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Exploring the Limits: Nissan’s VR38 Engine

- - - - - gtr stroker 4.0l 4.3l sleeves 4.4l 4.5l switzer performance 3.8l goliath

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#1
Neil Switzer

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Over the past 6 months or so, I have had numerous questions about building a higher displacement GTR, if we will do it, pros, cons, why we don't do it, etc. I have had many conversations with members here about it, but for those who have not called in or messaged me, I sat down with my brother Tym, my father Tym Sr., and our media guy Jo to put these thoughts down on paper and place them in front of the audience that is GTR Heritage:
 

goliath_dyno-copy-3-460x250.gif


For those of you haven’t yet clicked on the image above, that dyno graph represents the Switzer-developed Goliath customer GTR putting down more than 1500 horsepower. To the wheels. It’s an impressive achievement in itself, more than one-thousand five-hundred horsepower at the wheels … but that dyno graph only hints at the real story. The real story is Nissan’s VR38 engine, and why we approach extreme horsepower builds the way we do.

“Goliath was all about exploring the limits of our package hardware,” explains Tym Switzer, “but it’s also about exploring the limits of some of the factory hardware – and that includes the stock VR38 engine block and rotating assembly.”

You read that correctly. Switzer’s Goliath is making nearly 4 times as much power as a stock R35 Nissan on a stock VR38 engine block with the same OEM bore and stroke dimensions it left the factory with. “It’s a fantastic piece of engineering,” offers Tym, “and we’ve been able to show, time and time again, pull after pull, run after run, and lap after lap that the factory block is able to distribute loads and temperatures very efficiently.”

Switzer began to suspect that the factory VR38 engine block might be up the challenge of extreme horsepower several years ago. In the fall of 2008, to be exact, when the first R35 came to Tym’s Oberlin, Ohio facility for evaluation and tuning. “That car had more sensors and wires on it than the space shuttle …” Tym famously said, and a tremendous amount of data acquisition went into the development of those early Switzer P700 GTRs. Data that allowed Switzer and his crew (as I wrote back then) “to see the deficiencies of certain factory components and confirm the outstanding performance of others.”

The amount of engineering that went into the VR engine was obvious, and it spoke volumes about Nissan’s engineers. The durability of the all-aluminum block and its plasma-sprayed, low-friction cylinders, however, remained to be confirmed at the power levels we intended to run. “We knew what the block and the OEM cylinder linings should have been capable of handling, thanks to our early studies. It wasn’t until our blueprinted engine program was finalized and we were getting serious miles on the cars, though, that we were able to check our early math against real-world data.” The results speak for themselves: dozens of Switzer-built engines with many thousands of hard-driven miles to their credit, and zero bottom-end failures. “My dad (Tym Sr., who runs Switzer’s engine shop and started teaching me the art of engine building at an early age) gets a lot of credit for that record of reliability,” says Tym “but I think he’d be the first guy to tell you it’s the VR38 engine’s superior engineering that makes that possible. The geometry of the VR block is constantly distributing stresses across the block and Nissan’s cylinder lining is fantastic. It was on these observations that we didn’t change the way loads traveled across the block by boring the out the cylinders, and we both adamantly opposed tampering with the block’s closed-deck structure. Even with alternate fuels, which some people thought initially might cause the cylinders to de-laminate the bore lining, we haven’t seen any evidence of this in the plasma sprayed bores.”

The outstanding performance of the VR38 engine block was only one of the reasons Switzer avoided changing the geometry of the rotating assembly. “It’s not as if we haven’t built a stroked engine – we just chose not to offer a stroked engine to our customers,” explains Tym. “Increasing the stroke in any engine increases the piston speeds within a cylinder at any given RPM. That puts greater stresses on the pistons and rods as they accelerate and decelerate that much faster. The loads the pistons put on the cylinder walls themselves increase, creating greater frictional losses within the engine. When we looked at what we’d given up, in terms of reliability and longevity, in our early test engines with different bore and stroke configurations, any low-end and initial turbo response gains we saw just weren’t worth it.”

In addition to avoiding increases to the OEM bore and stroke of the VR38 to help preserve the Switzer engines he offers his customers, Switzer is quick to point out that the added low-end torque and initial turbo response don’t do the R35 driveline any favors. “As it is, we’re already working the traction control strategies overtime to get decent launches out of the R1K and R1K-X cars with the response we have now,” offers Tym, “the only thing adding more low-end would do is make things worse.” As a result, Switzer’s crew is focused on (what Tym calls) more useful power gains in the mid-to-upper RPM range. “We’ll be able to get cleaner launches that way, and keep the loads going through the transmission and axles more manageable. That’s on a dragstrip. For our road-course customers that are concerned with response, we saw a greater improvement in corner exit speeds with software adjustments (rolling anti-lag, rolling launch, etc.) made possible with the Syvecs ECUs from our subsidiary company (Syvecs North America) than we did with the traction control fighting to keep the tires under control mid-corner. At the end of the day, a bigger stroke and more low-end power than we were already making on the 3.8L didn’t help us or our customers reach the end goals we’d set for the projects.”

I first wrote about Tym’s commitment to “the end goal” in 2009, when I quoted him as saying “We are steadfast in our stubbornness in regard to not adding any component to a project that doesn’t contribute to the end goal.” Keeping with that philosophy, Switzer hasn’t offered any components that would change the fundamental geometry chosen by Nissan by increasing stroke or cutting into the VR38 engine block and altering the distribution of stresses within the block. “We’ve always promoted a more researched, holistic approach to tuning that see the best parts used in a way that each one compliments the others. Is it conservative? Maybe – but as I’ve said before: we believe it’s in the best interests of our customers for us to be conservative in our tuning, and their interests are our interests.”

“More than anything,” says Tym, “the huge power figures Goliath is making with our standard package hardware (the same hardware we use in the P800 and Ultimate Street Edition GTRs) and Nissan’s VR38 engine show just how good Nissan’s engineers are, and why a more conservative approach is sometimes the best way to serve all parties involved. The real challenge is making the most of what they’ve given us to work with, and recognizing the right tool for the right job when it’s right there in front of us.”

The right tool? More often than not, it seems to be Nissan’s 3.8 liter VR38 engine – the little engine that can. You can check out a video from Nissan’s Yokohama engine plant (where the VR38 engine is made) below. Enjoy!

via.pngSwitzer Performance News (http://s.tt/1z7cY)



 


- Neil


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#2
Polivoks

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Good read and perspective thanks

#3
Tim

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Nice Post ,1500whp is no joke


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#4
Doug3226

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Great write up and very informative!  



#5
ian.r

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Amazing well thought out and enlightening! there is multiple ways to do things, but each has pro's and con's. some of the pro's may not be worth it in the end if they are such a small gain or have a con related to that pro.

 

eg

more torque = more driveline issues, ie reliability issues.

more bore/stroke =  more money to re-enforce at small gains, and what reliability + more driveline issues are debatable?

 

when you can do 1500whp on a 3.8, its incredible!

 

im not trying to take away from other 1500whp packages that may be doing it differently. thats another topic discussion entirely. 



#6
AP@AMSOIL

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Great write up Neil. Thanks

#7
TheHitman™

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Amazing well thought out and enlightening! there is multiple ways to do things, but each has pro's and con's. some of the pro's may not be worth it in the end if they are such a small gain or have a con related to that pro.

 

eg

more torque = more driveline issues, ie reliability issues.

more bore/stroke =  more money to re-enforce at small gains, and what reliability + more driveline issues are debatable?

 

when you can do 1500whp on a 3.8, its incredible!

 

im not trying to take away from other 1500whp packages that may be doing it differently. thats another topic discussion entirely. 

 

 

With that more torque comes better performance as well. In most cases cars that use stock displacement to make power lack major torque and end up not performing as well all things equal. For the owner spending big money and a limitless budget a stroker is nice due to more "natural" (note quotation marks) torque. A big power car on stock cubes is good as far as ease of replacement parts but when you are going all out you want to make as much power as possible.

 


At the end of the day there is no replacement for displacement.


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#8
icarus

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We are steadfast in our stubbornness in regard to not adding any component to a project that doesn’t contribute to the end goal.” Keeping with that philosophy, Switzer hasn’t offered any components that would change the fundamental geometry chosen by Nissan by increasing stroke or cutting into the VR38 engine block and altering the distribution of stresses within the block. “We’ve always promoted a more researched, holistic approach to tuning that see the best parts used in a way that each one compliments the others...

 

Thanks for the write-up.  I am always impressed by Switzer's philosophy and approach.  They seem to have a lot of happy customers to back it up.


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#9
ian.r

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With that more torque comes better performance as well. In most cases cars that use stock displacement to make power lack major torque and end up not performing as well all things equal. For the owner spending big money and a limitless budget a stroker is nice due to more "natural" (note quotation marks) torque. A big power car on stock cubes is good as far as ease of replacement parts but when you are going all out you want to make as much power as possible.

 


At the end of the day there is no replacement for displacement.

more torque = more money, eg, driveline reliability reduced, more engine components and strengthening.

 

so yea, if money is no object and you want every ounce of performance. like i said, always more than one way to do the same thing or in this case better, but at what costs. if i had the money id def want to make a 4.4 re-enforced stroker with prototype intake manifolds, inconel manifolds, titanium heat sheilds, bullet proof cranks/rods/bearings/pistons etc, plus stage5 fully built transmission with billet LSD casing. plus motec ECU/TCU. sounds good to me. 200k later im working 3 jobs just to cover that, let alone the extra maintenance and other consumable items and downtime from any failures costs additional too.

Thats a baller ride, and very exciting. but if you want mid to low 8's thats what it will take.

 

lets wait to see what goliath runs in 3.8l form. call me nuts but id go with more reliability across the board. and yea, there will always be issues/downtime/etc in big builds.



#10
Neil Switzer

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more torque = more money, eg, driveline reliability reduced, more engine components and strengthening.

 

so yea, if money is no object and you want every ounce of performance. like i said, always more than one way to do the same thing or in this case better, but at what costs. if i had the money id def want to make a 4.4 re-enforced stroker with prototype intake manifolds, inconel manifolds, titanium heat sheilds, bullet proof cranks/rods/bearings/pistons etc, plus stage5 fully built transmission with billet LSD casing. plus motec ECU/TCU. sounds good to me. 200k later im working 3 jobs just to cover that, let alone the extra maintenance and other consumable items and downtime from any failures costs additional too.

Thats a baller ride, and very exciting. but if you want mid to low 8's thats what it will take.

 

lets wait to see what goliath runs in 3.8l form. call me nuts but id go with more reliability across the board. and yea, there will always be issues/downtime/etc in big builds.

 

Sounds like you are talking to Harry from The Racer's Edge. Just sayin'... :D


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#11
TheHitman™

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If you are trying to go 7's the fastest way there is with the biggest motor possible.


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#12
ian.r

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big motor doesn't mean all that torque is usable? and how many aftermarket and oem parts will u break going 7s? Neil i dunno harry or racing edge... im oblivious to the comment you just made

#13
TheHitman™

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big motor doesn't mean all that torque is usable? and how many aftermarket and oem parts will u break going 7s? Neil i dunno harry or racing edge... im oblivious to the comment you just made

 

 

With enough tire that torque is usable lol.


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#14
Neil Switzer

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If you are trying to go 7's the fastest way there is with the biggest motor possible.

 

Thanks for the advice Sam, we'll see what we can do with this little 3.8L pressure cooker we are working on.


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#15
vegasgtr

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If you are trying to go 7's the fastest way there is with the biggest motor possible.

 

 

dont tell shep that..lol 

 

He runs 7.70s @ 191 with a 2.0 liter... almost half the size of the vr38


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taking Kisco's Lunch money..


#16
TheHitman™

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dont tell shep that..lol 

 

He runs 7.70s @ 191 with a 2.0 liter... almost half the size of the vr38

 

 

I know. Rotary guys do it with less than that. And Neil, I'm just posting another perspective. I think what you are doing with the 3.8 is incredible.

 

Ian, think about it this way, with a 4.4 making the same power as a 3.8 you do not need a second power adder (N20) or anti lag to get off the line or accelerate as quickly.


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: gtr, stroker, 4.0l, 4.3l, sleeves, 4.4l, 4.5l, switzer performance, 3.8l, goliath

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