On April 26, Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) began taking pre-orders for its “Hellephant” crate engine, which reportedly makes 1,000 hp and 950 lb-ft torque. Owners can drop it into any pre-1976 vehicle when used with a “plug-and-play” engine kit.
The Hellephant can be yours for just $29,995.
Well, it could have been yours; the engine sold out in two days.
Fortunately, Kenny Hauk, renowned vehicle builder and star of the show “Hauk Machines,” got his hands on one to use in the upcoming season of his show.
Check out Hauk’s story here.
The Hellephant comes to AMSOIL
In preparation for his latest build, Hauk needed to dyno the Hellephant engine and dial-in its performance, as he explains below.
So, what does it take to dyno a brand-new engine platform that’s designed to hit quadruple digits in horsepower?
As we learned, it takes a team of technical experts to handle all the inevitable gremlins that emerge. The task fell upon AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Manager Chris Orr and his team of technicians.
Orr boasts a ton of experience building racing engines, so he was the right person for the job. It turns out he’s just as skilled with words as he is engines. Read his play-by-play below.
Behind-the-scenes look at what it took to dyno Kenny Hauk’s Hellephant engine
As told by Chris Orr, AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Manager
Folks at AMSOIL often refer to our department as “The Dyno.” And they say it with such enthusiasm that I can only guess at the images the description instills in their minds. Engines churning out smoke, noise and horsepower with explosions and parts bouncing off the walls. Oh, but for reality.
In the Mechanical Lab, our first check for continued operation is that it must run safely. Up next, it must run repeatably. Sounds easy, right? In reality, it’s a significant challenge, but for the work we do to validate and improve AMSOIL synthetic lubricants, it’s essential.
One online source lists the requirements of repeatability as “…the same location; the same measurement procedure; the same observer; the same measuring instrument, used under the same conditions…”
You see the repeating theme? Sameness, day in and day out.
So, when the opportunity arose to dyno a boosted 7.0L (426-ci for my generation) Hellephant engine estimated at 1,000 hp, images of engines churning out smoke, noise and horsepower with explosions and parts bouncing off the walls immediately filled my mind.Chris Orr, AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Manager
New engine platform, new challenges
The challenge began on a Wednesday afternoon. Two engineers and two mechanics stood ready with me as Kenny Hauk arrived with his Hellephant engine.
We conducted advance research to identify potential hurdles, but this engine platform is so new that we found little useful information. We’d need to overcome whatever challenges we uncovered in real time. And challenges there were.
Right out of the gate, we had to fabricate engine mounts to secure the engine to our SuperFlow engine cart. While our clutch plate and bellhousing thankfully fit the engine, there was no provision for a starter. No problem – we carved a starter mount out of a factory bell.
Moving around to the front, we had a crank snout and nothing more; the balancer and serpentine accessory drive system hadn’t been installed. Add to that the balancer’s excessive press fit and, unfortunately, the fact all the drive-system accessories weren’t in the box.
Phase one: install the engine
Some light in-house machining, and the balancer slid home. We then re-purposed the alternator as a makeshift belt tensioner and performed some non-factory re-routing of the serpentine belt. The necessary water-pump and supercharger pulleys were belted and ready to spin.
By the end of Wednesday night, we had accomplished our phase-one goal of installing the engine to our SuperFlow 902S dyno. We felt pretty good; then came phase two – get it to run.
Phase two: make the Hellephant engine run
Picking up day two, we installed the fueling, cooling, exhaust, charging and aftermarket Holley Dominator engine-management system.
The Hellephant was ready to test fire.
Anticipation filled the room as the technician pressed the starter. The engine spun over. And spun and spun and spun. While we had fuel in the rail, the injectors weren’t firing to put fuel in the engine. The spark plugs weren’t firing, either. We had no crank signal. And the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) signal was wrong.
Fun fact: if you turn over an engine long enough with a parts-store starter, the starter can literally catch fire – we have proof.Chris Orr, AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Manager
We immediately began troubleshooting the engine-management system. Wiring diagrams mismatched to the custom wiring harness that came with the engine made it especially challenging. Thursday night ended with less optimism by all.
Friday morning dawned. Sometimes, in the absence of clear direction, you have to be determined. I’m of the opinion that character is key to what separates those who do from those who watch. The team reacted with absolute determination to this challenge.
Eventually, we found the drive-by-wire throttle pedal was causing a fault in the system. We installed a new pedal from the dealership.
The Hellephant comes to life
The engine roared to life early Friday afternoon. We found that the custom four-wire TMAP sensor had only one correctly connected pin. No problem; a quick rewire and we had our needed MAP and air-temperature feedback.
From that point, things went pretty smoothly. The dyno equipment did what it’s designed to do, and we made several horsepower sweeps, with each providing feedback to further sharpen the tune-up in the Holley Dominator software.
In the end, the engine churned out smoke, noise and 875 hp prior to midnight on Friday. Unfortunately the goal of 1,000 hp was not achieved; the fuel pump just couldn’t flow enough fuel to meet the fuel-guzzling demands of the Hellephant. Thankfully we had no explosions or parts bouncing off the walls. People hooted and hollered with each pull, and the words, “Geez-O-Peets, I’ve never seen anything like that before!” were overheard and on the minds of more than one person, I’m certain.
Can it make 1,000 hp?
While the power achieved fell a bit short of the goal, the engine ran well. Kenny and his Hellephant are back in North Carolina with plans for a few needed additions that should easily push the horsepower level past 1,000.
Check out the Hellephant on the dyno.
To find out if Kenny hits his 1,000-hp goal, check out new episodes of “Hauk Machines.”
Despite the long hours, the Mechanical Lab is better from this team-building experience. I doubt I can accurately describe how impressed I am with what we achieved.
But, if anyone ever asks you to spend three long days with your team coupling an engine to your dyno, do it – just for the Hellephant.Chris Orr, AMSOIL Mechanical Lab Manager