For drag racing fanatics, there is nothing better than the sight, the sound, and the small of the sweet nectar of nitromethane in the air. And there’s nothing quite like a race car that burns it, which is why fans have gravitated to Top Fuel dragsters, Fuel Funny Cars, Fuel Altereds, and nitro-burning motorcycles for decades. It’s why the term “nitro” is completely synonymous with drag racing, despite the fact that it does indeed have other uses.
Because of its assault on the senses and its horsepower-creating properties (thanks to its oxygen content and high combustion velocity), there’s always been a fascination with nitromethane, and having seen what it can do for the big dogs of the sport, fans often wonder what it could do for other engine combinations. However, it’s price, it’s inherent danger, and the internal destruction it can create largely limits when and where it can be used, and many racers wouldn’t touch the stuff even if they could.
Because you don’t see out-of-the-norm applications burning the cackle sauce very often, it makes this video of a four cylinder-powered dragster all the more intriguing.
This ‘digger’, run out of the Billet Racing Engines shop founded by inventor Roger Tanenbaum, sports a horizontally opposed, supercharged four-banger (based on a VW flat-four design) that burns a mixture of 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol — a pretty potent concoction that, as you can and hear, is plenty capable of producing the cackle sound we all know and love and a tall set of header flames when the loud pedal hits the floor.
Tanenbaum founded BRE and began the project in an effort to “affordably” campaign a Top Fuel Dragster, and despite sporting just half the cylinders of the kings of the sport, he’s done just that.
The 3.3L powerplant has a 4.125-inch bore and 3.750-inch stroke, and is paired with a 4:71 high-helix blower (making 48 lbs. of boost at 8,000 RPM), dual 7-amp magnetos, and a 28 GPM Hilborn fuel pump delivering nitro via five nozzles per cylinder, all creating over 3,000 horsepower.
BRE built over 90% of the components for the one-off engine in this dragster, including the block, the heads, the crankshaft, connecting rods, camshafts, pushrods, cylinder sleeves, valve covers, end covers, oil pans, and more.
Much like its V8 counterparts, the BRE machine utilizes a direct-drive with a titanium and aluminum multi-disc centrifugal clutch with a Lenco reverser. A Trick Titanium can contains the clutch assembly that transfers to a 9-inch Ford magnesium carrier and titanium spool housed within a custom chromoly rear end housing. Finishing out the driveline is are lightened gun-drilled axles bolted to a 16-inch Monocoque wheels stopped with 4-piston brake calipers and carbon fiber pucks and rotors.
All told, the 254-inch chassis weighs in at just 900 pounds minus the driver and fluids, which delivers a power-to-weight ratio on par with an NHRA Top Fuel Dragster.
The car has run in the 3.80’s in the eighth mile, which would equate to estimated 5.70-5.90 laps in the quarter. With elapsed times that quick, it begs the question of just how quick this combination could go if money weren’t an object in terms of chassis and drivetrain and testing was in abundance. Low fives, perhaps?