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Turbos For The Street

Want to Make 1,000 HP? Add a Pair of Turbos

By , Photography by

WTF? Builders
Is your budget really tight? Build something like this Oldsmobile.

Some of our friends from the Brotherhood of Street Racers shuffled some parts around and concocted this hooptie: a turbocharged TPI engine running on E85 in a 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass. The best guess anyone of them can come up with is that the car cost them a total of $2,000 to build. It's not much to look at, but that's seen as an advantage to these guys. We snapped these pictures at Vehicle Liquidation Used Cars in Littlerock, California, where the sales guys were more than willing to go along with the joke, offering to give this pile to anyone with guts enough to take it home.

The engine is out of a Suburban from the junkyard, as are the TPI intake parts. It runs on MegaSquirt's V3 ECM, which is capable of handling up to 21 psi of boost. The turbocharger is one of those really cheap, no-name ones from eBay, and it breathes directly into the engine rather than running through an intercooler. Intake temperatures are not a concern, because the car is fueled by E85, which has a lower latent heat of vaporization than gasoline. You can feel this yourself by dripping some alcohol on your skin. As it evaporates, the alcohol pulls a lot of heat from the area, making your skin feel cold. In an engine, E85 and other alcohol-based fuels can lower temperatures in the intake by 50 degrees or more. The rest of the drivetrain is stock, and probably the only reason the transmission and rearend aren't smoldering piles of parts (yet) is because the turbocharger is big. Very little thought was put into choosing it; a 77mm unit was picked basically because someone thought it sounded good. It doesn't spool quickly, so power comes on gradually, making it easier on the stock parts. "You can make junk parts run," say our racer buddies, implying that all you need is a bigger turbo. There are limits to this, however, and it's likely that, in the case of this combination, the engine is done revving before the turbocharger is close to making enough boost to wipe out the bottom end of this block. The point is that even a mismatched combination can be fast.

We've ventured into the world of turbocharging before, most notably with Ted Toki's 1955 Chevy in the Sept. '10 and Apr. '11 issues of Car Craft, but we felt it was time to revisit the issue now. We will be building on this foundation with more in-depth coverage of turbo builds, and we'll even tackle a few of our own, including the concoction Editor Glad is brewing for his 71 Demon. In the meantime, check out some of these online resources for more information, and email us with ideas of your own at

Gale Banks Engineering
546 Duggan Avenue
CA  91702
Deeds Engineering
Nelson Racing Engines
9318 Oso Ave.
CA  91311
Addiction Motorsports
21417 Ingomar Street Unit #2
Canoga Park
CA  91304
Vehicle Liquidation Used Cars
Lund Racing
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