Originally from Canada, Doug Aitken was big into snowmobiles, dirt bikes and other two-stroke vehicles. However, when he moved to Tennessee, he was faced with little to no snow for his snowmobiling habit, so he had to take up a different interest. Cars fell right into place.
Doug went on to graduate from the University of Northwestern Ohio’s College of Applied Technologies, moved to North Carolina, and found jobs working in a few different engine shops in the area.
“Down here, the NASCAR deal was the initial push, but once I got into it, it wasn’t what I thought,” Doug Aitken admits. “It had changed a lot from years previous. I wanted to be more hands-on, not just in an assembly line, so that’s kind of what started Prestige [Motorsports]. I wanted to branch out and do what I wanted to do.”
Doug started Prestige Motorsports in 2008. The Concord, NC-based shop has two facets of the business – a custom engine side and a car building side.
“The custom engine side is our most prominent side,” Aitken says. “That’s the moneymaker. We do a lot of everything. We’ve got such a diverse crowd of people here. We’ve got guys who have built mountain motors for Reher Morrison to guys who were big in the NASCAR industry and the high-rpm circle track motors. My background is really the boosted stuff, so collectively we can do a lot of different things. We do a lot of street motors for hot rods and high-end muscle cars, but definitely a good mixture of competitive motors and race engines.
“The other side of the shop is the car builds. We limit what we do there as far as what we take in the door. Generally, we’ll do one to two very high-end car builds a year. We service the customer from radiator to fuel tank and everything in between. However, we use the car shop more as a training aid in some respects. The car shop really helps us put together the complete packages for the engine side.”
With 10,000 sq.-ft. of space and 18 full-time employees with diverse backgrounds, Prestige Motorsports has built roughly 100 different, proven engine combinations, according to Aitken. And that number is growing every week.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of shops similar to ours,” he says. “There’s a few, like Nelson Racing Engines, which does car builds and is heavily involved on the engine side… but we’ve got at least 100 different engine combinations that are very well-proven. However, we certainly, and pretty frequently, step outside of that box. We work with a lot of manufacturers in testing and development of product too. That’s sometimes where new combinations come to life is you stumble across an excellent combination just doing testing. That’s why it’s continually growing.”
Prestige Motorsports can offer customers pretty much every service related to their engine or vehicle – with the one exception of paint and body work.
“We basically do everything else,” he says. “We do a lot of machine work in-house, but from time to time we will sub things out. That’s generally your one-off billet pieces and things of that nature. We also have an engine dyno in-house.”
Prestige Motorsports builds engines for a number of different applications, including marine, but one of the shop’s recent builds was a 363 cid small block Ford YSI blower engine for a customer looking to put it in a Fox Body Mustang for a street/strip application.
“We are using a Dart block,” Aitken says. “It has a 3.400˝ stroke like you’d find in a typical 347. Of course, with the large 4.125˝ bore it has a 363 cubic inch displacement. It’s a custom build, but at the end of the day, it will become a standard deal for us.
“The engine has a 4.340˝ crank, billet H-beam rods and DSS FX3 pistons, which use a heavy wall pin and has lateral gas ports to help seal the cylinder up. It also has an X-groove design, which helps with oil control.”
The small block Ford also features AFR 220 cylinder heads, which Prestige outfitted with Inconel valves, Pac springs for higher rpm and Jesel shaft rockers. The shop also flame hooped this engine for a better seal with its high-horsepower output.
“We did flame hoop the cylinder head and did the receiver groove in the block,” Aitken says. “We choose to do it that way mainly because if the hoop was in the block side and it’s crushing the gasket into the receiver in the cylinder head, assuming that you maintenance the thing and you’ve got the heads off of it, that copper gasket starts to wear out that receiver because it’s aluminum. Having the receiver in the block side, in our opinion, is a better deal because the material of the block can handle pinching that gasket over and over and over.
“When you’re flame hooping in the head, you cut a .039˝ groove, but the flame hoop is .040˝, so it’s got about a .001˝ press. Normally, it’s not real easy to just tap them in there, so when we get ready to cut the cylinder head, we will throw the hoops in the freezer. When we’re done cutting it, we’ll warm up the head a bit and that way the hoops drop right in there. When everything cools down, it’s got a .001˝ pinch, and under operating conditions, that hoop stays retained in the cylinder head. Quality Automotive sent us the hoops. We do this to keep it sealed up with four head bolts per cylinder.”
Additional components on this 363 SBF are a custom ground solid roller camshaft, BAM solid roller lifters, a billet timing set, a Holley Hi-Ram, Fuel Injector Clinic injectors, a Holley Dominator ECU, and a Concept One pulley kit for the Vortech YSI blower.
“It has a Holley Hi-Ram, which is kind of a little craze in the Ford land,” he says. “With the Holley Hi-Ram, by design, they make the port exit of the manifold small, so it has to be port matched, which is nice because no matter what cylinder head we’re putting it on, it gives us the flexibility to do a perfect port.
“The injectors we used on this engine are 1,650cc Fuel Injector Clinic injectors. The reason for them being so large is this will be an e85 motor. We’re running coil on plug from Holley as well. We have this Concept One pulley kit that’s designed for the YSI blower from Vortech. That YSI is about the baddest unit that they offer in that platform of bracketry. Once you get out of that particular blower, you’re going to get into stuff that really should be front mounted.”
At around 9 or 9.5:1 compression, this 363 small block Ford turns 6,700 rpm and makes just north of 1,100 horsepower. Despite the impressive output of the engine, Aitken says they opted for just a standard volume oil pump.
“For the oil system, the pump is just your standard volume Melling,” he says. “We don’t really need a high-volume or high-pressure pump in this scenario. Some people may feel more comfortable doing that, but all it does is strain the distributor gear and driveshaft. It’s just not needed. The control in these blocks is very, very good. It doesn’t bleed a bunch of oil in places.
“Typically, if we’re going to a high-volume pump, we would select it based on a lifter or block design that has an internal bleed where we need to be able to force more oil up there, so we don’t have a low-pressure situation. This one’s just a standard volume pump, but we’ll blueprint the oil pump, take it apart, make sure everything looks good, deburr it and make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
As for the pan, Prestige is using a Fox Body oil pan, aka a double hump or rear sump. Aitken says the road race pan does two things.
“It gives us ground clearance, but it also has a good baffling and trap door system in it, so we can keep good oil control in the motor when we’re turning over 6,000 rpm,” he says.
Running 16-lbs. of boost through the YSI blower to produce more than 1,100 horsepower, this 363 small block Ford is going to make the customer’s Fox Body Mustang an exciting ride – no matter if he’s on the street or at the strip.
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original and Scat Crankshafts. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]