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Entries in Engines (9)


The Age of Forced Induction

Forced induction is not new to internal combustion engines, its been around for 80 years, primarily with crank driven compressors back in the early days of forced induction.

Lets back up for a moment...

We all know the saying "there is no substitute for displacement"...way back in the day the easiest way to increase horsepower was to increase the displacement of an engine. The displacement increase sort of stopped at around 7 liters (427 with a few exceptions.

The rule of thumb was that the larger the bore, the shorter the stroke, the more top end power, while a smaller bore with a longer stroke increased torque for any naturally aspirated engine.

We know that the Roots compressor from a 2 cycle Detroit Diesel (6-71 / 8-71) became and remains a hot rodding forced induction mainstay. Similar compressors are used today primarily by GM, Ford, Chrysler on several high performance models. Think ZL1, Z06, Hellcat to name a few.

If you are of a certain age, you remember the Oldsmobile Cutlass and Corvairs from 50 years ago with turbochargers. Back in the day, turbos were wonderful technology, driven from the exhaust, although the application and usage was "challenging" with the often mentioned "turbo lag" being a negative aspect.

Fast forward to today, with technology (computers) turbo's are dramatically better in real life with no "lag" and in many applications huge torque at lower revolutions.

As we mentioned a few years ago, engines are decreasing in cylinders and displacement while being enhanced with turbos. The old mantra of there is no substitute no longer applies. A V6 with a couple fo turbos generates the same power as a naturally aspirated V8 as an example.

Fuel economy and emission regulations are making 4 cylinders with turbos very popular from all manufacturer, notice all the CUV's with a forced induction 4 cylinder. Agreed...the multi speed (6+) automatic transmissions are also a factor in facilitating these 4 cylinder applications.

From our perspective we are in the "age" of forced induction. While it took a few years to arrive at this juncture its certainly here to stay for the foreseeable future.

We still believe that luxury vehicles must have a luxury engine.




Old School Stuff

The entire bubble of cars, and the auto industry, is fascinating some days, boring others, competitive, ruthless, focused on cost, a ton of technology, and a bunch of old school stuff that we often overlook or conveniently omit.

Today we watch videos of this and that, of cars with incredible performance, and almost ridiculous horsepower ratings. Its all cool...

Internal combustion engines remain heat engines, that generate heat, and need to be cooled to stay in one piece. Although with technology one can build in a bunch of safety measures. The old school way was that you needed a ton of oil on a high performance engine, you needed a bigger than smaller radiator, and you needed an oil cooler. could do a couple of flat out runs before the temperature went up too high, but if you wanted to run that engine at higher revolutions you absolutely needed to keep it cool. Especially if you had 3.73 gears or higher, or you had a lower ratio and wanted to cruise faster.

The same with brakes, hopefully you never had to experience drum brakes on any vehicle. If you did, and if you got creative and swapped engines. You perhaps discovered the inadequacies of drum brakes, and brake pedals slowly hitting the floor while the brakes are fading into oblivion. Or a brake line bursting and literally running out of brakes.

This is old school stuff that most folks have never experience, and no longer exists with modern cars. our case the old school perspective persists, if there are 400 HP under the hood, there had better be at least 50% more power in the brakes. To this day we have little patience, understanding with brakes that do not perform aggressively to scrub off speed. need gas to make you could probably run an engine on 70 octane and it would be sort of cool. While most engines and some for reasons of being "politically correct" run on regular gas.

Here is the deal...

When an engine has 400 HP and a compression ratio of 10:1 it will run on regular, but will run better with premium. Back in the day one would pick a gas and tune the engine accordingly. Today the engine management system quickly recognises a better grade of gas and tunes the engine accordingly.

Yes...VP Racing Fuels do a ton of business at races selling gas with a higher octane than is available as premium at gas station.

Some things never change...




Bitumen Bubble

This morning we have The Colonel with us, our conversation revolves around the "Bitumen Bubble" and cars.

Q- Colonel Good Morning...what is the bitumen bubble?

A- Connect the dots, and its becoming more transparent that there is a lot of oil available, more than we thought a generation ago. Bitumen is the tar sands.

Q- Between the tar sands, fracking, shale, is North America floating on oil?

A- Its starting to look like it.

Q- If its becoming obvious that we are floating on oil, why are we paying so much for gas?

A- Taxes, upholding an infrastructure, we have shut down refineries, a whole bunch of reasons, but we are not running out of oil.

Q- What was peak oil? 

A- Imagine immense oil tanks in the earth, at some point one would reach the top of the bell graph, between finding new oil, consumption, and depletion. Once you reach the peak its a downward slide on the depletion side (emptying the tanks).

Q- Its no longer the case?

A- Does not look like it for the foreseeable future.

Q- How about the price of gas?

A- We have known for several years that when gas gets close to $1.50 a liter its the pain treshold, it will not go down to uphold the infrastructure, but it will not go up. Who am I to speculate on the price of gas.

Q- Will more stringent fuel economy progress?

A- Absolutely...its the right thing to do...from several perspectives...congestion being one.

Q- How will the auto industry adjust or cope.

A- Pick ups will keep on selling, small cars (fuel economy) might just stabilise.

Q- How about hybrids?

A- Hybrids are a propulsion mode, folks that prefer an hybrid electric propulsion will continue to acquire hybrids.

Q- Where do you see diesels?

A- Diesels, catalytic converters, urea injection, 1,000 kms on a tank, at some point the trade off, to not really needing a diesel in any passenger vehicle will be debated. 

Q- Are you implying that if a vehicle is not working/pulling a load a diesel is not required. 

A- Precisely, at a GVW of 3,000 kilos you don't need a diesel, cars, and SUV's do not reach 3,000 kilos at 3,000 kilos and higher a diesel becomes a consideration and at a certain point an absolute necessity.

Q- Where do you see gas engines?

A- We have known for some time that V12 would become V8's with turbos, V8's would become V6's with turbos, V6's would become 4 cylinders with a turbo, and 4 cylinders would become 3 cylinders with a turbo. Its all there with various manufacturers touting what fits for their particular applications.

Q- These turbo motors how good are they?

A- In cars they work fine, in trucks with light loads they work fine, once the loads start getting up there, would you rather have a V6 with twin turbos working away, or a naturally aspirated V8 working away, or perhaps a diesel.

Q- Where is fuel economy headed?

A- It will progressively improve, especially in city, congestion, surface street applications and usage of vehicles. 

Q- On the highway?

A- We all know that you need a certain level of power to overcome wind resistance, time is an increasingly precious commodity, folks tend to drive faster than slower, highway fuel economy ratings are calculated at speeds that no one drives.

Q- Is it fair to say that we might have to re conceptualise some of our thinking?

A- Some...we will have to re evaluation many of our established assumptions and beliefs.

Q- We can keep on going...but Thank You or your thoughts this morning.

A- Fascinating subject, its a start, although we had better stop for this morning.




Building Engines

Informative video from Terry Walters Performance on their machining capabilities, and engine building, if you are of a certain age you will notice the "old school" distributor machine to check advance curves in distributors.




Engine Stories

Cadillac 331 one time cars had their specific engines, especially GM makes. Today all cars have generic manufacturer engines which are installed in all the different makes.

To get a feel for the time when GM cars had their specific engines, we have The Colonel this morning with us, we will ask him to join the conversation.

Q- Colonel Good Morning thank you for joining us, and sharing your perspectives. 

A- usual great to be here, and engage in a conversation with you.

Q- At one time Cadillacs had Cadillac engines, Buick had Buick engines and so on. 

A- Lets start that Fords and Chrysler had the same engines for all the makes. A Ford engine would make its way in a Ford, a Mercury, or a Lincoln, although the displacement would be different, and the identifications on the engine (usually the valve covers) would indicate the make of the car. A Hemi made its way into Dodges, Plymouth, Chrysler, De Soto, Imperial as an example. Yes GM had specific engines. 

Q- Cadillac had Cadillac engines...

A- Yes, a Cadillac had a Cadillac engine not available in any of the other GM brands, and so on. Not only engines, even transmissions...Cadillac and Oldsmobile had Hydra Matics, Buick had Dynaflow, Chevrolet had Powerglides. 

Q- The early days of automatic transmissions they were branded. 

A- It was a big thing...the transmissions were branded with names, Hydra Matic, Torque Flite, Dynaflow, Powerglide, and so on...

Q- The more expensive the car, the better the engine?

A- That was the marketing message for having specific engines, and yes it was assumed that a Cadillac engine, was a better engine than a Chevrolet.

Q- The early days of hot rodding / performance were based on engines from expensive cars.

A- Sort of...the Ford Flathead since it was readily available was the hot rodding work horse, then it was Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Hemis...we are talking the early days of hot rodding in the early 1950's.

Q- Why was that?

A- Those engines usually had more and better metal where it counted.

Q- You mean better crankshafts, and connecting rods (forged), more metal around the cylinder bores, and so on.

A- Precisely...big, robust, motors that could endure some high performance use.

Q- How about configuration and displacement.

A- They were all V8's...lesser cars has inline 6 cylinders. As for displacement, the early Cadillac V8's were 331 cubic inches, big for the time, small for later years, and big by today's standards.

Q- For hot rodding...where did these engines come from?

A- Where do you think...scrap yards, accidented cars, 

Q- The cars with these engines were not as widespread as lets say a Chevrolet with and inline 6.

A- probably had to do an amount of scrounging various junk yards, and put out the word, and perhaps even an amount to secure an engine at some point and time. Not as easy as ordering a crate engine today.





More Thoughts on Engines

1.4L EcotecAlmost 3 years ago we shared our Thoughts on Engines which at the time (earlier days of social media) generated an interesting discussion and comments.

During that times we also mentioned that we were experiencing the golden age of horsepower enabled by technology. We did our own quest for 600 HP, it was an interesting experience...don't even ask how much it cost.

We are firm believers that a true gearhead must own and enjoy a car with a 12 cylinder engine at least once in their lifetime...being the gearheads that we are, we had a naturally aspirated and tweaked 12 cylinder, and then a twin turbo and tweaked 12 cylinder. 

We are also firm believers that you need serious quantities of gasoline to make serious horsepower, and always find it interesting to read that such a vehicle with a good level of horsepower for some reason has poor fuel economy. No kidding...what else is new!

Our thoughts on engines have not changed, although they have evolved. In 2012 a 12 cylinder engine is still very desirable, although somewhat useless in a commuter application. The infectious quality of a 12 cylinder is that it starts to get going when other engines start to run out of breath. 

For all around vehicles our affinity for a turbocharged 4 cylinder has increased, lets repeat this...yes a turbocharged 4 cylinder. Especially one that is well matched with the correct algorithm to at least a 6 speed automatic transmission. 

Yes we will take an hybrid before a diesel...yes electric power captivates us more than diesel power.

To energise our passion...a V8 with a 6 speed manual transmission, and a clutch pedal will work every time. 





What lies ahead...




Emblem Confusion

Back in the day most cars had the size of the engine clearly identified on the car, by various emblems, flags, or other insignias. It was also fashionable to swap engines in cars. 

At the time the various models of Chevrolets were very auspicious to engine swaps, anything and everything fit under the hood of most models, the bell housing was standard for most engines. Suffice it to say that it was very easy. 

Heres the thing....

One individual had a Biscayne with 6 cylinder emblems on the front fenders, and a 327 under the hood. Another individual had another Biscayne with 6 cylinder emblems and a 283 under the hood.  Still another individual had a Chevelle with 283 emblems on the fenders with a 396 under the hood (just imagine the sleuthing to locate a 396 in a wrecking yard). We had our usual route to go university with a strategically placed traffic light. 

In the morning if these 2 dudes met on their way to seek a higher education, the traffic light often turned into a Christmas Tree, and the 396 would usually out muscle the 327. 

At one point a newer Chevelle appears on campus, with 396 emblems on the fenders, the car had a roll bar, substantial headers protruding, and the sound of an aggressive big block under the hood, transmitting a a clear message that it had been "modified" (lopey idle + mechanical lifters).

One morning the individual with the 396 in the Chevelle with the 283 emblems shows up late for class, and a little troubled. 

On the usual route, at the usual traffic light he is side by side with the Chevelle 396, he figures that the fellow in the 396 Chevelle will think that he has a 283, and he will at least hang on, or better yet surprise the newer Chevelle. 

As the light turns green, the newer Chevelle to really rub it in, spots him at least 1/2 a lenght, and then proceeds to blow the doors of his car...its crushingly humiliating to a 20 something to be spotted 1/2 a lenght, and then have the doors blown off.

The fellow with the 327 tells the fellow with the 396 that has been crushed. "You thought he had a 396/325 in that car? could you be so gullible?" The reply "its not fair he has a strong 427 under the hood with 396 emblems on the fenders"

The 327 dude, tells the 396 dude "We are no better with our misleading emblems on our cars"..."You wanted that fellow to believe that you had a 283"....reply "Sure why not"...."He wanted you to believe that he had a 396".

An things change.

The street is still there, the traffic light is still there, now there is a bike path on the left hand side of the street, and at least 2-3 additional traffic lights, what was auspicious a few decades ago, does not work today. Don't even think of blatantly trying to out accelerate another car at a traffic light. 



Performance Engines

Have you ever stopped to think about your preference in performance engines? Better yet do you have a preference?

The thought flashed through our mind the other day, and this morning we are joined by The Colonel. he will share his thoughts on what he prefers in performance engines.

Lets get going...

Q: Good Morning Colonel, you look marvelous this morning.

A: OK guys..stop blowing the smoke...

Q: Do you have a preference for performance engines.

A: Absolutely...I have preferences for engines and their applications too.

Q: How would you see a performance 4 cylinder?

A: The challenge with 4 cylinders is displacement, ideally a true performance 4 cylinder is  2 liters (121 of displacement, and you need to increase the air charge with a blower or turbo. Over 2 liters its a street version, we are seeing a lot of 2.5 liter 4cylinders in various commuter vehicle applications. They work well with a 5 or ideally 6 speed automatic transmission.

A: Small cars with "hot" 4 cylinders are OK with you?

Q: Yes...they are cool with me.

Q: How about 6 cylinders?

A: You know I always had misgivings about 6 cylinders, especially V6's...I don't like the exhaust sound, although I can appreciate a well tuned inline 6. Perhaps its the idea that its an intermediate step on the performance scale.

Q: There are all sorts of "performance sixes" from various manufacturers.

A: Yes there are, the EcoBoost come to mind, its a totally cool motor. Twin turbos, direct injection, impressive torque. From a technology perspective, its fantastic!

Q: Its obvious that you have a preference for V8's.

A: Yes, I do.

Q: Any V8?

A: Most manufacturers have at least one V8, which makes for a lot of V8's. From a performance perspective some V8's are iconic, a flathead Ford, a small block Chevrolet, a Hemi, they are timeless engines in North America. 

Q: Those are old, archaic engines, with pre historic technology, and push rods.

A: Keep in mind that V8's are a North American engine, remember when cars were big, gas was cheap, and there was a huge (displacement) V8 under the hood. North American performance was built on those iconic engines, and a few others.

Q: How do you prefer a performance V8?

A: That's a loaded question! The first preference is a naturally aspirated, high compression, lopey idle, with a manual transmission and a clutch pedal. This engine is a reminder of the old school carburated version with an aggressive camshaft. 

Q: Are there other versions?

A: Absolutely, if you supercharge a V8 with a blower or turbo, with direct injection, 4 valves per cylinder, variable timing, this makes for a killer high tech performance engine. 

Q: Why do you prefer the old school version?

A: Simple, we should all be commuting with a 4 cyl, and when you take out the V8 it might as well be old school fun, with good old fashioned torque, and top end power. Using V8's for daily commuter transportation is increasingly becoming a social "faux pas".

Q: How about 12 cylinders?

A: They are "very special"! A V12 delivers power in a smoother fashion than a V8, if you are a performance aficionado, a performance V12 is addictive.

Q: A performance V12 usually implies an expensive car.

A: Put it does way, it cost money to fool around with V12's. When you throttle up a V12 especially if it has a couple of turbos, its a divine experience!

Q: Some manufacturers are constantly changing the parameters of their performance engines, especially V8's.

A: If you remember last year we were saying that V8's were going to get turbo's to encroach on V12 performance levels. Yes...some manufacturers are flipping and flopping with their performance V8's as if they can't make up their minds. It becomes a game of technology for the sake of technology. 

Q: Bottom line its horsepower and torque that generates the performance.

A: Agreed, but when you are paying a performance premium, there has to be an intellectual, and emotional appeal as to how the performance is generated.

Q: Intellectual, and emotional appeal?

A: Absolutely, with an "I/E appeal" the performance is more pleasing, perhaps the car even goes faster. 

Q: You remember our entry Performance or Not?

A: Yes...are we starting to come across as "horsepower addicts"?

Q: Seems like we could have a lively exchange on the "I/E appeal"?

A: Yes we could, not today though.