E85 and ethanol-based fuels have been around for a while, and while many embrace the pros of this alternative corn-fuel, there are those who have their reasons to stick to good ‘ole petroleum based fuel. Performance, efficiency, grade consistency and hydroscopic problems aside, there is one factor everyone comes back to – affordability.
Like most people you probably wince at normal gas prices, but when they’re cranking the good stuff out of a 55 gallon drum for your racecar you better have some smelling salts handy. With race fuels like VP C12, C16 and competing brands like Sunoco, Trick or Torco easily ranging in price through the high $teens, E85 looks like a good alternative for your high-compression powerplant.
We caught up with the folks at Late Model Engines (LME) to hear about some recent testing they did to look at back-to-back performance with different fuels. The test bed engine was an LS-based platform destined for customer Rick Rone and his featherweight road racecar.
“It’s a 434 ci displacement with a 4.155-inch bore and 4-inch stroke, 13.5:1 compression ratio, Dailey Engineering dry sump, a low-lash roller cam, MSD intake manifold and it has a set of our ported Brodix heads, so it’s our CNC program that we do in-house,” summarized Bryan Neelan of LME.
“First we dynoed it on VP Racing Fuels C16, what we were trying to do was a back-to-back test to understand the performance difference between C16 and E85. The results were almost the exact same, with no real changes other than adjusting the air/fuel ratio for the different fuel the dyno was almost stacking the different graphs on top of each other.”
LME used their custom CNC ported head program for this 434.
Not shocked at the results, Neelan went on to explain that while they thought they might see a little horsepower, this test was really more about the gains at the pump, when it comes time to pay the fuel bill.
“We thought we’d see a little bit more with the E85, but we didn’t mess with timing too much but I suspect it wouldn’t take much more timing than the C16 anyway. When you talk about the cost factor between E85 and C16, that’s pretty cool information,” he concluded.
Mark Stewart of LME added, “it would be very cost efficient to run, especially in a road race application such as this.”
Power and torque delivery on this engine are about as smooth and flat as you can ask for.
The end results for this corn-fed engine were 781 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of toque. The curves exhibit a very smooth and flat profile with useable power building from about 650 at 5,500 rpm to the peak at 7,100.
We learned that the car to be powered by this engine would be a lightweight, weighing in at 1,700 pounds and taking the form of a modernized Lotus 7. The kit comes from a company called Stalker Cars and is sure to keep Rone interested.
The StalkerXL is a larger Lotus 7-inspired kit car. Weighing in at 1,700 pounds this car is going to need the downforce to keep it on the road.
“I was looking for something that would still give me a thrill and a good kick in the pants, I have a friend who had one of these cars and has had tremendous success with it. The light weight means that it’s quite easy on parts, you don’t break a lot of things with a huge a mount of stress on the various mechanical parts. The annual running costs are very low, and the one that I built is substantially faster and better handling than any typical Corvette,” Rone explained.
Rone owns a Z06 Corvette and recognized the annual running costs to be much higher when it came to carbon ceramic brakes, body damage, and needed cooling upgrades. Lower running costs and cooling issues were the catalyst for Rone’s decision to run E85.
“The frontal area of the car is somewhat limited, so I knew I couldn’t shove in a large radiator, my research had shown that E85 tends to run quite a bit cooler than 93 or C12, E85 was something I wanted to try,” he told us.
Left: "This is fresh fuel from a local pump and it tested at 90 percent, this is what we ran in the engine. The right test tube was of the same fuel from the same gas station but sat for a week in a typical gas can - 77 percent. Just wanted to show the difference, thought it was worthy of a mention," explained Stewart.
“I had some challenges with the first engine, realizing that E85 wasn’t really 85-percent ethanol everywhere. I had it tuned here in Florida on something less than E85 proceeded to get some detonation. The boys at LME worked with me and built up a new powerplant and now I’m substantially smarter about E85.”
Responsible for installing the new engine was Late Model Racecraft (LMR). Ted Biele of LMR informed us that cooling and plumbing solutions were one of the top priorities with this small chassis. “LMR installed his LME motor, we did our LMR E85 Conversion, reworked his entire cooling system to make it run more efficiently – new fans etc, rewired everything for him, as his temps weren’t reading, redid all the hoses with AN Fittings and High Pressure lines.”
Rone runs in the advanced HPDE 4 group at NASA events and is sure to be thrilled with this serious power-to-weight package.