Preview: Steve Morris-built Vortech-Boosted SBC For Project Evil 8.5


As part of the daily goings-on here, the chance regularly arises to build projects that showcase some of the latest and greatest technology our sport’s manufacturers have to offer.

One of our sister magazines — Dragzine — has put together a plan to enter the West Coast’s Outlaw 8.5 eighth-mile wars, using a crossbreed Mustang pumped up with a stout all-aluminum small-block Chevrolet fronted by one of two superchargers in a gear-driven configuration: Vortech Superchargers‘ XB-105, or the company’s Xi billet-wheel centrifugal supercharger. The engine build, christened ‘Evil 8.5’, will happen right here on these pages.

The build will take place at the Michigan horsepower factory otherwise known as Steve Morris Engines, where Steve and his team will inject the engine with the latest technology from an engine-building perspective.

“This isn’t an unlimited blower, unlimited boost engine,” says Morris. “When we’re using a restricted or smaller supercharger, we can actually make the engine too good. There’s always a fine line of efficiency. We need to make sure we match things up — proper camshaft design, proper cubic inches, to make optimal use of the pounds-per-minute of airflow that goes through the engine.”

(Left) The Brodix solid-cast block is strength personified. (Right) The 55 mm cam tunnel is raised .391-inch over the stock dimension; this permits the use of shorter, thicker pushrods for greater valvetrain stability.

The engine’s construction will center around a Brodix 9.500-inch deck-height solid aluminum block — no water will be present in the block.

Stiffening ribs are cast into the lifter area for extra strength.

Stiffening ribs are cast into the lifter area for extra strength. When complete, this engine will feature bushed lifter bores that to accept the .937-inch-diameter Isky keyway lifters.

This block features 400 SBC mains, wide pan rails, and a raised camshaft location with 55 mm roller cam bearings. The Hot Isostatic Pressure operation used to cast the block is a forming and densification process that uses temperature and pressure to harden the component — very high pressures are applied to the block from all sides to eliminate porosity, without changing the shape of the component.

Moroso's dry sump oiling system will ensure adequate lubrication to all parts of the engine under the fiercest conditions.

Moroso’s six-stage dry sump oil pump will ensure adequate lubrication to all parts of the engine under the fiercest conditions.

The block is set up for dry sump oiling, which will be handled by a six-stage tri-lobe dry sump pump and dry sump pan/tank system from Moroso Performance Products. In the interest of maximizing engine vacuum and crankcase sealing, one scavenge stage will pull from the intake valley.

One of Bryant‘s 4.000-inch stroke 4330M Timken steel billet crankshafts, with 4.000-inch stroke, 2.100-inch rod, and 2.650-inch main bearing dimensions, will be used to spin a set of GRP‘s finest 6.200-inch billet connecting rods complete with L-19 7/16-inch capscrews.

At the end of the rods, a set of 10.75:1-compression hard-anodized Diamond forged pistons seal up the bore with a set of Total Seal‘s M2 1/16, 1/16, 3/16-inch piston rings, designed for the engine’s 4.125-inch cylinders. Trend Performance‘s DLC-coated TP1 piston pins will also be installed. And ATI Performance Products has a place at both ends of the engine, with their Super Damper on the nose and one of their Super Plates on the back side of the engine.

The engine will be sealed up by a full complement of SCE‘s gaskets, including the company’s .072-inch-thick Pro Copper head gaskets.

Eight good little soldiers, all lined up in a row and awaiting their marching orders.

Eight good little soldiers, all lined up in a row and awaiting their marching orders.

Brodix is also involved in the program with their symmetrical-port SBC cylinder heads, which are on the bench at Chris Frank’s Frankenstein Racing Heads down in Texas for a full makeover.

“The heads were delivered to us as a raw casting — no valve job, no seats, guides, or pushrod clearance. These are 100-percent our design,” says Frank.

“On this particular application, since there’s a supercharger, our goal is to get the best line of sight as possible to the cylinder; get the port as straight as possible. We’ve got the port as high as we can get it while still being able to utilize an O-ring to seal the manifold, and this allows us to get a real straight entry into the cylinder without having to change air direction. Our concentration is on efficiency; we’re not chasing flowbench numbers. The key is to keep it smaller and make real good average power everywhere.”

For comparison purposes, this engine runs a smaller intake valve at 2.225-inch intake valve than a typical balls-to-the-wall naturally-aspirated cylinder head would require; in an application of that type, the intake valve would be maximized at 2.250-inch. Larger exhaust valves are used here to help evacuate the air as quickly as possible.”In a boosted application, the functionality of the exhaust port is more important, in my opinion,” says Frank. Once complete, the inline heads will be competitive in the 8.5 and x275 classes.

Valvetrain components  consist of a full complement of Manley Performance gear: titanium valves, valve springs, retainers, locks, seals, locators, and shims all come from the company’s performance parts catalog.

Chris Frank of Frankenstein Racing heads in Texas is collaborating with Steve Morris to spec out and design our cylinder head's chambers and ports. The heads will mate up with one of Morris' billet intake manifolds.

A set of Jesel 1.8:1-ratio rocker arms will actuate the valves. In the interest of ultimate strength, there won’t be any weight-shaving done on the rockers; they have full aluminum bodies, needle-bearing fulcrums, and tool steel ball adjusters. Trend Performance pushrods and Isky‘s .937-inch diameter keyway-style lifters will finish off the valvetrain.

Morris will be specifying one of his custom 55mm solid roller camshafts that’s designed to take advantage of the cylinder head flow and supercharger boost.

In an effort to minimize the harmonics transmitted from the crank to the valvetrain, the cam will be connected to the crankshaft through one of CV Products‘ XTS Elite Series belt-drive systems. This drive works properly with the .391-inch raised camshaft location and big-block snout on the crankshaft.

Frankenstein Racing Heads uses the latest Newen equipment to cut the valve seats to proprietary angles for this application.

Frankenstein Racing Heads uses the latest Newen equipment to cut the valve seats to proprietary angles for this application.

On top, one of SME’s trick badass billet intake manifolds will suck down the airflow provided from the supercharger chosen.

The billet impeller-equipped V-24 XB105 supercharger uses an 11-inch volute and takes advantage of Vortech’s Diverging Diffusion Technology impeller/volute performance system that offers engine-specific tunability.

The V-24 Xi compressor also uses a billet wheel design and is capable of 35-plus pounds of boost while remaining efficient. The supercharger will be spun up by one of Component Drive Systems‘ gear-drive systems for maximum performance and reliability.

Engine management will be handled through one of Holley‘s Dominator systems, which has proven itself — especially recently — to be capable of handling the tasks that will be asked of it. The Holley system will also be handling the datalogging of various engine and vehicle parameters to aid in the tuning process. Ignition duties are tasked to the Dominator’s internal electronics, while the spark will be lit through an assortment of pieces from MSD Performance, including their Power Grid.

The engine will find a home inside a Fox-body Mustang that was picked up for “the right price”, from a racer who was getting out of the game. It already has a nicely-built 25.3 chromoly chassis and will be lightened by removing all unnecessary brackets and excess metal by drilling out over 100 spot-welds that currently exist on the chassis.

The exterior of the car will be dressed in a full complement of Schoneck Composites carbon-fiber body parts; the nose, hood, fenders, doors, decklid, and wing will all be shipping from the Great White North for use on this bad-to-the-bone machine.


The chassis will be filled with equipment from some of the best in the business, as we strive to build yet another championship-worthy racecar, testing and working with some of the latest racing technology in the process.

Onboard the new ride will be a complete front suspension from Skinny Kid Race Cars including chromoly K-member and A-Arms, a set of Strange Engineering’s double-adjustable struts, Strange single-piston front brakes, and other SKRC parts to round out the subassembly.

A view of the cockpit.

A view of the cockpit.

In the interest of featuring the latest and greatest racing technology, an ATI Performance Products two-speed Turbo400 transmission will back up the engine, and has been designed to work properly with our powerband and to help control the hit of the tire, challenging in any conditions on the tiny 26×8.5-inch slick.

In the rear of the car, we’ll feature a 4130 chromoly Fab9 rearend from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks including one of the company’s anti-roll bars and Chassisworks 4130 heavy-duty upper and lower control arms. Rear shocks will be Afco units modified by none other than Mark Menscer of Menscer Motorsports.

The 9-inch aluminum centersection is from Strange Engineering as are the 40-spline gun-drilled axles and 3.89:1 9310 steel Pro gear set. Rear braking is handled by Wilwood.

Stay tuned here over the next several months as we bring you multiple articles on the buildup of the engine program and the car!

Here are a few of the different looks we're considering for the completed car. Which one do you like best? Sound off in the comments! (Rendering provided by Justin Spencer of TYRANT Productions)

Here are a few of the different looks we’re considering for the completed car. Which one do you like best? Sound off in the comments! (Rendering provided by Justin Spencer of TYRANT Productions)

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About the author

Jason Reiss

Jason draws on over 15 years of experience in the automotive publishing industry, and collaborates with many of the industry's movers and shakers to create compelling technical articles and high-quality race coverage.
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