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The Road To 5200HP | 520ci Hemi V8 [TECH TALK]


– There's no doubt we've seen some massive improvements in the power levels from some of the top drag racing engines over the last decade and they don't come much better than those produced by Proline Racing In particular behind me we've got one of Proline's 520 cubic inch billet V8s with a pair of 102 millimetre Precision turbos on it

These engines are capable of in excess of 5200 horsepower at the hubs Now we're here with Eric from Proline to find out exactly what changes have made these sort of power levels possible over the last few years So Eric, 5200 horsepower and admittedly that's at the hubs, that's not a flywheel figure, that's some pretty impressive numbers from a 520 cubic inch engine Let's just rewind a little bit though, these days we've got access to billet blocks over the old cast iron There's a lot of technology that's gone into turbochargers in particular, but if you were to pick one aspect what would you say is responsible for the climb in power levels we have seen? – I'd say the turbos and probably fuel supply

Fuel management's come so far in the last decade And I think the turbos themselves, we started with, I remember when we used to run the GT4788s and even in the 88 platform what we have for 88s todays in a completely different ball park So working our way up from 88s to 91s to 94s to 98s, that was actually outrunning the engine technology at the time So we had Chevrolet engines back then, cast motors like we said, all aluminium that we were starting to break and then we went to a billet 41X platform and then we worked our way to a billet hemi platform And these engines were really already out there on the market, the blower guys were using them, it just wasn't common for a turbo racer to use that style of engine

But where we grew to these engines was the turbos required it So we had a lot of parts breakage back in the early years when the turbos were outrunning the engines and now we're up to 85 pounds of boost sometimes, and these engines that are turning 10000 RPM so yeah it's, now we've learned how to make even this platform, we did have to step up even more in the hemi to keep up with the power level – Alright so you've just mentioned a whole lot of stuff there that I wanna kind of rewind and unpack and get into in a little bit more detail on So first of all, you mentioned something that's quite interesting there, the technology So we're really talking here about engine building but we'll just touch on this because you've mentioned it, the fuel injection in particular

And I think probably the key point there is when you're pushing an engine this hard, 85 psi of boost over 5000 horsepower at the hubs, you've got a very very narrow window to keep that engine happy and make it reliable And that's where the EFI has just made all the difference? – It has, the EFI's made all the difference and having the right people that have the knowledge base to even tune the EFI to handle this kind of power level which we're very fortunate to have a lot of guys that work with us that are very good at that aspect and they all work and collaborate as a team It takes a team of people to make these things go Yeah the fuel injection itself is, every time you turn around with the way software development is now, when we're missing something in a window or we wanna be able to add this variable, they can do it on the fly now, where back 10 years ago, it was a software update every six months, so that's really helped bring a lot of this together – Alright let's talk about the block

So you've mentioned there the billet aluminium block and as you've said these were available for a fair while Can you just talk to us about some of the advantages in terms of strength and reliability of the billet alloy versys a cast iron block? – A lot of it, even with the cast stuff, we wouldn't, a lot of the, like, cast aluminium but race version cast aluminium would hold up very well What would happen is if you had a parts failure if you did break a rod, it would crack the block from the rail all the way up to the deck and we just have to replace them And a lot of times with a billet now, we have any kind of parts failure, it's a pretty easy repair A lot of times now the blocks are so strong it won't even move the pan rail

We don't have to window them anymore that much at all, it's very rare that we break a rod and even need to window the block So you've got the stronger materials, sleeves don't move around anymore You have so many more options with a billet block being able to put anything where you want it at any given time so raised cams, bigger lifters, lifter spread And then it allows us to play with head studs The head stud stuff's had to come a long way because where a blower guy used to be making 30, 35 pounds of boost with the roots, which is where these kind of derive from, now you've got, we're making almost 2

5 times that And materials and diameters that work their way up to allow us to do what these motors do today – Alright I wanna dive into the head sealing because that's something that's really close to my heart from my own background But before we do that can you just talk to us about windowing the block And unfortunately no matter how good you are, no matter how strong your parts are, at some point if you're pushing an engine that hard, failures are gonna happen, it's just the reality of the sport we play in

So can you tell us the process there, if you have a rod failure, it punches a hole out through the side of one of these billet blocks, what's the process of repairing? As you've just said, you don't have to scrap that block – They'll go in and they'll check a lot of your main dimensions so that the main bearing, bore, they'll check where the caps slide in the block A lot of that stuff, if it moves a certain diameter, there's only so much we can move that stuff back and put it back into place There is some welding we can do and go back and do machining but we still have specs that we have to work within It's very uncommon now though with the materials they use that we do break a rod and push them out of spec anymore

A lot of it can be repaired unless the block's just really old and it's happened multiple times So even a window these days, if we do window one, they'll put it in the mill, they'll machine that whole block out, put a new block of aluminium in, put it back in the mill, remachine it and you really can't tell that it even happened But it's very uncommon for us to get to that point anymore So yeah I think the main thing now is the rod failures are there, but the blocks are so strong now it's very rare that a customer breaks the block and that we cannot repair that block back up, fix it and put it back in the field – So while on face value the purchase price one of these billet blocks from scratch is gonna be pretty expensive, over the lifetime of the block, particularly the ability to repair it, actually can make it seem a little bit more attractive? – It is very attractive

If you buy a $5000 cast aluminium block and every time you break a rod you replace it, within three rods you would have a $15000 investment where you can build a nice billet block with a set of head studs for 10 to 12 grand depending on the manufacturer And it's gonna last you a long time Even at the level we run, it's not uncommon to see some of our clients run the same block five to six years, even in a top performing level, out trying to win races, so yeah it's a way better investment in the long run, if you're running at this power level – Now talking about head gasket sealing, as I mentioned, this is something pretty dear to my heart Back in my own drag racing days, basically we were always limited by how much power we could produce by how much boost we could actually hold inside the engine, so the head gasket integrity lifting the cylinder head off the block and allowing that combustion pressure to escape, that became our limiting factor

Now of course you're well ahead of the game here in that you are using proper billet products that have nice thick deck surfaces that are reliable and strong and aren't gonna move around But can you talk to us about the other technologies you're developed in order to improve that head gasket integrity? – A lot of it's just having the bore space of block compared to what might be running in an import We have a lot more bore space to work with so we have a lot more sealing surfaces right off the bat We have big sleeve registers in these, we keep the bores pretty small So it leaves a big steel register which is very important on sealing a head gasket

The rings in these things now and the registers they put in The protrusion on the ring is almost when you would look at it, you wouldn't think that it could even compress and seal but we don't deal with water So we don't have that factor involved so we don't have to worry about water leaking into the cylinder – So you're talking about o rings here, so you've got an o ring located on the top of the sleeve? – O ring's actually in the head and then we receiver groove the sleeve We leave the sleeves up so there is some press so it holds the head gasket, and then we're up to a 9/16th H11 stud that these things torque in the 150 plus range and you're spreading that load all the way across 10 centre studs so it's to the point now that that used to be our limiting factor

Now that we've almost gone overkill with what these things can hold for head gasket and cylinder pressure that now if you miss a tune up, the head gasket's not gonna be, it won't your burst panel anymore Your burst panel now is spinning a rod, pulling rod bolts, cracking a crank Everything now has gotten pushed to the short block which has put all, now we're trying to make that stuff stronger because the head seal's just not an issue anymore no matter what – Now that technique that you're talking about there with the copper gasket, the o ring and then a receiver groove, am I right in saying that's essentially the same sort of sealing technology they use in the likes of top fuel? – Yes that would be the same And it's interesting because when we had smaller studs and you didn't have anywhere to work with, we came up with all kinds of double o rings, everybody was doing figure eights, they would do o ring on top of another and let 'em switch

We went to a commetic for a while They had some sealing rings that came out of Australia that's a very nice material but it would actually, you would cut the head gasket out, the sealing ring would set on the deck, the head gasket would go around it, it would again stick up just enough to give that press, and that made our way through some small blocks and some smaller deck surface, smaller engines for a while But we don't keep up with that market as much anymore because we're more into this billet big bore space market – I think the sealing rings you're talking about there, we've used them ourselves, are an aluminium bronze ring? – Yes and they worked very well for us for a long time – So the other aspect that's always worth discussing here when you're got an engine producing this much power, obviously it is going to require some maintenance, I mean everyone out on the internet would like to think that if you're spending huge amounts of money on an engine producing this sort of power, fit it to your drag car and go racing and happy days

But of course like isn't like that Can you talk to us about the maintenance schedule for an engine at this sort of level? – If you run it at that 5000 plus level, the parts attrition rate's very high So the rod cycle life, this engine might in that platform return about 10200 RPM and the traps making around 80 pounds of boost locked up 1:1, lot of load on the motor 15 runs on rods is as comfortable as we will go on an engine making that kind of power The heads don't need parts that soon but you might put, we would do a compression check on our turbo engines, we like to compression check over do a leak down

And it it meets spec we won't touch the rings, we won't touch the pistons, we'll check for cracks We'll put just a fresh set of rods right back on that same piston and ring and then on the cylinder heads we check springs every run So we can kind of chase the spring as we go, it's not like this exact number that we replace 'Cause we keep a close enough eye on 'em that they cycle out on their own really On the valves, 10000 RPM, at that kind of boost, we're probably talking, we would go about 40 runs, 45, so about the third set of rods, it would get a set of valves put in the engine

– So it's fairly maintenance intensive Now just on those rods, obviously that was the first topic you talked about them needing to be replaced And that's because they're an aluminium conrod so the aluminium rod actually does fatigue and it will have a finite service life? – It does and there's no doubt that just holding the threads at that kind of power, these things have a very heavy bob weight and you've gotta check bearings even before those 15 runs So every four to five we might be checking bearings 'cause at that power level, the motor's very vulnerable for any little small, a percent at 5000 is such a different than a fuel percentage at 3000 horsepower So it's something that we check the bearings every four to five runs and then we replace at 15

And usually if we don't they just break so it's usually they either pull the threads out of the rod or it breaks in the beam or on the pin end It can fatigue actually in a few different areas – Now with the aluminium material suffering from fatigue problems, but of course a steel rod is a little bit more reliable in that sense Is it possible to use a steel rod in an engine like this or would it just not work at all? – It wouldn't really work at all The power level, the tuners are doing a great job but there's so many variables and if you miss a tune up any with a steel rod, it's gonna wanna spin a bearing pretty quick and it's gonna really hammer the crank and try to crack the crank, in a short amount of time

We can crack a crank in one of these with a crank that only has 15 runs if we miss a tune up a little bit So if you added the bob weight with a steel rod it would really become a challenge to keep everything together – I think that's probably an aspect that a lot of people overlook is that the alloy rod, despite the fact it's lighter and that's definitely one advantage, it also adds a cushioning effect so it doesn't hammer out the bearings or shock load the crankshaft like you're saying there, correct? – RIght and a way to prove that is you'll never, it's very uncommon to see a steel rod that's that strong to be bent in an engine but you could take these engines apart if the tune up's missed, they might go make a run and it's common to come back and compression check it at that power level just to make sure everything's happy And you might have a cylinder down 30, 40 pounds and you pull the head off and drop the pin and pull the rod out and the rod will literally look like an S It'll be bent, it's a forged rod not a billet so it will bend before it'll break and that's actually kind of become a tuning aid to where if your tune up's off, it won't hurt itself, it'll be fine

I mean sorry if the tune up's good, it's happy, if the tune up's off, you might get lucky and bend it before you break it, you can replace it and keep going – Definitely going to be an advantage bending it rather than breaking it Look Eric it's been great to get some insight onto those engines Really appreciate your time If anyone out there wants to reach out, how can they get in touch with Proline? – You can get in touch with Proline at www

prolineracingnet You can call us at our shop line at 7704818000 and we got a lot of people on staff and a lot of people that would be willing to help – Thanks a lot for your time – Thank you

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