Engine of the Week, sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil and Elring – Das Original, is officially back for its fourth installment in 2020! And, as we’ve done each year since the beginning of this engine series, we once again kick it off with Sunnen’s Charity Engine Sweepstakes build – a 762 cid N/A Hemi engine – built by Sonny Leonard and his shop, Sonny’s Racing Engines.
Since 1968, Sonny’s Racing Engines, known for 500-1,000 cid engines for drag racing, truck pulling, extreme muscle cars, and boat applications, has been delivering innovative engine designs and uncompromising performance. The shop, located in Lynchburg, VA, has over 100 national and world records on land and sea, and has amassed 17 world championships across PDRA, IHRA and ADRL.
Sonny’s has 16 employees and many of them having been with the company for over 20 years. The shop is capable of doing everything in-house and designs and manufacturers its own cylinder heads and machines them using 5-axis CNCs.
Sonny’s Racing Engines offers wedge and hemispherical configurations to accommodate its powerplants. The mainstay wedge engines have racked up a myriad of event wins and national championships. However, the more recently instituted hemispherical heads are quickly catching up.
To coincide with the shop’s 50th anniversary back in 2018, Sonny’s was chosen to build Sunnen’s 30th Annual Charity Sweepstakes engine to be given away at the PRI Show in Indianapolis. That engine was a custom-built 727 cid Hemi valued at more than $60,000, which resulted in a record $102,000 being raised for Victory Junction, a camp founded by NASCAR’s Petty family for children living with serious medical conditions.
“I got a message from Kyle Petty thanking our company for building such an exotic engine,” Leonard says. “He told me to design the next engine even larger. I always try to build the best engine I can for every application, and we’re going to build another unique prize for 2019. It’s a special honor to build an engine when the donations we raise help so many children.”
Sonny kept his word and delivered a 762 cid N/A Hemi engine worth $66,000 to be auctioned off during Sunnen’s 31st Annual Charity Engine Sweepstakes at the 2019 PRI Show – definitely a step above and beyond the 2018 edition!
The naturally-aspirated, hemispherical-headed EFI build, which can be street or strip driven on 93 octane gasoline, includes Sonny’s fully in-house ported hemispherical cylinder heads, a Brodix 5.000˝ bore space block with 1.000˝ raised cam, special high-flow water jackets, a Callies crankshaft, CP-Carrillo steel rods, ARP fasteners, COMP camshafts, Jesel lifters, T&D Machine rocker arms, Trend Performance pushrods and wrist pins, CHE Precision seats and guides, PSI Performance valve springs, Manley valves and valvetrain components, Wiseco pistons, Total Seal rings, Mahle engine bearings, Calico coatings and Visner Engine Development billet intakes and throttle bodies.
That laundry list of internals is followed by these external components: an ATI balancer and flexplate; Holley EFI; Jones Racing drive kits and pulleys; Meziere water pump and starter; Mickey Williams Fabrication oil pans and valve covers; MSD ignition; Peterson dry sump oil pump; Weldon fuel regulators and filters; and XRP hoses and fittings.
With all of these performance parts in one package, the custom-built 762 cid, naturally-aspirated, hemispherical-head EFI engine is capable of churning out 1,400 horsepower!
Tickets to win the engine could be purchased ahead of the 2019 PRI Show or during show hours, with all proceeds again going to Victory Junction. The winning ticket was drawn on Saturday, December 14 and belonged to Jerry Lavender of Layton, UT.
Over the past 31 years, Sunnen, PRI and many well-known engine builders have teamed up to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities within the racing community, and in 2019 the sweepstakes effort set another record for money raised – $120,000 – and one happy race fan went home with one heck of an engine!
If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]