Nelson Racing Engines Makes 1,250 Horsepower A Plug-And-Play Affair With Holley Terminator X Stealth EFI

Author: Bradley Iger | 04/12/2021 < Back to Motor Life Home

While superchargers and nitrous were hogging the limelight back in the mid-'90s, Nelson Racing Engines was at the forefront of an emerging turbo scene. The Chatsworth, California-based outfit is the brainchild of Tom Nelson, a hot rodder who realized that this type of forced induction wasn’t being used to its full potential at the time.

“One of the major factors was the fuel system – everybody was doing it with draw-through carburetors and things like that, and turbos kind of got a bad name because of it,” Nelson says. “A lot of people hadn’t figured it out yet, so we wanted to push the envelope and show off what turbocharging could really do.”

With no proven blueprint to guide them through the process, NRE spent countless hours figuring out the combinations that made the most sense for this new breed of turbo V8s, power plants which differed substantially from the high-winding, small displacement mills that had traditionally utilized turbocharging to build power. “The technology was still growing at the time – figuring out the turbo sizing for a V8 and what type of design to use was part of the teething process. I think at one point I just decided to park a motor on the dyno for about six months to test various options until we nailed it. We went through about forty different variants of turbos before we found a combination that we were really happy with.”

NRE BBC Turbo 1

NRE’s twin-turbo big block package is available in either black or polished finishes. The engine package features a pair of NRE’s 72mm Mirror Finish turbochargers and includes custom 304 stainless headers.

Today, the Nelson Racing Engines name is synonymous with big horsepower – be it turbocharged, supercharged, nitrous-injected or otherwise. “If it’s a V8, we do it,” Tom says. But leveraging the company’s deep roots in turbo builds, NRE’s latest project is designed to deliver serious big block Chevy grunt in a reliable, hassle-free package.

The foundation is a 540ci Dart-based Chevy iron block with splayed caps that’s been outfitted with a Callies Magnum crankshaft, Boostline connecting rods, and custom JE Pistons to provide a robust bottom end for forced induction. Up top, Brodix Dragon Slayer-series cylinder heads with Inconel exhaust valves are matched up with a rectangular port Edelbrock single-plane intake, the latter of which was chosen for its low overall height.

“And the cam is a special lobe that we had designed for us by Comp,” Tom explains. “It’s basically a low-shock hydraulic roller that’s been designed specifically for the turbocharged motor, so it opens and closes the valves gently. This particular lobe spent some time on the Spintron – its been tested up to 10,000 RPM.”


If 1,250 horsepower isn’t enough for you, Nelson points out that the package has a lot of headroom built into it. “Put a bigger turbo on it, and we could be talking 2000 horsepower.”

Along with a pair of their 72mm Mirror Image turbos, NRE also provides a set of custom 304 stainless steel headers to provide a comprehensive crate engine package. “We wanted to take all of the guesswork out of it for the end user,” he tells us. “When you get it from us it’s dynoed, it’s tuned, all the wiring is there, the wastegates and exhaust are ready to go. It’s a package that’s designed to be easy to work with; a customer can get this and make it happen on their own. That’s a better alternative to the traditional process of getting an engine, going to a fabricator for the headers, a tuner to tune it, and then somewhere along the way, everybody starts pointing fingers about who is responsible for blowing it up.”

Nelson says that part of what makes the package a plug-and-play affair is the Holley Terminator X Stealth EFI system that NRE selected. “Holley products have been great for us because they allow us to bring a price point to the end user that’s reasonable. With the Terminator X Stealth you get a throttle body, MAF sensor, TPS sensor, a tunable computer, and support for a ton of horsepower. You’ve got boost control, you can do water/alcohol injection if you want to, and its got a really nice, fast learning system. These engines are meant to be put in real drivers – a car you’d take on Power Tour, or head to Vegas with, whatever you want. So it’s nice to have system like this one that can make seamless adjustments as needed for elevation changes, weather, and sort of thing.”

Tom adds that another advantage of running the Terminator X Stealth is that, because of where the fuel is introduced, the system provides an inherent cooling effect. “Instead of injecting at the port, injecting at the throttle body gives it time to evaporate and cool. It effectively works like a mini intercooler, which is one of the reasons we didn’t need to do an intercooler on this one.”

The idea to put together this 1250hp out-of-the-box big block Chevy engine package stems from a similar concept that NRE first applied to the LS platform. “Most of the motors we make range from the $40K to 100K range,” Tom notes. “We wanted to provide something that would be accessible to more people while still offering a ton of power. With the twin turbo LS, we literally cannot build them fast enough – the demand has been crazy. And in the big block world, I feel like there’s a huge gap here. I haven’t seen anything like this complete, drop-in package.”


Although the package currently tops out at 1250 horsepower, Tom says that the team at NRE is working on an injector modification for the Terminator X Stealth EFI system that should raise the package’s potential output even higher.

As of the time of this writing, Nelson Racing Engines has platform support for the twin turbo 540ci big block package for the first-generation Camaro, the 1964-72 Chevelle, and the ‘68-72 Nova. Additional applications for the Caprice, G-body, and C10 pickup are expected to be available before the end of the year.

Speaking of Caprices, Nelson Racing Engines will also be doing an engine raffle for an LS package in the coming weeks. It’s a contest which sees NRE connected to another emerging trend in today’s drag racing scene.

“It’s part of a joint project with the National Donk Racing Association,” Tom reveals. “The Donkmaster and I will be giving away a twin turbo small-block LS, and its got all the killer Holley hardware on it. I’d imagine it’s going to get some attention; for the past twenty five years everyone has been trying to get us to do a giveaway like this, but this is the first time we’ve actually done one.”

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