Nestled in a nondescript blue building about 10 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, Boss 330 Racing is home to a master of modular-engine building, Al Papitto, who has built a reputation in the overhead-cam community for assembling some of the most potent modular powerplants in the nation. Papitto's powerplants have propelled people such as Bob Cosby to drag-racing championships, and have set modular horsepower precedents, such as with Joe Cermin's 1,400-plus rear-wheel-horsepower Ford GT.
It was Cermin's GT, in fact, that brought us to Boss 330's Vero Beach, Florida, location to check out what exactly went into one of these potent engines. We also spent the majority of our time questioning Papitto about modular engines and his extensive experience with them. But first, the motor.
The 5.5 modular powerplant is simply a 5.4 that has received a 0.020-inch overbore. The 5.5 mill that Boss 330 was assembling, though, wasn't as simple as that. It was, in fact, a duplicate of the engine that Cermin has already slung beneath the back hatch of his '05 Ford GT.
This is the stock Ford GT block out of Joe Cermin's 1,000-plus rear-wheel-horsepower twin-
While the market for GT owners is relatively small, the motor should be quite popular with the growing GT500 crowd, along with Lightning owners who have made the Four-Valve head swap. The only major hiccup to this is that GT blocks are no longer available from Ford, so you'll have to do some hunting to find one if you don't already have one.
Our subject GT block was given a 0.020-inch overbore on all eight holes, and Boss 330 slips in its own rotating assembly that consists of a stock GT crank, Boss 330 forged connecting rods, and forged pistons. Despite the incredible power output and turbocharged nature of the engine combination, Papitto increases the compression ratio by decreasing the size of the dish in the piston. "The increase in compression ratio really wakes the engine up off boost," he says.
The next piece of the puzzle is the induc-tion, and here we start with the stock GT cylinder heads, which are then ported and polished by Kris Starnes. Papitto installs new valveguides and his own custom valves and valvesprings. He swaps out the stock single coil design for his own double-coil piece that offers more seat pressure. This is required as the camshafts that will be going into the motor are slightly more aggressive. If you want the specs, you'll have to talk with Papitto, but we doubt he'll tell you either.
As a custom engine builder, Boss 330 can pretty much build you anything, from a 500hp naturally aspirated 5.4, to an American Iron engine, to a full-tilt 900hp EFI Renegade powerplant. In the realm of Ford modular engines, Boss 330 Racing has been there from the beginning, learning from its own experience as well as that of its customer base. Here's what Papitto had to say on a number of topics:
MM&FF: How did you get started building engines, and how long have you been doing it?
Papitto: When I was a kid, my grandfather owned a service station. I grew up hanging around it and developed an interest in how things worked. I also met my wife at that service station. I got started probably around 1970 working in a foreign-car repair shop after school. I guess that makes about 37 years building engines.
MM&FF: What are the pros and cons of the modular engine family versus the pushrod engines?