Norwood 3.0 Ferrari Power on the Salt...
In 1985, the Land Speed Record for 3.0L Class F/GT sports cars was an extremely impressive 161 miles per hour, set by a highly professional Japanese team that campaigned a Datsun 240Z in-line six. The 240’s record appeared difficult to beat, but Dallas supercar builder Bob Norwood figured he might do it one better with one of the recently-introduced Quatrovalvole 308 Ferraris. A 1983 308 QV used Bosch K-Jetronic constant mechanical fuel injection spraying into 4-valve heads with dual overhead camshafts to make 235 advertised horsepower in European trim. Compression ratio was 10:1, displacement 3000cc’s. In Y2K, the Norwood Autocraft Dynojet chassis dynamometer typically measures 160 rear-wheel horsepower from ordinary 308s in good, stock condition.
The ‘83 Ferrari 308 QV engine was so new in the summer of 1985 that replacement internal engine parts were still virtually unobtainable in the United States. As were major body parts, such that when Dallas supercar builder Bob Norwood obtained a crashed “Euro” model Ferrari 308 QV and decided to prep it for the Land Speed Record trials at Bonneville, he repaired the front-end damage and then simply removed the damaged headlights and covered over the ports with new sheet metal. They don’t race in the dark at Bonneville.
Due to the scarce parts situation, Norwood elected to run the bone-stock short block and its flat crankshaft, Mahle forged pistons, and ultra-thin compression rings. Norwood raised the compression to 12:1 by milling and then port-matching the heads and intake manifold. He removed the stock CIS fuel injection and fitted an aftermarket EFI system manufactured by Air Sensors—a mass-airflow fuel management system tuned by screwdriver calibration of variable resisters that modified voltages to an analogue computer. The Air Sensors system was certainly the first aftermarket EFI to appear at the Salt Flats. Norwood converted the Air Sensors system from a quad throttle-body injection configuration into a batch-fire port configuration with a separate electronic injector for each of the eight cylinders. The Dallas shop built special custom headers for the engine and fitted better valve springs and retainers to the engine for ultra high RPM running. They also built a larger throttle body in an all-out effort to make sure the throttle would never be a bottleneck in producing maximum engine volumetric efficiency. To top off the heavy-breathing strategy, the 308 ran extremely aggressive camshafts. In the end, Norwood also lined the 308’s trunk with foam and shoveled it full of ice, modifying the air intake such that the engine now breathed denser “intercooled” intake air from this de facto ice chest in the truck behind the car’s engine.
Norwood also took aggressive steps to reduce parasitic drag on the engine by replacing the stock 308 water pump with a battery-powered electric unit and removing the alternator and running the electrical system of the car on battery power. He also used sponsor Energy Release’s friction-reducing additives on the wheel bearings, motor, and transaxle.
The 308’s wheel-lug bolt-pattern is unusual; in order to match the engine’s power curve to coincide with the car’s projected top speed and reducing drag, the car used Volvo wheels mounted with tall skinny Ferrari 400 rear tires. Norwood also converted the 308 differential to the 79-82 taller gears that had been used on early 2-valve 308 cars. The rear tires were taller, but not so the car: Norwood ran short-spec springs and installed a deep Euro front spoiler that nearly scraped the ground when the car was in full-race trim. Although the engine was not dyno-tested, Norwood figures it was probably making 300 horsepower at the crankshaft in 1985, which translates to perhaps 240 horsepower where the rubber meets the road.
With a 27-degree windshield rake, the Ferrari 308 is fairly good aerodynamically except for the “dreaded notch” where air passes over the car’s roof and then falls off a “ledge” onto the rear engine cover. The stock-interior (complete with radio) was fitted with a roll cage, fire system, and other safety requirements for Land Speed Record trials. With all modifications complete, the car weighed 2900 pounds compared to the stock 2933.
When Norwood’s 308 team arrived at Bonneville in 1985, the salt was in relatively good condition, though continuous pumping of brine by the Riley company had slowly eroded the “race-able” portion of the salt flats over many years; whereas it had once been easy to map out a 15-mile Land Speed Record course over smooth, dead-flat frozen salt, nothing approaching 15 miles was possible by 1985.
At the 4,500-feet Bonneville elevation, aerodynamic drag is reduced, but so is manifold pressure (and, therefore, power). Nonetheless, with minimal tuning, in just the third run, Norwood’s 308 Ferrari surpassed the old 240Z record by 1 percent. The Norwood team continued to tune and optimize the car as it made run after run in successive days under sunny skies. Tuning the Air Sensors system at 8500 RPMs at Wide Open Throttle with a special potentiometer while the car whipped over the salt, Norwood gradually nursed the 308 ever faster until it finally achieved a stunning 170 miles per hour, setting records for both the F/GT and F/Modified Sports class (with slight changes to the front bumper) that stand to this day, 15 years down the line.
Following record-setting runs at the salt, the 308 was sold and modified for road racing, where it had some success, but it eventually returned to Bonneville in the mid-nineties with modernized fuel injection and a few other high-tech goodies. Due to rainstorms that left the salt wet and slow that year, the car never realistically had a chance to surpass its own decade old record.
The Record-holding 308QV—now owned once again by Norwood—is currently under preparation for a return to the Salt in the summer of 2002 to run in the two-liter naturally-aspirated class. In order to reduce displacement by over 30 percent, the engine will run a seriously de-stroked crankshaft and special long rods and pistons designed to withstand a redline of some 12,500 RPMs. The 2.0-liter class record is currently 157 mph. If all goes well, the car could return yet again in 2002 fitted with turbocharger(s) to try out for the G/BMS supercharged 2-liter class.