Let’s get one thing clear from the start, if you have enough cash, pretty much any engine over 1.0ltr can be made to produce 1,000bhp or more. It may only last 10sec before grenading itself and killing everyone in a 200m radius, it may cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, it may run on a fuel that gives you cancer by even thinking about it, but it can be done.
But this isn’t about that. This is about engines that you can take to 1,000bhp for almost sensible money (like 15 grand), and last an almost sensible amount of time (like years, not days). These engines are, unsurprisingly, thin on the ground, but with the right information and contacts, you too could build (or pay someone else to build) something capable of 1,000bhp.
Out of all the engines in this feature in the following pages, Nissan’s RB26, found in their famous Skyline R32, R33 and R34 GT-Rs, is by far the best known. It’s also the smallest capacity and most expensive to hit 1,000bhp with.
Although it is only a 2.6ltr, it was designed for racing and is capable of revving to 14,000rpm with the correct mods. The best thing about taking an RB26 to 1,000bhp is the methods are tried and tested, so every single part needed is available off-the shelf from Japan. So achieving this number involves very little effort, just lots and lots of money!
As you would expect, all the internals components need upgrading, along with the inlet and exhaust manifolds, and at the top end the head needs porting and some very lairy cams need to be fitted to enable the car to give good power at very high rpm.
The most important thing of course is the turbo setup. You have a choice of various configurations using either a huge single or slightly smaller twin turbos, all of which would be running at 30psi+.
An uprated fuel/ignition system and ECU is required too, enabling the massive fuel delivery needed, as well as giving the correct ignition at high rpm.
Ford Windsor V8
This is a funny one, as although Ford Windsor V8s are commonly seen pushing well over 1,000bhp, with some pushed to even 2,500bhp, literally no standard part remains, even the standard heads and block aren’t able to handle 1,000bhp!
After saying that you might think the 302W (the 5.0ltr version) or a 351W (the 5.8ltr) is a stupid base for a 1,000bhp+ engine, but the reality is the Ford Windsor engine is probably the best. The engine is unbelievably cheap to tune with more parts available for it than any other engine, meaning even though you have to buy literally everything, the price of all the parts needed is so ridiculously cheap it is almost certainly the cheapest way to get a reliable 1,000bhp.
First made in the early ‘60s, this engine is still being produced by Ford to this day, and is very basic, meaning building and maintaining one is surprisingly easy.
It may seem hard to believe, but in the USA, a forged crank, eight H-beam conrods, and eight forged
pistons for the Windsor V8, usually cost under a grand for the lot. The most expensive parts to buy will be the block and the heads, with a race block costing around £1,000, with aftermarket alloy heads
costing a similar amount. It’s almost unbelievable to think you can spend about £3,000 and have all the main components needed for an engine that can handle four-figure bhp levels with ease.
For a tuning scene used to fancy fuel injection and ECUs, you may also be shocked to hear that your 1,000bhp fuel system can consist of nothing more complicated than a single carburettor that can cost about £250.
Even though Windsor V8s can be almost 7ltrs with a stroker kit, forced induction is still the order of the day for a reliable 1,000bhp+, and can be either from the traditional huge supercharger, or a more efficient and reliable turbo setup. Unsurprisingly considering the price of the other parts, off-the-shelf turbo and supercharger kits capable of 1,000bhp+ often cost less than £3,000. If you really wanted to push the boat out, we have seen offthe-shelf 2,000bhp turbo kits for around £5,000!
The main thing to consider here is that you will be getting these parts for these prices in the USA, so don’t forget to take in to account postage and import charges etc. which will bump up costs. If you were serious about wanting an engine like this and didn’t fancy building this (admittedly incredibly simple) engine yourself, we would recommend getting it all built up over there and sent to you complete, as labour charges to build such an engine are just as good value as the components, and shipping will be far less when its one complete lump.
For an engine that wasn’t designed from the outset for racing, the Toyota 2JZ 3ltr straight-six is shockingly capable, arguably more so than the Nissan RB26.
Although it’s not anywhere near as revvy as the RB26, the main advantage of a 1,000bhp 2JZ is if done right it can be used in a genuine road car that is easy to drive, and most importantly, running on pump fuel.
Shockingly the standard bottom end has been proven to be able to handle 1,000bhp, but for long-term reliability uprated pistons and rods are needed, though a standard crank should be able to cope at this level. Stroker kits are not vital, but are a good way to increase capacity to make it even nicer to drive, though even at 3ltrs well designed 1,000bhp 2JZ’s are very drivable.
The engine only really needs to rev to around 7,500 to make big numbers, so really wild cams aren’t needed, but a ported head and uprated cams are still a must.
The main thing of course is the turbo setup, with almost all 1,000bhp+ Supras going to a single turbo conversion, using something along the lines of a Garrett GT45 or Turbonetics T76, running around 30psi boost.
General Motors LS Series
By far the newest engine of the list, this all-aluminium engine was introduced in 1997. It may be new, but still uses the old-fashioned single-cam pushrod engine design rather than the quad-cam four valve per-cylinder setups that many modern V-engines have.
Despite its basic design, it is immensely strong and capable of 1,000bhp+ with ease. Standard blocks and cranks can handle 1,000bhp, and standard heads can also manage it once they’ve been well ported. Stronger blocks and better-flowing heads are available and recommended if you want to spend the money.
Unlike the Ford V8, which can literally be picked up for a few quid, an LS1 engine is likely to cost you well in to four figures to buy in the first place, but like Ford V8s, parts are freakishly cheap, with £1,500 getting you fully forged internals in the USA at the current exchange rate, and as mentioned, you don’t even need an uprated crank if you don’t want to.
Whipple in the States do supercharger kits capable of 1,000bhp, and various tuners in Australia and the USA do turbo kits capable of giving your LS1 that magic number, with all the kits costing around £5,000.
The main cost will be the fuelling and ignition, as LS1s are generally run with modern fuel injection, which adds a couple of grand to the cost, unlike the old Ford where you could stick with a carb if you wanted to save money.
Off the shelf power
Summit Racing in the States sells a massive range of crate engines. A crate engine is an American term which basically means a complete engine ready to drop in and run, unsurprisingly it usually gets delivered in a big crate.
Getting 1,000bhp this way is potentially really easy, and they even sell big block normally aspirated V8 crate engines that push 950bhp straight out of the box. Add a bit of nitrous on top and you’re there, and only for around £10,000.
The words big block should tell you one thing though. Fitting them to anything other than a big car will be far from easy!
If you wish, you could head to your local military surplus place and check out the helicopter or tank engine section; what may well be Cold War vintage junk to them is in fact a 1,000bhp+ engine! The good news is they are incredibly reliable and usually run on anything remotely resembling fuel. The bad news is they are probably bigger than your entire car, weigh more than your house, and only rev to about 2,000rpm.
If you are pressed for room what about a Brabham BT52 F1 engine from the early ‘80s? This little 1.5ltr 4-cylinder turbo engine pushed up to 1,500bhp, that’s 1,000bhp-per-litre! It’ll probably need rebuilds more often than a nitroused Lada, but hey…
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