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early eighties turbo leSabre


rtabish
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i saw something unusual the other day in the wrecking yard, an early '80s LeSabre with a 3.8 and a turbo. were these rare or uncommon? could the turbo be implemented on a V-8 using the stock manifold and carb? should i think about buying the whole car from the wreckers and fixing it up? have i had too much turkey and stuffing to think clearly? thanks.

rob.

'74 century

'67 special

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I think that turbocharged Le Sabres were made from 1978 to 1980 I have never seen newer ones but they might exist. The 78 and 79 turbo coupes looked very nice but I have not seen one recently. I remember seeing one many times when I used to go visiting my grand parents in Fort Lauderdale. It was parked beside a garage for years and was still there the last time I went to Florida. These are my favourite post 1976 GM cars.

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thanks for the "Before Black" web site info. i had owned a 79 lesabre a few years back that was a great road car if a bit barge-like. LOTS O ROOM! but i didn't figure one would be set up like a GN. in fact the only reason i found the turbo was because it was in the same area as my old lesabre. the long sad story ends with that car having been sold to a nice older lady with a really immature and backwords thinking son. you can figure out what happened to my old car in the hands of this punk. yet i stray from the subject. once again, thanks

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The same 3.8L Turbo was also available in Monte Carlos during that same time frame. It was a "higher power" alternative to the 305 Chevy V-8, but not by much.

The first year Turbo Monte Carlo that a salesman had as a demo back then clattered anytime the accelerator was depressed significantly (the knock sensor was not quite calibrated to keep all of the spark knock out as later ones did). It wasn't just a "trace rattle" either, or at least struck me as not being a trace rattle, but I supsect any further timing retard would have killed too much power back then.

The oil seals on the turbos had some problems as time and miles accumulated. In a few cases, the seal on the output side of the impeller would coke up and deteriorate and basically evacuate the oil in the crankcase via the tail pipe over a period of time. Most customers did not check their oil often enough to be aware of this so they ended up buying a turbo center section AND a long block assembly.

There was one Riviera Turbo 3.8 that we had problems keeping the turbo operational due to the fact the oil supply lines were gunked up from non-maintenance. The extended warranty company said they would cease to cover that vehicle unless the turbo was removed and the customer was unhappy with all of the problems they didn't know they had.

Many early turbo customers weren't aware of the dynamics of how a turbocharger operated and functioned, other than that it made a little engine act like a bigger engine under full power. They had no conception or comprehension that the turbo was supplied with oil by the engine so that when the engine stopped and the oil pressure ceased, the turbo impeller could still be hot and spinning 10,000+ rpm. Plus that until the turbo got oil pressure after sitting overnight, the impeller was spinning basically without lube. Key thing--don't race the turbocharged cold engine just after startup with a turbo (before the oil pressure gets fully "there") and don't immediately kill the engine after a hard run (as the impeller's still spooled up more than normal, let it idle about a minute or so before shutting down so the impeller can slow down). These are little things you don't consider, but I saw in print in a Ford Service publication about how to "live with a turbo engine".

In short, one of these various GM vehicles with the early Buick 3.8L Turbo engine might well be collectible some day, they can be rather expensive to maintain and repair. Not that they weren't good motors or setups for their time, it was at the basic infancy of automotive turbos in those earlier times. Chrysler later made "turbo" a common word when they became the world's largest supplier of turbocharged engines in the 1980s (and elevated the "art" of making a turbo last in the process). Later 3.8L Buick Turbo engines with their sophisticated electronics and other advancements/enhancements are in a whole different ball game.

As I recall, those earlier engines were carbureted and not fuel injected. It made the turbo easier to adapt with a little extra plumbing, but did not work nearly as well as with fuel injection.

As for performance potential, the accepted limit for the amount of horsepower that a front drive transaxle could transmitt to the ground back then was 200 horsepower. This was basically an industry-wide limit and explained why that was the upper limit of power for fwd cars in that time frame, regardless of brand. Therefore, with the other factors involved, unless the transaxle is seriously upgraded, it's not feasible to even consider any type of high performance modification for this setup.

Usually, the Turbo 3.8L V-6 in a LeSabre was paired with the F41 suspension calibration for a modest performance image of sorts, but nothing near what the later GNs were capable of. Basically, they were nice Buicks with a higher technology engine than normal that were good driving and running cars but not "hot rods".

That's how I remember them when they were new.

NTX5467

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There were some black LeSabre coupes for a few years in the later '80s as you described. Upgrade suspension and tire/wheel package and with the normal 3.8L V-6 of those years. At the last Flint BCA meet in the later '80s, there were also some black LeSabre coupes (with bench seats) on display that were part of a promotion Buick did at a NASCAR track like Darlington. Seems like they supplied about 50 or so of those cars for that event. (Strange how little bits of Buick history like that get lost during the 12 years that a Buick must exist before being allowed into a judged BCA event.)

One of our chapter members bought one of those black coupes (not the promotional ones) and owned it for a while. A nice car that was distinctive and "not everywhere".

I did notice that LeSabre couples built in Flint during that time frame had a higher build quality and slicker paint than those built in the other plant.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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The black Le Sabre you are talking about a 1987 to 1989 T/Type or the rare 1986 Le Sabre Grand National of wich only 117 were produced. I have seen one only once a few blocks away from the Turbo Le Sabre I was speaking in my previous post a few years ago. It was a below average condition daily driver with a non functionning taillight and not too shiny paint. I am wondering if the women who was driving it knew how rare was her car.

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