Have you heard the legend about making 1,000 hp for $1,000 using eBay turbos? It's true. Well, parts of it are. We were able to buy a complete twin-turbo system that will bolt on to your near-stock small-block Chevy for very little cash and make more than 600 rwhp. The problems lie in getting it to fit in your engine compartment and watching the tune-up so you don't scatter the parts.
When we hatched this scheme, we wanted to know the truth about the lowdown $150 turbo. At Car Craft, we don't listen to speculation-we blow up parts ourselves so you don't have to. The following is a firsthand, actual test and fitment of the cheapest of eBay turbos. Since there are many variations of manifolds, turbos, and accessories, we tried to select parts that represented the average you can buy every day. Using an eBay gift certificate, we bought turbos, headers, piping, and all the other ancillary parts, and with the help of Ted Toki, George Diagne, and Eric Solomon at Westside Performance in West Los Angeles, California, we installed it on Toki's '55 Chevy for some testing. At the end of it all, we discovered that this is far from the best system you can buy, but it is a great way to get involved in the stupid power of a turbo system. When you do this, be sure to have fun and expect to make something explode in the name of science. We did.
You might have seen Toki's original '55 Chevy Gasser before. We used it to test a partial-fill 406-inch small-block we built using a cheap stroker crank and a 350 block ("Sleeper Small-Block Combo," Aug. '09). We drove it around The Valley to test the theory that a HardBlok engine on the street would kill all bystanders in an atomic mushroom cloud of boiling coolant. It didn't even ping. After that stellar performance, we decided to push our luck with the turbo scheme. We also like that the front end can be tilted or removed for quick engine swaps (two hours or less), and Toki has no problems with burnouts or door dings. Jealous? We are, too.
The engine in the '55 is a basic 0.030- over iron small-block with 9.0:1-compression forged Probe pistons and an Engle EP22 cam with 0.480/ 0.480 lift and 230 degrees of duration at 0.050 on a 110 LSA. The heads are a set of factory iron 882 castings fitted with a set of 2.02/1.60 valves and treated to a little bowl and short-side work. The manifold is a used Edelbrock Torker single-plane with a Holley 850 double-pumper. We've heard you don't need crazy parts to make power with a turbo because of the relatively gentle application of cylinder pressure compared with nitrous or big static compression engines, so we wanted to use the simplest combo we could. The small-block makes about 350 hp and can be found in just about any car guy's garage.
There were several new and used turbos on eBay when we went shopping. We skipped the used junk altogether and went straight for the lowest cost new unit we could find. That turned out to be the infamous T3/T4 hybrid. It has a T3-style flange attached to the 0.58 A/R ratio turbine with a 2.5-inch V-band outlet. On the cold side, it has a T04B housing and a 56 trim wheel. What that all means is they spin up hard because of their small size but ultimately create a lot of heat and backpressure. Larger, more expensive turbos, of course, would be better.
There are external wastegate versions available, but that added the cost of two wastegates to the total, and we wanted to spend as little money as possible. This is the same reason we didn't buy an intercooler. They're good-we just didn't want to spend the cash. We're going to tell you up front that the external wastegate design is a lot better. More on that later.
It's no secret that the compressors are designed for a four-cylinder engine. The canister
The turbines have a number of design issues that make them not ideal for V-8 use. The inte
The headers we used were designed for this T3 flange. The port in the center is the oil re