We don’t want to do a Car of the Year post here at Roadkill. Normally, we’d come up with an excuse like “We can’t pick between our whips” or something of that nature, but honestly, we just left this to the last minute without doing much planning. Maybe we’ll get a 2017 cars list up at some point in, say, February.
Instead, we pulled five of the best engines we encountered this year—either in person or virtually—and not only are we going to share our favorites, we also want to hear yours. So read through what we’ve got and then tell us which incredible engines we’ve overlooked.
Dave Schroeder’s Enormous, Nitrous-Fed, Drag Week-Winning Big Block
This is a sentimental favorite, admittedly. Elana Scherr rode around Toronto with Dave Schroeder and his amazing ‘66 Corvette a few years ago. He struggled to get the nitrous-fed mammoth engine to work with the chassis for years and when he did at last in 2016, the parachutes failed to open and the Corvette crashed. Once that got fixed, longtime friend and nitrous-tuning hero Monte Smith died suddenly.
Somehow, everything came together during the torturous week—maybe Monte was looking after all 872 cubic inches and four stages of nitrous on the big lump—for Schroeder and his cousin/co-driver John Ens. All we know is that two of our favorite Canadians joined the very thin ranks of HOT ROD Drag Week™ winners with this utterly beautiful (and enormous) V8. Read the story here, but be sure to buy a copy of the current print issue of HOT ROD Magazine because Larry Chen’s photos just leap off the physical page.
Steve Morris Engines 5000 HP Devel Sixteen
We caught up with engine builder Steve Morris at PRI 2016, where he had on display the quad-turbo V16 he designed and built. Investors in the United Arab Emirates commissioned that engine for use in the Devel Sixteen, an incredibly over-the-top beyond-hypercar that could only have been dreamed up in the Emirates. The Devel designers called for 5,000 horsepower and when we talked to Steve in December 2016, the engine had “only” made 4,515 horsepower. Only 4,515 HP.
Well, Steve finally had another go at the engine’s tune—not an easy thing with 16 cylinders, mind you—and guess what? It spit out 5,007 horsepower. Now, maybe the Devel Sixteen will be built and sold for a pretty penny, maybe it won’t. But we know now that (A) the car’s designers meant it when they said “5,000 horsepower” and (B) they hired the right guy for the job.
The Poor, Suffering Engine Masters Chevy 350
We torture our engines. It’s just a thing that we do. We rip up tires our engines and we race our cars and we do all of the things that, over time, beat on our mills. But none probably has gotten it worse than the old Chevy 350 we use on Engine Masters. On paper, it makes sense: General Motors built literally millions and millions of 350 cubic-inch Small-Block Chevys. They’re everywhere and while maybe the LS engine is becoming the new standard, the Chevy 350 was the old-school go-to for so many people. Hot rodders know it well and so too do Freiburger, Dulcich and Steve Brule.
We’ve done just about everything to this old one because it’s just such a good platform. This year, we used it to test Cooling Fans (Episode 20), cheap Chevy 350 Mods (Episode 24), But man, we kinda feel bad about trying to make it gulp copious amounts of boost—25 pounds of it— from a ProCharger on Episode 26. We won’t ruin that one, but it’s one of our favorites.
The 840-Horsepower Dodge Demon V8
We get a hankerin’ that this number won’t last long as the highest one from a production V8 among domestic builders, but we love that it’ll take a two-ton coupe through a quarter-mile in 9 seconds. We really don’t need to add much since you’ve all read so much about it already, although the new 707-horsepower HellCrate engine is pretty badass, too.
Porsche RP968 4.0L Engine
Alright, bear with us on this one. If you haven’t followed the annual World Time Attack Challenge at Sydney Motorsports Park in Australia, you’ve been missing out on some of the most incredible machines being built with essentially an open rulebook. The goal is outright lap time and nothing else, so the mostly carbon-fiber cars have cartoonishly enormous aerodynamic devices and absolutely nutso engines. One of these cars, the Porsche RP968 started life as a Porsche 944 Turbo (968 = Porsche chassis code for turbo cars).
After a couple years developing the chassis, the owners commissioned a one-off totally insane version of a Porsche 944 four-cylinder engine. The main engine rule in the top Unlimited class is that the engine has to be based on the same manufacturer as the chassis, so the Swedish engine builder knocked together a bonkers 4.0-liter version of the 944 mill (usually 2.5 or 3.0 liters in stock form). Fed by a couple of big ol’ turbochargers, this billet piece can squeeze out 1,500 horsepower.
That’s a crazy, crazy, crazy number for a circuit-racing car. Unfortunately, some teething problems kept it from running in 2017, but we can’t wait to see this sucker getting shaken down in 2018.
Well, we all know there are millions of great engines out there doing awesome work and we want to hear from you before 2017 ends. What’s your pick for best engine of 2017? Is it a newish mill, maybe the 6-cylinder in the Ford GT or Raptor, or maybe the perfectly dialed-in, boosted LT1 in the ZL1 Camaro? Do you like something more rough and rowdy? One of the engine swaps from Lemons racing perhaps, or something you’ve built this year?