Tearing Down And Rebuilding An 11,000-Horsepower Top Fuel Engine

When it comes to sheer horsepower production, nothing tops the nitromethane-gulping, supercharged, hemispherical-headed engines used in NHRA Top Fuel racing. In fact, these monstrous mills make so much power that a traditional dynamometer can’t measure the engine’s output. However, thanks to specialized torque sensors we’ve covered previously, we know that modern Top Fuel engines are well into the five-digit horsepower range.

That much power necessitates the engine be torn down inbetween rounds of racing. While a sub-sixty-minute engine teardown and rebuild – especially an engine of this caliber – might seem like a lightning-fast feat, it is generally too-lengthy of a process to sit and watch as a casual observer.

Thanks to the team at Hagerty’s Redline Rebuild series, they have condensed the already fast process into a much more palatable package, with this time lapse video of Don Schumacher Racing’s Top Fuel dragster engine being torn completely down and reassembled in seven and a half minutes.

While it may look like the scrum of flying hands is hectic and disorganized, the intricate between-round routine has been carefully choreographed over time, to be able to save minutes and even seconds wherever possible. That means that certain systems are designed to be removed from the engine as complete sub-assemblies, and then are torn down and reassembled by crew members who specialize is just that particular system. However, don’t think that every part of the engine isn’t taken apart and at the very least inspected between rounds of racing.

This video offers a rare inside look at everything that goes into the maintenance of a Top Fuel engine between rounds. Well, almost everything. If you pay attention at the 2:54 mark in the video, you’ll notice the supercharger inlet is blurred out. While DSR opened their shop for Hagerty’s cameras, apparently not everything was for public consumption. We’re still grateful for this interesting look inside one of the most powerful engines on the planet.

We thought this part of the teardown was especially interesting. Presumably to obtain maximum clamping force, the head studs are torqued into the aluminum block so tightly, that they require heat from a MAPP-gas torch to remove.

About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent over a decade in automotive publishing as Senior Editor of Race Pages magazine. In his free time, he is a firearms instructor and volunteer in the police armory.
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