VIDEO: Teardown Of A Blown-Up 4,000-Horsepower Big-Block

Chances are, as a reader of EngineLabs, you’ve heard the name Steve Morris, likely in the context of “Steve Morris Engines.” With a stout engine-building resume, if he says something is the “worst engine explosion ever,” you know it’s going to be bad. Unfortunately for Morris, the rapid unplanned disassembly happened to be his personal engine, in his personal racecar, at the racetrack, in high gear.

Powering his “Boostmaster 2” six-second Caprice wagon, the 572 cubic-inch SMX billet big-block engine is (was?) force-fed by a pair of 98mm turbochargers. Not just your standard run-of-the-mill Pro Mod engine, Morris’ personal SMX engine has proved its mettle as a road-going powerhouse, competing in drag-and-drive events, and proving that it’s not just a one-trick pony.

While some people would hide an engine failure of this magnitude, Morris decided to do the opposite and show absolutely everything, starting with the failure itself, and the subsequent teardown on Monday morning. You know things are bad when you look at the oil containment pan and it looks like someone used it as a shotgun target.

In the oil pan and the containment pan (which did its job admirably) were eight chunks of connecting rod big end, 16 rod bolts, and 16 rod bearing halves... well some of them were two halves fused together into a number of interesting shapes. The level of carnage in this engine would be almost unbelievable, if not for the video documentation.

“Crap happens and parts do break,” says Morris with an almost-unreal calm. “We’ll just try to figure out what happened and go from there. I’m not blaming anybody; there’s no one to blame, really. This is just some incredible carnage. I’m actually glad it’s mine and not a customer’s, because this really sucks.”

Seeing multiple connecting rods hanging out of the fabricated oil pan that looks like the hull of a battleship in the Pacific Theatre during WWII is an almost surreal sight. As Morris gets the pan out of the way, he starts finding rod bearings in various shapes among the shrapnel of his connecting rods. “This was making pretty close to 4,000 horsepower,” Morris says while picking chunks of rods out of the block. “We’re not leaning on it super hard.”

“I’ve never seen anything this before. There is literally not a single connecting rod connected to anything in this engine,” an obviously impressed Morris says as he comprehends the level of carnage. “That is the most amazing thing ever. Holy crap!” While that might sound like hyperbole in certain contexts, if anything, it’s an understatement in this case.

“One thing I’ve noticed, is that there are no pistons or wrist pins in the oil pan or the catch pan,” says Morris. That realization led to him looking into the bores, only to find the pistons still in their homes, with the small end of each rod still connected via an intact wrist pin, giving the first clue as to the initial point of failure. The datalogs show that the failure occurred in high gear, at approximately 8,600 rpm and 45 pounds of boost. No wonder the violence was so thorough.

As you can see there is no hint of the pistons or wrist pins in the oil pan or catch pan. Everything found are parts of the connecting rods. However, a glance up into the bore (right) reveals the pistons are still in their homes, with the small end of the connecting rods still attached. All eight pistons were found in exactly the same condition, suggesting a massive rod failure.

“I’m still processing all of this,” says Morris. “I’ve never seen this level of sheer destruction, with every single rod letting go at the same time. I’m at the point where this is more amazing than discouraging or upsetting. Don’t get me wrong, this sucks. I’m losing a lot of money to fix this, but this is just one of those things.”

It’s not often you get a live CSI-style teardown of an exploded engine, let alone of an engine of this caliber. So, while a 30-plus minute video is a long watch, if you like engines, and don’t get squeamish at the sight of massive mechanical destruction, we really suggest you give this video, and the follow-up videos linked HERE and HERE a watch. While we take no pleasure in the carnage, we absolutely appreciate the inside look at what happened. It’s also good to see that the containment pan did its job, as this whole thing could have been much worse.

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Greg Acosta

Greg has spent nineteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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