For some people, the big question is: Should I bore or should I stroke? And by how much? For the majority of applications, a stroked motor is preferred. You add cubic inches without having to buy a bigger-bore specialty block, which may not even be available for the engine style of your choice. Heck, there's always room in a block for longer crank throws, so why not! And especially in the case of street engines, the torque is there in the low rpms--you don't have to rev a stroker motor to the sky to get the fun factor up. There really are few drawbacks. Sure, a longer stroke means more stress on the main journals, but strengthening the caps and bolts takes care of that. And while there may be the potential for more stress on the cylinder walls, longer connecting rods can alleviate this.
And getting it shipped to you with exactly what you need, done right by those who know what works with what, will save you a lot of time and heartache, and put your mind at ease. In this day and age, we have a word for this--priceless.Nu-Tek Motorsports of Findlay, Ohio specializes in LT1 crate motors, and specifically stroker packages. According to owner and proprietor Nick Norris, "Basically, we can build any kind of stroker engine a customer wants. We build it to the customer's specs, including displacement (usually 383 or 396), pistons desired, compression ratio, and so on. We can do it all, and deliver it to your door." Nu-Tek also offers just about any engine part or machining service you can possibly imagine. From engine balancing to cylinder head work to advice on camshaft selection, this small crew of dedicated workers can meet all of your LT1 needs. They are also well known on the Internet for taking part in some great group purchases.
Let's get something straight. Nick is the kind of guy with whom, from the moment you meet him, it's obvious the term BS is not in his vocabulary. Very mellow and attentive, he's happy to discuss or recommend anything you wish, anytime. Building engines is his life, his passion. He's there for you the customer, to try and give you the best quality and value--and he knows his stuff.That's rare. We all know of infamous guys in our respective hometown areas who do special head-porting jobs, set up the clearances in the bottom end a top-secret way, have camshaft specs kept under tighter concealment than Area 51, or know some mythical combination of parts that nobody else seems to have figured out. Well, these guys are often full of baloney and sometimes don't know what they're doing. Their stuff blows up, falls apart, doesn't do what it's supposed to do, or is far less than what it is claimed to be. Nu-Tek is not like that. With Nick, there are no secrets. "The only secret is the size of our crates," he jokes. He's as honest as they come, and pairing this with skill and experience, that's what makes him so successful--and his products so reliable and powerful.
On a recent trip to its facility, we could not help but be very impressed by how professional an environment it was. Everything was clean and tidy, and Nick and his employees take the utmost care and pride in what they do. You just know this guy is doing it right.
Follow along with the photos as we sample what goes on at Nu-Tek's facility. We spent a whole day shooting there and, by the time we left, knew we hadn't even gotten past the tip of the iceberg. We heard a lot of things we had never heard before, and were more convinced than ever that Nu-Tek is one of the top engine builders for EFI GM muscle in the country. Here are some of the engine building tips Nick shared.
Let's start with engine block work. Nick had the following to say, "One of the things we do is go in with our hand porting tool, and put a generous chamfer on the bottom of the bores. The reason for this is that with the first few engines I built, by the time I was done building the engine and flipped it over to put the pan on, the piston already has some scuff marks from the sharp edges on the bottom of the cylinders where you've got your notching for the connecting rods and all that stuff. So to stop this, we want to finish everything off with a nice radius. This is done after we finish boring and before we hone the cylinders, because the sharp edge will actually shave some of the stones off the honing tool; the edge is that sharp. It's the same thing that gets done to the top of the block, really."
On the issue of clearancing, Nick says, "Different clearancing is done depending on the reciprocating component combination. For example, an Eagle rod will fit in the block pretty well, but an Oliver rod is actually wider so we need to do more clearancing on the pan rails. We don't like to clearance any more than is absolutely necessary, because of stress concerns and also because there is a water jacket right behind there. If you dig through, it is difficult to repair, and I don't think there is any way to do it exactly right. We do it first for this reason. Or the other scenario is if you're doing hand work down here and slip and make glazes and some marks in the cylinder bore, you can still overbore the block to take out any mistakes."
Balancing is no small feat either. It turns out Nick had some of the fanciest equipment on earth for doing this. "Depending on the different pistons and rods used, the bob weights are swapped out. There is normally a bob weight chart and calculations to be done, but this machine does it for you. This is an awesome machine. You just put in the weights of all the components, piston, wristpin, etc., including a 6-gram compensation for oil that will be on there in the real engine. Then you put in the data, like engine type, throws, and a 50-percent balance. We normally do them right on the money (no overbalance), though we do do some occasionally overbalanced. This gets rid of some second order vibrations but you would have to have solid motor mounts to notice it, as an overbalance is designed to smooth out at higher speed rather than lower speed. Balance is pretty much a crapshoot anyway, because you have the piston going up and down. On the down stroke, the bottom of the piston is filling with oil. So is the piston getting heavier or lighter? (Laughs) There is so much going on there, that it's, you know, complicated. The loading on the rings changes, their resistance changes, and lots of other stuff happens. It's not cut and dried, like people think; it's a fine art."
Convinced yet? Don't take our word for it. We took a gamble and put a posting on a popular late-model GM web site asking LT1 stroker customers to critique Nu-Tek Motorsports and the experiences they have had with it. The focus was performance, value, customer service and technical support, and turn-around time. Guess what? There was not a single negative comment. Some typical responses follow. Allen Brotze sums things up well with, "Nothing but good things to say. Nick knows his stuff!" "Russ" says, "Not only were the main components priced reasonable, but the accessories and other parts I wanted in my build were also much lower then others. Combine that with some very fair labor costs and you have the total package. I have dealt with many people in the automotive industry, and Nick and Jill know what it takes to make the customer happy. They were friendly, organized, paid great attention to detail, were quick to respond to e-mails and phone calls, and above all, great at keeping the customer informed. I was extremely impressed with the build, attention to detail, and price."
According to Jason Short, who is now a part of research and development at Nu-Tek, "I started off needing just some small parts and ended up calling Nu-Tek just to see if they had what I needed in stock. What I received was the most friendly and honest customer service I have ever had in dealing with a shop. Nick was just super helpful with all my tech questions. My new solid roller 396 is in the car and running perfectly right now. Although I am still breaking the motor in, the difference in power and torque is amazing. The car will spin street tires in 3rd gear at 2600 rpm when getting on the throttle about 60 percent. I can't wait until the WOT stuff starts soon! Nick also fabbed me up a killer stud girdle/valve cover setup! Nick, Jill, and Steve at Nu-Tek are the best!"
And "Hugh" says, "Nick didn't even mind that we had ordered the custom JE pistons for the 55cc heads I thought I had, and ordered another set of custom JE pistons for the 68cc heads that I actually have, which was what he discovered after I had him measure them. He just apologized to me that it will delay the project and that I don't have to worry about the wrong custom pistons. And the customer service is superb. Jill Eller is always ready to help for the administrative issues. But most importantly, when I finally have Nick on the phone with me for technical issues, I feel that I have 110 percent of his attention and he never rushes me even though he is tremendously busy. Finally, Nick never makes me feel stupid for any questions, crazy ideas, or concerns I have. Nick's group purchase is the best price that I have found for the quality of work that I expect and demand. I initially jumped on the group purchase because of the good price only, but later I felt that I may be getting one of the top engine systems I can find anywhere."
Nick also offers services for LS1 and old-style small-blocks. Check it out, and tell him we sent ya. I personally told Nick I would be calling him in 10 years when my WS-6's LS1 is tired and I have some moolah to blow on a street/road race machine.
by Callies: Crank It Up!
For years, those looking to hop up their engines internally have had few options as far as crankshafts are concerned: expensive American-made forgings, or inexpensive, often poorly-made foreign pieces. When these cheaper versions just won't cut it, many a hot rodder has been forced to hand over a lot of extra dollars for a quality crankshaft that is far stronger than what they need. Or even worse, they must go with the economical, spouse-approved choice of an inferior product--and end up with holes in their oil pans.
Callies now has an answer to this conundrum. Its DragonSlayer line of crankshafts are derived from its line of respected RaceMaster cranks, and are offered as an affordable alternative. While not made of quite the same material nor receiving some of the lightening features of the RaceMasters, they share many important attributes, and the DragonSlayers are worlds apart from those made overseas.
One of the things that sets this new line of Callies cranks apart from the competition is the focus on counterweight design. "Off-brand" crankshafts distribute much of the weight of the crank on the end counterweights, that is, the ones furthest forward and rearward. Callies distributes the weight evenly on the intermediate counterweights, causing much less crankshaft flex and main cap stress at higher rpms. Those of you who are familiar with a tire balance machine, or have any sort of engineering background, can relate to this in being the difference between static (single-plane) and dynamic (full three-dimensional) balancing.
One thing we all can directly relate to is how easily these crankshafts balance up when in the hands of an engine builder, and this turns out to be a cost issue. During the balancing operation, weight is normally removed from counterweights by drilling holes in strategic locations. But mass must also sometimes be added, a process in which dense Mallory metal is melted and put into a hole in the counterweight. Unfortunately, this Mallory metal is extraordinarily expensive.Nick Norris explains. "We get $50 installation per piece of Mallory, and the Mallory is almost $30. I did another brand of crank internally balanced with a 5.7 rod and a heavy blower piston and it took 6 pieces of Mallory. At $80 a slug, that is a lot of money that you don't need to spend." With the Callies DragonSlayer, like other more expensive quality crankshafts, often no Mallory metal is needed at all. This is a simple consequence of the fact that the Callies engineering crew has done its homework, and is willing to devote the right tools and equipment to manufacture a crank that holds these standards. Speaking of his crate engines, Nick says, "For this price, for this motor, it can be internally balanced without Mallory metal, and this is a major cost savings. This is in stark contrast to some of the other cranks on the market. That's also good having it internally balanced."
While DragonSlayer has been around for a little while, it has only recently increased production for the one-piece rear main seal versions appropriate for LT1s and other late-model small-blocks. And the demand gets bigger every day. While we were in the area, we stopped by Callies' headquarters to check out its operation, and we can say it was nothing other than top-notch. While the forging is not done in the Fostoria, Ohio facility, a lot of machining is, so the place is chock full of CNC lathes and other equipment that make its process second to none. As we were walked through the process of machining a crank, we saw just how much care was put into each crankshaft. Impressive, to say the least.If nothing else, keep the following in mind when crank shopping: a cheaper crank price can often mean poor crank quality and engineering, and a far greater chance that Mallory metal will need to be added. With this factored in, the poorer quality crank ends up being more money than the better quality crank when it's all said and done. Do your homework and ask someone who knows, like Nick Norris, before deciding on a crankshaft. Chances are, it'll be a DragonSlayer.