Fitting a supercharger

Posted on April 24th, 2005 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

So far I must have worked on it for 100 hours. After all, the welder’s bill
has already reached 11 hours (at AUD$50 an hour) and I’ve spent easily ten times
as much time on it as he has. In fact, having previously plonked a turbo late
model engine into an early model chassis, I’d say this project isn’t far away in
time and complexity.

And I thought it was going to be so easy…

The project is forced aspiration on my ’99 Toyota Prius. The Prius is a
hybrid petrol/electric car – but that unique driveline has absolutely nothing to
do with the time that I have so far spent. In fact, doing the same job on a
Toyota Echo would involve all of the same steps. (The Echo has an engine whose
bottom half is pretty well identical to the Prius.)

For forced induction I’d initially thought ‘turbo’, and in fact had found
exactly the right turbo going on eBay. A ball-bearing Garret GT12, it was new
but the private seller was quitting it after changing projects. Unfortunately,
he is also apparently one of those people who puts up eBay items with a low
starting price, then withdraws the auction at the last moment when the price
hasn’t risen high enough. And so wastes a lot of people’s time.

My thoughts then turned to supercharging. In the case of the Prius,
supercharging has distinct possible advantages – but then so too does
turbocharging! Given that no one in the world has forced aspirated a Prius, the
approach which would work best is problematic. But if I could pick up a small,
cheap blower, well…

Power isn’t everything

Posted on April 3rd, 2005 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

I am sure that this will be news to many of you. But I am equally sure others will simply nod and smile: they’ve known it for years.

The point is simply this: you don’t need an enormous amount of power to have fun in a car.

A good handling car with a sweet spread of torque is fantastic on a winding road; as is the comfort in driving a car hard while knowing that the chances of being inadvertently waaay over the speed limit are much lower.

These ideas don’t sit well with an expectation that more power is better, and so a car with less than 300kW at the treads is just for wimps. But as I’ve covered in another column (see Driving Emotion, November 2004), a lot of the time the extra power is just being used to drag around extra weight – and so the immensely powerful car doesn’t have the performance you might expect after hearing the peak power figure.

In modification, aiming for an all-round fun package without concentrating on just power also gives you a huge advantage – you can make use of the bits and pieces that everyone else thinks are valueless.