Quad Squad

Proving that half the cylinders can double your fun

Article as written in January 2000 issue of Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords

All right, you 4 cylinder fans (or should I say loonies?)-- this one's for you. Yes, this car is faster than most of those "darn 5-liters, and yes it can make a mockery of all those guys with their "pathetic" 302s. But this time, lets look at it as a story not about which is better, or how far superior the overhead cam 4 cylinder is in design. Rather, allow the V8 guys to learn a little something from a man named Dave Flanders about what can be done to a turbo 4.

This silver notchback used to belong to Dave's friend, Brian Wheat, who had been running it as a bracket car for years witha 460/C6 combo instead of the original carbureted turbo 4. It was a strong running piece, and Dave thought it was time to have himself a little fun, so he bought the car. Once the coupe was back at his ranch, Dave pulled out the big-block powertrain and sold it almost immediately. In its place, a carbureted/turbo powertrain was dropped in, and 13.50s followed. Over a period of two years, the engine would go through several phases of experimentation that would drop the car's ETs into the 12s, 11s and then the 10s. On alcohol. Oh, did we forget to mention that it runs on alcohol? Dave's current setup is pretty interesting, and is the most full-on effort to date, so let's take a deeper look.

Dave started with a block from an '89 Ranger truck. It was bored, honed and fully machined by his friend Tim Hirt of Grand Rapids, Mich. Hirt set the bore to 3.81 and slid in a set of TRW flat-tops wrapped in Total Seal rings, connected to the ends of GRP 5.06-inch aluminum rods. Compression was set up unusually high (10.5:1), but Dave says he did it for a few reasons. "I can get away with it, unlike a gasoline engine. Using alcohol helps me keep the compression high, which crisps it up downstairs for boost response as it spools up alot quicker. I've found that I can make as much power with high compression and less boost as low compression and a lot of boost," he relates.

After configuring the squeeze ratio, Dave focused his attention on the remainder of the package. He fabricated and installed a homemade main girdle to tie the main caps together. Dave also used a Melling high-volume oil pump and a stock oil pan (modified to accept 7 quarts) to keep the internals well-lubed. Up top, an Esslinger aluminum head with a Crane roller cam (260 degrees at .050 lift, .580 total lift) actuates the Manley 1.89 and 1.59 valves. On went the timing belt and in went the engine. Work on the custom alcohol injection system was now ready to begin.

Alcohol fuel systems requires much more volume than gasoline. In back, a Procon fuel pump delivers 125 per hour (that's a monstrous 475 liters per hour, for you metric fans) and feeds 130 psi of pressure to the complicated array of valves, divertors and boost compensators sourced from Ron's, Kinsler and Hilborn. Four mechanical injectors are attached to a modified Esslinger intake manifold with a fabricated plenum.

A 65mm throttle body (from a V8 -- sacrilege!) accepts 23 lbs. of boost from a T-bird intercooler. A handmade 1 1/2 inch header feeds a single Garett AiResearch T-04 turbo with a 60-1 compressor and a .63 turbine housing. A downpipe dumps the spent fumes right behind the front right wheel; two Turbonetics Delta Gate wastegates are used to accurately control the boost level, and relieve themselves freely underneath the car. A modified '79 Duraspark distributor and both an MSD 6A and 7AL box handle spark duties.

A C4 built by Wheat make use of a JPT reverse manual valve body. The 3-speed used to serve behind another big block car, but once the smaller 2.3-spec bellhousing was bolted to the front pump, Dave was able to use it. A teeny-weenie 8-inch converter stall to a staggering 6800 rpm on the line. Dave shifts with a stock floor-mounted shifter at around 6500 and buzzes the bugger to the far end of the tach out the back door.

After we found out all about the car and its hardware, we just had to ask him why he build it as a 4-banger, especially when it had a stout big-block to start with. Sometimes I feel stupid for doing the turbo 4. I even kick myself (guess where) for getting rid of the 460, considering all the grief the turbo-4 has given me," said Dave. "But I have as much fun making custom parts and playing around with it as I do racing it.

"I'd be too bored with the big-block. It's a challenge compared to the V8. Besides, I'm too broke to do anything else at this point."

He's going to stick the 2.5 to improve upon the car's bes of 10.48 at 128. At 3,000 lbs., it no taco shell, so don't think he's got any real weight advantage.

So, you turbo-4 guys, you got it this time. The popularity of the 302 has almost made the 2.3 cars fall off the face of the earth. But when you have a dedicated soul like Dave Flanders, you definitely don't want to see this notchback next to you on the starting line.