Video Credit: Mike Coppolino. 1461HP 446 CID twin turbo big block Mopar Dodge Dart
Should I install a Mopar 440 turbo kit, or a supercharger kit? In this article, we will discuss big block Mopar engines and outline the pros and cons of installing a 440 turbo kit versus a 440 centrifugal supercharger kit.
Which one is the easiest to install? Which one is more ideal for street use on pump gas, as well as the drag strip? Read on to find out more. . .
The big-block Mopar or the “wedge” is one of the most legendary American v8 engines. It’s one of the most sought-after engines among gearheads, racers, and muscle car enthusiasts. You probably already know that if you are lucky enough to own a vehicle with a 7.2 L Mopar 440.
However, even though the 7.2 L V8 is one of the defining engines of the muscle car era, it can feel slightly underpowered for today’s daily driving or drag racing standards. Fortunately, the engine also offers plenty of room for modifications. If you want to enhance the performance of the 440 Mopar, the easiest way to pump up the hp would be to install a turbocharger or a supercharger kit.
Before we compare superchargers and turbochargers in big block engines, let’s explain Mopar a bit.
For the “uninitiated,” Mopar was a parts division of Chrysler. It was introduced back in the 1930s, and the name stands for “Motor Parts.” The division still produces replacement components, high-performance upgrades, exhaust or suspension systems, etc.
However, Mopar is most famous for designing crate engines in Chrysler cars. In addition to the 440, Mopar was also responsible for the iconic 426 Hemi. Plus, due to Mopar’s popularity and superb quality, the name has even become an umbrella term for all Chrysler-built vehicles. That includes Plymouth, Dodge, Dodge/RAM trucks, DeSoto, Imperial, and Chrysler. The Dutch auto giant Stellantis currently owns the company and aims to continue its 80-year long legacy.
When it comes to big-block Mopar engines, they have been used to power a who’s who of legendary muscle cars. Additionally, you can even find those engines in 1970s sedans, pickup trucks, and RVs.
Big block engines are officially part of Chrysler’s B (low deck/block) and RB (raised B) engine series. They received the “wedge” nickname due to the shape of the combustion chambers in the cylinder heads. Furthermore, Chrysler used them from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. You’ll find several different big-block Chrysler engines from those two decades, including:
|350 cu in||B||5.7 L|
|361 cu in||B||5.9 L|
|383 cu in||B||6.3 L|
|400 cu in||B||6.6 L|
|413 cu in||RB||6.6 L|
|426 cu in Wedge||RB||7.0 L|
|426 cu in Hemi||RB||7.0 L|
|440 cu in||RB||7.2 L|
Mopar engines were built with various displacements and in multiple sizes. The final version was the inimitable 440 cu in RB. The 7.2 L V8 should be our primary focus. It was one of the largest and most iconic engines of its era, after all.
Moreover, while big block engines were introduced in the late 1950s, the 440 was first installed in vehicles only in 1965. Its run lasted until 1978. Many changes were made to the 440 during that period. A lot of people consider its best years to have been between 1967 and 1971.
However, from 1972 to 1978, Chrysler had to make substantial changes to the engine to meet the tightened emissions standards. In the mid-1970s, the hp was dropped to 280. By 1978, the 440 was rated at 255 hp.
Here are some examples of vehicles that use the 440:
- Chrysler 300 letter and non-letter series
- Chrysler New Yorker
- Chrysler Newport
- Chrysler Imperial
- Dodge Charger
- Dodge Challenger
- Dodge Coronet
- Dodge Dart
- Dodge Polara
- Dodge Ramcharger
- Dodge Monaco
- Dodge B-series
- Plymouth ‘69 – ‘71 Barracuda
- Plymouth Fury
- Plymouth Road Runner
- Plymouth GTX
- Plymouth Superbird
- Jensen Interceptor
So what can you do to boost the power of your 440 big block? If you own some of the vehicles that we’ve mentioned, it’s likely packing a 440 V8 under the hood. Since you already know the engine type, it will be easier to choose between a turbocharger or a supercharger system.
This really depends on the intended use of the vehicle and how much you want to spend. As there really isn’t a turbo ‘kit’ readily available on the market as a complete bolt on installation.
Sure, there are cheap Mopar 440 turbo kits on E-bay and the like. While they do work, make power and can last for as long as intended, they still require welding and fabrication. This means they aren’t really a true bolt on and go kit.
As you can tell by the photo’s included in this article, as well as the fantastic video of Mike Coppolino’s twin turbo Dodge Dart, which he has built himself, there’s quite a lot of work involved to fabricate of good turbocharger system. The headers, pipework, and/or intercooler if using for street use alone is a few hours worth of work to fit and install.
Both turbo and supercharger systems offer a “replacement for displacement.” They compress the air that flows into the engine. That’s how they enable you to burn more fuel in the cylinders and ultimately gain more power.
You’ve probably seen a supercharger before, whether it was proudly shown off at the track or it burned tire smoke in Vin Diesel’s black Charger R/T from the Fast & Furious franchise.
Typically, superchargers, blowers, and whine-boxes are often seen on vintage hot rods and muscle cars. They use the principle of forced induction to drive more air into a naturally aspirated engine such as the 440.
In simplest terms, they function as a compressor or pump. Namely, the pump forces extra air into the engine to provide a boost.
The basic concept was actually invented way back in the 1860s. However, it was only after WW2 that racers and manufacturers started to pop Roots-style blowers or centrifugal superchargers into their rides.
By the 1960s and 1970s, the increased popularity of drag racing boosted the demand for aftermarket superchargers. After that, the next few decades were followed by major improvements in the designs of various supercharger types.
Currently, you’ll be spoiled for choice if you want to install a supercharger or a turbo. That’s why it’s important to run through all your options. If you do that first, you’ll find the best fit for your car without wasting your money.
If you own a Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, or any other vehicle with a Mopar 440, you can easily supercharge it. The result? You’ll get a 30% to 70% increase in horsepower. Typically on pump gas and depending on boost levels.
To do that, you’ll need to bolt a supercharger device onto the engine. That is, the blower needs to be attached to the crankshaft by a belt or chain for the engine to power it.
When you start your car, the supercharger will immediately take some horsepower from the engine. Then, it will compress the incoming air to above atmospheric pressure. That way, the engine will get a higher volume of oxygen particles. In turn, it will burn more fuel. Essentially, you’ll boost the power and torque output.
While all superchargers are based on the same principle, there are several different types we should focus on:
- Roots-type blower — This is the oldest and most basic type. You’ll always recognize it as the supercharger that sticks out from the hood of a souped-up muscle car. The Roots blower uses twin meshed lobed rotors to trap and compress the air.
- Centrifugal supercharger — The centrifugal supercharger uses an impeller. It draws air by spinning at a high rate. The air exits the impeller at low pressure and high speed. Then, the air flows through a diffuser and gets converted to low speed and high pressure before it enters the engine. Generally, this system is perfect for 440 Mopar rigs and muscle cars because it’s easier to install it under the bonnet. Unlike the Roots blower, the centrifugal supercharger doesn’t require complex modifications to the bonnet and the engine hardware.
- Twin-screw supercharger — This type uses twin mesh lobed screw-like rotors to compress and push the air into the engine.
Let’s keep our focus on centrifugal superchargers to emphasize their benefits in cars with 440 Mopar engines. Centrifugal superchargers are the best option here, especially if you want to use your car for racing while keeping it street legal. The impeller can quickly reach speeds of 60,000 RPM. This makes the centrifugal system the most efficient option for supercharging. Additionally, centrifugal supercharger kits are easy to install. They do not require extensive mods to the exterior of your muscle car or your engine.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at how turbos compare to superchargers. Essentially, while both systems function as a “replacement for displacement,” turbochargers operate on a different principle. They are powered by exhaust gasses as opposed to being engine-driven. This in turn means that the power gained is essentially free. There is no horsepower taken from the engine to turn the turbo(s).
Turbocharging emerged at roughly the same time as supercharging. However, turbos gained fame in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Back then, they became the standard in motorsports and the transport industry. Today, turbocharged engines are widely used as performance options and low-emission economic alternatives.
The main difference with turbocharging is the way in which the air compression components receive power. Turbochargers are not mechanically linked to the engine. Instead, the Mopar 440 turbo kit is made up of a small turbine that sits between the exhaust and the engine.
Furthermore, when you start your car, the engine’s exhaust gasses will spin the turbine and power up the compressor. Compared to superchargers, a turbo system is a bit more complex, and it consists of four main parts:
- Turbocharger device — The unit has a snail-like shape. It contains air and exhaust intakes, two impellers, and an air exhaust that travels to the intercooler. Also, it has a hose connection for the oil.
- Intercooler — The intercooler cools down the air via a coolant. Usually water or aia to air intercoolers are most often used. That way, it reduces the temperature of the air to lower the intake manifold temperature.
- Wastegate — The wastegate or turbo blow off valve controls the boost pressure by bypassing the exhaust intake.
- ECU Tune — The ECU unit calibrates the engine to support a different ignition timing and fuel-to-air mixture when the turbo is installed. A blow through carburetor is also an alternative to using an ECU.
And similar to superchargers, turbos are available in several types and setups:
- Single Turbo
- Twin Turbo
- Twin Scroll Turbo
- Quad Turbo
- Compound Charged Turbo
- Hot-V Turbo
As the engine spins with the turbine, the turbo will increase the power gains by 20% to 50%. You can already see the big difference between superchargers and turbos for your 440 here. Namely, the power gains are not as large with turbos. Yet, turbos are more economical because they utilize recovered energy from exhaust gasses. Also, the wastegate is an essential component. It minimizes exhaust gas emissions.
Unfortunately, the major drawback of this process is that the entire system experiences lag. The turbine needs to reach a specific speed to produce an optimal boost. This increases the response time. That’s why every turbo-equipped car will suffer from turbo lag. Additionally, the power boost will also depend on a slew of variables. That includes the size of the turbo, additional engine modifications, ECU tune, and the fuel type.
Once you have a turbo matched specifically to your engine’s camshaft among other variables, you will make more free horsepower than a blower. This is how you can get a turbo to spool faster, or earlier in the engine RPM range. They are more efficient as there is no mechanical restriction. They are more reliable too.
By now, you can probably see that Mopar 440 turbo kits are much more complicated to install. They contain more parts that you’ll need to harvest and install into your engine. They are also more expensive and take longer to install since they require welding and fabrication.
On the flip side, any mechanically-minded individual can install a centrifugal supercharger. Superchargers are often sold in vehicle-specific kits. One quality example is the 440 Dodge Carbureted V8 kit with a centrifugal Novi 1500 supercharger.
Since this kit is made for the 440 Dodge V8, it offers true bolt-on installation. It requires only a few basic modifications to your car. Moreover, it’s compatible with many Dodge cars such as the Charger, ‘70 and ‘71 Challenger, Daytona, Coronet, etc.
Unfortunately, it could be incredibly difficult to find a big-block Mopar turbo kit. If you look around, you’ll only be able to find custom 440 Mopar turbo kits that sell for higher-than-usual prices and require extra fabrication costs. Moreover, you might also run into problems while installing a turbo on your V8.
For instance, if we take a look at some of the newer sports car offerings from Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler, we’ll see that most of them are supercharged. Part of the reason why could be because it’s quite challenging to package a turbocharger in a front-engine car with a V8. You could run out of room. Alternatively, you’d have to make extensive modifications to fit the turbo.
When it comes to a blower kit for 440 Mopar engines, the kit includes all of the components that are necessary to complete the installation. You’ll get the centrifugal supercharger unit, billet aluminum mounting plates, belt tensioner, drive assembly, oil feed/drain assembly, and various other parts.
Overall, in terms of installation, it’s evident that you’ll be better off with a supercharger on your Mopar engine. The system doesn’t require an intercooler as opposed to a Mopar 440 turbo kit. It also offers easy bolt-on installation for drag racing or street driving applications on pump gas.
Depending on your car, you might have to make slight modifications, though. For example, the 440 Dodge centrifugal supercharger kit will require you to install a blow-through carburetor with mechanical secondaries. A boost referenced high volume fuel pump may also be necessary.
The biggest difference that you’ll notice immediately is the sound that these two systems make. The signature “whine” created by superchargers is famous in the racing world. It is one of the most pleasing noises a car can make!
That is not the case with turbos, though. Since turbos are installed in the middle of the exhaust, they can muffle the powerful rumbling of your classic V8. They could give you some new and exciting turbo noises, but you’ll lose those old-school exhaust notes that made the “wedge” engine famous.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits and disadvantages of superchargers and turbos:
- Increased fuel efficiency.
- Turbos weigh less than superchargers.
- The energy loss recovery from exhaust gasses increases the efficiency of the powertrain operation.
- Turbos are best for four-cylinder small-displacement engines.
- Delayed response or turbo lag makes it impossible to get an immediate throttle response, unless matched with the specifics of the engine.
- Only provides a boost in a specific operating range compared to across the entire RPM band.
- Hot operating temperatures require an intercooler.
- Complex installation — the process takes longer and is more difficult compared to supercharger kits. Plus, it’s harder to find a decent turbocharger kit for a big block Mopar.
- Difficult to fit inside a V8-equipped car.
- Superchargers produce a much greater boost compared to turbos. A turbo will give you an increase of up to 50%, whereas a centrifugal supercharger will boost your hp and torque by up to 70%. Typically with 10lb boost levels or less on a stock engine.
- Superchargers provide an easy performance-boosting solution that’s ideal for high-output large displacement engines like the 440 Mopar.
- They do not suffer from turbo lag.
- Superchargers produce instantaneous throttle response and power delivery.
- They deliver an almost constant level of pressure increase across the entire RPM.
- Easy bolt-on installation and fewer modifications required.
- Longer life compared to turbos as a result of less heat wear.
- Higher carbon emissions
- Louder than turbochargers, but they sound much better.
- Superchargers draw power directly from the engine. This results in lower fuel economy. Still, the tradeoff is that you’ll be able to use more power, and your car will run much faster.
If you ask any mechanic or muscle car enthusiast, they’ll tell you that superchargers go hand in hand with big Mopar V8s. This “match made in heaven” modification is simply perfect for drag racing, pulling heavy loads, or boosting the exhilaration and excitement of driving a vintage muscle car.
To sum up, centrifugal superchargers are a much better choice for your American V8 muscle machine compared to turbos, as a stock or slightly modified bolt on. They are much easier to install, and they provide immediate power delivery along with ample amounts of power across the whole RPM. Best of all, their signature whine will make your Mopar howl like a Hellcat!