photos by: the author
Lisa Fischer Takes her Buick on the Road Trip of a Lifetime
As the world turns, times change and fads come and go, there’s always one constant; the relevance of turbocharged Buick Regals from the 1980s. What would typically be regarded as nothing more than a forgotten relic from a bygone era, the boosted G-bodies of the Reagan decade continue to soldier on in the 21st Century, thanks to new technology in turbocharging, fuel injection and software tuning.
Over the last three decades we’ve witnessed these cars evolve from 12-second bolt-on combatants to solid 6- and 7-second 1/4-mile missiles. However, there’s that fine line of street car and race car that most have trouble nailing down – until now.
Last Fall, we caught up with Lisa Fischer and her ’87 Buick Turbo-T while at the 2015 Buick GS Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Known as a WE4 in Buick circles, it’s essentially a Regal T-Type with the same all-black exterior treatment as the more commonly known Grand National. Being slightly lighter in some regards (aluminum wheels, no rear spoiler, etc.) it was essentially a lighter and less-expensive version of the GN that only 1,547 lucky buyers picked up in the one-year only model year of 1987.
Lisa didn’t buy her example new, but it did come to her as a result of racing her other Buick; a 10-second Grand National she built years ago, but refused to weld a cage into. However, if you were to rewind the clock to around 2003, we would come to find that she actually discovered what Turbo Buicks were all about through her brother, Shawn O’Conner, while behind the wheel of his modified Regal-T. Six months later, she would have a GN to call her own, and as the “mod bug” bit, the faster the car would ultimately go.
Once she was at the point to where she was getting kicked out of drag strips for lack of safety equipment, she turned to the Turbo Buick forums and found this ’87 WE4, with a blown engine, but with a 12-bolt rear, TH400 gearbox and a cage already welded into place. It would become the perfect platform to build the ultimate street/strip Turbo Buick that Lisa had wanted for years.
With the help of a few friends and her aforementioned brother, Shawn, Lisa and the crew set to work building what would become a Hot Rod Drag Week 2015 legend; setting off across the country, enclosed trailer in-tow and being something of a trending Facebook celebrity. Even with manual steering and manual brakes, the Buick made it across several states in the Midwest, starting from Lisa’s home base of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, without incident.
You can’t build a 9-second street car without a very solid foundation; and that started under the hood. A Buick V-6 block was bored out and stroked to 250 cubic-inches, thanks to a set of forged JE pistons, Crower connecting rods and a Buick Motorsports 3.625-inch crank. A hydraulic-roller COMP Cams camshaft sits inside the block.
Topping off the 250-cubed Buick mill, are a set of aluminum Champion GN1 heads stuffed with T&D Machine rockers and Champion valves – assembled and machined by RPE Machine. A ported OEM manifold helps distribute the injected oxygen into the intake ports with the help of a 70mm throttle body, cold-air induction tube and a K&N air filter. An MSD ignition, distributor and coil upped the entry for the engine’s electronics, while a set of Firecore plug wires distribute the spark to all six spark plugs.
The boosted Regal drinks fuel through a Weldon fuel pump and regulator, paired with 160-lb/hr. injectors squirting fuel into the cylinders at an alarming rate, while the spent fumes exit the engine, via 4-inch diameter exhaust tubing. Of course, spooling that unmentioned amount of boost is a Precision Turbo and Engine HPQ 71mm snail with an external wastegate, that’s cooled with an RJC front-mount intercooler.
With a FAST XFI engine management system taking place of the OE ECU, Lisa’s able to monitor every aspect of her Buick’s mannerisms, with the help of Cal Hartline’s expertise. If that name rings a bell, it’s probably because Cal has been tuning Bucks since these cars were new — under the banner, Hartline Performance. With the help of his trusty keystrokes, he was able to ring out 900 hp and 750 lb-ft. of torque at the flywheel – quick enough to click off a best pass of 9.27 at 148 mph with a 1.27-second short time.
Naturally, the OEM transmission and rear axle wouldn’t have been able to handle such abuse and brute force, so Lisa relied own the TH400 and the 12-bolt that was already in place when she purchased the car. The transmission has been fortified for high horsepower applications, but has also been paired with an SFI-certified flexplate, 3800-stall Neal Chance converter and a Hurst shifter. Out back, the 12-bolt relies on the same gear ratio as the old 10-bolt it replaced, but with Moser axles and a spool.
To further compliment the overall package, and to keep the car planted safely on the pavement, dual-adjustable QA1 coil-overs at all four corners allow Lisa to set the car’s suspension to according to the landscape; be it the dragstrip or the street. She also attached HR Parts N Stuff‘s front and rear sway bars, torque arm and lower control arms to the Buick, in order to launch order and more consistently. Weld Racing V-Series rollers bring the car into the 21st Century in aesthetics, while dropping weight off the scales.
Being a street car, Mickey Thompson drag radials in 275/60/15 dimensions ensure that the WE4 bites on command — not an easy feat when you combine such a substantial amount of power and DOT-legal rubber.
Obviously, bringing the beast to a halt is equally beneficial, so Lisa upgraded the discs in the front and replaced and ditched the rear drums for Wilwood binders on all four posts, not only making the car safer, but much more trustworthy during those sudden 150mph decent in the runoff area.
Since our last meeting, Lisa and her team have been hard at work rebuilding just about everything mechanical attached to this G-body’s frame; from the engine to the suspension – so we’re expecting a completely different car — and a much quicker time on those dragstrip scoreboards come the 2016 GS Nationals!
- CAR: 1987 Regal Turbo-T
- OWNER: Lisa Fischer
- ENGINE BLOCK: LC2; bored and stroked to 250 ci.
- CRANKSHAFT: Buick Motorsports; 3.625 forged
- CONNECTING RODS: Crower
- PISTONS: JE; forged
- CAMSHAFT: COMP Cams; hydraulic roller
- CYLINDER HEADS: Champion GN1; aluminum, T&D 1.65 rocker arms, Champion intake/exhaust valves – built by RPE Machine
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 9.5:1
- INDUCTION: 3-inch cold-air intake, K&N filter, 70mm throttle body, ported stock intake manifold
- POWER ADDER: PTE HPQ 71mm w/external wastegate
- INTERCOOLER: RJC; front-mount
- IGNITION: MSD; ignition box, coil, distributor and Firecore plug wires
- FUEL SYSTEM: Weldon pump and regulator, 160-lb/hr. injectors
- EXHAUST: Stock manifolds; 4-inch diameter tubing
- OILING: Stock
- TUNING: FAST XFI; tuned by Cal Hardline of Hartline Performance
- TRANSMISSION: TH400
- CONVERTER: Neal Chance; 3800-stall
- FLEXPLATE: SFI-certified aftermarket
- DRIVESHAFT: Stock
- REAREND: 12-bolt; 3.42 gears, Moser 35-spline axles, spool
- SUSPENSION: QA1 coil-overs (front and rear), HR Parts N Stuff front and rear sway bars, lower control arms and torque arm
- CHASSIS MODS: Driveshaft loop
- BRAKES: Wildwood discs (front/rear)
- WHEELS: Weld Racing V-Series (front/rear)
- TIRES: M/T Skinnies (front), Drag Radial 275/60/15 (rear)
- HP/TQ.: 900/750 (at the flywheel)
- 1/4-Mile E.T.: 9.27 at 148 mph
- 60-FT: 1.27
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.