4 Piston Racing's NA USAC Midget Honda Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

4 Piston Racing’s NA USAC Midget Honda Engine

The guys at 4 Piston Racing in Danville, IN crank out some seriously impressive Honda engines and components. We got to see the shop for ourselves this summer and we were treated to a full rundown of a naturally aspirated USAC Midget Honda engine they had in development. Check it out!

Engine of the Week is presented by

Over the years, we’ve built up a great relationship with 4 Piston Racing and co-owner Luke Wilson. Known for being a premier performance Honda engine and machine shop, 4 Piston Racing cranks out some impressive 4-cylinder engine components and full engine builds for a variety of performance applications. More often than not, these engines look clean enough to lick, and trust me, these are tasty builds! Despite having worked with Luke and 4 Piston on several articles in the past, our Engine Builder team hasn’t had the opportunity to visit the Danville, IN-based shop, until this summer, that is.

We made the trip to Danville, which is located just 20 minutes from Indianapolis, to film some video specifically with Luke to get to know him better as a person, a businessman and an engine builder for our Vehicle Care Rockstars brand. We also had the opportunity to see a number of engine builds in progress, including this naturally aspirated USAC Midget Honda engine that had just come off the dyno. Luke was happy to run us through the details.

“It’s a very personal project,” Wilson told us. “It’s not something we dove into as something to sell, but it’s more so something I want to do. I grew up watching Midget racing. I still go to the tracks, and I like to spectate, and I have a great deal of respectful for all the engine builders who are doing it with other platforms. Those are all aftermarket blocks and very specific race engine designs.

“It’s a little unique to have a dual cam setup because we have some restrictions like being limited on smaller displacement. This is out of a Honda CR-V. It sounds funny that we have those restrictions being that it’s out of a production car, but these things do produce some power. We’re limited to 154 cubic inches. Those other engines designed from scratch have a very small stroke and a big bore. We’re the opposite – we have a big stroke engine and a small bore arrangement, which presents some challenges for longevity, but the engine produces massive power and they really drive nice.

“My interest goes even further in that we have a Midget we’re building just for fun and messing around with. We’re not going to go run national races, but we build some pretty nice race cars, so it may be good enough to put someone in the seat someday. This is an engine package that I’m really personally invested in. I love it.”

As Luke mentioned, the block comes from a Honda CR-V. The only thing 4 Piston does to it outside of its production form is add oilers.

“We do add an oiler to it to keep that thing cool and keep the pin oiled,” he says. “It is a dry sump, so we pull some vacuum, but we’re not too concerned about that in terms of making horsepower. Horsepower is not really an issue. It’s just longevity, drivability and does the racer like it on the pedal. That’s what the key components are.

“Inside, it’s a 99mm stroke stock crank from a Honda CR-V and a 90mm bore, so we put big ductile iron sleeves in there. There’s not a lot of room between cylinders because we try to squeeze as much in there as we can. We have a very specific Midget cylinder head because these are direct drive. When they come off yellow to green, they need to get to 2,500 rpm. Well, this is a 9,600-rpm engine. Having a big, broad power band like that is a challenge. We’re not allowed VTEC and VTC, and without modern fuel injection, we have a constant-flow fuel system, so it gets pretty complex. We’ve had to work around the cylinder head and the camshaft to get the vehicle to pull 2,500 rpm off idle.

“You can see that they’re mechanically injected by rules. They have a 40-gpm water pump. We’ve got a lot of pumps driven off one belt, and they’re not all shown on here, but on the end of this is an oil setup and then there’s a power steering pump and a fuel pump.

“It has a Wiseco piston specifically designed for this engine. We don’t have some of the super-fast ECU controllers that we would have on some of our other race stuff, so we’ve got to be able to take a little bit of that detonation. Therefore, you beef everything up. We’ve got a big, DLC-coated pin. We’ve got a beefy Saenz rod. All of that is because of the fuel control and timing control. It’s a high-compression engine at 15:1.

“The cylinder head is a compromise between port size and air speed. We run on methanol, so they make a lot of power – this will exceed 400 horsepower. We’re mandated on peak rpm of 9,600 rpm. We are actually turning a little short of that. We’ll turn 9,300 rpm and it’ll pull all the way through the highest gear.

“We’re using ARP 625 hardware. It’s got a roller rocker. We are still running a steel valve, not a titanium valve. We have good control of the valve, so we don’t have a problem with valve control, which helps us eliminate some cost.”

According to Luke, the total engine package including ignition, fuel – everything – is around $40,000. Other competitive offerings are $50,000 or $65,000 or even $70,000.

“It’s also very, very lightweight,” Wilson points out. “This weighs a lot less than those other engine builds. It’s only 225-lbs. fully dressed. People will lean these things over at 45-degrees and the intake’s pointing at the ground, which is pretty wild looking. The engine is very powerful and drives very smooth.

“We’ve had excellent feedback. I’ve got a couple teams I’m working with, and they’re allowing us a little bit of freedom, not only with their wallets, but with decisions that we’re making. We’re working through some details and I think we’re going to break the mold a little bit on a couple ideas and hopefully it gets some traction. It’s a challenging engine build for us, but that’s what drives us.”

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – 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].

You May Also Like

Turbocharged Billet K24 Honda Engine

Noonan Race Engineering is well-known for its V8 engine platforms, but the shop has now dipped its toe into the 4-cylinder world with a billet K24 Honda engine. The objective – huge horsepower, while keeping factory creature comforts. Check it out!

In 2023, we got the chance to showcase a lot of what Noonan Race Engineering has going on inside its state-of-the-art engine and machine shop located in Spartanburg, SC. The shop was named our 2023 America’s Best Engine Shop in the Race category, and we gave people a full shop tour video of the facility, as well as showcased Noonan’s popular V8 Hemi platforms in a couple Engine of the Week features.

ProCharged 5.000” Bore Space Billet Big Block Chevy Engine

One of the first 5.000″ bore space big block Chevy engines that Visner Engine Development has come out with in this new design, this billet engine was built by Nick Bacalis of Bullet Racing Engines for a 1971 C10 belonging to Michael Rieck. Check out what 4,000-plus horsepower looks like!

billet big block Chevy engine
3,500+ HP 427 cid Billet LS Engine

At ACE Racing Engines, Stefan Rossi’s and Laura Pugh’s hard work has been paying off in the form of increased awareness and business, a new shop space out in California, and best of all, success on the track from numerous customers. Check out this excellent example of a maximum effort, billet LS engine for a drag-and-drive application.

Supercharged 388 cid LS Engine

Hoping to reach new heights in the mile, this Cadillac customer brought his car and engine in for the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology to work their magic on. See what went into the supercharged LS engine platform.

Cadillac Supercharged LS engine
Supercharged 521 cid Brad Anderson Hemi Engine

Amanda Hoover and Eddie Rogers have been campaigning their Chevelle from Hell for nearly a decade. Helping give the car its name is a screw-blown 521 cubic inch Hemi engine. Check out the details of this build done by Chris Duncan Race Cars!

Other Posts

Matt Stutzman’s 540 cid Supercharged Big Block Chevy Engine

We got a chance to spend significant time with Matt Stutzman during the 2023 PRI Show. He’s a Paralympic archer born without arms who’s now setting his sights on Top Sportsman drag racing. We caught up with him in the PennGrade1/DA Lubricants booth to get the details of his 540 cid big block Chevy engine,

Demon Motorsports’ Turbocharged Toyota 2JZ Engine

It was hard not to noticed Damon Elff’s Toyota Supra and its turbocharged 2JZ engine during Sick Week 2024 as it was basically the only Supra there, and the 2JZ made some wicked sounds at the start line. We got a chance to speak with Damon, who owns Demon Motorsports, about his Supra/2JZ combo and

JBR Engines Shop Tour

JBR Engines is 4-cylinder central, and we love it!

Turbocharged 5.0L Coyote Engine in a 50th Anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet

For the last couple years of the PRI Show, Frankenstein Engine Dynamics has had an impressive booth space filled with cool product and cool cars. Case in point, during the 2023 show we stumbled upon a 50th anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet owned by Martin Martinez of Junior Performance. Martin has already made this a seriously