Behind the Scenes of Texas Speed, the Cutty, and an Institute of LS Power

August 2, 2019 / by Bradley Iger

Texas Speed is an instrument of all things LS and their high-powered builds are making waves on the street and the track!  Back when Texas Speed and Performance first opened for business in 2002, the Lubbock-based outfit originally focused on retail sales. It wasn’t long before they were ready to try their hand at manufacturing go-fast hardware, though, and by 2004 they were already offering full engine builds. But as with any new company, there were a few kinks that needed to be worked out along the way.

“At the time we were still using a local machine shop – we were still young in the business,” explains co-founder Trevor Doelling. “We ended up bringing everything in-house as far as machining goes in 2011. And that’s around the same time we started working with Wiseco. We were using a different brand of piston at the time and having some issues with them, so we reached out to Wiseco and expressed our concerns with what we were seeing with some other brands. And they felt confident that they could solve those issues for us.”

Texas Speed and Performance has become one of the preeminent LS engine builders for customers who’re looking to make big power that can withstand some abuse.

Today Texas Speed is one of the largest parts retailers and engine builders in the country. While the shop is commonly known for its late model LSx and LT1 engine builds, the company has also recently expanded their support into the realm of modern Hemi hardware as well, and they bring a specialized approach to each project.  

“There’s lots of little changes that we like to make with pistons in terms of compression heights, volume changes, multi-fit valve pockets to accommodate different cylinder heads, and so on,” Doelling says. “There’s lot of things we like to tweak on to make things a bit better for our use, or for specific compression ratios we’re targeting – that sort of thing. And that’s especially true now, as there’s a lot of builds being done with boost in mind. Everybody seems to be turbo-crazy today.”

After having some issues with a different brand of piston, Texas Speed and Performance reached out to Wiseco to see if they could address their concerns. “Wiseco allows us to take kind of a clean-sheet approach where we can design the piston around the application as needed,” says Doelling. “No matter what we throw at them, they’re always ready and willing to accommodate.”

But that doesn’t mean Texas Speed is a forced induction one-trick pony. “We cater to whatever the customer wants, whether that’s naturally aspirated, nitrous, or boost. As far as the engines go, we offer anything from a basic short block all the way to a complete turn-key engine package for guys that want to retrofit it into an old vehicle. But we’ve gotten pretty well-known for [Gen IV] 427s – we do a lot of 427 builds in part because we re-sleeve factory aluminum GM blocks in-house, and that’s become incredibly popular. It allows for a much broader range of cubic inches as far as bore size goes. We have lots of guys that are making 1,500 horsepower with these re-sleeved blocks, and people love it because it’s a little bit cheaper versus something like an aftermarket six-bolt LSx block while also taking 100+ pounds off the nose of the car. When we re-sleeve them we’re using a much harder material that’s also much thicker, so you don’t have as much cylinder wall distortion as you would in a factory production block.”

At any point in time, Texas Speed has about four hundred sets Wiseco pistons on the shelf. “We know this stuff is going to be in demand,” Doelling says.

And because of that, those re-sleeved 427s satisfy the power goals of the overwhelming majority of Texas Speed’s customers. But for those who’re looking to go beyond, that’s when the iron block LSx comes into play. “It’s going to be more rigid because of the material, so in extreme high horsepower applications, you’re not going to have cylinder wall deflection as much as you would in an aluminum block. And when you’re using a six-bolt block with a set of six-bolt cylinder heads, that additional clamping force helps to hold those heads on the block itself. When you’re going for 2,000 horsepower, you need all of the rigidity and clamping force you can get it.”

A huge testiment to Wiseco's piston strength, this piston has seen over 800 passes at 1,700 plus horsepower in the Andrade's Street Outlaws car, and doesn't look the part. It's Armor X coating looks nearly new!

The key to reliability is to build around a targeted use, Trevor notes. “Piston-to-wall clearances, ring gaps, and stuff like that is going to be set up differently on a street-driven engine versus a guy trying to make 1,800 horsepower. It’s going to be determined by how the customer plans to use the engine – you’re absolutely going to have looser clearances in high horsepower applications and extreme turbo builds because it’s going to generate a lot more heat.”

And component choice plays into that as well, of course. “Wiseco allows us to make a near-infinite amount of changes as we need to,” he says. “We’ll tell them compression height, the wrist pin we want, volume, which valve pockets we want, and on a lot of them we’ll even specify the depth of the valve pocket. Wiseco allows us to take kind of a clean-sheet approach where we can design the piston around the application as needed. No matter what we throw at them, they’re always ready and willing to accommodate.”

“I like the fact that it stands out amongst all these Mustangs and Camaros and Novas that you see all the time,” Andrade explains of The Cutty, his ’82 Oldsmobile Cutlass. “It’s something a little bit different.”

He also notes that Wiseco’s approach has helped to push the industry forward in terms of delivering the design elements that builders really want. “Prior to Wiseco, most of the pistons we were using out of the box were just general 600-650 horsepower designs and you’d have to do all of these changes or upgrades in order to make it work for a high horsepower application. Wiseco took a different approach, basically saying, ‘Look, people are trying to do mean stuff to all of these motors, so let’s go ahead and give all of these pistons things like lowered ringlands and steel top Napier second ring sets. That way they’ve got the best of the best right out of the box.’ And because of that, you only need to make changes if you’re going to do something really extreme.”

The Cutty’s current combination includes an LSx block, crank, and rods from Texas Speed, along with custom-spec Wiseco pistons to accommodate the 98mm turbo that provides the boost. “It’ll run four second passes in the eighth just like driving Ms. Daisy,” Andrade says.

And perhaps no build exemplifies the benefits of these strategies than John Andrade’s car, The Cutty. “Back in 2013 we got involved with Street Outlaws and made a bit of a name for ourselves,” John says. “The car is an ’82 Oldsmobile Cutlass that started as a nitrous-fed small-block. We were at one of Duck’s races in Georgia one time and I met some of the guys from Wiseco, and they got us hooked up with Trevor at Texas Speed to talk about doing a boosted application. We put a stock block turbo motor in with custom Wiseco turbo pistons in it, and beat on that for a while before we upgraded to a bigger, more beastly motor.”

Now on to his third combination, Andrade recently tore down the 1,700 hp LSx engine he’s been campaigning for the past two seasons for inspection and freshening, an engine that had roughly 300 passes on it. “Trevor called me when they pulled the motor apart and asked me how many passes it had on it,” he says. “They had never seen a boosted motor that looked so perfect after taking that much of a beating. I’ve got about 800 passes on Wiseco pistons total, and I’ve had zero issues with them.”

Andrade’s focus has turned to grudge racing and no prep events in recent years, and he’s got his sights set on a new record. “We’re running a bigger bore setup to bump the displacement from 408 to 427, and we’re moving over to methanol this year, too. We’re going to shoot for the hydraulic roller LS world record, which is currently 4.46 at 164 mph. We’re going to get after it this year.”

Topics: FEATURES, INTERVIEWS, ENGINE BUILDS, featured, CAR FEATURES

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Written by Bradley Iger

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