The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

July 1, 2008

More power!, or, free enterprise at work

This being the week of our nation’s birthday, I thought I would present a demonstration of our free enterprise system at work. This is not an endorsement (the company that did this has, I think, no idea of who I am, and I am not getting one of these for myself), but merely an example of what a great country this is.

I was at the South Park Car Show in Oshkosh Sunday, and came upon a pamphlet for what must be the Godzilla of car engines, created by Allstar Engine Co. in Oshkosh. You know from reading this blog that I am impressed by mechanical things of the four-wheeled variety, but my mind was boggled by reading the literature about Allstar’s Project Allstar, a V-8 engine apparently intended for boats, “tractor pulling, mountain motor drag racing and stationary power plant applications” that was installed in a Dodge Viper.

The engine is 708.82 cubic inches, or 11.6 liters. (By contrast: Sitting outside this building is a 2005 Subaru Outback, with a 2.5-liter engine.) The Allstar V-8 is rated at a maximum of 851 horsepower (approximately the power of five 2005 Outback engines) and 912.4 lb-ft of torque, though Allstar’s Web site touts “
an effortless 800 horsepower that can run all day and all year without hurting itself.” (Imagine the customer who runs into Allstar snarling that 800 horsepower just isn’t enough.) It runs on premium gas, not racing fuel, although I cannot imagine what kind of gas mileage an 851-horsepower engine gets. It is not as powerful as the giant 1978 Big Bud 16V–747 farm tractor, built for huge Great Plains farms, with a 24-liter 16-cylinder engine (that’s right, more than twice the size of the Allstar) rated at 900 horsepower. NASCAR engines generate 750 to 850 horsepower depending on whether carburetor restrictor plates are used, and Indy Car engines generate about 730 horsepower.

The Allstar engine actually fit in the Viper with room to spare. (It has two fewer cylinders than the stock Viper V-10, which was rated at a mere 450 horsepower.) It was hard to tell, though, whether the driver was starting the Allstar engine or one of the Space Shuttle’s engines. (I have heard louder — specifically, the Harrier jump jet and the Concorde, both at the same EAA Fly-In in Oshkosh. Either of those is loud enough to jellify your insides.)

The car — more accurately, the engine — attracted quite a crowd when the owners left South Park, people curious to see how such a thing would run. I noted to someone that one could move a house with that engine, but that person pointed out that a trailer hitch would ruin the lines of the Viper. (You’d need the aforementioned Big Bud for that.)

Some readers may wonder why in the world someone would build, or want, an engine like this. That’s not the point. The point is that here is a company responding to what it sees as a need in the marketplace. Or maybe Allstar is doing it because … they can. Allstar will find out, or perhaps has already found out, whether or not that need actually exists. Free enterprise allows such an out-there product as an 851-horsepower engine to be built.