Because: Racecar!

by Toni 7/19/2014 18:33

After attending the Button Turrible race last month, we were hooked! We want to take a stab at running a racecar at the Gator-O-Rama race in Houston in November. Naturally this means we need to find a car, and so we'd been perusing Craig's List and eBay trying to find something to get started with. We found this beauty! A 1996 Buick Century, and as a bonus, it's raced in the 24 Hours of Lemons series before, so it's pretty much ready to go! Hit Back after viewing an image.

The car was put up for sale by the Mystic Lemons team, who have run it in three races, and are ready to move on to something bigger and better than this C class heap. Wayne, the owner, was asking $900 for it, which, considering it's already outfitted with the necessary safety equipment, is a bargain in our eyes.

After paying the cash, and sorting out some paperwork (the car has a Texas title that needs to be transferred), here they are: the keys to Team Radicus's very own racecar! As far as we can tell one key unlocks the doors and trunk, and the other one starts it - not entirely sure why one key can't do both, but hey :-)

Ta-daa! Sitting in our very own driveway is the beginnings of an astonishingly mediocre Team Radicus racecar :-) It's going to get a new theme, although we haven't decided what yet. Let us give you a quick tour of this heap:

On the left side there's an air intake - not entirely sure why it's there, but that's something to learn about. It previously raced as number 606, but Wayne removed his team's markings and advertising, leaving the cute paint job on the front, which was done by kindergarteners.

Looking in through the drivers window at the cockpit, most of the controls and gauges are still there, and we're told work. Including the indicators, which could be amusing on the track. The speedometer goes up to 110 miles per hour - Wayne has said he's hit 100 in the car before, which could also be amusing in a dangerous way!

The rear end of the car is clean and tidy, and the both the front windscreen and rear window are stock. In fact this car is extremely stock, with next to nothing having been done to it except strip it and install safety equipment. This is a good thing, because it means there's not much in the way of tricky suspicious parts to learn about beyond what would be in a standard service manual.

After figuring out which key to use to open the driver's side door, here's the full cockpit. The race seat harness is dated 2012, so there's a good few years left in it, and the roll cage passed Tech Inspection in March 2014, meaning it's up to the current rule set.

In the back the stripped out interior is pretty barren, but that's as it should be. Naturally, any sound-proofing has been removed too, so it's going to be pretty noisy :-)

Looking in from the passenger's side, the wiring is pretty neat and tidy, and it's amusing that the team kept the center console with the air vents and radio. The cage is appropriately padded all the way around, and was professionally made by a third party. When you realize that most externally made cages cost in the range of $2,500, you can see why we think this car is a bargain!

This is a stock GM 3.1 liter L82 V6 engine. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The L82 ("M-code") was an updated, SFI replacement for the MPFI LH0, produced from 1993 through 1999. It featured a structural oil pan, a stiffer redesigned engine block, sequential fuel injection and revised aluminum heads. Output for the L82 was up 20 hp (15 kW), over the previous Gen II LH0, to 160 HP (119 kW) at 5200 rpm and 185 lb-ft (251 N-m) at 4000 rpm. Compression Ratio for the L82 was 9.5:1 and the bore measured 89 mm (3.5 in) while the stroke was 84 mm (3.3 in) giving it a displacement of 191 CID (3,136 cc). This engine is notable for its cooling system issues which may lead to blown head gaskets and cracked heads.
Emphasis added ...

The transmission is likewise stock, in the form of a four-speed automatic, which has issues, currently, with reverse and fourth gear not working properly. Again, let's see what Wikipedia can tell us about the transmission:

The 4T60-E (and similar 4T65-E) is a series of automatic transmissions from General Motors. Designed for transverse engine configurations, the series includes 4 forward gears. The 4Txx family is an evolution of the original Turbo-Hydramatic 125 transverse automatic introduced in the late 1970s. The "-E" transmission is electronically controlled and features an automatic overdrive transaxle with an electronically controlled torque converter clutch.
Knowing there were issues going into this car purchase, we ordered the service manuals for it ...

We didn't take any video, but we did start the car, and it makes appropriate (and loud) engine noises. As it doesn't have a license plate or current inspection sticker we can't take it for a test-drive on the roads, so for now, this will have to do until we can figure out what to do about the transmission.

Guess we need to dig out some cassettes ...

About Team Radicus

This site contains records of our trials and tribulations in building combat robots. So much to learn, and so little time!