Supercharging VS Turbocharging VS Nitrous Oxide: Greg Gives Us His Thoughts

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, I think I can stump the professor! Who was the first racer to utilize a GM 6-71 blower? I have a six-pack riding on this. Also, what do you feel is better? Supercharging, Turbocharging or Nitrous Oxide? Thanks much, Peter Kane, Montrose, Pa.
A: Peter, according to what I have in my “library of interesting things,” I am going to say it was Ernie Hashim back in the later 1950s. Now I may be wrong on this one, as even though Mr. Isky is known as the Camfather of Camshafts he clearly gives full credit to Ed Winfield as the originator of the first high performance camshaft. Further, Mr. Isky bought one of Winfield’s cam grinders to start his business.
Isky also helped Big Daddy Don Garlits go from his six and eight carb intake on his Hemi dragster to a blower setup, which at the time was also a 6-71 unit, but Garlits was not the first to use a 6-71 blower. So, please let me know if this is the correct answer as things get pretty fuzzy when it comes to this type of trivia. If it wasn’t Hashim, maybe it was Jack Kulp from Penndel, Pa. I know Jack was the first to run an 8-71 blower on his dragster, but am not sure about the 6-71.
As for supercharging, turbocharging and nitrous oxide, here we go.
Nitrous Oxide: Nitrous would be my least recommended form of providing extra horsepower only because if you make a mistake, you can blow the top of your engine clean off! Popular with both street and drag race enthusiasts, nitrous when used properly provides instant horsepower gains by spraying the nitrous N20 directly into the engine. Nitrous, or NOS, utilizes both oxygen gas and nitrogen gas for its powerful charge, and can be either wet or dry in delivery. You also need a tank to hold the nitrous, which will need refilling. But when you talk about bang for your buck, Nitrous can be installed cheaper than a turbocharger or supercharger and give amazing results. Make sure your engine is built to handle the excessive horsepower charge as hundreds of YouTube videos show what happens when nitrous powered cars come undone.
Supercharger: I’ve always leaned towards superchargers as the best way to add instant horsepower to any engine. Many of today’s top muscle cars, including the Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro/Corvette and Mustang GT500 rely on superchargers to deliver the big horsepower numbers. Driven off the crankshaft or pulleys of the engine, a supercharger fills the combustion chambers with more air/fuel than usual and is the power addition of choice in the drag racing top fuel and funny car divisions. The reason superchargers are more desired than turbochargers in all out racing stems from the throttle response is immediate.
Turbocharger: Perhaps the most efficient of the three power additions, turbochargers rely on the engine’s burned exhaust gasses to spin the turbo’s inner spool turbines to deliver more air/fuel into the engine. 
This turbo fuel/air mixture converts normally wasted exhaust gas to increase output power resulting in more efficiency. For this reason, both economy and the power of a turbocharged engine are usually better than superchargers.
However, there is a caveat. Turbos have been known to suffer from “turbo lag” because it takes a second or two for the exhaust gasses under full throttle to move the turbo spools at low RPM. In recent years, manufacturers like BMW have addressed this lag its “Twin Scroll Assist” with twin angle nozzles to assist the pulsating exhaust gasses.
Because the older single nozzle turbos relied strictly on the exhaust gas to spin the turbo, there was a big lag before the power came in as RPMs climbed. Not so with the crankshaft-driven superchargers.
With the latest turbocharger technology mentioned above and better direct injection properties, throttle response on modern turbocharged cars is better than ever. So, too, are the modern superchargers, many now operating off of clutched pulleys instead of connection to the crankshaft.
In summary, if it were me I wouldn’t hesitate buying either a turbo or a supercharged car these days. Turbos are now common on four-cylinder economy vehicles while superchargers and twin turbo setups are the induction of choice for the ultra-muscle and high-end sports cars.
As for the nitrous oxide, it’s certainly great for those who know how to handle it and way cheaper overall. But I’d leave it to experienced teams in organized racing instead of using it on your street driven car.
Hope this helps and you win your six-pack bet. 
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