Six engineering mules based on three Buicks

By the late 1980s, Buick was no stranger to V-6 engines or, for that matter, turbochargers. The Regal Grand National and GNX were proof of that. However, the brand’s sinister-looking high-performance model was discontinued with the arrival of the 1988 third-generation Regal, which had been converted to front-wheel-drive.

But that didn’t mean that Buick wasn’t still evaluating turbos or rear-wheel-drive.

1989 Buick Engineering Concepts


Buick’s continued flirtation with the unexpected

Believe it or not, all three Buicks pictured above are–RWD. From work within their own Advanced Concepts Group to cooperating with Specialized Vehicles Inc., Buick seems to have been quite busy during 1988.

It took some sorting out but I came up with a total of six engineering mules from early 1989 that were based on three Buick models: three Reattas, two Regals, and an Electra Estate wagon–yes, a huge station wagon.

The kicker is that they are all powered by six-cylinder engines and incorporate one of two types of forced-air induction.

No hot air

1989 Buick FWD Regal Gran Sport SuperchargeThis first car is a FWD Regal Gran Sport. Rather than using an exhaust-powered turbo to force extra air into the engine, the Gran Sport’s trick is an Eaton supercharger, delivering 5 psi of boost.

The standard 3.8-liter V-6 in many Buicks of the time produced 165 HP and 210-lb.ft. of torque.

This experimental Gran Sport’s 3.8-liter V-6 engine is longitudinally-mounted (I couldn’t confirm why) and produced 230 HP and 240-pound-feet of torque. That moved the 3,200-pound car to 60 MPH in 8.0 seconds.

A pair of FWD Reattas

1989 Buick FWD Reatta TurboTo the right is one of two FWD turbo Reattas (the second, not shown, appeared essentially stock). This one is visually distinguished by unique wheels and two round openings in the front bumper.

I initially thought the round intakes were just fog light openings that weren’t being used, but they turn out to be functional. The centered opening feeds cooling air to the radiator, while the left opening feeds air to the engine’s intake filter, and the right opening directs air to cool the brakes.

1989 Buick FWD Reatta TurboThe engine to the left is a hand-built 3.8-liter V-6. For the FWD experimental Reattas, the stock-looking version was fitted with a low-boost turbo, providing 8 psi, while the visually distinct one was fitted with a high-boost turbo, providing 16 psi. (GM Enthusiast magazine reported the low-boost turbo at 12 psi; however, the aforementioned values are from a Buick press release on the cars from January, 1989.)

The turbo is not the same as was used for the Grand National but rather a Garret-supplied T-25 high-response unit that is liquid-cooled and oil lubricated.

1989 Buick FWD Reatta TurboThe low-boost engine delivered 230 HP and 260-lb.ft. of torque, capable of propelling the car to 60 MPH in 7.6 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds.

The high-boost engine delivered 245 HP and 300-lb.ft. of torque, resulting in a 5.7-second blast to 60 MPH and needing only 14.4 seconds to finish the quarter mile. Both engines burned 94-octane fuel.

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