Those of you who have been following our social media posts will recognize Snake Eyes. It’s been our project for a while, and we are starting to amp things up. If you don’t recognize the car – it was basically picked up for pennies, and has subsequently become our sleeper (read: cheapo) street/strip project.
Continuing with the budget theme, we embark on a journey to the land of boost, courtesy of a bolt-on Torqstorm SBC supercharger kit. But first, for those of you unfamiliar with this particular project – a little background.
The car originally came equipped with a SBC350 and TH350 trans. It had a nice interior, was running and driving, and was purchased for around the original sticker price, which is more than can be said for most classics nowadays.
While it seemed like a good deal at first, we soon found the clapped-out 350 engine was on it’s last leg. It quickly developed a knock after being daily driven for a short amount of time. The car sat for a while while money was socked-away for either a rebuild or new powerplant, which came in the form of a hopped-up 383 stroker and rebuilt TH350 transmission.
The steering was also shot on the ol’ girl, so our first project with this big-body Bow Tie was a quick-ratio (12.7:1) steering box from Borgeson, which took some of the slop out of the decades-old steering. It certainly helped with the drivability, but something was still unsuitable for any kind of spirited driving — the original bench seat. We subsequently replaced that with some buckets from Procar.
Now that we have some decent seats to hold us in place and steering that actually, well…steers, it’s time for us to up the amount of ponies pulling our sled. We guesstimate our current kilowattage to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 260 (roughly 350 mechanical) horsepower, but we won’t know for sure until we get it on the dyno for our baseline run.
If we are going to eek out any decent times at the strip, we’re going to need more than that to propel this 3,800-pound battleship. Our goal has always been to build an affordable, reliable street/strip car the average enthusiast could also piece together. With reliability in mind, we shifted gears away from our initial power-adder plan.
Word around the office told us the way to make big power on the cheap was to throw a set of turbos at the small block. We considered this, and developed a plan. In retrospect, it seems convoluted and unnecessary, albeit kinda cool.
The reasons we turned away from cheap turbos, in favor of the bolt on supercharger kit from TorqStorm, were three-fold.
Let’s run down the cost involved with a forced induction setup for our 383.
One of the good things about dealing with one of the most prevalent engines in hot-rodding history, is the copious amount of aftermarket parts at our disposal. With that said, there were a number of ways to go when it came time to make our choice.
Most people are so used to seeing junkyard turbos thrown at almost every engine known to man, they think it’s the tried-and-true method to making insane horsepower for pennies.
Truth is, we want to make reliable, consistent power throughout the powerband, not slap something together with spit and bubble gum. So, even when we were considering a turbo setup, we wanted to use the best-quality name-brand parts we could get for the least amount of money.
Before you start lighting us up in the comment section, and harping on how you have a friend with a junkyard-turbo Civic that reliably pushes 20-pounds of boost every day – realize, if that were true (which it’s not), it’s an outlier – an anomaly, and certainly not the norm. While the venerable SBC – especially one with a four-bolt main like ours – has seen plenty thrown at it over the years and has kept on ticking, we just aren’t willing to risk blowing ours apart with a hodgepodge of secondhand parts.
Just to be clear, we aren’t talking about buying the cheapest twin-turbo kit you can find on eBay, either. That has been done before, with a considerable amount of effort, and not very well we might add…We are talking about buying affordable parts and piecing together a solid kit, including everything you need to make it run reliably.
Take a look at the cost-comparison charts below and see for yourself how it stacks up. (We excluded the items both setups would need, such as a blow-through carburetor, fuel system upgrades, ignition controller, etc.)
|SBC Single Supercharger Kit||TorqStorm (ARP-K-GM-SBC-DS)||$2,800|
|Head Unit x 2||Holset HX35W||+/- $400 (X2)|
|Turbo Exhaust Manifolds||CX Racing (HD-SBC-250-V-EB-T3-250V-SET)||$589|
|Front Mount Intercooler Kit (Universal)||CX Racing (IC-B714-KIT250-U-SET-BOV009)||$199|
|Manual Boost Controller||TurboSmart (911-TS-0101-1002)||$85.51|
|Turbo Oil Line Kit (Universal)||CX Racing (OIL-KIT-AN10-7PCS-AN10-S45)||$98|
|External Wastegate Kit||Turbosmart Ultra-Gate 38 (TS-0501-1411)||$276.74 (X2)|
|Blow Off Valve x 2||Turbosmart Universal Plumb Back Blow Off Valve – 38mm (TS-0205-126X/7X1)||$267.52 (X2)|
|Electronic Turbo Timer||HKS Type-0 Turbo Timer||$95|
Ease Of Installation:
Another major factor we considered when looking at the two different types of forced-induction, was the level of difficulty involved with a project like ours.
Seeing others struggle with “universal turbo kits” and the somewhat ridiculous amount of modifications required to make them fit, we knew they would be a pain. As outlined above, we selected parts that would fit together, but when it comes to routing an intercooler and making space in the engine bay – we just didn’t want to deal with it. Especially when there are much simpler options out there.
For example, we weren’t too keen on the idea of getting rid of our Patriot headers in exchange for some Chinese-built turbo manifolds that might or might not fit. We even selected some from CX Racing, which are known as a good budget-oriented option – but those would likely require us to add some kind of bracing to the turbos to keep the manifolds from cracking. You can see how cutting corners to save some cash just isn’t worth the hassle.
That’s one of the great things about a kit like the one we got from TorqStorm – it doesn’t require any modification or fabrication. We called them up, sent them a couple photos of our engine bay, and they had the right kit shipped to our door. They offer a driver- or passenger-side mounted kit that can accommodate whichever-model water pump you have (long, or short).
We know some of you are reading this and thinking, “what’s so hard about cutting and welding”? Well, for the inexperienced, a lot! Not everyone is a master welder, and just because you own a welder doesn’t make you proficient. We’ve all seen those cars covered in booger welds, and we just didn’t want that. (We’re all for learning how to weld and expanding your skillset, but there are better places to practice than on something as critical as this.)
This also isn’t taking into account everything else to consider when dealing with turbos. Internal or external wastegates? Which intercooler kit? What manifolds will fit? How will we mount the turbos? The list of questions goes on-and-on. Again, for the uninitiated, these questions are kind of a pain when you consider the simplicity of the supercharger option.
TorqStorm provides an amazing value in a bolt-on application. Its kit takes all the guesswork out of building boost. And yet, simplicity isn’t the only reason to consider its kits. It’s the company’s attention to quality, too. We’ve been harping on the quality – or lack thereof – in overseas-produced turbo kits, and the TorqStorm kit couldn’t be any more the opposite. When we unboxed ours, the level of craftsmanship was immediately apparent.
Beautifully milled chunks of billet aluminum came pouring out of the box as we took inventory of all the brackets and hardware. Then, the head unit – from the impeller to the housing and gear cover, you can see the precise machine work that went into making such fine pieces of American craftsmanship. We can say that, since it’s been engraved right on the unit itself. The words “Made in the USA” still mean something to us, and they should to you too.
We took a moment to speak with Chris Beardsley of TorqStorm, and we asked him how they set themselves apart in a marketplace that is flooded with overseas-produced parts. He offered some history and explained, “TorqStorm came about when the two owners of Accelerated Tooling LLC., took on a project to refine another company’s supercharger system that was having reliability issues. Eventually, the other company scrapped the project, and we were left with a redesign no one paid for. Using our experience with machining, racing, and engineering, Accelerated Racing Products LLC. was formed. We began developing what has now become the TorqStorm Supercharger, which we proudly make in Wyoming, Michigan.”
Now that we’ve concluded on a plan for our build and we’ve got the clutter of intercooler and turbo piping out of our heads, we’ll be setting out to make some real ponies with our SBC TorqStorm kit. We’ll be doing so with quality, American-made parts, at an affordable price. We’re not just seeing how cheaply can we cobble some crazy horsepower numbers together.
It’s no longer a question of “how can we do it?” we already know the answer – those articles and videos are out there. We can make dirt cheap boost…the question we want to answer is, can we make affordable boost that’s reliable and doesn’t look like an 8-year-old slapped it together with duct tape?
The answer is yes – TorqStorm already has. At $2,800 for its single supercharger kit, the value one gets is honestly surprising – we mean that in the best way possible. We’re talking about an American-made, CNC-machined billet-aluminum supercharger kit that bolts to your small block Chevy – no muss, no fuss. We’ve seen the amount of cutting and welding it takes to make universal turbo-manifolds and intercooler piping fit. Not only does it look like crap, but we wouldn’t trust it to make a single pass – let alone drive a couple hundred miles to a car show. We intend to be doing both – a lot.
For a true street/strip build, we demand reliability. Given the amount of cars already running TorqStorm blowers and putting down a lot of miles, we’re counting on it.
Stay tuned for more in the next installment of the Snake Eyes saga. We are going to get this thing on the dyno for baseline numbers, tackle the install, and see what kind of power we can make! For more information on the TorqStorm supercharger we are using – and every other kit they make – check out the TorqStorm website, here.