After nearly a decade and 158 races, we have seen more creativity among racers in the 24 Hours of LeMons than we’ll ever be able to describe in one place. Today, we’re going to look at the concept of junkyard supercharging, which is what you do when you decide to make your race car far more awesome by buying a cheap blower at the junkyard and Frankensteining it the engine. We don’t mean junkyard turbocharging here— that’s another story— but proper belt-driven supercharging. Many 24 Hours of LeMons teams have yanked blowers out of Previas and Bonnevilles and Super Coupes and installed them on completely unrelated engines, with varying degrees of success, so let’s check out a few of our more memorable backyard blower rigs!
One of the first junkyard supercharger rigs we saw in our series was installed on the BMW 320i of Team Commies-‘Я’-Us, for the 2010 Arse Freeze-a-Palooza race. They used an Aisin unit out of a Toyota Previa minivan and claimed they got 9-12 PSI out of it on the race track. The best part was that the Previa blower has an A/C-compressor-style electrically-operated clutch, so the car had a BOOST ON/OFF switch on the shifter, just like Mad Max. The car picked up a little bit of speed on the track… until the blower failed.
Scuderia Craptastic, a team full of very scientific-type engineers, came up with an idea that looked great on paper: take an Opel GT, stuff a Mazda rotary engine into it, then plop a dime-a-dozen-at-the-junkyard Eaton blower off a GM 3800 onto it. The result? Slowest lap times of the entire field at the 2012 Chicago race, second-to-DFL finish (ahead of a car that never touched tire to track).
Team Full Nelson had a Saab 96 that ran a few races with the original 2-stroke engine. Tiring of that, they dropped in a 55-horsepower three-cylinder out of a Geo Metro, which made the car a bit quicker… yet the Full Nelson drivers were hungry for more power. The very generous LeMons Supreme Court justices told them they could spend the money to make it a little faster, so they managed to obtain a tiny supercharger out of a Japanese-market Nissan Micra. It worked all right, from what we saw.
Baldini Racing scored a genuine Teutonic Kompressor out of Mercedes-Benz W202 C-Class, and they set about to install it on their fourth-generation Honda Civic. Unfortunately, Honda engines don’t spin the same direction as Mercedes-Benz engines, and so the initial installation made the blower spin backwards. Recognizing that this was a sup-optimal setup, the Baldinis dismantled their Kompressor, switched the rotors around inside the casing, and reassembled it. The result: not quite one pound of boost, but it looked spectacular and sounded mean.
The Rover SD1 was big and luxurious, achieving fame as the car in that Human League video, but the handful we have seen in LeMons racing have been plagued by the Curse of Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness. How can a LeMons team solve those problems? By attaching an Eaton supercharger to the Rover V8, as Team Odin did for the 2014 Pacific Northworst race, of course. The Team Odin Rover finished 41st out of 63 entries, with lap times a full second quicker than those of the diesel Mercedes-Benz.
The Nissan 300ZX could be had in turbocharged form, so why not go Nissan one better and attach an Eaton M90 instead of that wimpy turbocharger? That’s what Team Z-Pocalypse did at the 2013 Halloween Hooptiefest in New Hampshire. It seemed that the team had made the decision to add the blower the night before the race, because they hadn’t even cut a hole in the hood in time for the inspections.
The Chevrolet Beretta never came with the 3800 version of the Buick V6 from the factory, and therefore there’s no easy bolt-on supercharger solution. The crew on the Binford “More Power” Racing 1989 Beretta didn’t let that stop them, however, and fabricated all the adapters needed to attache a 3800 supercharger to their car’s 60-degree V6 engine. This worked better than expected, and the team finished 34th out of 78 entries.
The Knights of the Roundel were given a budget of exactly $100 to supercharge their BMW E30, with the promise that the result would be all-junkyard parts and all-backyard fabrication. The team did not disappoint, with this extremely un-Bavarian rig.
The Knights of the Roundel BMW ran a lot longer than anyone expected, at the 2016 Real Hoopties of New Jersey race, but after about ten hours the engine went kablooey.
At the 2016 GP du Lac Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg race in Connecticut, the Long Drivers brought a 1995 Subaru Impreza with this impressive Eaton blower setup.
Not having the budget for sophisticated engine-control hardware, the Long Drivers simply drilled out the engine’s fuel injectors, so they’d spray more fuel than before. This kept the engine from melting down due to catastrophic lean-out conditions, which enabled it to last long enough to explode in the traditional manner.
The greatest 24 Hours of LeMons junkyard supercharger installation of all time was the one on the Speed Holes Racing 1966 Rambler Marlin at the 2011 B.F.E. GP in Colorado. Colorado LeMons racers are, pound for pound, the best and craziest fabricators in the country, while also caring the least about tedious stuff like “going fast” and “winning.” The Speed Holes Marlin (which came to the team as a hopeless, rusty shell, so you AMC fanatics can stop your sobbing) already had a Chevy 454 set back about five feet, a Jaguar XJ6 rear suspension, and a Camaro front suspension when the team decided that it needed two Eaton superchargers.
The blowers were mounted sideways on a custom aluminum plenum positioned several feat to the front of the engine, then driven by a pulley mounted on a shaft attached to the engine’s harmonic balancer.
Fuel delivery came via a ancient Holley Pro-Jection unit that I had lying around my garage and gave to the team. So, the throttle body was quite a distance from the blowers, which then sent the compressed fuel-air mixture about four feet to the engine’s intake manifold.
The Marlin was very quick with this Rube Goldberg contraption, roaring around the mile-high course while the naturally-aspirated competition gasped for air. Unfortunately, a backfire ignited those many cubic feet of gasoline-charged air, the homemade pop-off valve proved too small, and the resulting explosion deafened everyone at the track and destroyed most of the supercharger-related hardware. Colorado LeMons racers still speak of the twin-blower Marlin (which has been running in naturally-aspirated form ever since) in hushed, respectful tones.
The lesson here is that junkyard supercharging generally won’t help you win races, but it will help you feel like you’re the Rat Fink popping his eyes out while grabbing a gear on the race track. Now where’s that supercharged Studebaker we have been waiting for?