'We were crowded around the window of glass and chicken wire designed to separate us from flaming chunks of engine shrapnel when Westech's Steve Brul's hand crept toward the little red button on the console. With his left arm pumping the throttle lever, he touched the button, making the engine bark and twist hard to the left as the nitrous system was purged. On the way past 4,000 rpm, the solenoids were clicked open and the engine tried to leap off of the cradle, sounding a little too angry for just a 150-shot. When the engine settled back to an idle, it looked like the balancer was still attached and nothing was sticking out of the oil pan as the Superflow quietly downloaded the info from the cell. It was a unibody-bending 695 hp on our big tune-up.
If you haven't seen this engine before, we have been using it and the '67 Rambler American it belongs to for dragstrip testing and a few runs to Vegas and San Diego to prove its mettle as a real-world street/strip car. The engine was pulled from a wrecked '85 Jeep Grand Cherokee and assembled almost two years ago by JMS Racing Engines in Monrovia, California. The only trick part about it is a mild stroke on the rod journals to fit a set of Scat 6-inch Chevy rods and custom Lunati pistons. The rest is off-the-shelf parts from Edelbrock and Holley. In various states of tune, it's made from 425 to 480 hp and propelled the Rambler to a best uncorrected time of 12.06 at 112.28. Check out the complete specs in the engine sidebar.
Since there aren't too many people asking for AMC manifolds, we had to ship Tim Hogan our Performer RPM manifold for a template and give him our complete engine specs. It bolted on with no problem, although we were stumped by the use of a Chevy water neck mount.>>>
The car is fast, but we wanted more . . . a lot more. So instead of building a whole new engine or pumping the compression and cam to unstreetable levels (we'll do that later), we decided to go for the glory of a tunnel-ram and the juice in a bottle in a big way. Now it can be driven every day and fry tire at the track on the weekends, just like a street machine should.
The tunnel-ram has two parts. The upper half is designed to distance the carb from the runners to enhance the low-rpm signal without increasing the size of the plenum. Since our engine is not too radical by Hogan's standards, the plenum is relatively small. Larger plenums will stagnate the air, requiring a lot of rpm to get it moving. If we decide to add a solid roller and a steel crank to the AMC and rev it, we can add plenum volume with a spacer plate.>>>
465 hp at 6,100
431 lb-ft at 5,200
About a month before we went to press on this issue, the distributor and cam gears bumped heads, forcing a complete rebuild of the engine to clear out the metal shavings that flowed into the oil. After readers screamed for a rebuild, we used an Edelbrock Torker manifold with a Holley 750 HP carb and a set of off-the-shelf Edelbrock heads. We also slipped in a Voodoo hydraulic flat-tappet cam with 254/258 degrees at 0.050 and 0.555-inch lift and a matched set of cam and distributor gears from Bulltear Industries. It's as close to the original combo as we could get.