Thanks Dick Datson for letting me put your info on my web page.
I have compiled this from the BlowThruTurbo group.
Dick runs the Yahoo BlowThruTurbo group.
He also has a book 12st Century Turbo,
My impression from decades of writing about supercharging and
is that it is an endangered species. Yes, people buy new cars
engines, and they have professionals install super or
turbochargers on late
engines, and they talk about them. But actually "doing"
turbocharging is a rapidly dying art form.
There are the obvious problems like lack of experience, or fear
out-of-control costs, and bad information that kills the project
Most of these concerns are easily avoided if an individual is
interested in learning the skill.
Today you see two longtime subscribers to my newsletters giving
their long running 6 cylinder turbo projects, an AMC and a
Clarence's AMC Gremlin 6 was first covered in our publication
November 1995, and Sal's Stude 6 in the December 1995 issue. Both
long running turbocharger projects. This is especially impressive
consider that most attempts are never even completed. As an
editor, this is
easier for me to see, I'm sure, than for others. It gets to where
almost always signs up front in the first comments that a project
and will never be completed. Unfortunately, you cannot sway a man
dream. What I hope to do here is to try to avoid the sure
pitfalls before the
dreams are ever finalized.
Speaking on a broad basis to start with, projects fail because
they are far
too complicated. Its easy to build a wish list for your favorite
that is $10,000 long, but even if you can afford the expense,
this stuff is
complicated. Directions are poor, function is not always what is
be, and bad choices up front destroy the effectiveness of those
gadgets, even if they might have helped under some other set of
The most important rule to follow in boosting an engine is
K.I.S.S. or "Keep
It Simple Stupid", as is said so often in our articles. The
point is that you
can add ANYTHING later, and I have no objection to any of the new
properly and/or appropriately applied (though I'm accused of
that). But as
editor, I see the disappointment in the projects-gone-bad from
fist fulls of money and gadgets at something that was
"failed" from day one.
In this series I hope to stack the deck heavily in favor of
even in a big way. There are numerous ways to cut costs
actually building long-term reliability into your project.
Getting the power
is easy, but affordability and staying power are essential for a
super or turbo project. Building a successful boosted system
opposed to buying it, is the world's best training -- and it
gives you the
qualifications to go on to ever greater things. This is a subject
there's no substitute for being directly involved.
Thanks to Clarence and Sal for their updates today. No, this
but it was timely. You can have fun at low cost with fast,
engines and turbochargers. Lets hope more of you do. Dick
As I pointed out in the first part of the series, do-it-yourself
super/turbocharging is a seriously endangered species. The
are the staggering costs and complications associated with
in the traditional ways. This of course includes using fuel
computer and all the related items that go with the package. As
an editor I
get numerous requests for help in trying to fix a super/turbo
setup and in
most cases its impossible. What do you tell a guy that's spent
dollars making all the wrong turns and now is desperate enough to
ask for help? Nothing you can say is going to right -- or of any
This brings us to the starting line. The selection of the right
vehicle/engine combination is the most important decision you
will ever make
on this project but is usually done based on appearances and peer
What's "cool", and not what's best suited.
Lets talk about engines in general for a moment. First I am
older engines -- those with little or no emissions controls or
Generally that zero on 1968 and earlier vehicles and very little
(if any) on
those through 1975. (25 years old). That of course depends on
where you live.
If you live in a tough smog neighborhood, maybe you should
consider a race
car or off-road vehicle.
Engines 25 years old or older (and some since) usually have the
strong cast) cranks, thick cylinder walls and lots of head bolts
sealing. That's the way they used to build cars in the U.S.
are preferred for all reasons. First they are stronger. I don't
per cubic inch but rather stronger over all than the same engine
in a larger
displacement. Short strokes mean more crankshaft journal overlap.
bores usually mean thicker cylinder walls (but not always) and
(cranks last longer), and smaller bores mean more gasket sealing
more meat in many cases for those aftermarket studs to screw
into. These are
the things you investigate before you pick your project car.
But keep one thing in mind, potentially the most powerful engine
going to be the engine that is the STRONGEST, not the one that is
biggest. Cubic inches mean little if anything in high boost turbo
applications. You see 6-7 liter turbo engines blowing themselves
1.75-2.25 horsepower per cubic inch and 3-4 liter engines living
well at 3 or
even 4 horsepower per cubic inch. Staying together is
Every American manufacturer built compacts with small, usually
back in the 60's and 70's. We've seen many represented here --
Buick, Corvair, Ford 6s and V8s, Slant 6s, AMCs and Studebakers.
They come in
lightweight packages that make them ideal for drag racing, road
circle track, hill climbs, rallies and so on. You've seen them
over the decades -- Daytona, Sebring, Road Atlanta, etc. They
drivetrain upgrades are cheap (not so for a 400 CID engine), and
don't go for outrageous prices as they aren't very
'collectable" as a group.
Many of the smaller engines are also suited for engine swaps into
pickups, rear drive sports cars, and various off-road vehicles.
combination of a turbo V6 in a mini-pickup, or a turbo inline 6
in a sports
car is new Corvette/Viper performance levels at a Yugo price tag.
certainly something of interest here for anyone that wants
world-class level performance. Next time we'll look closer at the
requirements. Dick Datson
The Real Advantage Of Smaller Engines: We have discussed the
advantages of using used turbos over new ones. Its easy to save
more in a twin turbo setup. No small change. But there's other
The next biggest ticket in a turbo project is surely the engine,
and while I
have often lauded the advantages of small bore, short economy
is another advantage far more subtle. "Economy" car
engines tend to be
skipped over by the typical "high performance" fan.
Cars with engines smaller
that 5 liters tend to be far cheaper, as are whole engines,
cranks and other
parts. A genuine wealth of "race car" parts few want.
Break a crank and your
out $50.00 instead of hundreds. The same with other parts. Save
Being that these smaller engines are less desirable as
they are driven easier. Its highly unlikely that there is a
sleeve in a
cylinder or maybe the rod journals have been turned to the max.
up a very important angle that can save you big.
As all of you note, this newsgroup is made up largely of longtime
and Studebaker people -- mechanics of the old ways. In short, we
as a group
have long learned and used the process of "maintaining"
engines rather than
going to a chain store and buying a replacement every time our
slightly. Its not that easy for us for obvious reasons.
In short, we are (a fact) more inclined to check/test our engines
preventive maintenance. This of course is not isolated to our
engines but can
be applied to any engine that has received decent care. You know
are Ford Falcons, and Buicks and AMC Hornets around that Granny
driving to church for decades. Buy the car and you are getting a
that simply needs ring, bearings, and an oil system freshening.
an examination of pistons, a leak down test, A valve job and so
you can do yourself.
There's a point to all this. "New" turbo race engines
don't stay new very
long. You can spend a thousand or more easy on a basic
"rebuilt" that may not
even be the same quality as the engine was originally. Or you can
more on a race engine with "junk" racing pistons as
Studebaker people have
experienced or bad valve jobs that come apart. Spending money
guarantee a long life on a turbo engine.
Even if you have never rebuilt an engine you can do a decent job
with a shop
manual and/or "How To Rebuild A...." book. You can give
it the loving care
you will find hard to buy. And in the end you will enjoy big time
(keep the rpm and compression sane and turn up the boost) at
prices that just
about anyone can afford. Turbocharging can be cheap fun, as the
our Turbo book illustrate. Tom Covington turned 11 second
quarters with a
Studebaker engine he paid $10.00 for. Sure it needed freshening
up but that's
peanuts compared to having a shop do it.
Better to go the cheap engine route and stay in the game -- than
bucks on the ultimate engine rebuild that expires quickly (along
pocket book). Dick Datson
In the first three parts of this series I've discussed the basics
into serious turbocharging on a budget.
1.) Go with carburetors instead of more costly Fuel Injection,
2.) Buy used turbochargers, wastegates, intercoolers and the
3. Use "economy" engines of any brand as most have
stronger cranks and
blocks; and are usually less abused than their larger
DRIVETRAINS FOR TURBO ENGINES: This is an area that few consider
but can become a major financial stumbling block to operating the
on a regular basis.
The problem is that if you use a big engine -- and you succeed
turbo project, you will trash any production based transmission
differential. In short, even a 5 liter V8 with 15 plus pounds
boost can blow
just about any automatic (except a Turbo 400) and every standard
ever offered in a US passenger car.
This gives you two choices -- hope you win the lottery so you can
professional, aftermarket drivetrain. Or drop back to a 4 or
engine (or smaller) so you can use the common off-the-shelf
like Turbo 350s or Super T-10's, etc. This choice can mean
savings while still enjoying some really serious performance.
Adding up the savings of the 4 major areas I've touched on above
go over the $5,000 mark, and many spend a great deal more by
headers, roller cams, and the like. Few turbo engine builders go
project prepared for the staggering costs it can demand and many
quickly discouraged. Example -- rapid and repeated drivetrain
the turbo engine begins to develop its potential can discourage
of the car. And if you can't afford to use it after you build it
Next some low buck super/turbo performance secrets worth
Our recent discussions concerning the need for reliable technical
for turbo engine selection and building is just one part of our
operation. As all of you have seen, AMCers and Studebaker people
separately and together on projects to build superior boosted
sincerely hope we can get the Mopar group (and others) to build
organization to do the same. It cannot be put through this
as it accelerates (and it will) engine building data given in the
simply be buried by new material, making it extremely tedious to
basic engine info again. Nor can we stop and give each newcomer a
building strong, reliable super/turbo engines as he arrives (no
one else will
either). If we do, we'll get little done here. And if we don't,
the odds of a
successful project are slim and costly. What we are putting in
Mopars (and others) will preserve material so that anyone
projects will have access to his own marque's tech as his needs
I refer above to "serious" projects which should be
defined as real race cars
or "streetable" race cars -- cars specifically built
for some kind of race
car activity, whether that be regular trips to the drags (the
stressing reliability and low operating costs) or race cars built
race in circle track events for example.
Before getting into the main discussion of this subject, I'd like
to make a
few comments on the material you have seen posted here. If you
subscriber to the "Avanti Magazine" published by AOAI
and have received the
No.111 issue (Summer/Fall) , you will see an update on Ted
Avanti drag car and related subjects. "Related
subjects" covers a lot of
ground in this respect because there are numerous projects
underway and this
will surely continue for years to come.
To understand this better, serious turbocharging of AMC and
engines have parallels in many areas but are quite different in
short, their size differences give them different capabilities.
cover the 3, 3-1/2, 4 liter fields, AMCs the 3-1/2 to 6 liter
products would cover the 3 to 7 liter areas (spanning from a 170
CID Slant 6
to a 7 Liter "Big Block) This is for ENGINES CONSIDERED
STRONG ENOUGH FOR
COMPETITIVE BOOSTS. To clarify, these would be engines that could
head to head in serious competition. Serious competition would be
running the 24 Hours of Daytona or establishing a land speed
Bonneville or running single digit times in Drag Racing. This is
horsepower per cubic inch territory, and possibly much more might
These requirements and differences are being approached in
by AMC and Studebaker people. AMCers are tending as a group to go
V-8s (to perhaps 6 liters anyway) which have one set of
requirements, while I
have pushed for using Studebakers in smaller classes of racing
another set of requirements. The reasons are important to
By reducing the displacement of "professional" levels
of turbo racing, our
Studebakers become increasingly more competitive with other
level racers of all kinds. At 4 liters, a Studebaker V-8 is a
engine. At 3-1/2 liters (based on its 202 CID configuration) the
V-8 is world class in ANY league.
The AMC Rambler 250/287/327 CID engine has a much larger
capability because it is larger internally, like in bearing
areas. BUT in
order to compete successful with "popular" engines of
larger sizes it must
have competitive intake manifolding, carburetion and cylinder
heads for those
larger displacements. That is what you see Greg Taylor designing
To avoid this, we Studebaker people can opt for smaller
displacements and go
with modified intakes and cylinder heads ALREADY AVAILABLE.
example, could go either way with its wide spread of engines.
must tailor their engine parts selection, including things like
engine rpm levels, to fit a specific class/type of racing. You
jump into modern professional racing with whatever happens to be
the garage unless you are very lucky. But it can be done
successfully, as I'm
going to discuss next time. Dick Datson
Jesse's post about Buddy Ingersoll's Turbo Pinto is a very
appropriate way to
start this series. Later I'll go over some of Buddy's
"secrets" in building
his 1200 hp Buick V6 but its important to do a little ground work
I've discussed the advantages of turbocharging smaller engines
stronger per cu.in. than larger ones) and the obvious -- that
compacts, mini-trucks, sports cars, and the like are the best way
because they offer lots of bang for the buck.
I've also attempted to point out that making power with turbos,
crude turbo setups, is not that hard to do. Engine reliability
should be a
lot more serious concern than just making raw power. That's the
the discussions about saving engine related material so each new
go to his particular marque's newsgroup and read up on the
not so recommended) engines and modifications.
After the above, there is another angle that should be carefully
and thought out. That is where you intend to race that
turbocharged car when
you're through building it. Yes, its logical to take it to the
its an easy way to accurately check how it performs. Drag racing
is a well
developed science and you can figure all sorts of stuff from the
you can easily get in a few passes down the quarter mile. But
over a period of time is probably not going to be as rewarding as
have been elsewhere with much less cost and effort.
Let's face it, at the drags you are running on someone else's
turf and they
sure don't want you to steal other's thunder. First you run into
a wall of
"rules" intended to subtly defang your turbo car
(limiting your use of
technology). We talked about this at length a few months ago on
turbo newsgroup. Then there's the "classes". Any
owner knows that he is going to end up in a class with engines
his 300 cubic inches. That's simply part of going to the drags.
are classified "not to win". Of course Studebakers
frequently win any way --
which the rules people point out is the reason for the dumb rules
first place. But this isn't about winning. Its about strangling
If simply handicapping you doesn't get you out of the way,
there's the more
direct approach as used against Buddy Ingersoll's later turbo
ban the car from racing, which is guaranteed to solve the
No one can argue the merits of sorting a turbo car (or any car)
out at the
drags, but after that's done, what then? After all,
about engine efficiency and drag racing is about big inches,
and lots of rubber. A proven concept to a point, but not very
There are other options, far more rewarding and less demanding.
is that they are rarely considered for turbocharged cars.
Surely the most open and progressive racing formats are the
car racing groups like SCCA. They have never actually thrown a
road block up
against the use of turbos and most turbo development is done
there (in sports
car circle track racing), and has been for a long time. While
conjures up ideas of multimillion dollar factory race cars, there
backdoor into serious racing that has always been left ajar.
That is of course "economy" or compact sedan racing. It
is quite lax on what
is allowed to run though I don't suggest that you can win a
class, prize or
money by doing so. Meaning you will surely, as a turbocharged
placed in an open or "experimental" class that allows
anything that can't
otherwise be classified. So maybe you find yourself going against
factory turbocharged GTP or something. So what? You get the glory
him a fit coming out of the corners in front of tens of thousands
I've personally witnessed a Buick V6 turbo sedan doing exactly
this in an
IMSA race at Daytona a decade or so ago -- much to the shock of
spectators. Power is the name of the game -- and as long as you
to run, you can demonstrate how good a turbo car can run while
you have the
time of your life. Next time I'll give you some details on this
activity that you probably haven't thought of. Dick Datson
Being competitive with a turbo engine in circle track racing,
distance racing like Daytona or Le Mans requires an exceptional
"ordinary" stuff just won't hack it. I want to give you
an example here I
hope will drive home a point. You've seen a lot here on this
early Ramblers, Studebakers, and other engines and their
modern stuff. But how do they really stack up against the world's
If you follow racing at all, you are aware of the recent
Cadillac Northstar V8's efforts at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans.
This is an
easy engine to compare with the Rambler and Studebaker V8's
because all three
engines come in 5 liter sizes and 4 liter (Studebaker) or can
converted to such. The smallest Rambler V8 is 250 CID, the
Northstar V8 252 CID. The largest Northstar V8 is 300 CID which
happens to be
3.622 x 3.622 inches or exactly the same as Ted Habit's Stude V8
bored .060 over standard 289 engine. 5 liters is the practical
both, but not the physically larger Rambler V8.
The Rambler and Stude are both heavy iron blocks with substantial
and forged cranks. The Northstar on the other hand is a
engine with a cast crankshaft. (Stock anyway, assumed to be
forged in its
turbo racing version). Chalk up a major plus for the older
that's not what this piece is about. No, the modern "high
tech" Northstar V8
suffers from a much more subtle weakness that demonstrates how
modern "throw away" engines are. Let's look at the rod
bearing specs on these
otherwise comparable 4 liter turbo engines ...
Rambler 250/287/327 CID V-8 Rod bearing shaft diameter:
Studebaker V-8 (All) Rod bearing shaft diameter: 2.0002"
Cadillac Northstar V-8 (All) Rod bearing shaft diameter:
I have pointed out many times that the Studebaker V8 is ideally a
engine both because of its specs and because two 4 liter engines
actually built by the factory -- a 224 CID and a 232 CID. The
the 224 shaft and 232 block actually produce a 202 CID engine (no
modifications necessary except pistons). On the other hand, the
Rambler V8 is
much more suited for a 5 liter turbo engine size due to its
specs. The Studebaker has done well clear to 1000 horsepower (Jim
engine) but the specs favor running it as a 4 liter in serious
And what does this say for the soft block/crankshaft Northstar
significantly smaller bearings? Well, this very costly GM effort
followed in detail in AutoWeek. To sum up a 3 page article back
(8/14/00) in "Cadillac Attack?", they state: "No
matter how (GM's) Fishel
casts it, GM should not see the Cadillac effort at Le Mans as
anything but a
failure; perhaps a qualified failure, but a failure
nonetheless..... It is
well and good to talk about doing a full program and finding a
team to carry it out. Talk, though, has become a GM
This week (Sept.25) under the title "GM dumps Riley &
Scott", GM announces it
is not going to renew its contract with its Chassis builder for
effort. And AutoWeek asks: "Is this the beginning or the end
of the program?"
No, according to GM, but we'll wait and see. What IS obvious is
has been short of power for a 4 liter, struggling to finally
reach 700 hp.
Considering the lackluster specs of the Northstar V8, this could
as a surprise to many of us. The Cadillac Northstar simply isn't
up to the
job, no matter how "high tech" it is.
The point is -- Do your homework on the turbo engine of your
thinking won't take the place of sound engineering and superior
In Part 3, I discussed the lack of engine bearing area in the
Northstar V8s. A poor engine to turbocharge to 700 horsepower
to be competitive in International racing. Most pre-smog era
American built 4
liter engines would be far superior in this important area of a
turbo motor. But there are other things to consider.
ENGINE BLOCKS: Back in the February 1962 issue of Motor Trend,
Huntington wrote an article titled "Iron Parts Can Be
Lighter". This is of
course an argument in favor of thin wall iron blocks vs aluminum
thick walled blocks. What is interesting about this particular
article is the
references it uses. Since this convincing argument about
"new" thin wall iron
technology, it has been replaced by "new" thin wall
aluminum technology. How
good is it for super/turbocharging? I'll let you be the judge.
Here are some
Rambler 196 CID six 155 lb.
Lancer-Valiant 170 six. 135
Stude Lark 170 six 118
Studebaker V-8 (all) 180 lb.
Rambler 250 CID V-8 161
Chevrolet 265 V-8 (Thick walled!) 147
Buick STAGE II Turbo block 140
THINWALL CASTINGS (IRON)
Chevy II 194 CID six 123 lb.
Falcon-Comet 170 six 83
Buick Special 198 V-6 (note Stage II above) 105
Fairlane-Meteor 221 V-8 120
Buick-Olds-Pontiac 215 CID V-8 57 lb.
It should be noted that this aluminum GM V-8 above would be
and heavier than modern aluminum V-8s of the same displacement
today. Surely heavier than the compact Cadillac aluminum
Northstar that was
designed to sit crosswise in a front wheel drive car. Now for
WHICH OF THESE BLOCKS WOULD BE MOST CAPABLE OF WITHSTANDING THE
OF RACING LEVEL BOOSTS ON A 4 LITER ENGINE? Dick Datson
In summing up this series I want to make a few closing points.
by amateurs is a dying profession. It isn't intended as a
"popular" pass time
as few race fans are very aware of the mechanical make up of
cars, but tend to root for the individual driver or team. In the
before "superstars" were that common, it was quite the
With supplies of older, inexpensive cars of a suitable nature
drying up, and
older, stronger engines and the technologies they require also
it safe to say that this whole idea of racing older cars in
carbureted turbocharged cars in particular will be only a memory.
Or will it?
OLD CARS RACING NEW CARS? At least at this time there are still
opportunities for racing older, less costly sedans. Take the
earlier this year for example: "It is entertaining to watch
a Brit's well
sorted '55 Chevy sedan running among the Porsches." (A nice
photo of the
bright red '55 Chevy sedan in AutoWeek/May 1/2000) According to
the rules the
Anglo American Challenge held at Sebring "is setup to run
cars AND TWO DOOR SEDANS up to December 31, 1970 against British
up through the same shut off date."
Numerous sports car races throughout this country allow early
to run both stock and modified. And many allow later sedans as
including current front wheel drive cars. Carefully picking an
with a good record in this kind of racing is a cheap way into
racing that is rapidly disappearing. In this manner you can set
the car up
and run it, gaining experience with a stock/semi-stock engine
while you build
a turbo motor that will be allowed in sports car racing near you.
Its a back
door way into racing that is rapidly closing. If you've ever
racing of this is the time. Dick Datson