Car Feature: The Survivor


*photography by: the author

Over the years, fewer and fewer of these bad Buicks rule the roads. Some may have been left to rot in the elements for far too long in some backyard, some were wrecked and parted out, others have been stolen or even worse, made a date with the crusher, sealing their fate for good. In the late ’80s, there were many more of these cars on the street, and with its turbo six, it was a force to be reckoned when stopping next to one at a red light.

It’s not often that you see a turbo Regal cruising down the street nowadays, unless your neighbor owns one, and he most likely stows it away in the garage, and possibly brings it out on that occasional sunny weekend. That’s like our man, New York native, James “Jimmy” Godette, who now resides in Palm Coast, Florida. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t had its fair share of the street. “I haven’t really played with the car in 15-20 years,” Jimmy tells us as he gets on the gas for a second, and the Regal responds promptly and without hesitation.

While we were driving to our shooting location, Jimmy’s Regal turned some heads. It must have been a combination of a sweet looking ride mixed with some AC/DC blaring from the stereo. The heat had turned down from days prior with overcast clouds blanketing the brutal Florida sun making way for perfect cruising weather with the windows down and the music up.

Jimmy has owned his ’87 Buick Regal Turbo-T (earlier examples were called T-Types) with the removable glass hatch roof (aka, T-Tops) since high school, and it carries sentimental value and countless memories from the past few decades. He purchased it with $18,267.20 in cash and still maintains all of the original receipts and documentation including the window sticker. This beaut normally sits on a lift in his garage next to a yellow 2003 Z06 that still has yet to see its first oil change.

Always a GM guy at heart, he once owned a ’72 Chevelle that is now long gone. If in the rare event of some freak flood and he could only save one of his cars, it would be the Buick all day, everyday. Although Jimmy may be the original owner of the Buick, the car isn’t all original. “I didn’t just buy parts – when things broke, I just upgraded them as it happened,” Jimmy tells us.


One night while given the green light for a street race with a cop buddy, he melted a piston and had to bid farewell to the original motor. Shortly after that happened, he ordered a brand new Buick short block, dropped it in and installed Wiseco forged pistons, Manley stainless steel valves, and upgraded to a Precision TE44 turbocharger. The transmission needed to be rebuilt so he had that done, and then he added a Pat’s higher-stall torque converter, mild performance cam and a set of 60-lb. fuel injectors. Prior to the new crate motor, Jimmy tells us that the car ran 13.1 seconds in the quarter-mile.

While in Oceanside, New York (located on Long Island), Jimmy didn’t have a garage to store the car in. One day, a large storm rolled through the area dropping large hail leaving the hood damaged with multiple dents. Jimmy then fixed the hood, grabbed a spray gun and some OEM paint and then he sprayed the hood himself in his yard. To this day, the hood looks like it rolled off of the assembly line that way.

Other parts that Jimmy has installed over the years include a high-output fuel pump, Turbo Tweak performance chip, K&N cold air intake and air filter, and a Hooker cat-back dual exhaust. The car still sits on the stock 15-inch wheels wrapped with BF Goodrich tires. The car was a radio delete car, but that has changed. Jimmy added a Panasonic CD player with two 10-inch subs at 400 watts a piece. The stereo system certainly agreed with the nostalgic ’80s rock.

After all this time, the car still has only about 90,000 miles on the clock, and less on the newer motor. They say when there’s one, there’s usually another, and Jimmy tells us that he has a long-time friend of 39 years who owns an all-original T-Type turbo with just 20,000 on the odometer. That could certainly make for another interesting story.

We can really appreciate a Regal like Jimmy’s, especially since this particular example has become a survivor; living through almost thirty years, a broken engine, a hail storm, and a move from New York to Florida. It has stood the test of time, even with being overshadowed by newer cars that are just chock-full of technology, refinement and much more power. But you can take your creature comforts and leave us with our old-school American Muscle any day of the week.



  • CAR: 1987 Regal Turbo-T
  • OWNER: James “Jimmy” Godette
  • ENGINE BLOCK: Buick 3.8L V6
  • CRANKSHAFT: stock; 3.8L
  • PISTONS: Wiseco; forged
  • CAMSHAFT: Unknown; custom grind
  • INDUCTION: K&N open element filter, stock MAF, stock TB
  • POWER ADDER: Precision; TE44 turbocharger
  • BOOST: Undetermined
  • IGNITION: Stock coil pack
  • EXHAUST: Stock exhaust manifolds, Hooker Y-pipe and catback
  • FUEL DELIVERY: Hi-volume fuel pump, 60-lb. injectors
  • OILING: Stock
  • TUNING: Turbo Tweak performance chip
  • CONVERTER: Pats; high-stall
  • FLEXPLATE: Stock
  • REAREND: OEM 8.5-inch, 3.42 gears, limited-slip, axles
  • SUSPENSION: Stock components, polyurethane sway bar bushings
  • BRAKES: Stock
  • WHEELS: Stock; aluminum (15×7 front and rear)
  • TIRES: BFGoodrich COMP TA; 225/60/25 (front and rear)
  • BEST 1/4-MILE ET: 13.1 (prior to engine rebuild)

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