Back To The Future
The 10-Liter Hemi from Arias Hits the Lakes
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Cameron Evans
If you're old enough, think back to 1972 when Nick Arias, Jr. introduced his then cutting-edge Hemi-head conversion for big-block Chevys. Though the engine never really took off in the Top Fuel drag racing scene as intended, engine experts will tell you that it was more than a novelty. Great success in drag boats, tractor pulls, and many drag cars prove that point.
What most forget is that just a few years later, in 1975, Arias produced a clean-sheet design called the "10-Liter" for Top Fuel racers that would provide durability and efficiency, and subsequently more power. This engine's camshaft location was raised up in the all-new block casting by 5.0 inches to give clearance for a giant stroke and to clean up valvetrain harmonics with shorter pushrods. Sharing a shallow combustion chamber and similar valvetrain geometry to the 392 Chrysler, the 10-Liter caught on with some drag boats and tractor pullers but never really took off as a commercial success, so production was limited. Therefore, when you think beyond the Arias piston line and into Nick Jr.'s engineering talent, the Arias 8.3L engine (with a standard cam location and no water jackets) comes to mind as Nick's "successful" product.
Enter 1998. Nick Arias, III, then 36, was running a lakester with his buddies at Bonneville. Young Nick's car, powered by a Hemi Chevy combo (for a five-mile run, you need the water jackets), was a disappointment, and he asked his father, "What's a cool engine that can push us better and faster? Let's do something trick." His old man pulled the tooling for the 10-Liter out of mothballs, and here it is, making power like never before thanks to the wonder of electronic fuel injection.
We caught up with "the Nicks" and Mike LeFevers of Mitech Racing Engines to follow their thrash from concept to dyno room and onto the salt flats with this 636ci, 14:1 compression big-block. The results were mixed--hey, this stuff doesn't go fast in a few weeks time--but the parts and its potential are more than interesting. The goal of Arias is to promote this engine for the offshore boat marine and high-end hot rodding market. It's been FIA homologated, so it's APBA approved. But forget all that. The concept is cool and makes sense, so we think you'll see more of this engine in its "Back to the Future" approach from 1975.
As for this year at Bonneville (see PHR Dec. '00), Arias was forced to shut off both of his runs early, hitting trap speeds at 251 mph between the two- and three-mile marks, and 265 between the three- and four-mile timing sections. Nick felt it detonate and "clicked off" the motor (for once, say his crew guys), but the engine was dead. "At least it didn't kick the rods out," says Nick III, "because we've done that before. We're pretty certain that the EFI map was just too lean, and Craig Railsback at BDS is going to help us get the Speed-Pro computer worked out. Plus, we had the oil clearance in the main bearings too tight, so it might have burned up anyway. We had fun, learned a lot, and we'll be back at the next meet in the fall."
Nick III also asked if he could "pop" his sponsors, as they helped him get his lakester to the salt. No problem, man: Pennzoil, Champion, XRP, System One, Hedman, Speed-Pro, BDS, Mitech, Isky, Mondello Technical School, Center Line, ERC, Mechanix Wear, A-1 Automatics, Competition Dynamics, and Juxtapoz, in no particular order. "Oh yeah, and Arias! Gotta thank my dad for inventing the engine!"
No problem, Nick. You just did.
Here's the source of the fun:...
Here's the source of the fun: Nick Arias, III's AA/Gas lakester. It's not so bad having a legendary father like Nick Arias, Jr., to help you with the motor, either.
The Arias 10-Liter is an engine...
The Arias 10-Liter is an engine different from all other Chevy derivatives due to its cam location. You've heard of "raised cam" engines in the past, but in a GM Rocket block or Merlin big-block example, the cam is raised only .300 or .400 inch. Here, the cam is raised 6 inches! This clears the way for both a giant stroke and less valvetrain harmonics due to much shorter pushrods.
As opposed with the Arias...
As opposed with the Arias aluminum "New Century" block that just hit the market (it accepts nearly all big-block Chevy components), the Arias 10-Liter shares only the bore spacing and bellhousing bolt pattern with a typical Rat motor. In this example, Arias is running an Isky roller cam with .825-inch lift and 310 degrees of duration--hey, this is a big engine!
Here's the giant stroke we're...
Here's the giant stroke we're talking about. This 636ci example of the Arias 10-Liter features a 5-inch steel billet Velasco crankshaft and 7.4-inch steel billet Crower rods.
The increased piston dwell...
The increased piston dwell time at the top of its path from such a long rod equals big-time efficiency and torque.
Arias engines are famous for...
Arias engines are famous for having big-block Chevy bore spacing (4.840 inches, to accept common crankshafts) while incorporating Hemi designs. Here, the cast Arias Hemi heads (specific to the 10-Liter engine, interchangeable with no others) are based more on the 392 examples, rather than 426 heads that are more notorious for valvetrain geometry issues.
Who does Nick III lean on...
Who does Nick III lean on for a little porting work? None other than a famous friend of the family, Joe Mondello. Though the as-new heads are run-able after a gasket match, the Paso Robles, CA, guru took just a bit out of the intake port and massaged its contour, bringing its flow up to 432 cfm.
The chambers were left basically...
The chambers were left basically stock, with a 2.350-inch intake valve and 2.100 exhaust (the intake can go as big as 2.600, however). The exhaust port required little work.
Here's where things get funky....
Here's where things get funky. At this point, there's no Printoseal-style gasket available for this engine, and since it's running water through the block to the heads, you can't just put O-rings in the bores and call it done. So, you've got to run a copper head gasket (.040 inch) and do your best to seal the passages.
These water manifolds along...
These water manifolds along the bottom of the block look very marine-style because that's where they're from! Admittedly, they have some work to go on these gasket issues--it leaked on the dyno, but was sealed up in the car. Needless to say, that's a domed Arias piston in a 4.5-inch bore, and combined with that .040 gasket, 11.20-inch deck height, and 146cc chamber, the engine comes up to 14:1 compression.
Nick is putting Red Line Oil's...
Nick is putting Red Line Oil's assembly lube on just about everything, here, while fastening the billet aluminum rocker stands (with 4130 steel 1.75:1 rockers) to ensure proper torque values.
The 10-Liter's accessory drives...
The 10-Liter's accessory drives are really cool. A four-gear drive turns a Mallory distributor (no, that's not a mag!), an Aviaid four-stage dry-sump pump, and a Milodon water pump (modified by Tom Roberts Designs). The Hilborn-1 fuel pump runs off the front of the oil pump. All those items seem happy about it and all of the locations are interchangeable! As for that ignition, it's been adapted to act as a camshaft sensor for the Speed-Pro EFI (in tandem with a trigger on the Fluidampr balancer).
The water system runs with...
The water system runs with two Robert Shaw NASCAR-style thermostats (190 degrees) which control each bank to prevent it from restricting flow. When the thermostat is closed, it allows the circulating water to bypass the radiator and goes back into the water pump's inlet (like a mechanical fuel-injection loop). This allows the engine to get up to operating temperature quicker, and since the EFI system is reading water temp, it can adjust to make more power.
This Mickey Williams-fabricated...
This Mickey Williams-fabricated sheetmetal manifold (Murrieta, CA) has a tunnel-ram design to move the typical low-end torque further into the powerband. Plus, its height gets up into the clean air and makes 1 pound of boost and 270 mph!
That pump we showed you earlier...
That pump we showed you earlier provides three stages of scavenge and one pressure stage not so much to suck the rings closed (there's a breather on the valve cover) but to get oil off the rotating assembly and back through the system. Mickey Williams also fabricated this pan (to LeFevers' specs), and it has a kickout trough for oil return much like a Moroso Pro Stock pan.
Getting an EFI engine like...
Getting an EFI engine like this on the dyno is no easy task, but Mitech's Mike LeFevers has the experience necessary. There was just enough time before heading for Bonneville to get a few crude pulls and get a basic fuel map, producing 900 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm and 1,133 hp at 7,000 rpm. As Nick III hooks up the throttle linkage, you can see why this combination's strange size got the nickname "Pencil Neck Geek." That's the engine we're talking about, not Nick!
ARIAS INDUSTRIES, INC.
13420 S. Normandie Ave.,