When one thinks of American iron, one thinks of power and there is no better way to display that power than in an old fashioned drag race. They may be into finesse in other parts of the world, but here in ‘Merica, it’s all about the muscle.
Drag racing is quintessentially American in it design and elegantly simply in its execution: putting two cars against each other on a straight track and telling the drivers to put the pedal down when the light turns green. The winner is the one with the most power and the quickest reflexes. It just doesn’t get any more basic than that and it just doesn’t get any more American.
That’s just fine with Alberto Ceja. Ceja, 36, who hails from Hawaiian Gardens, California, is a long time drag racer and muscle car enthusiast. He’s owned many Grand Nationals, Camaro’s and a few turbo Regal Limited’s and has now completed this sweet Buick T-Type. He says that he chose this car because it bridges the gap between the vintage muscle cars and the computer controlled cars of today.
These newer cars meet emission controls and even get decent mileage, but still have that “put you back in the seat” power that he and many others crave. Ceja also says that these cars show that you don’t need huge cubic inches or monster carbs to go fast.
He bought this 1987 Buick a few years ago, and with help from his buddy Pete Flores, has turned it into a car that embodies all of the attributes that he’s looking for in a drag racer. The car was purchased without an engine or transmission, but Ceja already had one that he had built. All it needed was to be stabbed into place.
Though the Buick engine only displaces 249 cubes, it has been totally gone through to allow it use every one of them. He began by boring it out a little and thoroughly balancing it. A forged crank and rods makes sure that the lower end will stay in place even when spinning at high RPM’s. Topping the rods off is a set of J&E pistons and rings, which raises the compression ratio to a healthy 8:1.
To get all that compression to stay where he wants it, Ceja installed a set of T/A SE racing heads onto which went a pair of great looking T/A performance valve covers. The block was then ready to take on the induction system that he had planned for it, and Ceja had big plans.
Wanting to produce as much power as possible, Ceja installed a billet Precision (HPQ71) turbocharger that funnels the air through a Champion intake manifold. To make sure that there was plenty of fuel being introduced, he went with huge Precision 95 lb./hr. injectors.
That combination is one that ensures that the engine will be fed adequate amounts of both fuel and air during even the hardest runs. Now you know why he went with a fully balanced engine and forged crank and rods.
A DLS Camshaft, with a specified 218/218-duration, gets that combo into the combustion chambers with the utmost efficiency and control, which also describes just how the T/A Performance Headers channels the hot exhaust to a waiting world.
Keeping everything moving in the right direction is the Gn1performance pulley system while the factory ignition system, though upgrade with computer tweaks, has been deemed plenty power enough to get the spark to the plugs on time, every time.
With help from the aforementioned Flores and Joe Lopez and a little tuning by Cal Hartline, Ceja says that the Buick dyno’d out to a healthy 717hp to the wheels when running 25 PSI at the turbo. Ceja says that the car was being fuel starved though, and when he upgrades to a bigger fuel pump, he expects to see even bigger horsepower numbers.
Launching the Buick is done with a heavily massaged 200-4R transmission that was built by Pete Flores. It features a BradCo 3600 rpm stall speed, non-lock-up converter and connects to the rearend via a 3.5-inch aluminum driveshaft.
The rearend in question is an 8.5-inch, 10–bolt that Ceja has made up to the task of handling the big launches he has planned for the car. It features an Eaton posi unit and heavy-duty Moser 30-spline axles. The gear ratio is at 3.73, which is good for dragging as well as getting around town without the engine screaming its guts out. Ceja wants to enjoy his car everywhere, not just on the track.
But enjoy his car he does. This isn’t a car that simply goes straight; it is up the task of getting Ceja to the track as well as down it. Though the frame is factory stock, Ceja has upgrade the suspension and running gear to be able to handle whatever fun he is looking for.
The springs are progressively wound Eibach units that provide the right amount of give and take, while the high quality and fully adjustable QA1 shocks allows Ceja to fine tune the suspension to whatever track or road he’s on. That, he says, is the key to the success of his Buick.
In that same vein, Ceja installed HRpartsNstuff anti-sway bars. Ceja knows that for power to be effective, it needs to be controlled, and the combination of the anti-sway bars and fully adjustable suspension, he can go fast and still be in complete control.
And he also knows that controlling that fast at the end of the track is important to his well being, so he installed a set of huge Wilwood disc brakes to the front end of his car. Better safe than sorry, we always say.
The last link of the performance chain is putting the power to the ground, so Ceja installed Nitto tires to the cool looking, 18-inch Intro GT Sport wheels. The rear tires are Nitto NT05 Drag Radial (285/40/18) while the fronts measure out to 245/40/18. The results are that the rolling stock looks good, but more importantly works very well.
The exterior of the Buick has not been changed to any degree, but Ceja didn’t need or want to. The car was missing the engine and trans when he bough it, but the rest of it was in pretty good shape. He did spray on a coating of Quick Silver paint to give his car a little flash, but he said that thankfully no serious bodywork was needed.
It was likewise with the interior as the car came to him in pretty good shape. Ceja like the way the interior looked anyway, so he decided that there were only a few changes that he needed to make, but the steering wheel, dash and instruments are all factory stock.
The major change came in the guise of the seating. Wanting to be securely embedded in this Buick, Ceja tossed the stock seats and went full race with a pair of trick Recaro racing seats. The Recaro’s are built for speed and them and a full harness keeps Ceja firmly in place during quick runs, and keeps him from worrying about the possibility of problems should they (or the wall) arise.
Alberto Ceja is one of the new breed of muscle car enthusiasts. He feels the tug of drag racing’s history and fully embraces the desire to put his car up against anyone who wants to try to beat him one on one. He also sees that there are cars that embody this desire that weren’t built before 1970, that can use alternative methods, such as turbos and electronic fuel injection, so achieve the desired results.
His Buick is testament to that alternative view. It has run 6.34/109.95 at the 1/8 mile Irwindale drag strip and his best 60-foot time is a mere 1.43 seconds. That’s pretty quick no matter what engine is producing the power.
So if you happen to see Ceja and his Turbobuick.com club buddies at the track and think that a seemingly stock looking Buick would be easy pickings, think again. This car is built for straight-line speed, and he wants everyone to know it.