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Thread: Gambler500 Build

  1. #1

    Default Gambler500 Build

    After many moons of searching for a properly cheap car to use as the base for my Gambler500 build, I had a local shop contact me with instructions to "Swing on by and I may have somethin' for ya." So I do as I am instructed and upon arriving he hands me the keys and title to a 1993 Buick Century aka Miss Sallie (previous owners name). I laughed at him and said "whats this gonna cost me?" his response floored me. He wants to help out someone other than demo derby boys and he heard through the grapevine that I was looking to build "some sort of rally car".

    While this has happened in the last few days I have not had a chance to pick her up to diag the no start issue she had when she was surrendered to the shop, I have been churning my overworked brain on how to achieve the desired results. and then it hit me like a ton of bricks lets see what some forums has produced and I stumbled upon this site. While I understand we are looking at a car that is creeping up on the 3 decade mark I have faith that with the collective knowledge from these boards as well as the skills I posses we can manage something amazing!

    the short list of things to figure out is as follows:
    Diag no start-- (im leaning towards the injectors being the main culprit since she drove until it died in traffic with a healthy service record to back up previous work done)
    Lift- roughly 3" total with a way to stiffen the rear since there will be gear stored in the trunk area (spare tires, jerry can of fuel)
    body mods to clear tires allow a snorkel to be mounted as well as a roof rack.
    brush guard out front
    AUX lighting
    obviously larger tires

    if anyone has ideas or thoughts on any of these points please feel free to post on here so we can discuss them I AM ALL EARS.

    and now without any more stalling here is MISS SALLIE

  2. #2

    Pontiac6ksteawd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Brighton, CO
    GMC Envoy XUV, Pontiac Aztek GT


    Welcome to the forums!

    To further help, would need to know what engine is in it, what is it, or isnt doing, etc.

    It looks like its been sitting quite a while. I would likely start by having someone turn the key while looking down the oil fill hole, and make sure you see valve movement (on the 3100/3.1/3400, and maybe 3800, but not the 4cyl). When you turn the key on, not to the start, just to the on position, do you have a check engine light. If not, the ECU is not getting power unless the CEL light is burned out.
    Brian - Carpe Diem

    I dont have to love my president, or any god, to love my country!!
    More people have died in the name of "God" than in all wars combined thruout history
    01 Pontiac Aztek GT AWD 127k - 04 GMC Envoy SLT XUV 193k

  3. #3


    She has the 3300 and I haven?t had a chance to put hands inside her yet but the shop manager says she does turn over and his tech said ?more than likely a sensor? but the little old lady just decided to not drive any longer due to her age and being on a fixed income ....and I think it?s been sitting at the shop for roughly 6 months. According to several folks it sat under a tree and never got a bath lol hopefully in a few days I?ll have more info for us. To be honest getting it running shouldn?t be too difficult as most of my crew are ASE certified goobers anyways lol

  4. #4


    This could be pretty sweet!

    Believe it or not, pretty much everything you'll want to do has been done before, and can be done again cheaply and easily. Your new best friend? The U-body 'Dustbuster' minivans. Remember how the original Dodge Caravan was basically a K-car turned into a van? Well, the Lumina APV (et al) was basically an A-body with a futuristic van body plopped down on top. So, you can swap shocks and springs on and get a firmer ride and a raised suspension - exactly what you'll want for leaving the pavement with gear. There is actually a member around here who has done just that - also with a 3300 car, I believe. U-body front brakes are also a good bit better than the A's, and swap on fairly easily. Of course, the 3300, being a de-bored 3800, is a pretty good engine - heavy, but good torque and reliability/longevity. If you want to get real crazy, I've even thought about looking into transplanting the AWD system from the later 3rd-gen U-body (Chevy Uplander, et al - also, Buick Rendezvous and Pontiac Aztek) into the sedan, but, probably won't bother, as it's probably a ton of fab work and wiring nightmares. It'd be a little more difficult for you, with a Buick engine, rather than the 60degree Chevy, but engine mounts would probably be the least of your worries there.

    So, you can take this as short or as far as you want. I believe y'all are also budget-limited in the Gambler, but, is anyone really batting an eye at budget on an offroad Buick Century?? Having the basics pretty easily accessible does allow you some room to go crazy on some things if you want (engine/transmission swaps, crazy theme, etc), or, just keep it simple and enjoy the ride. Have you done a Gambler before? It's on my list of things I want to do.

    Edit: Man, internetting is hard. Deleted my first post attempting to add that the 'RalliSport' Century belongs to DarkFox, who you can see here:

    P.S. - If you end up not using those hubcaps, I'd like to have them. They're the same ones that my granddad's Century had, which later became my first car, and I have a plan to paint our racecar to match my old Buick at some point. But if you are using them, I'm sure I can find another set.

  5. #5


    Ive actually got DF's century GSX thread saved to my desktop for reference lol\

  6. #6


    ill answer some questions in a bit im knee deep in some prework madden ATM.

  7. #7


    Ive not been on a gambler before but the idea is awesome to me, and as far as the budget is considered while there is the $500 car "rule" i dont think many people really stick to it seeing as how 90% of folks are running tires well over that limit lol. Im wanting to keep it rather mild to start due to the fact that my small town does cruise ins from time to time and think the idea of rolling in a "rally car" would be a fun change from the typical camaro/muscle car crowds that show up.

    the initial idea so far is:
    get her running and make sure she is road worthy
    use spacers on the subframes to keep the drivline in better shape while also gaining a little lift
    U-van springs (sourced from an old employer of mine at a salvage yard)
    and then comes tires/clearing the body work so no issues arise from larger tires
    and then getting the random fuel cans and roof racks sorted

    I know thats a bit dumbed down but i feel as if its a fairly good starting point.

  8. #8


    That sounds like a good plan - no need to get in way over your head from the outset. I'm currently trying to decide where I want to walk-back our racecar - as much as I want a huge radiator, Lucerne/DTS front brakes, wide tires, etc, it would be really dumb to have most of those things sitting in my carport through the race, because the car wasn't ready. I also like your premise too - I'd wanted to potentially keep our engine donor Century for something similar (RallyX, etc), but, unfortunately we ended up messing it up, and just decided it was better to completely cannibalize it.

    Unfortunately, I can't offer too much help on your first order of business - getting it running. Our parts Century was in the exact same shape - just quit running in traffic one day, was towed home, and would crank and crank and crank, but no start. Ours ended up being the secondary crank position sensor - but, we have a 3100 car, which is completely different from a 3300 car. On the 3100s, I found out that the CPS behind the harmonic balancer won't prevent the car from starting if it goes bad (would have been nice to know that Before we replaced it, but, will remember that going forward) - but, again, 3100. Still GM, so it may be similar. It shouldn't be too hard to find information - I would venture a guess that you could also peruse fixes for 3800s of that era, which is a much more common engine. Can't imagine much between the engines is different.

    Excited to see how this progresses!

  9. #9


    similar story to what happened to ours... driving home and it just shut off and will crank like no tomorrow but no start, should be that difficult to diag. I know the injectors are funny on these but itll all work out.

    I wanted to do a lemons race but not a single person had the desire to do it with me much like the gambler but ill manage it lol

  10. #10
    Senior Member Duke George V's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Lost Wages
    1996 Buick Century wagon, 1992 Buick Century sedan, 1993 Buick Century wagon


    On the Buick engine, there's only one crank position sensor. It's the one behind the balancer. The Buick one is finicky as hell. The sensor is mounted on a bracket, and you clamp it in place. The sensor then has to be realigned a certain distance away from the reluctor on the back of the balancer. I have no clue what that distance is. The bracket is adjustable, and I also have no idea what position the sensor has to be in in order to get the engine running again. Ask me how I (don't) know this.
    Kaiser George IX: 1996 Buick Century Special wagon. 214-SFI. 214k miles. Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down. 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.
    Susana: 1993 Buick Century Custom wagon. 204-MFI. 121k miles. Garage ornament. Waiting for an LR4.

  11. #11


    ^^ i laughed at this way too hard

  12. #12
    Senior Member CorvairGeek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    The Gem State
    1992 Century Special 1996 Century Custom


    I just realized this is a '93 3300. It has the fixed position CPS (as well as TPS), so you won't have the aggravation of CPS adjustment, if replacement is needed. Fixes installed in the last year of production, typical GM style.

    Incidentally, the little wiring harness from the ICM (also '93 specific, like the harmonic balancer too) to the CPS commonly gets damaged over the years.

  13. #13


    Thanks for the info hopefully the yard will dry out for us to get here home soon (its all uphill) and ill be giving her the check over at that point .... mean while Ive located a source for the tires (235-75/15) and some impala wheels to slap on there.

    also I have a machine shop training a guy on a new machine by making some cross member spacers for her. Also I am sourcing some u-van springs as we speak.

  14. #14


    Any updates on Miss Sallie? Several cheap Centurys have popped up near me, and I've had an itch to do something similar for Rally-cross for awhile now...

  15. #15


    sorry for the late response but since the outbreak of COVID-19 ive been working almost nonstop (grocery fun fun) But I do have and update and will post pics shortly BUT i did land some impala police wheels(16s) and spacers for $100 as well as ordered my rubber yesterday. tomm ill get the tires in and ill post more pics then.

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