Building Boost: Project Red Dragon’s Turbo System

Jumping into the wild and wonderful world of power adders with your car is a load of fun — I mean, who doesn’t love more horsepower, right? Project Red Dragon started off as a nitrous-assisted machine, but now we’re moving to the boosted realm with a turbocharger system. Today, we’re going to look at the turbo system we chose, how we’re going to control the boost, and why we went this route with a vehicle designed for both the street and the strip.

When we announced the new direction for Project Red Dragon we lined out what our goals were for the car. If you’re trying to obtain a certain level of horsepower or e.t. at the track, it’s critical to have a defined plan before you do anything. After talking with Huron Speed, VS Racing, and TurboSmart we learned a lot and were able to decide what parts were needed to make over 700 horsepower to the tires.

We got all the parts needed to bring some boost into Project Red Dragon's LS engine.

The Huron Speed T6 V3 Turbo Kit

There are numerous factors to be considered before you purchase a turbo system for your project. Things like the amount of horsepower you hope to achieve, whether or not the car is driven on the street, and what accessories you might need are just a few of the questions you need to answer up front. Figuring all of this out first will not only help you choose the right turbo kit, but also ensure you select the correct turbo, boost control parts, and other items.

Since Project Red Dragon is going to still see plenty of street duty, we needed a turbo kit that wouldn’t be too radical and remove all the car’s accessories. We weren’t too concerned about A/C, and since it just gets in the way and adds weight it was time for it to go — that meant we could go with the Huron Speed S400 T6 kit. With this kit, you still get to keep ABS if you want, power steering, and can even use the OEM K-member. By going with the T6 S400 turbo kit we could use a turbo that would easily make over 1,400 horsepower if needed, that exceeded our goals for now but gave us room to grow in the future.

One of the great things about Huron Speed is that it can provide you with a complete turbo kit.

Jon Ojczyk from Huron Speed explains what the company wanted to accomplish with the design of its T6 turbo kit for the fourth-gen F-body.

“We designed our T6 kit to work with standard and race-style covers for the S400 turbo so the customer has a nice range of turbocharger choices. The layout we have for this kit has proven to not only perform well, but it also fits nicely in the engine bay. We use a tighter 2.25-inch hot-side pipe to help spool the larger turbo while having a 4- and 5-inch downpipe option to support gobs of power. The cold side flows out of the turbocharger using the mating S400 V-band flange into the intercooler with straight couplers. On the other side of the intercooler is 3.5-inch tubing with bend-free couplers.”

Since we're going to shoot for big horsepower it was important to upgrade to Huron Speed's largest intercooler.

Huron Speed offers several different intercooler options for each of its kits and they’re all interchangeable, so if you plan on cranking up the power you’ll be able to match it with the right intercooler. For our T6 kit, we thought it made sense to go with a larger Black Series intercooler right away since we want to make over 700 horsepower. The Black Series intercooler uses a 6-inch thick core and for our single turbo setup, it has a 3.5-inch inlet and outlet on each end. Huron Speed added air guides to each end of the intercooler to ensure an even distribution of air for a higher level of efficiency.

“It is really all about efficiency. We could have reached the project’s goals with the base intercooler, but at a certain level, it can be done much easier with the larger intercooler. The engine will be much happier seeing cooler intake temperatures, plus the lower pressure drop from the larger intercooler will help keep the turbocharger in its efficiency range. The base intercooler works great, however, you can see horsepower gains with lower IAT’s (intake air temperature), and a lower pressure drop once you start getting up over the 800 horsepower range,” Ojczyk states.

We designed our T6 kit to work with standard and race-style covers for the S400 turbo so the customer has a nice range of turbo choices. – Jon Ojczyk, Huron Speed

If the LS engine you plan on using for your build is 376 cubic-inches or larger, and you want to try clearing the 800 horsepower mark, the T6 kit is what you need. Ojczyk explains that the reason behind this is simple: exhaust flow.

“The biggest benefit of the V3 T6 kit over any of the T4 kit options we offer is the exhaust side. The T4 kits are limited in the turbine wheel/housing and exhaust side. This holds back larger engines and usually is the first choking point on the setup, which we typically see around 750-850 horsepower. The T6 kit upgrades that first chokepoint from the T4 kit to give more exhaust flow post turbo; this allows a lot more power to be made since it works better with larger cubic-inch engines.”

The VS Racing 80mm Turbo

One thing we learned upon selecting our turbo to fill the Huron Speed kit with boosted air is that with modern turbo design, the wheel designs make it easy to make the boost and the power, and reducing back-pressure is a much larger concern than it used to be.

This once again proves why it’s important to have a plan before you begin your build and talk with companies to educate yourself on parts to meet your specific goals. To get our turbo situation under control, we talked with Viren Singh at VS Racing to see exactly what we needed.

The S400 platform turbo that VS racing sent us is a billet 80mm unit with a 1.32 A/R and a T6 divided inlet. Turbo A/R, or Area over Radius, is a way to measure how much flow a turbo has when it comes to backpressure. The higher the A/R number the greater amount of flow, and that means more horsepower can be generated. The compressor wheel where the fresh air is brought into the turbo measures 88mm, while the turbine wheel that’s spun by the exhaust gasses exiting the engine is sized at 92mm. This turbo comes standard with a 3-inch slip-fit race compressor cover, 5-inch marmon discharge (this refers to the flange, it’s a BorgWarner term), and a 360-degree thrust journal bearing.

The VS Racing 80mm turbo will be more than enough to reach 700 horsepower.

According to Singh, this is one of VS Racing’s new generation turbos that offers a larger turbine and some other interesting features.

“What makes this turbo different than a typical billet 80mm that we sell is that we use the larger turbine wheel offering in this unit with the race cover. This unit, with the upgraded turbine wheel of 92mm versus an 88mm makes it a perfect fit for most 360-400 cubic-inch setups. These numbers mean the turbo is able to move plenty of air for this application while still being very efficient. What is critical in the LS platform is back pressure — we don’t really push the turbos too hard on a V8 engine, as power is made usually in the 25-35 psi range.”

One of the great things about the 6.0-liter LS engine platform is how hard you can push it in stock form; if you upgrade the rods and pistons there’s additional room for boost. It’s not unheard-of for these engines to make 700 horsepower with factory internals. To really optimize what these engines are capable of when you add boost, it’s important to pair them with the right turbocharger.

“With most V8 applications we try to maintain that 1:1 ratio as best we can with back pressure and boost. The larger the engine, the larger we need to go on the turbine side. This 80mm unit paired with this combination could make roughly 1,100 horsepower at the tire while being able to spool around 3,200-3,400 rpm,” Singh explains.

Boost Control From TurboSmart

Horsepower has become almost too easy to make these days — it really doesn’t take much to build a 1,000 horsepower turbo LS combination. There have been so many advancements in technology that have made this possible, which is great, however, you still have to control that power so it can be applied to the ground. To make this happen you need to have the right boost controller, wastegates, and blow-off valves installed in your vehicle.

We didn’t want to deal with any boost control issues with Project Red Dragon on the wastegate side, so we picked up a pair of Turbosmart Hyper-Gate 45’s. Wastegates are one area you don’t want to cheap out, as a wastegate failure can be literally catastrophic. Huron Speed offers these as a direct-fit option on the T6 F-body kit, so we took advantage of that.

A good wastegate is critical to make sure you can control boost and keep your engine safe.

Marty Staggs from Turbosmart explains why you need to make sure the wastegates you select are sized correctly for your turbo system.

“Properly sized wastegates will give you the best all-around performance and ability to control the power your boosted combination makes. If you have too small of a wastegate, you’re going to have boost creep issues and will struggle to control the boost. These days, there’s really no such thing as too big of a wastegate because they’re so good, so having the right size will give you the ability to control the power efficiently,” Staggs says.

A wastegate is just part of the boost control equation in a turbo application. The turbo system is going to be exposed to a lot of pressure while the engine is running under a load. To make sure there’s plenty of pressure relief in its turbo system, Huron Speed added provisions for a pair of blow-off valves. Once again, Turbosmart helped out and provided a pair of its Race-Port 50mm blow-off valves for the Red Dragon.

Why is it so important to have good blow-off valves on a high horsepower LS application?

“The job of the blow-off valves is to protect the turbocharger and charge piping so when you’re making all of that boost and let off the gas, there’s no pressure spikes in the charge pipes or intake manifold. You’re making boost, the throttle blade shuts, so now where’s that air going to go? The blow-off valves vent that air and pressure to the atmosphere,” Staggs says.

Properly sized wastegates will give you the best all-around performance and ability to control the power your boosted combination makes. – Marty Staggs, Turbosmart

The final side of the boost control triangle is the actual boost controller that will manage how much boost your turbo system will generate. There are many ways you can go with a boost controller, from a simple mechanical unit all the way up to a complex piece of electronics that uses C02 to activate the wastegates.

The eBoost2 from Turbosmart is the perfect street/strip boost controller thanks to its robust features.

Since the Red Dragon is a street/strip car, we wanted an electronic unit that would have some extra features, but not require C02, so the eBoost2 from TurboSmart made the most sense for us.

“A good electronic controller can have different boost profiles loaded into it based on what fuel you’re using. It’s also good to have a boost controller that you can adjust easily on the fly if the track or atmospheric conditions change. An eBoost2 controller is perfect for a street/strip car because you can make adjustments right on the gauge. If you’re using CO2 to control things, the eBoost2 isn’t for you — ours are designed for manifold pressure,” Staggs says.

The parts we’ve selected for the Red Dragon’s switch to boost should all compliment each other nicely and help us hit our horsepower goals. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work putting all of the parts together to finish the transition to boosted power. Make sure you follow along right here to see everything we’re doing to the Red Dragon.

Article Sources

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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