Editor's Note-It's no secret that GM has been on the outer fringes of the import drag racing radar for a couple years now. At the 2001 SEMA Show, GM made its intentions even more clear. The engine featured here was developed for the orange flamed Cavalier slated to compete in the Outlaw/Modified Class in 2002. It is rumored that Stephani Reeves, who has experience running in the NHRA Pro Bike category will be at the controls. -EG
At some point General Motors became aware that there is a thing going on called "Import Performance," which has positively shaken the entire performance aftermarket. GM, for obvious reasons, likes to call this phenomenon "FWD Performance." Eventually, someone at GM realized the company had a new engine called the Ecotec that-with a few "cheap" tricks-had the potential to beguile a few folks currently exclusively in love with certain popular Japanese and European Import Performers. GM scraped together a little money and threw it at a small team of experienced racers and engine builders at a skunkworks in Southern California with the goal of ascertaining what a 2.2-liter Ecotec could do if you whipped it good.
"The request was for 800 hp in four months in an engine that would live for 20-40 drag runs," says Stephen Bothwell, who came in from the cold to lead GM's Ecotec Drag Engine Project after 2.5 years on the road racing GM's Vortec 4200 in-line six in rally trucks plying the roads and non-roads of places like Baja, Mexico. "The attitude early on in some quarters," says Bothwell, "was people laughed at the idea of a 700 hp Ecotec. But that was then."
Bothwell began by scoping out what sort of power and torque would be required to get people's attention in the "FWD Performance" world, and followed up on that with a crash program to push the envelope of an Ecotec. Hard.
The GM Racing team set about to find the limits of an Ecotec the old fashioned way-by progressively blowing more nitrous through it on an engine dyno until something broke. Then repairing the engine with stronger parts (sending any damaged parts to a lab for forensic analysis), and pushing on until the next weakest link died and went to Hell. And so on.
Quest for Failure: Nitrous
With this in mind, GM Racing bolted a factory-stock Ecotec to an engine dyno and wired up a DFI/Accel programmable engine management system to control it via a data link connected to a laptop computer with Windows-based graphical user interface.
The team then constructed a custom three-stage nitrous system designed to spray a cold fog of nitrous into the Ecotec at a single point near the throttle body, delivering additional fuel to match the oxygen-enriched air via increased pulsewidth from the stock electronic fuel injectors.
GM Racing began the tuning process on a Heinen-Freud water-brake dyno using the stock intake and exhaust manifolds and a modified stock down-pipe plumbed without muffler or cat directly into the dyno cell's exhaust removal system. It turns out a well-tuned stock 10:1 2.2-liter Ecotec in the above configuration actually develops 168 crankshaft hp (which is above the factory rating of 140-150 as installed in various vehicles in the United States and Europe).