Sitting For 20 Years: How Much Power Did This NASCAR Engine Lose?

Sitting For 20 Years: How Much Power Did This NASCAR Engine Lose?

You’ve likely been following the saga of the old NASCAR Engine That Could here on EngineLabs. If not, here’s a quick rundown to bring you up to speed. Lake Speed, Sr. had an old 358-cube Cup engine that he ran in a couple of vintage races a few years back. When they pulled the engine out and dynoed it, it appeared to be WAY down on power – like 200 horsepower. Total Seal’s Lake Speed, Jr. then decided to modernize the C3 engine as much as possible while staying true to the C3 design, and picked up a ton of power over the previous dyno.

Well, that original NASCAR engine has a twin. Now we get to see if that one is down on power like the first one, or if that first one was an anomaly. “We could never really figure out what the smoking gun was in that original engine, to cost 200 horsepower,” says the younger Speed. “We know we found some rust, and a few things here and there. But once we were able to pick up 300 horsepower, I had to have an answer. We have the other engine just sitting there, and it made the same power on the dyno 20 years ago. We have a dyno; we have an engine. Let’s put them together and see what happens.”

“Some” rust… Yeah.

So, taking the unrun-in-20-year twin to the previous engine, they checked the cylinders, and found a considerable amount of rust on the cylinder walls and we can only assume piston rings to match. “It’s scary how much rust was in the cylinders,” says Speed. “We fogged it, to clean the cylinders, but that’s it. Last time we skipped a whole bunch of steps. This time, we’re going to pay a lot more attention than before. We’ll be a little more analytical this go-around.”

Now running on spec E15 fuel, the guys at Pro Motor Engines finally gave the old NASCAR engine a chance to do what it has been waiting two decades to do. In pull after pull to 9,000 rpm, numbers above 720 peak horsepower kept popping up. “Maybe Foggit is magic?” laughs Speed. After bringing out the dyno sheet from December of 2004, to see a best pull of 730 horsepower at 8,100 rpm, the engine now peaks at 735 horsepower at 8,200 rpm. Margin-of-error, maybe, but the fact is, after sitting for 20 years, the engine didn’t lose any power. Surprisingly, it also pulled three more inches of vacuum in its current state than was listed on the original dyno sheet.

Those are not bad numbers at all for a 20-year-old engine sitting in a shop without even being turned over occasionally.

As Speed pored over the data trying to figure out why this engine made so much power compared to the last one, something jumped out of the build sheet. “This one is 14:1 compression!” While the last engine wasn’t supposed to be, it was a much lower compression combination of pistons and cylinder heads. The real surprise isn’t in the actual numbers posted, but rather that the engine that sat untouched for two almost two decades, picked up a bunch of rust, and lost no horsepower.

When Speed says “untouched” he means it. The engine hasn’t been rotated since December of 2004. That means some of the valvesprings have been under static compression for nearly two decades. If that fact doesn’t serve to make people believe that it’s cycles not static compression that kills springs, I don’t know what will. But, if you enjoy watching an engine being torn down, inspected, and reverse blueprinted, you’re going to want to watch the entire video.

Do these look like the bore of an engine making more than 2 horsepower per cube, naturally aspirated? Well, they are.

They dig deep into the engine, figuring out that this was definitely the “better” of the two engines, compression notwithstanding. Besides being able to be measured, Speed pulls out his favorite new tool and can actually see the surface of the walls, only to find a crime scene full of pitting. “The one good thing is that those pits will hold oil. It’s better than being worn out,” Speed laughs.

The block went back to Greg Anderson to put another hone in it, since he did such a great job with the last one. After the absolute horror show in the bore, they only needed to take out .001 inch to clean the cylinders back up. The best part is that this story isn’t over. Speed plans on refreshing this engine, but not to the extent of the previous engine. What’s that going to be worth compared to the other engine? No one knows yet. But we’re already waiting for part four.

After sitting static for 19 years, all the valvesprings were still good, and the rocker arm wheels weren’t flat-spotted. I guess that counts as a myth, busted.

Article Sources

About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent eighteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
Read My Articles

Blue Oval Muscle in your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from FordMuscle, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes