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Cheap Turbos From eBay On A 350 Small Block Engine - Cheap Ebay Turbos

Want 600 RWHP For Around 1,800 Bucks? Learn The Secrets Behind . . .

By , Photography by , Mike Morgan Photography

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.

The Car
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 Mill
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.

The Turbos
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.

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27 comments
Jon Alchin
Jon Alchin

Nothing wrong with good used parts.

Jesse Rowland
Jesse Rowland

Good point Karl, and i agree. i'd hate if my car wasn't streetable. i need fun not bragging rights.

Davide Novo
Davide Novo

Apparently I need a SBC, don't tell my boss!

Scott Samuelson
Scott Samuelson

I Bought 2 cheap e Bay turbos bout 5 years ago. For my 383 twin turbo mud truck. Hadn't had a problem yet. Work great and tons of power. For me turbos the cheap part. It was all the plumbing and silicone boots that hurt. Under Pressure Mud/mega truck racing

Minnesota Hot Rod Hardware
Minnesota Hot Rod Hardware

Ebay Turbos = 3 days of fun before they rattle themselves to death! A melted down Kia that is then recast into a turbo does not last long.

Jake Ingalls
Jake Ingalls

I'm mostly concerned about the turbos, most of us can fudge just how long the motor would last, but what makes the ebay turbos so cheap?

Ron Horning
Ron Horning

I am running a 351 4V CJ with a used 6 psi Powerdyne and a new 750 Summit carb, mechanical fuel pump in my 70 Stang. About 475/500 hp. Been running the combo 3 year plus no issues

Karl Loper
Karl Loper

Sure, I'll read that. I don't doubt that a used turbo and a mild tune would live in normal street use. What I wonder is how long THIS dual set up will last. These magazines are notorious for showing us a build with stupid cool numbers, but not telling us that it's not going to live long in the daily driver. For many years my hot rod was my daily driver.

Jesse Rowland
Jesse Rowland

Similar in a sense they used second hand parts. the whole premise of the article was an ebay turbo they bought for 200$. definitely didnt make as much power but it drove 2000+ miles. i'll try and find a link if youre interested.

Karl Loper
Karl Loper

Define similar. This story ended with that yellow '55 making 900+ hp at the tires on a pretty average SBC. I wouldn't think that kind of pressure would last long without some serious internals and/or aftermarket block.

Jesse Rowland
Jesse Rowland

Johnnie, Jake, this'd be fun with the camaro, especially with the low miles that engine has.

Jesse Rowland
Jesse Rowland

Hot Rod magazine did a similar deal and it lasted all of drag week other than a blown oil return line. then they pumped boost and detonated the engine. but without the tom-foolery it seemed to hold up well.

Karl Loper
Karl Loper

So what's the longevity of this? I've seen people spray the b'jesus out of a wrecking yard motor and make HUGE power, but it didn't last long.

Justin Bickle
Justin Bickle

I taught these guys everything they know Kristopher

James McMahan
James McMahan

".. shouldn't buy the turbos with the integral wastegates; buy the external gates instead." - Car Craft Magazine

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