118mm Turbocharged 540 cid Big Block Chevy Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

118mm Turbocharged 540 cid Big Block Chevy Engine

These days, a 200+ mph pass at a drag-and-drive event like Sick Week, is commonplace. However, it's not every race you watch a competitor's doors literally get blown off. Stefan Gustafsson did just that while running a PR of 6.43 at 218 mph thanks to his C4 Corvette and its turbocharged 540 cid big block Chevy engine. See what's in this 2,100+ horsepower engine!

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During last year’s 2022 Sick Week event, we had heard Stefan Gustafsson’s name and knew the Swede was making a strong run at the overall victory. Unfortunately, the stars never aligned for us to grab any time with him that year. This year, for the 2023 edition of the drag-and-drive event, we weren’t leaving until we got a chance to speak to the 2022 champion about his 1989 C4 Corvette and its turbocharged 540 cubic inch big block Chevy engine.

Day one of the 2023 event at Orlando Speed World seemed to pick up right where the 2022 event left off – 6-second passes and close competition in Unlimited, Unlimited Iron and Modified classes. Right in the mix once again was Stefan Gustafsson. In fact, on day two at Bradenton Motorsports Park, Stefan ran a PR of 6.43 and quite literally blew the doors off. His passenger door flew off the Corvette at the top end of the track thanks to the 218 mph pass!

Stefan got back to the pit area and had to figure out what he was going to do about the door, and thankfully, his 6.43 that morning was a one-and-done, leaving him plenty of time to come up with a fix. It also gave us a chance to swing by and say hi and learn more about his Corvette and its big block Chevy powerplant.

“The car started out in 2002,” Gustafsson told us. “It was built by a Swede and it started out from three different Corvettes from a salvage yard. It has a 1989 VIN, but features different body parts on it. I started out street racing. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, I was part of the street racing scene in Sweden. In 2005, I met this car (the Corvette) in the finals and I won with my LeMans.

“In 2015, when the Corvette got advertised for sale, I wanted to have it. It was some sort of personal thing for me, so I bought it not knowing what I’d do with it, but then drag and drive started out in 2017 in Sweden. We built an engine for it and won the first Street Week in 2017. I shipped the car over [to the U.S.] in 2018. Due to COVID, 2022 was the first time I got to run it again.”

The 540 cubic inch big block Chevy engine has all the standard stuff like a Brodix block, a Callies billet crankshaft and aluminum rods. The engine was built by Pete Harrell at HED (Harrell Engine & Dyno) in Mooresville, NC.

“Since this is a drag-and-drive engine, we had to be very nice to the valvetrain, so we used T&D steel rockers with oilers and BAM lifters,” Gustafsson says. “Pete upgraded this engine after Drag Week with some thicker pushrods. They are 1/2” pushrods now to make it a little bit stiffer. The cam is pretty basic and is a very, very mild cam. It has .650 lift and .250 duration at .050. It’s pretty much a standard big block running like 48-lbs. of boost making 2,100 horsepower to the tire.”

Helping Stefan’s big block Chevy make over 2,000 horsepower is a single, 118mm, Gen II Precision turbo, which Stefan says has been working well.

“We have been playing around with the turbo, and with a single turbo, back pressure is everything,” he says. “The single turbo with a 1.42 AR makes 1,300 hp. With a 1.50 AR it makes 1,700 hp. With this larger housing and larger core, it makes 2,100 hp and the back pressure drops, which is important.”

Whatever Stefan has been doing to get this turbocharged big block Chevy in shape for Sick Week, it’s been paying off on the track. When we spoke to him on day two of Sick Week, he had already turned in a 6.52 in Orlando and a 6.43 in Bradenton. The faster pass is when he lost his passenger-side door.

“It was so fast we blew the door off,” he says. “We’ll have to fix the fiberglass tonight. Nothing like this has happened before. I’ve had the car for six years and haven’t had any issues with it. We’ve been over 200 mph lots of times, but this time it just blew the door off after the finish line.”

Clearly, Stefan’s Corvette was dialed in on the track, and he told us the street drives have been going well also.

“It drives good,” he says. “We take off the roof because it is much easier to see the traffic behind. We have this periscope mirror we put up to see backwards. But, when we have it like that, it gets really, really cold at night, so we’re driving with our jackets on. We did have to swap the turbo out yesterday because of some smoking, so that put us back some time on the schedule. Hopefully, we can go to Valdosta, fix the door up and take a shower so we’re ready for tomorrow.”

With things going well for Stefan in the first two days, we were curious what else the Corvette and the big block Chevy engine might still have in reserve.

“Hopefully, we can get a mid-6.30,” Gustafsson says. “[Michael] Westberg did a 6.40, so we have to get a 6.40-something. We can’t go home to Sweden being second best.”

From left to right: Stefan Gustafsson, Mikael Borggren and Michael Westberg

As Stefan pointed out, he was not the only Swedish competitor at Sick Week. In fact, three Swedish competitors were draggin’ and drivin’ across Florida – Stefan, Mikael Borggren and Michael Westberg.

Gustafsson continued to make excellent passes throughout the remainder of the week, finishing Sick Week with a 6.59 average at 212 mph. His slowest pass was a 6.88 at 205 mph. His stellar times, however, were just not enough to beat out his fellow Swede Michael Westberg, who won Sick Week 2023 by 0.13 seconds over Stefan with a 6.46 average.

Westberg sold his Chevy S10 following Sick Week, so he’ll be in a new car moving forward, and we have no doubt Stefan and his Corvette will be ready to rumble at the next major drag-and-drive event.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor OilElring – Das Original and 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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