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Published: 6/22/2023

Achievable Performance: Michael S. Palmer's LS3 E-ROD-powered 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon

Author: DAN HODGDON

Photos: COURTESY of MICHAEL PALMER

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Michael S. Palmer's 1992 Buick Roadmaster wagon isn't a run-of-the-mill grocery getter or family hauler (even though it does both those things). That's because this special wagon is powered by a Chevrolet Performance Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System utilizing an LS3 E-ROD crate engine* capable of 430 horsepower.

This 1992 Buick Roadmaster wagon has a Chevrolet Performance LS3 E-ROD crate engine* under the hood.

"I hope GM and Chevrolet Performance make the LS3 for a long time, and the reason for that is because I think it is the perfect blend of power, modern convenience and reliability, but it's also still all motor and simple," Palmer says.

A lifelong car guy who owned coupes for many years, Palmer realized he needed a bigger hot rod when his daughter was born in 2015. He settled on a station wagon and became attracted to the GM B-Body platform. Although he now lives in Los Angeles, Palmer is originally from the Boston area and spent much of his youth in Hyannisport on Cape Cod where his grandparents resided. Coincidentally, his grandfather almost exclusively drove Buicks for many years.

His maroon-and-woodgrain Roadmaster had been a single-family car and Palmer bought it in 2019 – 180 horsepower TBI engine and all. Despite having some sun damag from having lived out its days in California, the car had no rust.

"It was a cool cruiser, I put a little exhaust on it to hear the motor a little bit more, but it was kind of just going to be my daily cruiser, fun car," Palmer says.

The LS3 E-ROD is legal in all 50 states.

Palmer is a writer by trade who today pens stories for the Internet Brands Automotive Group after having worked as a screenwriter. When his company was looking for projects, he began putting together a wish list for his Roadmaster. A first-time LS swapper, Palmer worked with Guaranty Chevrolet in Santa Ana, California, to obtain the powertrain. He also documented the entire build on LS1Tech.com and YouTube.

Since he lives in California, Palmer specifically chose the E-ROD package to meet the state's strict emissions requirements, while ensuring his car was street-legal in all 50 states thanks to the engine's receipt of a CARB executive order.*

"To me, the benefits of the E-ROD are not only the emissions equipment that comes with it, but it is also brand new and it's got the best warranty," Palmer says. "It's got an extra year of warranty versus just getting the standard Connect & Cruise system from Chevrolet Performance. That combination of warranty, cleanliness and meeting emission standards here made it seem easier to me as a novice, first-time LS swapper."

The vehicle's owner, Michael S. Palmer, installed the Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System himself.

Like the standard version, the 6.2L LS3 E-ROD is rated at the aforementioned 430 horsepower and 425 lb.-ft. of torque. It maintains the LS3's cast-aluminum block with six-bolt cross-bolted main caps, aluminum cylinder heads and composite intake manifold, but also comes with complete emissions equipment. Highlights of the package include exhaust manifolds, catalytic converters, multiple sensors and an evaporative emissions canister.

The engine in Palmer's Buick is mated to a Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission. He and the team at Guaranty Chevrolet chose the tranny as part of the Connect & & Cruise package because it would fit seamlessly in the Roadmaster's transmission tunnel. Amazingly enough, it even uses the same gearing as the 4L60 originally in the car.

"It's got this almost old-school vibe to it, one foot in the past, one foot in the present," Palmer says.

Palmer's wagon features a variety of GM components.

Although Palmer is a knowledgeable enthusiast who had performed brake jobs and other more minor upgrades, the E-ROD project was his first swap. In that sense, his experience level fits a lot of DIY mechanics, and the Connect & Cruise concept with all its included factory-matched components helped put him at ease.

"The Connect & Cruise system made it feel achievable because the whole thing shows up and you basically get a giant pallet with the motor, the cats and a few of the accessories," Palmer says. "The connection kit comes in a couple of smallish boxes and then you get the transmission. It all gets delivered on a whole pallet along with four or five different sets of instructions. It just makes it seem very achievable and doable that this system is designed to work together."

Palmer also found that General Motors has been consistent in its engineering for decades in items ranging from wiring colors to the size of a brake booster check valve, making a modern swap in a classic car all that more simple.

"My other piece of advice for first-time swappers in particular is, if you can, stick with GM on GM," Palmer says.

Palmer worked with a variety of companies to upgrade the Buick's suspension, tires and more.

The engine also features a compact Holley mid-mount accessory drive system, a Holley oil pan to fit the crossmember, Champion Cooling radiator with integrated oil and transmission coolers, and Magnaflow xMod exhaust. The Buick now utilizes an Earl's Performance Vapor Guard fuel system and Mr. Gasket cooler lines and fittings as well.


Plus, the Roadmaster has undergone a series of enhancements outside of the engine and related powertrain components.


Among the most notable are suspension upgrades including QA1 and Hotchkis suspension components to improve handling characteristics. Additionally, Palmer added an Eaton Detroit Truetrac limited-slip differential with 3.42 gears which he says hooks up well.


The car also rides on grippy Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires with a 255mm width. They are wrapped around American Racing VN507 Rodders wheels measuring 18 x 9.5, and the big wagon is stopped by Wilwood brakes.


"Tires are very very important when it comes to these projects, I can't recommend getting good tires enough," Palmer says. "Just putting these tires on the car improved my stopping distance from 60 (mph) by 17 feet without changing the brakes at all."

Palmer was a first-time LS swapper when he took on this project.

Currently, Palmer is deciding whether he simply wants to touch up the paint but maintain its flaws, have the car repainted, or wrap it in an eye-catching color.


The interior remains stock, but Palmer plans to replace it with a version in better condition from a car out of Canada. He also added Dakota Digital gauges similar to the stock version, along with a Dakota Digital fan-controller module that triggers the fans to run anytime the A/C compressor is on. In addition, the car now features a backup camera, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay.

Down the road, Palmer may take on more projects – perhaps even a C10 he can build with his young daughter, who has already shown an affinity for trucks.

In all likelihood, an LS engine will be part of the equation.

"The LS3 just does so many different great things," Palmer says. "I'm very happy with the power-to-weight ratio with this and I think the LS3 is just a gem."

Be sure to keep watching The BLOCK for more Chevrolet Performance-powered builds from across the nation.

*Chevy Performance E-ROD engines have been granted CARB Executive Orders, which allows for their installation on specific emission-controlled vehicles to be driven on public streets and highways. An exemption is granted if the product has been determined not to cause an increase in vehicle emissions from the production vehicles for which the part is intended, nor otherwise cause vehicles to be non-compliant with the vehicle emissions certification and anti-tampering laws. For additional information, including which vehicles these E-ROD engines can be installed in, please visit ChevroletPerformance.com.

Chevrolet Performance Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain Systems include a 24-month or 50,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited warranty). E-ROD Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain Systems include a 36-month or 50,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited warranty. See dealer for details.

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