The Buick equipped with the 231-cubic-inch V-6 engine can trace its history to the 1962 Buick Special. Originally called the Fireball, the V-6 engine initially displaced 198 cubic inches. In 1963, Buick increased its displacement to 225 cubic inches. The V-6 was novel for the 1960s, and it essentially was a shortened version of a V-8. Yet, it was never particularly popular because of its rough idle -- due to its odd-fire cylinder design, rather than the traditional, even-fire configuration.
The 225 V-6 featured many characteristics -- including its bore size -- of the Buick 340 V-8, which ultimately evolved into the 350 V-8. However, Buicks were heavy cars, and the 225 often struggled to power these vehicles in an era when raw horsepower meant everything. Buick sold the 225 V-6's tooling to Kaiser, which owned Jeep, in 1965. Kaiser had been looking for an optional engine as an alternative to its base in-line four-cylinder powerplants. Dubbed the Dauntless 225 V-6, the engine powered the Jeep CJ5, CJ6 and C101. This tidy, compact engine delivered 160 horsepower and 235 foot-pounds of torque.
When American Motors Corporation purchased Jeep in 1970, it decided that the Jeep needed an in-line six-cylinder, which was longer than the V-6 and required modifications to the Jeep's body. AMC dropped the Buick, or Dauntless, V-6. Buick was never particularly fond of the V-6, but the 1973 Arab oil embargo slammed the automotive industry. Gasoline prices skyrocketed, leading to long lines at the neighborhood gas station. The muscle car era died, and cheap, fuel-efficient Japanese imports flooded the North American market. Suddenly, the old Buick V-6, which could achieve close to 20 mpg, looked pretty good. Buick first asked AMC to begin building again the Dauntless V-6 for Buicks starting with the 1975 model year. AMC declined, because the cost to reboot the engine was prohibitive. AMC then agreed to allow Buick to buy back the Buick V-6's tooling rights.
Buck boosted the cubic inch displacement to 231, or 3.8 liters, when it enlarged the engine's bore by .50, to 3.8 inches. The stroke was 3.4 inches. The engine retained its odd-fire configuration through 1976, when it changed to the smoother even-fire. Buick managed to smooth the idle for 1977 by changing the camshaft, crankshaft, cylinder heads, intake manifold and distributor. These early versions developed 110 horsepower. Later versions developed up to 205 horsepower, with supercharged 3.8-liter models wielding 240 horsepower.
The 231 Buick V-6, also called the 3800, first powered the 1975 to 1976 Buick Skyhawk, Century, Regal, LeSabre, Skylark and the 1975 Apollo. It also powered the 1977 and later models of the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the 1975 to 1980 Olds Starfire and the 1977 to 1979 Olds Omega. The Pontiac lineup featured the 1978 to 1980 Grand Prix, 1976 to 1980 Sunbird, 1978 to 1981 Firebird, 1978 to 1981 LeMans, the 1978 to 1980 Phoenix and the 1977 Ventura. Buick equipped some engines with Throttle-Body fuel injection beginning in 1984, and with multi-port fuel injection in 1985. In 2008, Buick was using the 3800 Series III 3.8-liter V-6 in its Lucerne and LaCrosse models. The 3800 Series II version earned a spot on Ward's 10 Best Engines from 1995 to 1997. Production ended in 2008.
- Turbo Regal Web Site: The Little Engine That Could
- Novak Conversions: Buick 90 Degree V-6
- Autos.ca: Motoring Memories -- General Motors 3800 V-6 Engine
- Automobile Catalog: 1975 Buick Skyhawk Hatchback Coupe Technical Specifications
- Automobile Catalog: 1975 Buick Apollo Skylark Technical Specifications
- Automobile Catalog: 1975 Buick Century Hardtop Coupe Technical Specifications
Motors Used in the Chevy El Camino
The Chevrolet El Camino was produced by General Motors from 1959 to 1960, and again from 1964 to 1987. Over its 30-year...
The Differences Between Odd Fire and Even Fire Intake Manifolds in a Buick V6
The history of the Buick V-6 engine dates back to the 1962 model year, when the first V-6 was installed in the...
The History of the Chevy 3.8L V6
Chevrolet had two types of 3.8-liter V-6 engines: the 3.8-liter Buick V-6 and the short-lived Chevrolet 3.8-liter version. The venerable and immensely...
Performance Tips for a 1979 Buick 3.8 V6
The Buick 231 (3.8-liter) V-6 is one of those unsung heroes of the automotive world, with a provenance stretching back nearly as...
Buick 231 Torque Specs
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Buick, a division of General Motors, manufactured large automobiles that were powered almost exclusively by eight-cylinder...