess is it would take a lot of work to transfer into another car especially the first time, also the manual options are pretty limited most bring other problems, like the trans being for th 5x100 wheel patter which those bearings just don't last in lemons.

    as for the 3100/3400 most of thier overheating issues are due to a bad gasket design, on the street they are fixed by buying the slightly more expensive heavy duty gasket that came out later.(I think they cost like $5 more).

  14. #419
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    i dug up the old thread on coilover build

    https://www.a-body.net/forums/showth...light=coilover

    I know after the original build we had to replace the spring with a longer one since the first one was too short and by the time we had the car fairly level we had pretty much compressed it all the way and had no spring movement left, but it does describe what we did and all the parts were ordered from summit.

  15. #420
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    Hey Bob,

    Thanks for the reply! So, for the front suspension, y'all prefer the coilovers to a stiffer spring from a van? I'll look into that, and see if everything is still available. For the brakes, I think we'll probably jump straight to C5 or DTS brakes, which I believe can be done with just grinding a small spot of the spindle off and making a bracket, so, hopefully that will go smoothly. (one of the teammates is a mechanic who is constantly tearing stuff up and welding and making new stuff, so hopefully a caliper bracket won't prove too much trouble. But, we shall see.) As far as front suspension, what are some other things that we're going to need to watch out for? Anything we should plan to upgrade, or at least plan to fail on a somewhat regular basis (other than the general 'everything will fail all the time' mindset)?

    I would love to be working on putting a 3900 in it, but, like you said, you really want to keep VVT operation, and getting it all working isn't really straightforward. It doubly sucks, because they come attached to a 4T65E, and, if I found a wrecked donor Uplander (et al), could even bundle in a rear axle swap for the rear disk brakes as well! (Although that would mean switching hubs, because '05s were LX9 only). I e-mailed Anton, but didn't hear anything back (probably went to spam). He's about the only example I was able to find of someone making a 3900 swap with VVT work, so I may have to get up with him at some point.

    For the gaskets, if this engine checks out with strong compression (we haven't gotten a tester yet), would it be worth the hassle to go ahead and do the LIM and head gaskets before we stuff the engine into the race car? It'd be nice to not have to worry about, but, also a lot of extra work. I remember reading a lot about them being unusually problematic on the track - it seems like GMs in general suffer from oil starvation issues more than anything - but, you'd be infinitely more knowledgeable than I. We're working with a drivetrain donor with 88k miles, but unknown maintenance history.

    We're planning to be at Barber 31Jan-02Feb. Not sure what of the 'want' list we'll get done before then, but we'll have to have
    - New drivetrain
    - Fresh brake fluid
    - new race-compound brake pads
    - any consumables that we can manage to replace

    What seat do y'all use, and how do you have it mounted? They let us keep the belts (which are still in-date), and I've got a fire-suppression system that should be arriving soon, but we've still got to figure out a seat. Someone offered one a few posts up, but I haven't heard any more from them...

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