Best Engines of SEMA ’19

Posted November 21, 2019

By Dean Larson

Prochargers, turbos and nitrous oh my! The concentration of power adders at the SEMA Show is truly staggering, as you'll see a hood open in just about every other booth showing off some sort of jewelry. The turbos get bigger and bigger, and the tunnel rams get even taller, all in an effort to build horsepower and get people talking.

Possibly the wildest engine we saw all weekend, looked like it may have been a regular Chevrolet small-block at one time, before roughly 3 feet of speed parts got bolted on top. Atop the SBC sat a blower intake manifold, topped by a huge billet spacer, followed by a big polished supercharger, and then a fat nitrous plate with another huge spacer. finishing off the monstrous mill was a 4 x 1 intake manifold with even more spacers and four, single-barrel carburetors. The setup probably boasts more show than go, but feed that much nitrous through something, and you're bound to make an impression regardless.

But it wasn't just power adders that made these engines interesting. We love boost as much as the next guy, but all those turbos and superchargers made us just a little more excited about every built naturally-aspirated engine we laid eyes on. To that end, we loved seeing all the stack-injection setups and intake manifolds with multiple carburetors. Borla Induction had a hot stack-injected mill in a Kellison J-Car in their booth, and we dug the matte gold finish on their fuel injection units. I also fell in love with a beautiful black and gray VW mill built by a fellow named Dave Pipoly, which wears his moniker "#compoundbuilt." It was classic and contemporary all at the same time, and I could really see this engine at home under the rear hatch of a neo-classic 550 Spyder replica.

As a fan of obscure old engines and obsolete diesel machinery, this wild diesel rat rod sticks out for me from the week. The truck was huge, longer than most anything at the show, and had a peculiar diesel engine mounted mid-ship. We crowded around the engine with a bunch of others, all doing our best to determine what the heck it was. It looked to be a V8 with a pair of turbos hanging off the back, but it was otherwise strange and utilitarian. I crouched down to get a better look at the block when I found my first clue — cooling fins on each cylinder. This mother was air-cooled! I then recalled the only air-cooled diesel engine marque I could off the top of my head: Deutz! Sure enough, a tag on the top of the engine pointed to the German manufacturer, and a huge, telltale cooling fan and shroud sat atop the engine. For my largely useless mental log of obscure diesel tech, it was a shining moment.

There were plenty of other cool engines from the course of the week, largely shown in the photos here. From a fantastic stock 409 ci Chevrolet, to a monstrous Mercury quad-cam LS, there were beautiful engines everywhere. Some were even hidden away, like a twin-turbocharged Ferrari and a Ford Bronco bearing a disguised EcoBoost. Finished in Ford corporate blue, and dressed with a false air cleaner, the twin-turbo, V6 EcoBoost looked the part. It even wore a sticker on the air cleaner proclaiming 256 ci — straight from the 1960s.

No matter what type of motors motivate you, there's a wealth to be found at the SEMA Show. You might even see some of these mills in upcoming stories, so stay tuned.

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Engines SEMA SEMA 2019