With a production run spanning the years from 1897 through 2004, Oldsmobile is an automobile brand with a strong history and tradition. That historical significance also included some of the finest muscle cars of the performance era, with vehicles like the 442 and Hurst Olds variants punctuating Oldsmobile power. Today, Oldsmobile lives on through a small but dedicated group of enthusiasts determined to keep Olds power alive. One such individual is Brad Wise of Wise Performance Engineering. Wise put Oldsmobile power on display by competing in our annual engine building competition, the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge, bringing an incredible 465-cube combination to the Xtreme Street Division of the 2012 event. After witnessing this stock-block Olds produce a peak of 876 hp in competition, we had to find out more about builder Wise, and his secrets to Oldsmobile power.

Building It
The foundation for this powerful build actually originated from what may be considered a footnote in automotive history. In the late 1970s, General Motors was eying the potential of diesel engines for passenger car use. In 1978, GM put into production a diesel V-8 based upon the Oldsmobile architecture, and these engines were installed in large numbers in a variety of General Motors cars and light trucks until production ended in 1985. The Olds diesel V-8 displaced 350 ci and was based upon the small-block Oldsmobile 350. This engine was not simply the gasoline powerplant converted to diesel, but rather an all-new assembly based upon an incredibly beefed engine block just for the purpose. The diesel program ended in what might be considered a failure, with complaints of inadequate reliability and poor power. Ironically, these Olds diesel blocks are just the ticket to massive power on gasoline.

In building his competition engine, Wise looked no further than the production Olds diesel. "The block is an Olds diesel piece, that's what we use for big power. They are extremely durable. The main webbing on them is about an inch thick, and we put four-bolt mains on them. These blocks all come from the factory with two-bolt mains and we designed a billet main cap for the block. We then do all the machine work to get it down to a 2.500-inch main, which is the standard Olds small-block dimension, since the diesels came with 3.00-inch mains. That's the beginning of the process." While the diesel engines were produced in massive quantities, the blocks are getting a little harder to find. Wise relates: "Surprisingly some guys will even sell them for scrap, but what they don't realize is this block is the basis for making Oldsmobile power."

Elaborating on the block and preparation process, Wise says: "It is a small-block, with a 9.310-inch deck height, which to me is perfect. The stroker combination works out really nice with that deck height. The big-blocks are 10.6250 inches, and that deck is a little too tall, their cranks are way too heavy, and they are just standard production blocks that were never designed for a racing application. They can do well, but considering the money and time you have to put into a block with a girdle and all that, they just don't last when you get the big power out of them. We bush the lifter bores of the diesel block because the factory lifters are 0.921 inch. You really can't find a lifter for that size, so we bush it and bring it down to 0.842 inch. I do a custom lifter and a custom lifter bore for that application. There are specific things that we do to it to make it work and provide for the oiling."

As a specialist company in Oldsmobile engines, Wise Performance Engineering had plenty of experience to draw from in developing this combination: "We designed this engine based upon a lot of the other engines we build. We had a solid engine combination that we knew made power. This was our first Engine Masters competition, and at 465 ci I think the engine was too big to be ideal under the competition rules, but it was a learning experience for us. We knew we had a great combo, and it makes big power."

Filling the Oldsmobile diesel block, Wise relies on parts that have been proven in years of building racing Olds engines, "I have been using the GRP rods forever. We buy the blanks and then machine them up to whatever configuration we want. We use pro-material aluminum rods. It keeps the weight down; these are only around 497 grams, and you can really zing them up. This engine is actually good for 9,300 rpm, and I did some things to bring the rpm range down to the rpm range of the competition. In the high-rpm configuration, the engine is capable of 943 hp on our dyno. Likewise, I've been using Ross pistons forever. They are really good to work with; their turnaround time is very quick, and I've been very happy with the product. Each piston is a little different, and with the cylinder heads in this particular application we had a little bit of a dish in the pistons for a compression ratio of 15:1. The rings are Speed-Pro .043 inch with a 3mm oil ring, running with gas ports in the pistons."

The crankshaft is actually a billet steel unit developed by Wise Performance Engineering, "There are no forgings for Oldsmobiles. None. There used to be, but those days are gone, and no one wants to put the money into doing a forging. I can get a billet crank done at a reasonable cost. We designed our own billet crankshaft, and I have them made locally using all American-made materials. For this engine we wanted to keep the stroke under 4.100 inches. Most of our cranks are 4.00-inch stroke, that is our standard deal. On this particular engine we tried a little more stroke in it and the engine really liked it. We were impressed with the torque when we dyno'd the engine. We do back-to-back dyno'ing, and when we added that little bit of stroke to 4.085 inches, it really like it, and in down-track performance it was killer. It was one of those things we tried, and it really worked out well."