In last year's Engine Masters Challenge, we introduced readers to young Tom Nelson. The So Cal engine shop owner was crafting his entry to make a strong statement, and a solid seventh place finish did just that. When we announced the parameters for the big-block Challenge, Tom Nelson was again one of the first to step up and commit to an entry.

While we know Tom's focus is on serious street small-blocks, many with twin-turbos (as seen under the hood of Stielow's new "Malitude" '65 Chevelle), Tom is confident in his ability to research and maximize the potential in any engine. In fact, after reviewing the rules for the 2003 Challenge, Nelson felt a 440 Mopar would have several natural design advantages over all the other makes. For these reasons, he is entering the very first Chrysler product he's ever built into the Challenge to face other participants who have literally dedicated their lives to wringing maximum power out of their make of choice. Why the switch in brand loyalty?

"I feel the Mopar 440 is best-equipped to compete at this level. The Indy cylinder heads are key, but the rules limitations on valvetrain modifications to factory design or factory replacement parts makes the 440's shaft rocker setup ideal. It's very strong, and the intake ports are sized right and located correctly. One of the main reasons I chose the Chrysler was the big .904-inch diameter factory lifter. I worked all the numbers out, and I should be able to run about 8 degrees more cam duration at .200-inch lift than other makes. This should allow me more bottom end torque without sacrificing anything on the top end.

"Compared to a big-block Chevy, which has two different size intake ports from cylinder to cylinder and is limited to stud-mounted rockers for the Challenge, the Mopar is a better call, in my opinion. The Hemi stuff is good too, but it's expensive (by comparison) and may not perform as well in the lower rpm ranges. The Hemi will easily make more upstairs, but I think the 440 will overcome this by making solid power lower in the rpm range. I think I'll make more down low and not sacrifice as much in the upper rpm levels, which will give me a better overall score."

Overall score is the key to winning the Engine Masters Challenge, as average power numbers (both torque and horsepower) are added together to determine a final score and, ultimately, a winner. Only power figures in the test rpm range (3,000-6,500) will be counted, so every pony and pound are equally-weighted. Nelson learned that picking up 50 horsepower or foot-pounds down low is better than picking up 15 or 20 horses up high, since the averages are equally weighed in scoring. Tom learned plenty about doing well in the inaugural 2002 Challenge, and he stands as one to watch after finishing so well last year. We invite you to look over Tom's parts selections, and if you're considering a buildup on the popular low-deck stroker version of the Mopar Wedge, here's a super example of how to make it sing with readily-available parts.

Nelson Racing Engines
9318 Oso Ave.
CA  91311