Shop Profile: Moran Racing Engines

Back in 1992, Detroit native Mike Moran made the tow down to Memphis Motorsports Park, the site of HOT ROD Magazine’s inaugural Fastest Street Car Shootout. There, he impressed the Chevy “heavy” field with several 8-second passes in a Ford pinto station wagon. “My mom’s garage was where we built that Pinto wagon,” Moran recalls. The homebuilt Pinto powered by a small block Ford on nitrous qualified in the top half of the field and set the heads-up world on notice that Moran was a “player” in the Fastest Street Car series.

Fast forward 18 years and Mike Moran has come a long way from his original one-car dirt floor garage. Today, he builds some of the most exotic turbocharged race engines in the world and is known as a top EFI and turbo tuning expert. In addition to his mechanical expertise, Moran raced behind the wheel of a 2500+ horsepower car, a 1999 Pro Modified Monte Carlo that was the first turbocharged Pro Mod to qualify at a NHRA National event, and the first to run in the 5 second zone with a 5.973 at 250.41 MPH. Dragzine.com recently paid a visit to Moran’s Taylor, Michigan shop to see what he was up to.

Though Moran is known today for his EFI expertise, it wasn’t always that way. “My good friend [BigStuff3 creator] John Meaney was the one that really got me into fuel injection,” said Moran. “We first ran it on the Pinto and I never worked on a carburetor again for my combination.” After pushing the limits of the Pinto, Moran began working on a 1994 Camaro that would set the standard for Pro Street cars for years. The Jerry Haas-built Camaro was nicknamed ‘Casper’ after its ghost-white paint and started out with 632ci big-block that ran 7.90s on motor alone. To remain competitive with the Pro Street field, Moran added nitrous in 1996 and consistently made runs in the low 7-second zone. Moran continued to refine his fuel injection and nitrous combination, and by the summer of 1996 he dipped into the 6’s. Behind the wheel of that Camaro, Moran was the first Pro Street driver to exceed 200 mph, with a 6.96 ET at 201 mph during an exhibition pass at the 1996 NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Moran still has the "Casper" Camaro in storage, with the front ends still at risk of an errant free throw in the rafters at his shop.

In 1999 Moran made the switch to turbochargers for competitive and cost control reasons. Turbocharged engines were proving to require less maintenance than nitrous and the performance potential was largely untapped. Moran consulted with his buddy John Meany, who was campaigning a turbocharged Dodge Avenger in NHRA’s Comp Eliminator division at the time. The two settled on a rather exotic engine build to push the limits of turbo technology at the time.

Mike Moran still owns his Buick Grand National, the car that originally honed his turbo tuning skills before Casper made the switch from nitrous.

Moran debuted a quad-turbocharged 442ci big-block in the Casper Camaro and went testing prior to the start of the NMCA season. The engine topped 2,200 horsepower on the dyno and Moran struggled to get all the power to the track at the first event. It only took one race for NMCA officials to ban the four turbo set-up in competition. Having the combination immediately banned was aggravating for Moran, and he wound up selling the engine and retiring the car in order to concentrate on building a full Pro Mod machine.

During our visit the Buick V6 was out of the car for a exhaust upgrade. Lead fabricator Whitey is at work with the welder.

In 2003, Moran debuted a 1999 Monte Carlo-bodied IHRA Pro Stock chassis built by Larson Race Cars, and in October of that same year he set an unofficial door car world record at 233.08 MPH. After a year of tuning on the new car, Moran again made history at Virginia Motorsports Park with a 239 MPH pass during an exhibition run. The run helped reinforce Moran’s claim to the title of world’s fastest mile-per-hour doorslammer. Unfortunately, the NMCA stepped in once again and outlawed the big block twin-turbo combination.

After selling his proven ’99 Monte Carlo late last year, Moran made plans to build a new car and engine for 2010. Currently, he is still talking to Ford and GM about potential programs. The engine will again be a twin turbocharged big block but Moran plans on taking the block and cylinder head development in-house. “I have a partner here in the area with complete CNC capabilities, so this engine will be done for me and a few of my customers,” said Moran. Moran is working with Weston Machine and Dan Jesel on the new block design and hopes to start building the motor and car in a few months.

Moran's unique PowerTip5 injectors have an adjustable flow rate and can be ordered with max output ranging from 150 to 600 pounds per hour.

In addition to building racing engines, Moran Motorsports has developed a line of high performance fuel injectors, which Moran says are the first developed specifically for race applications. The adjustable PowerTip5 injectors were designed by Moran to meet the appetite of his big block twin turbo engine. Moran has been running his own fuel injector design for over 10 years and in 2008 he started selling the rebuildable units to other racers. The injectors come in 150 to 600 pounds-per-hour flow ratings and are used by heads-up heavy hitters like Tim Lynch, Coby Rabon, Spiro Pappas and Dan Millen.

Moran has built a one-of-one "fuel injector dynomometer" to push the edge in fuel injection design and technology.

When we stopped by for a visit, Moran was fine-tuning his cutting edge Fuel Injector Dyno. While it might resemble an oversized flow bench, Moran has built it to push the edge in fuel injection design and technology. The dyno features an engine control unit that allows Moran’s customers to send him run logs that can be reproduced on the injector dyno. Fuel pressure on the dyno is not a problem as it features a Waterman racing fuel pump with plenty of power and flow capacity.

Rod Saboury's show quality 1963 Corvette was in the shop for some off-season updates.

One car that was in the Moran shop for some updates was Rod Saboury’s street-driven 1963 Corvette. Like Moran, Rod was one of the original Fastest Street Car participants and has been working with Moran Motorsports for years on this twin turbo combination. Moran told us that Saboury’s Corvette is at home cruising the street as it is on the track. The car reminded us of Moran’s other street/strip hitter, Larry Larson’s 2009 Drag Week-winning Nova.

This black Outlaw style Ford Mustang features a Moran Racing Engines SBF running twins.

Sitting next to the show-quality Corvette was an evil looking blacked out 2004 Mustang with a twin turbocharged small block Ford. Moran built the engine and was working on beefing up the transmission the day we stopped by.

This C5 Z06 Corvette is the future home of a turbocharged MRE LS7 engine.

Moran also works on some serious street cars for customers that want anything from a mild to wild engine build. The bright red Corvette ZR1 in the shop during our visit had a LS7-based engine topped with one of the trickest EFI manifolds we’ve ever seen, being built for cruising around the Detroit area. With a customer base ranging from the baddest-of-the-bad in doorslammer racing to some amazing daily drivers, Moran’s shop is always filled with interesting cars in all stages of completion. Top that off with the innovations pioneered in EFI hardware and tuning plus an ongoing successful race program and you can see that Mike Moran has been a busy guy. If history is any indication, that’s not going to change any time soon.


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