While a lot of kids growing up had a paper route as a first job, Tom Nelson was cruising through the neighborhood at slightly faster speeds. Tom took his Go Kart door-to-door as a 12 or 13-year-old entrepreneur trying to succeed with his own detailing and car washing business.
His need for speed in his Go Kart soon transitioned into a street racing career. However, it wasn’t long before that got a little too crazy, and Nelson decided to open his own engine shop.
“My dad was always building cars, so it just came natural,” Nelson says. “When I decided to get into engine building as a profession, my grandmother let me use her garage and gave me a partial loan to buy a shop. That’s the beginnings of Nelson Racing Engines right there.”
Tom started his shop, Nelson Racing Engines, and building engines professionally in 1996. Located in Chatsworth, CA, NRE is a full machine shop that does everything in-house with the exception of crank grinding. NRE has a heavy focus on boosted V8 engines for hot rods, but will take on the occasional V6 or 4-cylinder, as well as some offshore marine and Bonneville engines.
If all of that wasn’t enough, NRE is also a full car building facility capable of chassis work and complete car builds.
Since NRE can accommodate more than just the engine, a customer recently sent Tom half of his Holden Monero from overseas to get fitted for a new engine.
“We recently built a 470 cid LS engine that is a 2,000 horsepower twin-turbo,” Nelson says. “It’s got twin-turbo patented 88 millimeter turbochargers. It’s an all aluminum engine and it’s a real street engine so the camshaft is very small and there’s not a lot of spring pressure.”
To start, Nelson bored and honed with a 90-degree fixture with a torque plate to prep the block.
“We did our custom valve job. We ported the heads. We balanced the rotating assembly to one gram dynamic. We filed the rings. We set all the specific clearances to our specific blueprint specifications, so rod bearing clearance, main bearing clearance, piston ring end gap, piston-to-pin and piston-to-wall clearance too. All those clearances were set to our spec,” he says. “The camshafts are custom and we had lobes made for us. Over the years we figured out how to open the exhaust valve and how to open the intake valve and what works for a turbocharged street application.”
The LS engine also uses a Callies crankshaft, Oliver billet connecting rods, West Coast Cylinder Heads All Pro cylinder heads, JE pistons, ARP fasteners, and Jesel shaft rockers.
“We make in-house an all-billet intake manifold called the Alien,” Nelson says. “And then there’s a piece that comes off of that which is called the Anteater, which is a special Nelson-only item. The engine also uses a Billet Specialties true track front drive. We hand fabricated the stainless headers, the water to air intercoolers and all the piping in-house. We probably have 300 hours into the engine, and the fabrication was a ton of time.”
NRE’s Alien intake and Anteater has a dual injector per cylinder and a thing called octane on demand, which forces the second injectors to inject race gas only under boost.
After Tom and his team finished work on this 470 cid twin-turbo LS engine it featured an 8.8:1 compression ratio, 2,000 hp and 1,670 lb.-ft. of torque.
Despite those staggering numbers, Tom says, “You could still literally drive across the country with the engine. It’s a real street engine.”
The Engine of the Week eNewsletter is sponsored by Cometic Gasket.
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