behlinla: "Well, I guess they look about the same but I assume they felt a little smoother after sanding?"
The only way to properly remedy the grooves would be to pull the block, strip it down and and have the decks milled by a competent shop. The engine would then require the thicker head gaskets made for engines that require a lot of material taken off the heads or block. I did not aggressively hand sand because what I may have ended up with may have been worse.
Just guessing, I'd say a thicker head gasket may reduce longevity. Head gaskets are thin for a reason, less area exposed to the high pressures of combustion.
What have I lost if this job does not work? About $200, for gaskets and stuff. Everything else I have bought for this engine can be reused (heads, belt, pulleys, water pump, spark plugs, etc.).
When this car is running again, it will have cost a total $1,500 for the car, head job, water pump, etc., tires. Not too bad. A/C
, brakes, trans all appear to be good at this time. Book resale on this model is about $2,500. So, I still have some wiggle room on spending.
I have lost a lot of time, but it beats watching TV after work.
If it doesn't work out, I have located a number of 3.8L engines for scrap price. And I will end up knowing something about 3.8L's.
This car, thankfully, is not a daily driver and can set in the carport.
Edit: I am reasonably certain what is going together on this LX will work, at least for a while. If I get 40K -50K before the head gaskets start leaking again, that will be sufficient payback for the effort. I have already determined the LX will be driven a maximum of 5K miles per year. So the car may be useable for 8-10 years.
If it doesn't work, I'll post an update at that time.