What started out as a device to blow fresh air down mine shafts and into furnaces, the supercharger was giving every tuner’s favourite – boost pressure – before the 20th century even began. As well as the traditional Roots-style supercharger we’re used to seeing sitting between the vee on a V8 engine, the turbo-look centrifugal supercharger was invented just a few years later in 1902 by Renualt.
Fast forward to today – over a hundred years after racer John Chadwick raced the first supercharged race car – and superchargers, of all types are still hugely popular in the tuned car scene. From 170bhp hot hatches to 8500bhp Top Fuel dragsters.
From the early 20th century onwards superchargers have been fitted to massively increase the performance of planes, trains, and boats; in fact from the 1930s onwards it was rare to see a race car that didn’t run one. The BRM Formula 1 car from 1951 ran an insane 72psi boost thanks to a centrifugal supercharger!
As for road car supercharging, the first aftermarket kits sold for road cars appeared in the ’50s, but even in the ’70s supercharged road cars were relatively rare, but it was from the ’80s onwards where the supercharger really began to shine in the used car scene.
Although they’re not technically as good at delivering maximum power as a turbo, the instant response and drivability of superchargers (due to being driven by the crankshaft, rather than exhaust gasses like a turbo) have made them increasingly popular in production cars in the last few decades. From the supercharged VWs and Toyotas of the ’80s and ’90s, to more recent examples like the Mini Cooper S and McLaren Mercedes SLR.
As supercharged production cars have became more popular and supercharger technology has improved, tuned supercharged cars have become commonplace and now it’s rare to go to a show or trackday without seeing at least one supercharged car.
And countless companies now specialize in supercharging most popular cars. Superchargers: we love ‘em, maybe not as much as turbos, but still…
SEE MORE FC LEGENDS