Most are well versed in the performance capabilities of Nelson Racing Engines (NRE). This month we got together with NRE’s ringleader, Tom Nelson, to get a firsthand look at their latest small-block creation specifically for the LS crowd. Nelson was quick to show us the NRE 388ci LSX engine from the Daily Driver series and it cracks off an impressive 1,000 hp and 975 lb-ft of torque on just the 91 octane you can get at your local filling station.
Our LS line of engines is quickly becoming one of our most popular packages. The LS engines are lightweight, compact in size, and get great fuel mileage, Nelson says, who was really enthusiastic to show us inside the LS beast. Add in a pair of Turbonetics 61mm turbochargers, huffing into the 388ci package, the power is still super impressive. Twisting the boost knob and adding race fuel pushes the LS 388ci bullet to its threshold at 1,400 hp.
Making 1,000 hp isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but where NRE impresses us is in the details of the Daily Driver Series 388. Nelson doesn’t just slap that daily driven logo onto an engine and send it to the streets. Careful planning, dyno testing, and real-world results have led to the tagging of this LSX bullet. The 388 literally drives like a new showroom floor car. It starts up nicely, idles well, and can be lugged down to 1,200 rpm on the highway. Just about all of our customers add A/C to this engine and it runs so smooth, Nelson says. It’s the next part that convinced us that NRE’s Daily Driver moniker is the real deal. Nelson says, The valvetrain is quiet, and it’s a hydraulic roller so you’ll never have to adjust anything. It’s perhaps the most maintenance-free 1,000hp pump-gas engine we’ve come across. The parts were selected for a very specific purpose to keep the engine street worthy and long lasting.
The foundation for the mayhem is none other than a GM Performance Parts LSX block with a standard 9.24-inch deck height. NRE takes great care in its machine process to ensure accuracy and quality. The cylinders are bored to 4.125 inches and NRE adds a standard 3.625-inch stroke to attain the final displacement of 388 ci. He says, We designed this engine around a stock stroke for great piston durability. Many builders stuff way too much stroke in the stock deck-height blocks and the sleeve lengths aren’t long enough to support the piston skirts. We build larger stroker engines, but we use the taller blocks in those applications. NRE utilizes a Callies Magnum 4340 steel crankshaft as well as Oliver billet rods and custom pistons. The compression ratio is 8.8:1 to keep it friendly with boost and 91-octane fuel but not be lazy at part-throttle like some engines tend to be with a much lower compression ratio.
Moving to the valvetrainobviously the camshaft isn’t an off-the-shelf grind from a no-frills company. NRE has a specific camshaft profile for this engine and all Nelson would say about it is that it makes power, idles perfectly with plenty of vacuum, and there are no issues with spooling the turbochargers. A set of COMP hydraulic roller lifters are attached to the GM offset rocker arms via a thick set of Smith Brothers 0.116-inch wall pushrods. The last thing you want in a high-horsepower combination is any flex in the pushrods, especially with a forced-induction engine. The heads are GM L92 aluminum heads that you can find almost anywhere and at a reasonable cost. Once the castings are cleaned up, NRE puts them through the CNC mill and increases flow to 355 cfm on the intake port.
Topping off the engine is the crown jewel of NRE engineering and perhaps the most distinctive component in the entire package. The new NRE sheetmetal intake features a billet inlet that incorporates an internal dual-blade throttle body. The intake also has dual injectors per cylinder and an Aeromotive fuel system with two pumps and NRE billet fuel pressure regulators for Octane-On-Demand. It’s a system that NRE developed that allows the use of two fuel tanks with two different octane fuels. As the engine gets into big boost, the ECU will automatically transfer over to the high-octane fuel system to keep detonation away. The Octane-On-Demand is an optional add-on for those who crave the 1,400hp setting on the boost controller.
I think what separates us from others is that we’ve been building turbo engines for over 15 years. We have tested quite a bit over the years and with complete builds in our Nelson SuperCars division we’ve learned a lot in the real world. This was really huge in understanding what these engines need, Nelson says. For those who want more power but still keep the LS package, NRE has another series with a more aggressive camshaft and it makes 1,070 hp on pump gas and 1,600 hp on the race-only stuff. And for those looking for even more power there is the NRE Warrior line. It isn’t for the faint of heart as the 454ci bullet is based on the GMPP LSX tall-deck block (9.700 inches) and cranks out 1,500 hp on pump gas and nearly 2,500 hp on race fuel.
Picking up the phone and ordering the NRE 388 is easy but some might wince at the $35,000 price tag. Most people don’t realize that for that amount of greenbacks the package is all-inclusive. NRE delivers a complete, ready-to-run system with a twin-turbo kit (stainless steel headers, Turbonetics 61mm turbochargers and matching wastegates, air-to-air or air-to-water intercooler), complete fuel system, ignition system, Electromotive Tec 3R ECU with custom NRE tune, wiring harness, and all the sensors, and as Nelson put it, It’s an engineered package that saves countless hours and dollars. Just add fuel and you are ready to eliminate anything that lines up against you. CHP