Welcome to my world, my world of turbos, tyre smoke, and tuning...
Tuning cars, driving cars, testing parts, and complaining about everything. It's my job, and a the majority of my non-work life too...
Brian Hart isn't a name many know of these days, but from the 70s to the 90s he was a bit of a legend in the UK tuning world, especially the Ford world, and this feature is about the wildest engine he and his small company produced, the Hart 415T.
While Cosworth famously initially produced the legendary Ford BDA engine, what most don't realise is that is was Brian Hart that made is the success it was, producing the 2ltr BDG version that dominated the World Rally Championship (and practically every other rally worldwide) in the 1970s, and it was also him who developed the full crazy Group B rally version of the RS200 BDT engine, the BDT-E.
Anyhow, what was known in the Ford Motorsport world as the BDG was initially developed by Brian Hart as a Formula 2 engine, firstly as the 420S, then in full developed, kick ass, practically nothing left of the original BDA (not even the block) version, as the 420R. Hugely powerful for it's size and weight, and there's versions right up to 3ltr that's been made, and still are to this very day.
The Hart 420 kicked ass Formula 2 from 1976 on, and it was so good that the Toleman F2 team agreed in 1978 to help finance development, which clearly worked, with the engine taking Toleman to a 1-2 in the 1980 championship.
And this is where shiz gets interesting, as for 1981 Toleman decided to step it up a notch, and despite being a small team vs the big manufacturers, they decided to enter Formula One, which by now allowed either three litre naturally aspirated engines (the Cosworth DFV still powered most F1 cars by then, though Alfa and Matra both had versions too- 14 out of the 17 teams used non-turbo engines), or 1.5ltr turbo engines, which Renault, Ferrari, and Toleman chose to use in 1981.
As Brian Hart showed his amazing talent for mental 4cyls, it was decided that was going to be the new format for their 1981 F1 1.5ltr Turbo engine. Bear in mind this is a small team, and a small tuner, producing his own engine from scratch, to compete against engines built by some of the biggest companies in the world. A serious David vs Goliath battle, it seems and insane plan, but they did it...
The Hart 415T engine looked similar to the 420R, and they were both 4cylinder 16valve engines, but the 415T was another ground up development by Hart, a 1.5ltr purpose built turbo engine that was actually a monobloc, ie the head and block are cast as one piece- No head join = No head gasket to blow!
According to an old issue of MotorSport magazine at least, until this engine Hart had never seen a turbo in the flesh, didn't understand intercooling (might explain the chargecooler- reality>theory!), and the original 1981 engines were NOT monobloc either, though how true that is I don't know (Maybe just test engines weren't mono? that'd make more sense, but I've not found that info out).
Unfortunately, as with all this old F1 Turbo stuff, most the truth is lost because of both secrets and age...
Anyhow, here's some bare engine pics you can click on to check out the construction of this all-alloy monobloc lump. Note no head to block join, 4x throttle bodies, and individual external water ports above and below each exhaust port.
The 1981 and 1982 seasons used a single Garrett (I've heard KKK mentioned too, but never confirmed this to be true) turbocharger mounted on top of the engine, and an alloy chargecooler under the inlet manifold to help keep temps down. Here's a 1981 engine, which made a touch under 600bhp in the race, and I think 700odd in qualifying...
This is a 1982 engine I'm fairly sure, much the same basic setup, but a nicer manifold, especially for the wastegate take offs. These were also, as per all F1 Turbo engines of the era, a little more powerful than the previous year, as development progressed.
Here's a few more early spec 415T pics showing the chargecooler etc, before we get to the big change and where things get really interesting...
ANYHOW, the 415T engine so far, while getting a lot of praise for being a pretty amazing and strong engine considering it was developed from scratch by a very small UK firm with an absolutely tiny budget (in Formula 1 terms at least), it was still down on power versus the others, and while it often showed flashes of it's potential, the results so far didn't really materialize.
With bigger sponsors and therefore bigger budgets appearing for 1983, the layout changed a little, with the engine looking a bit more conventional; a big intercooler, and the turbo mounted to the side on a long runner tubular manifold. Power was up, and the car overall was better, scoring points in the last 4 GPs of the 1983 season- Finally starting to show what this clearly very strong and capable engine can do.
And then came 1984, and the appearance in Formula One for the first time ever, of the now legendary, and then reigning Formula Three champion, Ayrton Senna.
Unfortunately things did NOT go well for Senna or his Toleman teammate in the first race of the season in Brazil, as BOTH cars retired with blown turbos, a problem that has always held the team back from the beginning, Senna after just 8 laps, his teammade Cecotto 10 laps later. Senna was pissed off, everyone was pissed off, but they had a solution, and rather than write it myself, here's it straight from one of the team...
In yet another fantastic example of "Most famous names sure as fuck don't mean the best stuff", they fucked off the Garrett turbos that had held them back all these years, and went to the Holset turbos that they only really knew about due to their sponsor using them on their trucks.
Holset knocked them up some suitable spec turbos in FOUR DAYS (More proof, if you need it, that the BS about 'truck turbos' not being made of the right materials for cars is bollocks- You think they magically fashioned them some stronger custom stuff in 4 days? Not possible. They were 100% off the shelf Holset parts), and lo and behold suddenly Toleman's unreliable turbo days were over.
In fact, from what I understand, the one time a turbo did blow (unsure if it was 84 or 85), once inspected it turned out it was because a bit of valve seat (supposedly a weak point on these engines) went through it.
These 1984 Holset boosted engines made 800bhp at 4bar boost, pretty insane for a 1.5ltr 4cyl engine, and while only about 50bhp down over the top cars at race boost, they were still around 200bhp down on the top cars at qualifying boost, simply as they didn't have the budget for special grenade-spec qualifying engines like some top teams did. Aside from that though, if it was BHP per £££ spent, they would've been the top by miles.
These engines were 6.7:1 compression and revved to 11,000rpm in 1984.
The actual Holset turbo used I'm unsure, but looking at pics, especially the compressor side and the compressor back plate, it looks to be a HX50 of some description.
Unfortunately, despite the engine finally showing it's full potential in 1984, with 3 podium finishes for Senna, the following season didn't go well.
While the engine was no longer an issue, Senna left for Lotus, and as the Toleman team had a habit of pissing off tyre manufacturers, first Goodyear, then Pirelli, meant they could only use Michelin, which massively backfired when Michelin withdrew from F1 after 1984 too, leaving them with no tyres at all for the start 1985.
They missed the first three races due to having no tyres, and by the end of 1985 Benetton fully took over the team, which then became the works Renault team, and that was the end of the badass little Hart 415T engine.
The last thing worth mentioning is the majority of the modern pics in this feature have been taken at Geoff Page Racing, who is pretty much the god of Group B and Formula 1 turbo engines, and looks after pretty much every legendary car from that era you can think of. I'd love to go there and do a feature on the place, as there a whole crapload I've yet to learn no doubt, but as yet it's never happened.
Christ, if I could go back in time (this time armed with a decent camera) to about 2000-2001 when Joe Stevens from Bluesprint built my Cossie engine, I'd be able to show you some amazing F1 Turbo stuff- That place, both the actual workshop and warehouse, was full of BMW/Hart/Zakspeed/etc F1 turbo engines, manifolds, wastegates, all sorts, it was pretty incredible.
Anyhow, that's all I know, I wish I knew more, but it's a pretty amazing story considering how much of a (in F1 terms) shoestring budget they were on!
In the UK and Europe, the Ford Pinto was about the most popular Ford engine to tune in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, and to this day powers loads of fast road and race cars.
The Pinto has spawned loads of legendary variations, most famously the YB Cosworth engine, but also things like the Millington Diamond engines you see powering most top Mk1/2 Escort rally cars these days, among other things.
The thing is, while the Pinto was cheap and common, let's be honest, it wasn't that great, and didn't exactly set the tuning world on fire. Granted, it can be made to push out decent performance, and the bigger bucks and much rarer YB/Millington/Warrior/etc headed versions can be pretty insane, but for your average Joe road car tuner, once the 80s and 90s came along with various other, better, engine options, it just didn't cut the mustard; especially as there was very little serious turbo development done by tuners or racers on the basic 8 valve production Pinto engines.
In the USA though, they didn't get 'our' Pinto, but oddly, and on a similar time scale to our engines (ie early 1970s on), they got a very similar looking, but it turns out totally and utterly un-interchangeable engine, fitted to a car that was called the Ford Pinto. But the engine wasn't called a Pinto, the engine was the Ford Lima.
It looks like a Pinto, with it's inline 4cyl 8 valve setup and iron block and head, but the Lima is, aside from de-stroked race engines late small bore versions, 2.3ltr, 0.3ltr more than the biggest production Pinto, which is a bonus for tuning from the outset. In fact it's even more of a bonus than it first seems, as thanks to the engine design, the capacity can be increased hugely with stroker kits, with high revving engines up to 2.9ltr (just under 400bhp N/A!) have been built from the Lima.
Standard capacity is one bonus, but another is, like it or not, the Lima block seems to be a lot stronger than the production Pinto block too. Normal Pinto blocks are generally considered a liability above 400bhp (though more has been done, with some risking pushing the 205 block YBs beyond 500...), and beyond that it's generally the stronger (but interchangeable) YB Cosworth (4wd and RS500) blocks that are needed for the Euro Pintos.
The Lima block though? Well, 1000bhp+ has been known...
Another massive advantage is the Lima attracted a huge tuning and motorsport scene in the USA and South America, so unlike the Pinto, there's a large amount of tuning knowledge and parts out there enabling BIG power; especially with turbocharging them.
Perhaps the biggest single advantage though from a road car tuner point of view, is, from 1979 to 1989, it was sold as a factory turbocharged engine on a huge number of vehicles. This means it was not the lucky rich few who got to play with them, but your average Joe had no problem affording one, as they were cheap and relatively commonplace.
As always with road car tuning though, there's always the question of "Where IS the limit of this engine?" and without motorsport it's rarely found out. But just like the YB Cosworth engine we all know and love, the turbo Lima was used by the Ford Motorsport teams for their race engines too, which meant a whole shitload of expensive R+D the road tuners could never do was done for them by Ford, advancing the tuning scene massively...
In the early-mid 80s XR4TIs in the USA kicked quite a bit of ass in IMSA GTU racing using 2ltr 400bhp versions of these engine, still using the factory iron heads etc etc, but then for the TransAm race series where more many more mods were allowed, the Lima engine went fucking mental...
Bashing out 800bhp (allegedly 1000bhp+ wasn't an issue in dyno testing, but of course it needs to last full race distance) from the little 2valve per cyl turbo engine, while still lasting full race distance, these things were mental.
Check out the small water lines from the head next to each exhaust port- Cool little mod to prevent steam/heat pockets in the head, which is one of the many reasons big power turbo engines shit out head gaskets and so on...
Even Ford themselves considered making the engine even better, funnily enough about the same time Ford Europe turned the Pinto in to the YB Cosworth, by creating a twin cam 16V Turbo version. While prototypes were fitted to a few testbed cars, inc a Mk1 Sierra chassis (the B+W pic below), it never saw full production, which is a shame, as potentially it was a Cossie beater when tuned, considering how good the 8V head version is...
Anyhow, after Ford themselves stopped racing it, the tuning scene and indeed the racing scene using these engines went from strength to strength, especially with US Ford 4cyl tuning gods Esslinger Engineering producing countless parts for them, from stroker kits to lightweight, high flow, and strong as hell, alloy heads and blocks.
It's not like these 8 valve engines are only good with a ton of boost shoved down them either, as they're hugely popular in naturally aspirated form in midget racing (crazy single seat dirt track go-kart things, not small people with large heads), and often push out 375bhp from 2.6ltr versions revving to around 10,000rpm!
In fact Esslinger are so confident in these things, they sell a sealed crate race motor, 2.6ltr, 340bhp, and 9400rpm, that is capable of over 30 races before needing a rebuild- Try that with a Pinto!
So yeah, in my eyes at least, as much as the YB Cosworth is one of my, if not my favourite engine ever, it's a real shame Ford USA and Ford Europe didn't work together on engines, as if the Lima existed over here in place of our Pintos (woo, alternate future theories...), our tuning scene, especially the Ford tuning scene, probably would've been even more full of big power cars, and even earlier than it was...
PROJECT "BIG TURBO ON LITTLE ENGINE"- ALSO, SOME HOLSET-RELATED TECH, AS PEOPLE ASK ME ON A DAILY BASIS...
A good few years ago I built a RB20 (2ltr 24V inline 6 with a stroke shorter than most 1ltr 4cyls) powered R32 Skyline with a Comp-R RS341 turbo from Compressor Racing, which was basically a slightly modified Holset HY35- A 600bhp turbo, but a fucking good one.
I built the R32 purely as everyone liked to say RB20s are shit, don't make power, etc etc, plus the fact everyone thinks a 600bhp turbo won't spool well at all on a 2ltr; especially not on a super short stroke engine like a RB20.
I did it to prove a point really, and I did, making a dyno proven 470bhp on a standard head and cams, making some boost below 3k, full boost by 4k, and making big power to 8k+. The mapper said with mild cams and more boost, 550bhp was highly likely even on pump fuel. The thing was a fucking weapon and reliable too, in fact it's still running the same engine and turbo to this day, about 4 years later. There's a couple of pics below, and a fair few vids on my YouTube channel...
Anyhow, a big kickstart to the R32 project was the fact that Chris who owns Compressor Racing offered me the RS341 as a test/development turbo, for next to nothing (in turbo terms anyhow, a couple hundred quid), to prove what the turbo could do, and it's fair to say I jumped at the chance and proved it nicely.
Fast forward to now, and one of my current projects is a Renault 5 GT Turbo Raider.
I fucking love them, they were my 1st n 2nd cars when I passed my driving test, and despite all the mental cars I've owned, they're still one of my fave cars as they're mad fun.
For the last year or so I've been helping a mate spec/build his one, and the result is fucking awesome. 230bhp, revving to 7.5k, totally reliable on standard internals, and as it weighs nothing it's plenty faster than stuff like E46 M3s etc etc.
But the main thing I like about them is the driving experience- Being a tiny light thing it feels 10 times faster and more fun than similar performance in a 'normal' car, and that's why I do cars- TO BE FUN TO DRIVE.
Anyhow, despite shit tuners and retarded owners over the years giving them a bad rep for being unreliable, in reality the GTT C1J engines are strong as fuck when done right. Honestly. I promise! So the other week, despite having a totally different plan until then, I decided it's time to fit a man size turbo to one.
I happened to have a pretty big spec GTT engine sitting in the shed waiting to be used, and like history repeating itself, Compressor Racing just brought out another new turbo, a Holset HX32 based turbo, which ticked the box as ideal for the big turbo I wanted (it's about Garrett GT30 size- 500bhp max).
This time it was me making him an offer, and we agreed, considering all the good exposure my RS341 exploits got him, that I'd buy a turbo off him for a good price in exchange for a no-bullshit writeup on what I'm doing, plus some fitting/tuning info on Holset stuff in general (I get asked on an almost daily basis stuff on Holsets on tuned cars, I seem to have ended up with some kind of 'Holset guru' rep), so here it is...
The turbo in question is THIS thing, their version of one of the 'Holy Grail' (ie fucking impossible to get) Holsets, a HX32. A HX32 is, basically, a HX35 sized compressor mated to a HX30 turbine wheel, which makes for a 400-500bhp capable turbo that spools like fuck, and is very highly rated by all of the lucky few that have got to use them.
They come in a variety of specs, but what got me deciding I was gonna use one on my GTT is the fact this one has a 7cm (about A/R 0.50) T2 (T25, T28, whatever) turbine housing, which, in my experienced guestimation, I think won't spool up much/any worse than the 0.63 A/R GT28R on my friends GTT, but a whole shitload more power potential.
Yesterday, the first thing I did once I had it, was do a mock up on my original/standard engine to see what needed doing, and once it's all laid out I'll take this engine out, put the fancy one in, and make some serious boost...
So far so good, fits very nicely, looks fucking mega, and even my elbow/downpipe (from a Cummins engine, and I found it in my shed at home) fits perfectly, despite being 3.5in ID at the far end! Not sure where I'll route the wastegate pipe, but that's no issue.
I'm gonna make a 3in (probably) custom side exit for the thing, but it's a shame it's not a drag car (and we live in a country that rains a lot), or I'd fit this straight out the bonnet, as it fits perfectly, and is fucking mega- An Inconel exhaust from a Cosworth engine Indy Car!
Anyhow, back to the turbo setup- Here it is off the car. Basically I'm gonna be using the standard exhaust manifold (which is very good, 320bhp+ proven), a spacer/adapter to run a Turbosmart external wastegate, then the HX32 turbo, then finally a 2.5-3.5in cast elbow/downpipe which is a straight fit and makes my life easier as I don't have to fab one up from scratch now...
The original plan (until I found the downpipe in the shed!) was to make my own downpipe, as a normal 2.5in V-band setup like you can find on eBay fits just fine. Barely 1mm out all round, but the wonders of v-bands means that's no stopping a seal- I've been about 5mm all round before and no issue sealing. Here's some pics with the 2.5in v-band clamp...
Another thing that I needed to do, and something most people need to do when fitting turbos, but SO many people don't seem to realise they can, is to clock (ie rotate) the housings to suit the application. Almost all turbos you can rotate the housings 360deg to suit the application, and that's exactly what I had to do for the GTT, so to bits it came, a simple v-band type clamp for the turbine, and the typical Holset circlip for the compressor.
Here's the first "Stav's Holset Tech Tip" for you actually- Compressor housing circlips! They are pretty fucking beefy as circlips go, so can be a struggle to remove, and some people find IMPOSSIBLE to refit, with the grips slipping off over and over again, but I've done SO many over the years I can usually do them first time, and here's how...
First up, Molegrips are the tool to use, bigger the better, and ideally with a curved 'mouth' part, lessening the odds of them slipping off. Removal with them is usually pretty easy- Do up the molegrips to as tight as you can possibly fit them, then use the strength of He-Man to squeeze 'em shut, and that's usually enough to remove the circlip.
Refitting it is a bit of a bastard though, but here's how...
Yep, TWO sets of molegrips! Again, get the grips around the circlip as tight as you possibly can, but unless you're Superman there's no way that's enough that when you close them the circlip is compressed enough- Not even close.
Instead, attach a 2nd molegrip tightly to the adjuster, and use that to (carefully!) wind the circlips closed with that (you've got no hope by hand unless you've a massive adjuster knob on yours), and THEN when you close them up, the circlip is fully compressed, and hey presto, job done.
Oh, here's a mini-tip for you too- Keep the bloody plastic dust covers that come on the turbo, don't just bin them- They're fucking mega handy to stop shit getting in your turbo when you're mocking stuff up etc...
The next issue is this turbo is INTERNAL WASTEGATE, and I wanted to run an EXTERNAL WASTEGATE. That's a big problem, right? Well, people seem to think it is, see loads of people go "I want to run that turbo, but I can't as it's internal gate) but it's not, at all, it's sorted in 5min by welding the fucker shut.
Just like pretty much every Holset I've ever seen, the internal wastegate isn't that big, even Compressor Racing state they'd highly recommend external gate if using on a spark ignition engine, and considering the amount of people running Garrett GT2871s and GT30s with internal gates and serious boost creep issues, I wasn't taking the risk of trying it, and an external gate is a better design from a performance point of view anyhow.
So, how do you do it? Well I've seen some people run a solid bar instead of the actuator, locking the wastegate arm shut, but I don't really see the point of that, so I do what 99% of people seem to do- Turn the MIG welder up to full blast, and BZZZZZZZZZZT.
Yep, just make sure the wastegate flap is fully CLOSED (yep, seen some weld it without it being fully shut, then wonder why their turbo's laggy!), and weld the fucker in place.
You could cut/grind the arm down too to make it look prettier, but I've left it for now as might use it as part of a turbo hanger to support the weight of the turbo when fitted.
FINALLY, and another question I'm always asked about HX35s, HY35s, HX32s, HX40s, and everything else (think even HX55s are the same? I forget now), the bloody compressor outlet flange!
Rather than a normal slip-on, it's a fancy v-band on most Holsets, so your options are, find what the fuck fits to it, or the most common solutions of grinding it down a little and using a normal hose on it, or TIG welding your own chosen fitting to it instead.
Both of those solutions are easy enough, but you could make something fit, or indeed fit the proper thing. While the ID of the flange is 2in, it's bigger than a typical 2in v-band, and you need a 2.25in v-band and clamp to fit to it, but they do, nicely.
BUT the ideal thing to do is just buy the right thing like they had from the factory, and that's this...
That's the normal Cummins compressor outlet pipe, same thing fits 99% of Holsets with that v-band outlet. And is a 90deg bend ending in a 3in slip-on hose fitting. Ideal. Part number is as you see on it- 3918685. I think it's about £70 from Cummins mind, so prob cheaper just to mod it as above...!
Oh yeah, here's another thing I'm always asked- Holset oil feed and returns.
Feed is 12x1.5 thread, don't need a restrictor unless you got mental high oil pressure, but use a -3 line rather than bigger.
Return is IMPORTANT! Almost anyone who cries about their Holset smoking has usually fitted some pissy small return. It needs to be like 19mm ID bare MINIMUM, ie huge. Even most so called 'huge -12 fittings' on eBay have ID of about 12mm, so nowhere near enough. Fuck the fancy fittings, a plain, but large bore pipe is all you need.
AND THAT'S IT FOR NOW, I'LL UPDATE ONCE I'VE DONE ENOUGH NEW STUFF, THOUGH MINOR UPDATES WILL BE ON MY INSTAGRAM, HERE.
Hi, I'm Stav...
You may or may not have heard of me, but I've spent the last 15 years working full-time in the tuning scene, and the last decade or so writing for various car magazines.