Engines are more than the sum of their parts

Engines are more than the sum of their parts

Power has never been easier to come by, as engines benefit from more than a century of continual research and development. But as we enter a new era where street cars can run 10-second quarter-mile times using only mild bolt-on parts and a flash-tune, it also feels like we're missing something. 

Many car enthusiasts are divided between the love of unending technological advancements, and the warmth of old, analogue experiences. Both have their merits, and it's the latter I'm exploring today as I feel that post-1990s engines have changed the magic of an "engine build". 

Back in the 1960s, when everything was shown in black & white and rock musicians wore suits on TV, there was a huge amount of science required to glean extra horsepower out of the engines of the day. You didn't simply order a stroker kit and ugga-dugga it together to make four-digit power figures. 

Parts often had to be made-to-order, or engines machined and adapted to work with said parts. There were outfits like Waggott Engineering and hot rodding legend Mickey Thompson who cast their own cylinder heads and intake manifolds to improve engine breathing, as the OE designs had too many shortcomings. 

Understanding how to improve these old engines took a deep level of engineering which manufacturers ultimately included into their OE designs. Along with introducing advanced computer modelling software allowing engineers to digitally trial new concepts, when modern sequential EFI was rolled out in production cars through the 1990s the amount of information we had about what engines were doing and how they were doing it radically changed everything. 

Engines are, at their simplest, an air pump. And once you know how to move the highest volume of air in the most efficienct manner, then you've created the best engine you can (obviously surrendering to packaging constraints). 

A 500hp 2JZ or 4G63 requires none of the secret sauces or re-engineering a 60s engine of similar capacity does. Sure, there is amazing engineering in the top-end engines making many-thousands-of-horsepower, but for regular street engines the combos have never been more basic. 

The great news is there are still people building old engines but with new age science, like Troy Worsley from Warspeed Industries. While his day job involves building mega-powered V8s (like the one in Workshop Manuel's '64 Pontiac - CLICK HERE) his own personal project is much smaller but just as wild. 

He bought the Toyota 5K four-cylinder for his KE38 Corolla wagon from a forklift as a 1486cc 45hp stocker, but has rebuilt it into the 200hp 10,000rpm 1520cc monster you see below. Yes, a forklift engine that will spin to 10,000rpm.

It may seem like an old pushrod dunger, it now boasts epic motorsport engineering to make it produce more than four times its stock power. While LS engine fans can take their pick of aftermarket block and billet interal combos, Troy had to get his stock crank modified, go through hours of work to de-burr the block to seal the casting, and even set up piston-guided rods. 

This is used on high-RPM pushrod engines to allow for the lightest conrods possible, reducing the mass of the rotating end of the rod. This is all in the pursuit of high-RPM stability and reliability, and isn't something you see on more modern engine builds. 

These types of projects are a great way to learn a heap of engineering and really dive down a rabbit hole. It's almost too easy to make power with a late-model engine these days, so if you're looking for a challenge how about looking at an old school engine build?

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