Car Feature: Turbo-T Rehabilitation

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photos by: the author

JDPMedium Rectangle

By Putting Brand Loyalty Aside, Jeff Collop Enjoys Cars From All Corners of the World. This 541 HP Pro-Touring Turbo Buick is His Latest Creation.

Purposefully forgoing logic and reason in favor of passionate and irrational discourse is what makes brand loyalty so much fun. Unfortunately, it might be dead. Gone are the days when a single platform, like the Chrysler B-body, yielded over a dozen different badass models. These days, the only new Chevys worth caring about are the Camaro and Corvette. All Chrysler’s got are the Challenger and Charger. Worse yet, Ford guys must make do with the Mustang and the Mustang alone. So if you’re an impressionable young chap who hasn’t yet determined which team to root for, today’s showrooms don’t exactly offer enough variety to warrant blind loyalty to a single brand. Instead of whining about it, however, late-model guys take a more constructive approach. Many of them don’t care which corner of Detroit—or even which continent—a car originates from, as long as it’s fast.

“Turbo Buicks are weird cars that were diverse and innovative for their time. They’re a natural fit for me.” –Jeff Collop

Take Jeff Collop, for instance. His hot rodding resume includes two Corvette Z06s, several fourth-gen Camaros, a Toyota Supra, a Fox-body Mustang, a Cadillac CTS-V, a Subaru WRX STi, and a ProCharged Jeep SRT8. Despite thoroughly enjoying this eclectic mix of performance machines, the car Jeff’s always wanted is a turbo Buick Regal. Now that he finally has one, it’s been boosted to 541 rear-wheel hp and fortified with a pro-touring suspension that can hang with new Corvettes through the twisties.

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As a kid growing up in Dallas, Jeff picked up a 5.0L Mustang notchback at auction before he was old enough to drive. “There was no internet when I got into cars in 1993, so you had to talk to people more knowledgeable than you, buddy up with them, and then start turning wrenches. No one in my family is into cars, so I learned as much as I could from books, magazines, and other hot rodders,” Jeff recalls. With his newfound knowledge, Jeff promptly hopped up his Mustang with basic bolt-ons and nitrous. While it was respectably quick, there was just something special about turbo Buicks that captivated his imagination. “All the kids in my area had Mustangs, and all the adults had Buick Regal T-Types. These cars were untouchable and majestic, and because of their unique shape and powerplants, I found them fascinating. In my mind, I knew I would own one someday when I was all grown up.”

“E85 is very plentiful and very forgiving. As long as the injectors are delivering enough fuel and the timing is correct, the air/fuel ratio can vary quite a bit.” –Jeff Collop

That day arrived due to the most unlikely of circumstances. “A few years ago, I found myself on the wrong end of a bad marriage. I’ve watched friends of mine go down some dark roads as they dealt with their divorces, so I knew that I needed to do something constructive that consumed all that nervous energy and channeled it in a positive direction,” Jeff explains. “I needed something that put me in the garage night after night to burn off all the anxiety and frustration I felt, so it was time to pick up a turbo Buick. After searching for what felt like years, I found a mostly stock ’87 Turbo-T with fresh paint on a Buick forum, and had it shipped to my house in Texas.”

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Upon unloading the trailer, however, Jeff realized the Regal didn’t quite meet his expectations. “The car looked absolutely awful, drove awful, sounded awful, and leaked just about every fluid that a car could leak. It had purple window tint, an aftermarket stereo straight out of the ‘90s, and very outdated modifications,” Jeff laments. Not only was the Regal a huge disappointment, Jeff had no concrete plans for the car, either. “After driving the T-Type around, I hated everything about it except its heritage and history. I debated between building a drag car, doing an LS1 swap, and even considered burning it to the ground. I’m a practical guy, so I wanted to own something I could enjoy and appreciate that didn’t require constant maintenance. Ultimately, I decided to build a modern street car with C6 Corvette Z06 performance that put down over 500 rear-wheel horsepower.”JCTT-3

Before getting into the go-fast stuff, Jeff had to make the car less embarrassing to drive around in. The ghetto paint overspray, ugly 15-inch factory wheels, rotted-out weatherstripping, and faded window tint needed to be addressed. “I had to reduce the LOLs to snickers as fast as possible. I cleaned off the overspray, repainted the trim pieces, then cleaned off more overspray,” Jeff recalls. “It was all over the glass and suspension. After repainting the bottom of the car with bed liner, I replaced the headliner, carpet, weatherstripping, window motors, and every light bulb in the car. I temporarily installed a set of Buick GNX wheels and converted the A/C from R12 to R134A. The car was still slow, but at least I wasn’t laughing at it anymore.”

“I wanted to build a capable car, not a ‘look at me’ car.” –Jeff Collop

With the boring stuff out of the way, Jeff focused on fully revamping the Regal’s tired underpinnings. “When engineers designed the G-body, the suspension was merely something that held the body of the car to the wheels. It was not meant for sports car duty and was not designed to handle well by today’s standards,” Jeff quips. “After installing new front and rear control arms, springs, shocks and sway bars from Savitske Classic & Custom, the handling was much improved.

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The wheels and tires were now the weak link, so I upgraded to a set of 18-inch CCW wheels and Michelin Pilot tires. This elevated the handling to another level, but the brakes were a joke and could not set the car up for a corner to save its life. Upgrading to a Baer big-brake kit took care of that problem, and since this car doesn’t have ABS, it gave me a new respect for hot rodders that learned how to drive before modern electronics were invented.”

“This car forces you to be a better driver, but in the right hands it can keep up with a new Camaro or Mustang on a road course.” –Jeff Collop

Since man does not live by handling alone, the Buick needed a serious power upgrade to achieve its Z06-stomping aspirations. Despite displacing just 231 cubic inches, Jeff’s workout regimen for the little V-6 once again reinforces what made turbo Buicks so popular with drag racers in the ‘80s. By simply converting over to E85, installing a larger Precision 62mm turbo and boosting it up to 36 psi, the wee little V-6 puts 541 hp and 609 lb-ft of torque on the chassis dyno with a completely stock long-block. Granted that E85 is very forgiving of tuning blunders, but Jeff didn’t want to take any risks with the dated stock computer at such astronomical boost pressure. “The MAF Translator II is a device that piggybacks between the computer and the mass air flow sensor. It allows the stock computer to interpret the signal from the wideband oxygen sensor, and adjust the air/fuel ratio in closed-loop operation at wide-open throttle,” Jeff explains. The turbo power disposed of the stock 2004R in no time, so Turbo Buick Performance Transmissions beefed it up with a Summit trans cooler, Jimmy’s shift kit and added a Vigilante 3,200-stall converter in the process.

From the outset of the project, Jeff’s goal was to build a car capable of sticking it to a new Corvette. While hard track numbers would be ideal, the next best thing is a good old fashioned street scuffle. “Coming home from a show one afternoon, a Z06 pulled up and wanted to play on some twisty canyon roads. The Regal walked away from the Vette in the corners, and once we got to a stoplight, I walked him in a drag race, too,” Jeff proudly recalls. More importantly, Jeff didn’t just build a car that helped him through some tough times, but the man who loves all kinds of cars built a machine that all kinds of people can enjoy. “Anyone can appreciate it; import guys, domestic guys, musclecar guys, thug guys, old white guys, and Hispanic dudes. This car is the people’s champ. I’ve loved owning it and building it.”

In the months since our shoot, Jeff has parted ways with the Buick; but not before he built a very stout powerplant that was able to withstand the boost and abuse he had in mind for it. Though the Buick no longer resides in the Jeff’s garage, we have a feeling that it will always have a place on his top ten list.

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TECH SHEET:

  • CAR:  1987 Regal Turbo-T
  • OWNER: Jeff Collop
  • ENGINE BLOCK: LC2; stock
  • CRANKSHAFT: LC2; stock
  • PISTONS: LC2; stock
  • CAMSHAFT: LC2; Stock
  • CYLINDER HEADS: LC2; stock
  • COMPRESSION RATIO: 8.0:1
  • INDUCTION: 3-inch cold-air intake, K&N filter, LS6 MAF
  • POWER ADDER: PTE CEA 6266
  • INTERCOOLER: CAGS V2, 3-inch cold-side diameter tubing
  • BOOST: 36-lbs.
  • IGNITION: Stock coil pack
  • EXHAUST: Stock manifolds; coated by Enigma, Magnaflow mufflers, ATR 3-inch tubing
  • OILING: Stock
  • TUNING: Turbo Tweak
  • TRANSMISSION: 200-4R; built by Turbo Buick Performance
  • CONVERTER: Vigilante; 3200-stall
  • FLEXPLATE: Stock
  • DRIVESHAFT: Stock
  • REAREND: Stock; 3.42 gears
  • SUSPENSION: Bilstein shocks, SC&C front brace, sway bars, springs and upper and lower control arms
  • CHASSIS MODS: Stock
  • BRAKES: Baer; Track System, 4-piston, 13-inch rotors
  • WHEELS: CCW LM20 (18×9.5, front/ 18×10, rear)
  • TIRES: Michelin Super Sports (245/40/18, front – 275/35/18, rear)
  • HP/TQ.: 541/609
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Stephen Kim worked as a staff editor at Hot Rod magazine before pursuing a full-time freelance career. Now based in Austin, Texas, he provides high-quality photography and writing services for the most well-respected editorial outlets in the automotive publishing industry. Some day, he hopes to finish transforming his 9-second Fox Mustang into a 7-second street/strip terror. In the meantime, he enjoys racing his 125cc CRG Road Rebel shifter kart.

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