POWER SPEAKER

We’ve all heard that good things come in small packages. And today this is absolutely the case with power adder technology. In last month’s column I discussed the fact that the aftermarket companies, as far back as the 1980s, were providing replacement engine parts that were much better than the factory. This is what helped guide me to predict that, at least in the performance market, things were moving forward, not the other way around.

After doing this for several decades, the biggest repeating questions naturally include - how can this much power be generated, but at almost the same rate, people also beg the question, how much can the engine realistically take? In subsequent  columns, I will discuss engine dynamics in a way that will explain, in a straightforward approach, the principles that really allow engines to produce incredible horsepower per cubic inch with power adders, compared to, for example, a normally aspirated engine.

Although this column is targeted at the diehard enthusiasts with powerful Chevy engines, I must admit that I was “blown” away when I attended a race in Las Vegas well over a decade ago. It was at the Las Vegas drag strip, and the event was held during the annual SEMA Show. At the strip (the track, not the casinos) I saw several Buick Grand Nationals (yes Buick) with turbocharged V6s running in the eight-second bracket with only a bored and stroked 300-inch engine, and a big intercooler mounted right behind the grill. Now although the eight-second passes were common, and only a few cars were able to accomplish this, the few that did were consistent and appeared fairly reliable. Remember, in automotive terms, this was a long time ago. I’ve visited the teams, and they did confirm that these cars were regularly running at these power levels. For the record they weighed nearly 3,000 pounds, and were producing more than 1200 horsepower. I believe some of the cars were also being lightly sprayed with nitrous. Regardless, these small engines were producing incredible power, and with consistency.

Although I had read about these machines, and have always been familiar with Indy cars, which produce far more horsepower per cubic inch (and for 500 miles), these were essentially modified street engines, in stripped-down luxury coupes. This Indy technology was always interesting to watch on TV, but now there were actual modified production engines that were producing over four horsepower per cubic inch for drag racing, and I knew it was only a matter of time that the general public would have access to these types of technologies.

As I said, in future columns I will specifically discuss how a power-adder engine can produce massive horsepower, when compared to an outstandingly constructed normally aspirated version. Power adders aren’t necessarily for everyone, but their popularity is growing at an exponential rate. And for the thousands of Americans whose vehicles produce two ponies per cubic inch or much more on a regular basis these days, the engine reliability for them is now a reality, although many may not fully understand exactly how it works.

In a nutshell, power adder engines generally operate with less speed and less compression. They move massive quantities of air (which is free), and since their volumetric efficiency is sometimes several hundred percent, they don’t have to rely on all of the fuel (energy) to make massive power, which leaves more (quench) fuel for cooling. Remember, any mechanical item such as an engine is only good as its weakest link.

But the WAY in which the power is applied is actually far more important than how much power is actually generated. There are a number of parts in the engine’s short block that are capable of incredible power (or can be cost effectively purchased) for drag racing, and by giving you a better understanding of how the loads are actually applied under different circumstances, you will be able to make more informed decisions when you build or modify your engine, regardless if it’s normally aspirated or blown. 

 

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