Supercharged 477 cid Hemi Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

Supercharged 477 cid Hemi Engine

Just five years ago, Brandon Sandlian was pretty green to drag racing and engine building. Today, the opposite is true. In just a short amount of time, Brandon has committed to being among the best, and thanks to a 1953 Studebaker with a blown alcohol 477 cid Hemi engine, he's winning races. Check it out.

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One of the 2022 Builder’s Brawl competitors who arrived early to the end-of-July drag racing event at World Wide Technology Raceway was Brandon Sandlian of Junkard Stude Racing. We were excited to see his team in the pits, as they were working on an awesome 1953 Studebaker with an even more awesome, supercharged, 477 cubic inch Hemi engine. Naturally, we got in the pits with Brandon to find out more about this Big Tire class competitor.

What we found out was Brandon Sandlian is newer to the drag racing game, having only gotten into the sport seriously in the last few years. However, his dad has been in the sport for a long time, so racing is in Brandon’s blood. Don’t for a second think Brandon isn’t a threat to win or beat you simply due to being greener than most. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and it’s thanks to his car and engine setup, as well as a strong supporting cast.

He hails from Wichita, KS, and runs a 20-acre salvage yard called Sandlian Iron & Metal Auto Salvage. He was at the Builder’s Brawl with his right-hand man Chad Holzman and his wife and kids in tow.  

“I had a lot of help to get me here,” Sandlian says. “Chad Holzman is the right-hand man on my car and I wouldn’t want to do it without him. He’s the brother I never had. Obviously, the support of my wife and kids is important, as well as our business. I definitely can’t do it without that. When I started building engines on my own three years ago, I was completely green. I had to look at a piece of paper to adjust the valves because I couldn’t remember. Now, I can service the whole car.

“It was a big learning curve, but the reason I built this engine is that I had somebody helping me prior and I had four passes on a brand-new, fresh block and it kicked a rod. I figured if I had somebody helping me who knew what they were doing and it could blow up, I might as well teach myself. Plus, I like being able to say I built it.”

The 1953 Studebaker is lovingly nicknamed the Junkyard Stude as an ode to the Sandlian’s salvage yard business. It’s also the name of Sandlian’s race team. The car was purchased by Brandon and his dad as a turnkey racecar roughly five years ago.

“Back then, it had a Keith Black 526 in it,” he says. “That motor popped the first year we had it out and I couldn’t get parts for it. I ended up getting a really sweet deal on two engines from Scott Palmer and I built this Hemi myself. The motor is the biggest deal as far as the reason why I get to be here.”

All competitors for the Builder’s Brawl had to prove they built a large portion of their drag car themselves, whether it was the entire car, the chassis, or the engine. Sandlian’s Hemi build started with an Alan Johnson Performance Engineering 481X 477 cid block and Brand Anderson Enterprises TA1X cylinder heads.

Other components used in the build include a Winberg billet crankshaft, R&R connecting rods, CP pistons, Manton rocker arm stands, Jesel 105 lifters, a PSI Superchargers 210mm C-rotor screw blower, and a dry sump oiling system. The car features a two-speed Lenco drive and custom-built headers that Chad made. Running on methanol race fuel, the blown Hemi-powered Stude is capable of 3,000-3,500 horsepower.

“It likes power and it likes to go fast,” he says. “Our engine is a small Hemi compared to most of the guys out here. Mine is just a 477 and most guys have 520s or 526s. However, our engine works for what we’re doing. The C rotor is newer. We’ve made some passes on it, but it’s turned down from the D rotor I did have on it, so we’re going to run some test passes. We just want a good A to B and we played with the fuel system. It needs a little more fuel and we just want to get that right where it needs to be and then we’ll see how far we can turn it up for the weekend. Hopefully, we can put down some killer passes and put on a good show.”

Brandon and his team made good on that promise, and ended up winning the Big Tire class at the 2022 Builder’s Brawl. It just goes to show that years of experience is one thing, while the drive to succeed and improve yourself can push you to the top. Brandon was ecstatic to put the Junkyard Stude in the winner’s circle.

Photo by Jennifer Chandler Photography

“I don’t even know where to start… first and foremost, my wife and family give me the support that is needed to try and be successful in this industry,” Sandlian said on FB after winning. “I owe my pops, Jr Sandlian, the biggest thank you. If it wasn’t for him living the drag life when I was younger, it wouldn’t be in my blood. I couldn’t do this without our company Sandlian Iron & Metal Auto Salvage.

“Chad Holzman is more than blood to me – he is my best friend, brother, we have a bond that I’ve never seen or heard of, it’s amazing, it’s unreal. We are going on our fourth year of racing together and it’s been nothing less than great and memorable. I’m learning more and more as time goes by. I don’t know it all, but what I don’t know, Chad does. We tune every aspect of the car together. We are a true team, and a three-man team at that with Chad’s son Cory helping out. Thank you to all our friends, family and supporters.”

Aside from that Facebook note, Sandlian also thanked Mick Snyder, Rick Ducusin, Scott Palmer Racing, Brandon Lewis, Rodney Weisser, Gary Cooper, Jim Weins, Warren Blanc, Neil Chance Racing Converters, Chris Bell/Kinetic Shocks, Danny Holzman, and others.

Since winning at Builder’s Brawl at the end of July, Brandon has gone on to win more drag race events this year, and has no plans to quit getting to the winner’s circle.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor OilElring – Das Original and Engine & Performance Warehouse Inc./NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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