Piston Slap: What Would Ed Lister Do?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
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piston slap what would ed lister do
TTAC commentator NoGoYo writes:


I’m faced with a problem that’s hard to solve: the problem of being 21 years old and stuck with a grandma car. I drive a 1995 Buick Skylark coupe with the GM 60 degree V6 (3.1 liter) and a four speed automatic transmission. It handles rather decently for a pedestrian GM product, but as you would expect from a lower-RPM pushrod V6 hooked to a 4-speed slushbox, it has about as much power as Queen Elizabeth II.

I tried to sell my car and upgrade to something more speed freak 21-year-old friendly, but gave up after not even getting close to a sale. My question is…should I sell the car at a rock bottom price just to get a more lively set of wheels, or invest a couple of bucks trying to make the old Buick a bit less of a snoozer?

Sajeev answers:

Were you expecting a level-headed discussion on the merits of Hot-Rodding a potential Sleeper Skylark versus Not-Rodding a better vehicle? From a TTAC writer with two resto-mod Fox Body Lincoln-Mercury vehicles? Here’s the thing…

You didn’t mention a budget, so I’ll assume you’re a typical broke 21-year-old (no hate, we were all there) with far more time than money. And you own a seriously cool car (stay with me here) with a star crossed history. The 1992+ Skylark was such a radical design that it deserved better, but it was a product of a fundamentally flawed General Motors. And, OMG SON will you peep that interior???

Who wouldn’t want to beat the living snot out of some poor soul in a Civic/GTI/ST Ford/FR-S or get the jump on a careless driver in a Mustang/Corvette/Ferrari in a car this…well, this unbelievably, obscurely radical looking?

You think I’m nuts for saying you could shock a Ferrari? Hear me out…

Just like my precious Fox Bodies, the GM N-body accepts a host of superior parts from other GM products, some will be easier than others. Assuming you are good with wrenches and actually want to be a Hot-Rodder, let’s see what we can Google:

  • Suspension: Performance springs, shocks and sway bars ( Addco and from an FE3 Oldsmobile) will be easy to find. This thread has even more fun stuff, and this shows the independent rear suspension available on 1997+ versions. There’s a good chance the IRS bolts-in with minor modifications, from N-body to N-body. I also really, really like this thread.
  • Brakes: Camaro front calipers sound like a nice upgrade from the forums. And the IRS swap nets you rear disc brakes too, supposedly.
  • Wheels/Tires: Larger wheels from W-bodies look like a no-brainer. Who knows, maybe the big, common and cheap 17×8″ wheels from a 1994-present Mustang fit.
  • Powertrain: A manual transmission swap and an upgrade to a better 60-degree V6 (3.4L, 3.5L or the big bore 3.9L, way-hey!) makes perfect sense when the right donor car(s) show up.
  • Education: Learn how to drive your Frankenstein-d machine at a drag strip and a road course. Talent makes up for a premium car badge: believe that!

But wait Sanjeev…how the heck can you get the jump on a Ferrari? You gone crazy?

Maybe this link will inspire you. Or this video:

You are driving the future, so make YOUR future a better one. Can you do an all-wheel drive, fully independently sprung, turbocharged LS4-FTW in your Skylark? In time, I think you can. What are you gonna be driving when you’re thirty…and is it gonna top this?

Ain’t nothing gonna top this, son! I can see it, and it’s been done before.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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7 of 166 comments
  • Kkt Kkt on Oct 30, 2013

    Upgrades wouldn't be a good idea with this vehicle. It runs, but it doesn't have a lot of years left, and upgrades would shorten its life and not pay for themselves.

    • See 3 previous
    • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Oct 30, 2013

      @Lorenzo I got a family mechanic, I can get a shop manual, and I know of a few local salvage yards to take parts from. Hell, if I didn't live in a housing development with an evil HOA and a small sloped driveway, I'd probably just enlist the help of my shadetree mechanic neighbor and his motley crew of wrenchers, because he managed to do an entire engine and transmission swap without a lift and without a few thousand dollars worth of Snap-On tools. Granted, he was doing it into a 1973 Chevy Nova...

  • RatherhaveaBuick RatherhaveaBuick on Oct 31, 2013

    If it were me, I'd keep the Skylark running and save up for a supercharged Regal GS. I love gramma cars. My 93 Towncar was a hit with all my friends when I was 19. All red leather interior... About to buy a Grand Marquis...Comfort is important! The elderly take (or took) great care of their cars.

    • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Oct 31, 2013

      A late 80s/early 90s "box" Panther seems like a brilliant idea for when I have a larger budget...surely '03 era suspension bits and Mustang GT engine upgrades aren't massively expensive. Bonus points for having a cloth top to really convince the cops that your Grand Marquis or Crown Vic will never ever go above 35.

  • SCE to AUX Another outsourced battery goes awry.
  • Jkross22 Nah, If I needed a truck, I'd get a Nissan titan or for nearly the same money a 20 yr old SR5.
  • Kwik_Shift No. It is hideous and jarring to look at. Why would I need this anyway?
  • Jeff From the side profile this gives off Taurus wagon vibes. Nice looking wagon love the exterior color and the interior. The burled walnut interior trim is beautiful.
  • Jeff I think initially there will be a lot of orders for this truck and then sales will crater. Those that want this truck mainly the Tesla fans will buy them and then anyone that wanted one will have already bought one. The Cybertruck kind of reminds me of the Delorean which was widely anticipated and once it was out and those who wanted a Delorean bought one that was the end. Both the Delorean and Cybertruck are stainless steel and both are weird looking. Maybe they could release a new Back to the Future sequence and have Doc drive a Cybertruck.