To replace a lower intake gasket on a '96 Olds Ciera with a 3.1 do you have to remove the cylinder heads to get to the lower intake manifold gasket?

You answer is NO! You do not have to take the heads off. What you will have to do is, remove the front valve cover and loosen that back one. It is best to take them both off but you can get away with just loosening the back valve cover. The valve cover on most models will have a different kind of bolt that connects it to the head. On the rear, if you choose to leave it on, you will have to loosen the bolts through it and pry it back a little bit so you can get the intake out. The bolts do not come all the way out. They are held in with a rubber grommet. You save a lot of time by leaving the alternator on and not taking the rear valve cover off. I am not sure if you have ever done one of these or not, but once you get the intake off, get prepared for a stupid engineering idea by out fellas at general motors. They have the intake gasket inter twined with the push rods. You will have to remove all the push rods that run in front of the gasket. This might not make a hole lot of sense until you actually get the intake off and see for yourself. This is where you may have a problem with the rear valve cover still being on the car. You may have to turn the motor so you will be able to get the nut off the rocker with a wrench. OR, do what I did, make my own specialty tool out of a 13mm wrench. Almost looked like a distributer wrench when I was done. Worked great!!

There is a specialty tool available for removing the push rods without removing the rear valve cover, ignition coil, alternator, rockers etc. More info at DenLorstools.com Tech Articles GM intake gasket replacement tips.