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KonaBoss Reader
7/10/21 12:24 p.m.

If you have followed my previous adventures, my last deal was trading my lifted crown vic for a V8 swapped AMC eagle wagon. While the AMC is definitely rad and very unique, I have found myself yearning to go back to something large, body on frame, and practical for daily driving/errand running. Plus neither the crown vic or the AMC had air conditioning, and as I get older I'm starting to find that very irritating. So with those points in mind, I started shopping around. 

I have owned about 7 panther platform cars over the past couple of years, and have done just about everything with them. Rallycross, lift and gambler 500/offroad use, daily driver, you name it. So, I wanted to try out a new platform. I wanted to get something that I could build into a light offroader/overland vehicle, and at this year's Detroit Gambler 500 I saw a lifted buick roadmaster wagon and knew that was the answer to my dillema. I didnt know much about them at the time, so I started doing some research.

What I discovered was pretty cool. Get a '94-96 and you get the LT1 that makes pretty solid power. You can fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back with the 2nd row seats folded down. Wagons are cool. GM 8.5" 10 bolt rear diff has lots of gear/posi choices. The donk scene makes 5" lift springs for them. There have been a few people around that have lifted them and used them offroad, so there is a bit of a knowledge base there. 

So with those points in mind I was chatting with a co-worker one day, and he mentioned that he had a friend with a 1994 caprice wagon that he was looking to sell. The deal/timing was right, and I wound up coming home with Ol' Blue:

Ol' Blue is in pretty good shape for having been a daily driven Michigan car for the last 13 years. It was owned by an older gentleman, and maintained with an open checkbook. The stack of receipts is quite impressive. It has a leather interior from another caprice swapped in, along with newer carpets from that same car. There are a few spots of rust here and there, but overall the car is remarkably clean. It has around 200k miles on it, I need to verify but the digital part of the cluster is currently MIA (sounds like I need to do a little bit of saudering on the back of the board to get it back). Otherwise, I need to adjust the latch mechanism in the tailgate to get the rear glass to latch, and thats about it. 

Unfortunately it is not a tow package car, so I may add a bigger trans/oil cooler over time. I'm also currenly on the hunt for a hitch for it. It also has the 2.56 rear end with an open differential. 

The plan is to do the 5" lift springs on it along with the bilstein shocks up front and the factory air shocks in the rear with a manual air pressure adjustment to help out with the lift. Tires will be 31x10.5R15's on 15x8 D slot steel wheels. With that in mind, I'm planning on re-gearing to a 4.10 with a limited slip differential. If anyone has a GM 8.5 10 bolt rear center section with 30 spline side gears with a limited slip please let me know. Also on the hunt for the 4.10 gears.

This is my source of inspiration: https://carsandbids.com/auctions/Kdpb1MGy/1995-buick-roadmaster-estate-wagon



BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
7/10/21 12:30 p.m.

Sweet. I love the utility and cool factor these have. I’m excited to see what you do with yours.

Thought about doing the lift/knobby tire thing with mine, but decided I didn’t want to do anything to lose the oh so comfy ride.

It’s neat how the right wheels do a lot to take the whole look from “grandpa car” to “hot rod wagon”

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/10/21 3:53 p.m.

I've got 4 never used 15x7, 5 on 5 Diamond Racing rims if you're interested. Was going to use them on my Safari, but not so sure anymore. 

KonaBoss Reader
7/10/21 11:01 p.m.

In reply to vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) :

I could definitely be interested! Any pics?

KonaBoss Reader
7/15/21 11:35 a.m.

After doing a bit more digging, it sounds like the GM 8.6" 10 bolt carriers will also work in the 8.5" 10 bolt housing as long as you use a specific Timken bearing. That really helps open up the options for a limited slip carrier and good gear ratio. Anyone happen to have an 8.6" diff out of a GM truck with either 3.73 or 4.10 gears?

APEowner SuperDork
7/15/21 12:04 p.m.

Wow!  That's in incredibly nice shape!

KonaBoss Reader
7/20/21 12:19 p.m.

Alright, an update after being out of town for a couple of weeks:

Got it plated and insured yesterday, so I can start driving it. I want to get some of the quirks ironed out before I get into the offroad mods. First up on the list is the cluster. Currently the digital speedo/odo screen is dead, which makes driving around rather annoying. After following the writeup on the impala SS forum I tried my hand at re-flowing some sauder, unfortunately to no avail. I think that the screen internals themselves may have died unfortunately. So, I'm on the hunt for another caprice cluster to use as a donor. I'll have to figure out how to re-program the mileage so that I can carry over the mileage that is on my car. 

Next up was trying to figure out why the rear hatch glass wont latch into the tailgate. After fiddling around with the latch mechanism a bunch, I found out the solenoid that controls the latch has a tab snapped off, which I think is leading to it letting go of the window more easily than it should. Unfortunately it looks like this mechanism is no longer produced, so I'm off to try and find one either at a junkyard or out of a parts car. Anyone that has run into this before, feedback would be appreciated. 

Next up is fixing a few spots in the headliner that are drooping. Thankfully they are all around the edges of the headliner, so I think I may be able to get away with just spraying some spray adhesive in there and rolling the fabric back over it. Also open to feedback on this, I have never really messed with a headliner before. 


GhiaMonster Reader
7/20/21 9:44 p.m.

Our 93 wagon had the rear glass actuator fail at the sheetmetal bracket.  A few welds and it was back together and has been popping the window as intended for the past few years. This was the opposite issue, failure to release the window, but I could see the actuator getting stuck in the wrong spot preventing the glass latch from grabbing. Agree that there are no new parts available, either junkyard or fixing what you have. 

autocomman New Reader
7/20/21 10:06 p.m.

Super clean grandpa mobile dude, very sweet.  The plastic clips on the rods in the tailgate can break too causing all kindsa issues.  FYI not sure of yours has gauges or idiot lights, but if it does have gauges, the oil pressure gauge is a go or nogo gauge, basically works like a light, not an actual gauge.

I wouldnt go higher than a 3.73, would make it a good driver even with the stock 5.7.  And if you wanna go faster, just LS swap it.  Few tricks for a clean install, cause on a B body the frame tends to be in the way.  Car intake, you can use what ever mounts you want, dont put in a 6L80e youll have to cut the tunnel.  And a high mount A/C compressor for the belt drive.  You can use stock truck manifolds, cut the flange and reweld in the right place.  Ask me how I know all this ;)


vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/21/21 6:45 p.m.

I may have the IP from the 9C1 I parted when I took it's engine and trans for my Vette. Would that work in your wagon?

KonaBoss Reader
7/21/21 8:54 p.m.

In reply to vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) :

It looks like there is a possibility that it may. What year 9C1 is it out of?

KonaBoss Reader
7/26/21 7:50 p.m.

Lots of progress on the caprice today. First off I wanted to give a big shoutout to @vwcorvette for the cluster out of the 9C1. Works like a charm, it is so nice to finally have a functional speedo/odo in this car. 

Next up was the exhaust leak. With the car being driven in Michigan winters, and my luck with exhausts in general, I was fearing the worst. Lord knows I have had to replace enough exhaust studs on crown vic's to never want to do that again... But thankfully it was just the rear bolt on the drivers side header had backed out. Tightened it up, and we are leak free! 

Finally I got around to fixing the rear hatch glass latch as well. Since I bought the car, the glass did not fully latch into the tailgate. When I was digging around back there I noticed that the latch solenoid had a missing screw and a tab broken off. Unfortunately you cant get those new anymore anywhere, so I was able to find a used one from someone on facebook marketplace. Got that installed, and now the rear window latches perfectly. 

Lastly was a quick trip to a local junkyard that has 2 roadmaster wagons in the lot. Main goal was to acquire some seats. Unfortunately one of the wagons had a tan interior, but the other one was blue. I managed to snag an extra rear glass release solenoid while I was there in case mine ever goes kaput again. The seats in the car were relatively clean, but I need to do some more thinking about whether I really want to go through the effort of pulling them or not. They are the limited seats, so I'm not sure that all the electrical connectors would swap over very nicely...

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/27/21 2:21 p.m.

Awesome. And it's certified accurate!

KonaBoss Reader
8/2/21 9:10 a.m.

Alright, minor update from this weekend.

Scored some sweet leather buick roadmaster seats out of a '94 this weekend. They were rather dirty when I got them, but after some cleaning they spruced up nice!

Plan is to work on getting those swapped in tonight, along with installing the new starter and coolant temp sensor that I got. I also need to get around to manually checking the oil pressure with my gauge, it reads low on the dash and I'm really hoping its just a sensor...

KonaBoss Reader
8/3/21 8:04 a.m.

More progress updates. 

Last night I got the roadmaster seats installed. So far I really like them, here are a couple of pics:

Otherwise I was able to get the new coolant temp sensor swapped in, as well as the new starter. It was about the easiest starter job I have ever done. Next up is checking the charge on the A/C, and checking the oil pressure with my manual gauge.

KonaBoss Reader
8/6/21 11:56 a.m.

Another minor update!

Checked the oil pressure the other day with my autometer electric gauge. Thankfully, all is well. It makes anywhere from 6-8 PSI at idle, 35-40 PSI on a cold start, and oil pressure increases linearly with RPM. ~10 PSI per every 1000 RPM.

Cold start:

Warmed up idle in drive:

Now that I know its not going to immediately blow up, I didnt mind spending some money on parts for it. Also selling the eagle helped with project funding. So, here is what I wound up doing:

1. New oil pressure sender. I got the one for the mid 90's pickup trucks, it has better resolution. Got an adaptor so that I can use it in the stock location.

2. New springs. I wound up going with the Moog 5030's for the front (replacement Caprice 9C1 coil springs, similar rate as what is in my wagon with an additional 1.5" of free length). After some digging, I was also able to find a set of Moog CC623 cargo coils for the rear. These are hard to get anymore, moog no longer produces them. They are a progressive rate spring, so soft unloaded and they firm up as you load them. I'm hoping for about a 1.5 to 2" lift over where the car sits currently both front and rear.

3. Bilstein B46 1516/1517 shocks. These are actually the heavy duty dampers spec'd for the Caprice 9C1 police cars back in the day. They have much better damping characteristics than alot of the other struts out there on the market, without being too firm. I really wanted to maintain the nice cushiony ride of this car, so I tried to be very specific when picking springs/dampers. For those looking for them, the 1516/1517 part numbers are outdated now. New part numbers are:

     Front: Bilstein 24-015165

     Rear: Bilstein 24-015172

The plan with this setup is to run some 235/75/R15 tires to start, and see how they fit. If there is alot of extra clearance, I'd really like to try and bump up to a 30x9.5R15. I'll be keeping an eye out for a cheap set. I'll report back once I get the new setup installed.


KonaBoss Reader
8/11/21 8:05 a.m.

Well, have run into some issues with Ol' blue. 

About a week ago, I started getting a long crank on cold starts - it cranks for about 10 seconds, then the low oil light pops on and it fires. When it first started doing this it would fire right back up on a short soak (less than an hour). Over the last week it has been getting worse and now it does long cranks all the time, whether hot or not. Once the engine fires the car runs fine, minus an occasional stumble near idle/when coming off the pedal from accelerating. No stumbles on hard accels, etc. Also once the car does start, the check engine light is illuminated and I lose air conditioning for the duration of the drive. Thus far I have replaced the fuel pump relay and ICV assembly, and I'm working on the fuel pressure regulator as we speak (Stripped the stupid torx bolt head that holds it to the fuel rail, so dealing with that at the moment). Does anyone have any thoughts on what this could be or know where I could get OBD1 codes read?

KonaBoss Reader
8/11/21 8:34 a.m.

Bumping to the top, for whatever reason it didnt go to the top of the forum list...

bobzilla MegaDork
8/11/21 10:20 a.m.

Isn't this still the era of paperclip the terminals and count the flashes? That should get the codes. 

The hard starting issue to me sounds like a possible OPS going bad. If it's not registering oil pressure it can keep the fuel pump from coming on IIRC.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
8/11/21 10:26 a.m.

Ise the paperclip trick for.codes.

Is tjis tbi or multiport?

onemanarmy Reader
8/11/21 12:17 p.m.

Pretty much before 1996, any American vehicle should be OBD1 and the paperclip trick in the diag port shoud flash the CEL to get the codes

bobzilla MegaDork
8/11/21 12:32 p.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

94 would be a cast iron headed LT1


KonaBoss Reader
8/18/21 7:46 a.m.

Bobzilla is correct, cast iron headed LT1. As far as the paper clip trick goes, I did some digging and for whatever reason on these years of cars it flashes the ABS codes, not the PCM codes. I took the car over to my friend's dad's place, who is a GM technician and runs his own shop after hours. He read the codes for me and lo and behold it was a code 36 from the Optispark. I have decided to let my buddy's dad do the optispark replacement for me, since I'd rather spend my wrenching time putting on the new suspension that I bought, and honestly I have alot of projects going on around the house at the moment.

KonaBoss Reader
9/7/21 6:57 p.m.

Long overdue update. Got the car back from my buddys dad on Thursday evening, up and running like new again. He replaced the optispark and charged the A/C for me, blows ice cold! The wife and I wound up road tripping it up to Canada to see some family over labor day weekend, I really am developing a soft spot for this car. Great cruising machine, absolutely eats up the miles. Between the 22 gallon fuel tank and tall gearing, gets surprisingly good range as well. Per some rough math, I think we averaged about 22-23 mpg throughout the ~600 mile trip (mostly highway/backlane 55mph rural canadian roads). I'm out on a work trip again for a couple of weeks, so progress has unfortunately halted again. When I get home the plan is to put the new suspension on and get it set up for the winter with some good winter meats!

KonaBoss Reader
10/30/21 8:43 p.m.

Alright, another long overdue update. Finally got around to installing the lift parts on ol' Betty (car now has a nickname, Betty White). Wasn't the hardest install I have done, but certainly wasn't the easiest. I'll start with some pre-lift measurements (these were with 225/75/15's on the car):

Front driver's side ground to top of fender: 28 1/8"

Front passengers side ground to top of fender: 28"

Rear driver's side ground to top of fender: 20 5/8"

Rear passengers side ground to top of fender: 20 1/2"

I started with the front end knowing it would be the hardest. Some pics of the install:

That was the drivers side front spring, you know it's bad when it comes out in pieces... Shocks were pretty well toast as well:

Next up was the rear, things weren't much better back there...

Springs were pretty crusty as well:

And some pics of things all put back together (had to do new sway bar end links as well, the old ones were shot and I had to cut them loose):

Final measurements pre-settling the springs came in at (with 235/75/15's):

Front driver's side ground to top of fender: 31 3/8"

Front passengers side ground to top of fender: 31 5/8"

Rear driver's side ground to top of fender: 22 5/8"

Rear passengers side ground to top of fender: 23"

And some pics of everything wrapped up:

Overall, I think I mostly nailed this one. Wound up at just the right height, and ride quality has been maintained. With the suffer springs and the bilsteins it winds up being pretty well perfect, not too much body roll and feels much more like my old crown vics did. Only thing is that it is a little bit lower in the rear than the front, so I may add in some airlift 1000's to take care of the small amount of Carolina squat it has. And a set of 30x9.5R15's as soon as I can find some devil

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