Yesterday in my ode to obtuse Toyota performance engines facts, our good man, Rivrdog, stopped by and said the following
Cubic inches beats revving horsepower every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
It is basically the “There’s no replacement for displacement” mantra, repeated by lovers of big V8’s everywhere.
And it is also utterly and completely false.
I classify them as ‘Famous Last Words’ because, in my previous life, which I have tried to keep seperate from blogging for the longest time, I’d race my cars for cold hard cash. I have been getting that itch more and more frequently these last couple weeks, but alas, have no outlet for it apart from maybe borrowing a vehicle from one of the few remaining members of the old group and joining them on a ‘road trip’ and writing about it here. A ‘road trip’ would not only get me in trouble with the Analog Wife, but also with the ‘detector inspectors’, so you’ll forgive my dalliances of late on this subject.
Yes, we’d race on the public highways and byways, and yes, we’d do things so strange that you’d wonder why we’d waste the gas and time to do them, but it entertained us and generally kept us from larger banks of trouble, though not from harm. In the not too distant past, I’ve turned wrenches on just about everything from the retarded but sturdy 1.6L Land Rover 88 mills to the intelligent but fussy 5.7L Lamborghini Diablo powerhouse. I have tired of getting my hands dirty in recent years, even going so far as to work oil changes into the sale price of my F150 when I bought it so that I wouldn’t have to be bothered with them any longer. That is also changing as of late.
“There’s no replacement for displacement” was the last thing usually said before some poor sap lost the green papery contents of his wallet, because my follow up line to it was “Would you like to put some money down on that?”
It got to the point to where it was a running joke with my friends. Someone would say it, my friends would chuckle while counting to five, at which time I would face up to the speaker and ask if they’d like to test that theory. I got my fair share of “umm, well, yannow” weenies, but on a good night I could get at least a couple takers to pay for the next round of improvements for my cars. My last roller had a 3-Liter I-6 engine and I would have to give guys with HiPo 350’s a lesser distance to travel just to make it fair. Of course, I was using technology to measure, multiply and cool my fuel/air mixture while my opponents were just hoping for the best.
The replacement for displacement is technology.
In the 120 or so years we humans have been making use of the internal combustion engine, we have learned to make it work more efficiently, so that we can do less with more. We have learned which bore and stroke combinations work best for what application.
If the saying was true, then why would Ford drop their cornbinder 7.3 liter diesel engines for 6.0 liter pushers? Because they used technology to make the six cylinder work more efficiently and create more power. Ford also dropped their famous 302 (5.0L) engines for a 281ci (4.6L) mill and the 351 (5.8L) for a 330ci (5.4L) because they figured out how they could do the same with less.
Now, if you combine displacement with technology, then you have some interesting things happening. Get the largest air pump of an engine you can find, force air into it while tuning it with a specialized computer program and hold on tight. This can be seen in what I like to call “I’m going to floor it for a 1/4 mile, dude” (aka IHRA).
Yes, I know that I just pissed upon at least half of the sacrament of everything that is automotive manhood in America, but give me break. Yes, there is skill involved in drag racing but how about we run for a full mile so I can watch your car overheat and blow up. Now that’s entertainment (and worth the cost of my fuel)!
Better yet, let’s make a turn or two, and not just in the lefthand direction (Oops, now I just pissed on NASCAR! How will I survive?)
Which brings me to my other point: vehicle application. If you look at IndyCar and NASCAR, they both run on the same tracks with the same skillset, but IndyCars are running faster even though their mills are almost half the size of NASCAR’s.
Or to put it into non-superhuman terms: you can have an LS5 454 in your 1970 Corvette and you can run it pretty fast in a straight line, but try to take a country road corner at speed and you may have to clean your pants out shortly thereafter. However, try the same trick with the same car, except that this one has an LT1 350, and depending on your heel-toe skill level, you’re almost guaranteed a good time.
The LS5 will get to the first corner faster, but the LT1 will be able to hold more of it’s speed through the turn and therefore not have to work as hard to get back up to speed afterwards. Give the LT1 a few of those turns to make and the LS5 will be seeing four round tail lights in short order because the LT1 engine is at least 100lbs lighter than the LS5 mill (probably closer to 150lbs) and not having to stop, start and steer that extra weight on the nose of the car around gives the LT1 car an advantage over the LS5 car (which is why I’ve never owned a car with air conditioning as the hardware for that weights 50-70lbs and sits right up front).
You want to have your car set up for a certain application. Unfortunately, a car you want to run quarter miles with is going to piss you off on the interstate and vice versa, a car you want to go fast on the interstate will have horrible ET’s. Also, a car that does great on the interstate will probably not do well in tight twistys, and so on and so on. My Supra was good for the highway and long distance touring, my MR2 was for carving two-lane mountain roads and their wonderful switchbacks and the Series 1 Celica, with it’s solid rear axle and 1400lb body was best for the solid 11.61 quarter mile.
I could go on and on about this and ask why a Chevy hasn’t gotten near 200mph with their 5.7L mill (the 350) even though Lamborghini was able to build cars all day long that would go as far as a driver was willing to take, even up to 201mph, with their 5.7L. Or I could talk about why Cadillac’s V-16 didn’t sell or Volkswagon’s W8 isn’t selling, but I think I’ve gone on for quite long enough. Sorry if I got a little bit ‘inside baseball’, maybe next time I’ll post a glossary?