trinacriabob

The venerable 3800 V6 engine

40 posts in this topic

Hey, I've been thinking about how many cycles/versions the 3800 V6 has gone through. I can come up with these:

1) original version developed by Buick in the 1960s (sold to Jeep and then bought back)

2) 1970s version, returning in 1975, adapted for unleaded fuel and updated distributor/electronic ignition (odd-firing) (105 or 110 hp)

3) 1978 version, crankshaft journals are offset (becomes even firing) (105 or 110 hp) - remained well into the 80s, powering GM RWD intermediate series such as Cutlass Supreme, Regal, Grand Prix and Monte Carlo (though Chevy 4.3 V6 powered the latter two toward the end of their lives as RWDs)

4) 1985 version, modified for FWD, powers the FWD Olds 98 and Buick Park Avenue/Electra down-sized full-sizes, and used again in 1987 for the new Pontiac Bonneville but not yet called Series I (about 150 to 165 hp)

5) 1990 version, through 1994 (Series I) - has received the tuned port induction system (about 170 hp)

6) 1995 version, through 2003 (Series II) - weight reduction, crappier intake manifold, and increased horsepower (about 200-205 hp)

7) 2004 version, through 2008 (Series III) - powder coating of metals, revised and stronger intake manifold, and electronic throttle control (about 200 hp)

Am I right? Is it a total of 7 versions since its inception? It looks like Series I and Series III are considered the better versions. Comments?

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Series III goes to 2009 with the Allure slash LaX

Series One was present in the Dustbusters for 1995 so there was a year of overlap. The Series I Supercharged engine served alongside the naturally aspirated Series II for one model year in the Buick Park Avenue before the inception of the Series II Supercharged engine.

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Lots and lots of factoids here. Production officially ended August '08. Several displacements besides 3.8 for the 90 degree family. Was surprised to see it was offered in the '75-76 LeSabre...it must have looked tiny in the huge engine compartments of a B-body of that era.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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Lots and lots of factoids here. Production officially ended August '08. Several displacements besides 3.8 for the 90 degree family. Was surprised to see it was offered in the '75-76 LeSabre...it must have looked tiny in the huge engine compartments of a B-body of that era.

Thanks for the link, moltie, and the info on co-existence of various versions, von.

Good Gawd, '75-'76 LeSabre, that's when they were still huge, before the '77 slight "downsize." The little 231 looked funny enough in '76 and '77 Regals. It looked even funnier when the car was a loss leader (ad special) with NO air conditioning and you could see the pavement beneath all around the engine compartment!

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Series 1 Supercharged in my '95 Riviera. Supercharged Series 2's debuted in '96.

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Does anyone know the longevity the old 231 cubic inch V6s - those of the 70s? I heard that the odd-firing versions were not timing-chain-friendly. Still, the other components ought to be unaffected (they were all supposedly non-interference engines). Maybe the even-firing ones did a little better?

(I know that the 3.8 in the '84 Cutlass Supreme was still going strong at 171,000 miles when we sold it).

Edited by trinacriabob
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If you wanted to stretch the number of variants some more, you could also throw in the 3.0 and 3300.

Yes. Changing the displacement some, the 3300, as I recall, was definitely its "little brother." I remember it well, as it powered many Centurys and Cutlass Cieras. I don't remember the 3.0 as being around that long, but I didn't realize it had the same architecture as the 3.8/3800. Nor do I know if the 4.1 litre V6 by Buick of the early 80s was created from the 3800?

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my 77 buick century coupe (regal body) had the 3.8. and the whopping 105hp or whatever.

i ran pretty well actually. it was indeed slow, but it not in an attention grabbing slow sort of way.

and it got good mpg.

there was a ton of unused room under the hood. so much so that kitty used to sleep up in the engine compartment on hot days. one day i took off and kitty came out on the pavement bouncing a few hundred yards from home.

the lack of power was great from a winter driving standpoint. you never put yourself in a dangerous position. and compared to our 77 electra with the nose heavy v8, my century had very neutral handling. i bet it was 50/50 or close to it. i actually used to go out driving during snow storms because it was so controllable in the white stuff.

never had another rwd car that was tame like that in snow.

the 3800 was a good match in that car.

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Yes. Changing the displacement some, the 3300, as I recall, was definitely its "little brother." I remember it well, as it powered many Centurys and Cutlass Cieras. I don't remember the 3.0 as being around that long, but I didn't realize it had the same architecture as the 3.8/3800. Nor do I know if the 4.1 litre V6 by Buick of the early 80s was created from the 3800?

I remember seeing an ad from one of the car magazines in the early '80s advertising the 4.1 V6 and it's mileage in the Caddy de Ville..

Info on the 4.1 and more here...

Wikipedia article

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Does anyone know the longevity the old 231 cubic inch V6s - those of the 70s? I heard that the odd-firing versions were not timing-chain-friendly. Still, the other components ought to be unaffected (they were all supposedly non-interference engines). Maybe the even-firing ones did a little better?

(I know that the 3.8 in the '84 Cutlass Supreme was still going strong at 171,000 miles when we sold it).

Aside from normal ring/bearing/valve wear, I'm not aware of anything that would doom a 231. Definitely they are non-interference. Lots of these well north of 200K.

IMHO, it was the last good clean-sheet or majorly recast engine design GM had until the LT/LS series V8 came around.

I'm going to miss the 3.8, and I doubt the "other" V6 will ever win me over... between the total lack of power in the 2.8 and 3.1 and the 3.4 intake manifolds dropping hot coolant into the crankcase. 15 years after the Series II 3.8 L36, the 3.9 still only has 20ish hp more.

As for the Series II, I'm feel they are a good upgrade over the Series I... the plastic intake is not that much of a problem... the REAL problem is intake gaskets that did not play nice with Dexcool. If you are having the intake gaskets replaced, you can block the coolant passages to the intake, which solves the intake coolant leaking problem near the EGR stovepipe and keeps hot coolant from circulating in the throttle body. Cooler throttle body means better performance. This is all a non-issue on the supercharged engines.

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I actually drove one of those 1976 Lesabres with the 231 V6, back when it was new. The lasting impression I've got of that long-ago adventure is the vibrating steering wheel. One could definitely feel the firing impulses. :)

I decided to stick with my '72 Olds 98 after that test drive.

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'76 brochure doesn't list the 231 being available in the Les, the 350 was standard and the 455 was optional.

Chitlon's '82 manual also does not list a VIN code for a 231 in a Riv/Les/Ele Buick until '77.

http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1976_Buick/1976_Buick_Brochure/76%20Buick%20Pg%2069.html

I would've bet against a 231 being in a pre-'77 full-size... not sure what's RPO here.

'76 231 : 105 HP @ 3400, 185 TRQ @ 2000

'76 350 : 155 HP @ 3400, 280 TRQ @ 1800

'76 455 : 205 HP @ 3800, 345 TRQ @ 2000

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'76 brochure doesn't list the 231 being available in the Les, the 350 was standard and the 455 was optional.

Chitlon's '82 manual also does not list a VIN code for a 231 in a Riv/Les/Ele Buick until '77.

http://www.oldcarbro...%20Pg%2069.html

I would've bet against a 231 being in a pre-'77 full-size... not sure what's RPO here.

'76 231 : 105 HP @ 3400, 185 TRQ @ 2000

'76 350 : 155 HP @ 3400, 280 TRQ @ 1800

'76 455 : 205 HP @ 3800, 345 TRQ @ 2000

IIRC from an article in CA, it was mid-year addition for the LeSabre. It was in an article about how GM bought the V6 tooling back from AMC.

Also, from Wikipedia:

The '76 LeSabre was the only American full-size car with a standard V6 engine, which was Buick's brand-new 3.8-litre (231 CID) V6 engine. The V6 was only offered on the base-level LeSabre and not mentioned in initial 1976 Buick literature issued in September 1975 because the V6 engine was a last-minute addition to the line. The 350-cubic-inch V8 was the base engine on the LeSabre Custom and the 455-cubic-inch V8 was optional. Both V8s were optional on the base LeSabre.

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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There was also a north/south version of the later series engines for use in the Aussie RWD vehicles.

Can someone explain to me what even firing is v. odd firing?

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Yeah, I think the 231 was a mid-year thing for the 1976 Lesabre. I would have test driven the car sometime in the late spring, maybe May or June. The sales manager for the local Buick dealer was a family friend and he actually called to tell me about it.

It was a lot of car for that engine. Heck, it was a lot of car even for the standard 350.

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Kk WRT the 231 being mid-year.

NeonLX said it well; that's a LOT of car for the lil' 231- the shipping weight for a dry '75 LeS 4-dr sedan was 4355.

IMO, Buick was nuts with that move.

Edited by balthazar
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Can someone explain to me what even firing is v. odd firing?

Wikipedia has a good explanation of this under 'V6 engine'.

Basically, it has to do with design limits of the early V6s based on V8 designs, where three shared crankpins were arranged 120 degrees apart. This caused the firings to occur at odd intervals because of the 90 degree banks... 0, 150, 240, 390, 480 and 630 degrees... instead of 120 degree intervals. The even fire design uses split crankpins, 15 degrees apart to achieve an even 120 degree firing interval.

04-blockwithcrank3.jpg

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3900>3800?

was the 3.8 more reliable or something, why would it be in LaCrosses in 2008?

Just because it is a "Buick" engine?

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Ive personally observed many 3800s going 350K mi and more one had 503,150! not ever rebuilt.

The most I've seen a 60* V6 go was around 250K mi was a 3.1

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Yeah, more than NVH, as Balthy mentioned, the odd fire engines ran very rough. At least rougher than the public would accept. I suppose to some, it sounded like a constant miss.

A friend of mine had a V6 powered '61 Special. I don't recall it being too rough, but I was young and anything that moved under its own power was acceptable to me. Of course, it was slightly possible someone swapped in an even-fire late model V6, but I really would doubt it.

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What balthazar said. The 90-degree V6 was a real shaker until they adopted the split crankpin design. I do remember the steering wheel in that '76 LeSabre vibrating in frequency with the engine as it accelerated.

I'd love to know if the fuel economy with the V6 in that big tub was any better than the 350 V8 in real world driving...

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