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Hagerty Employee

Accel TurboSonic: The freak brainchild of turbocharging's earliest innovators | Hagerty Media

The best speed parts discoveries are always on accident, pure serendipity while following yet another classifieds lead for old tools or a dead-man's estate of unloved projects. Call it fishing for gear-heads; the adventure to new places, along with the window shopping of another person's financial mistakes stock pile, can be enough entertainment even if there's nothing worth reaching into the wallet.

We had a 78 Trans Am with a Turbo in the late 70’s. It had a lot of lag, needed water injection and in time broke the crank. It would go once boost arrives.

Far cry from my Turbo 2.0 Chevy with 23 psi of boost and 300 hp in a daily driver.

Some people don’t realize how far turbochargers have come.

If you read Car and Drivers from that era, they were extremely in favor of readers using aftermarket turbocharging kits, perhaps because they were sold by advertisers who knew how to schmooze. Frustrated that your new Accord isn't as fast as your Boss 302 was? Turbocharge it! Sure, it will still be much slower than your old solid-lifter V8, but at least you'll blow a few engines to pieces by the time you get the carburetion and ignition timing right! Disappointed that your new incredibly-expensive 320i doesn't feel as fast as we used to make the 2002tii sound? Turn it into an on-going project with a turbocharger!

Advanced Driver

A new Honda Accord will do 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. A 1970 Boss 302 takes 6.6 seconds. No need for a Turbo in that Accord 🙂
New Driver

Except that new Accord *is* turbocharged.

I was talking about 1978 models when I mentioned that era. The '78 Accord and 320i both needed serious modification to hit 60 mph in under ten seconds. 


Fascinating bit of hot-rodding history.
Pit Crew

No mention of the Corvair turbo? I think that was much more successful than the Buick.
New Driver

Sales of the Corvair Turbo might have been higher #s wise in production vehicles if that's your yard stick for success, but the Olds as a performance engine (even without the turbo) along with it's Buick Cousin (almost identical except for the number of head bolts) was far more successful from a performance standpoint. The Oldsmobile went on to be the Repco V8 powering Jack Brabham championship formula 1 cars (obviously highly modified), and the Buick was used by Mickey Thompson at Indy. Not to mention the Buick was sold to Rover and powered Land Rovers until 2004! So I'd say that the 215 was far more successful than the Corvair engine with or without the Turbo.
Pit Crew

Sorry, I meant Oldsmobile.

Intermediate Driver

It’s mentioned in the article.
New Driver

Bought a kit from Ak Miller in 78’ and installed on my 75’ International pickup. Also used wood alcohol injection on top of carb. The 727 transmission held up but the Dana 44 rear didn’t survive but about a month and exploded. Truck had a V392 running 15psi boost and if I had to guess was pushing 500 hp but the torque was unreal!
Intermediate Driver

Outstanding article. I have used RayJay turbos for many a year in my old 1963 Piper Twin Comanche and in many other aircraft with different turbo systems that are quite widely used for , shall we say, more performance aimed aircraft than a simple carbed aircraft is. Same in hot rodding. Depends what you want to do. I have rebuilt quite a few turbos over the years that failed but didn't manage to "grenade" itself, which used to happen for the most part, when they did fail. I have also worked on internal superchargers in aircraft radial engines, such as the venerable Pratt & Whitney R-985, which is usually seen on the DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver which is one helluva work horse aircraft. I have not owned any turbo powered cars, mainly because I never had a need for them in my thoughts. I used to just use raw muscle for performance in a car, better cranks, rods, cams, heads, etcetera, until EFI was used. Then it was a whole new ball game, with way more electronics to trip you up as you climbed the power curve. I have become, while not a great fan of it, I'm "comfortable" with EFI now and actually have found no need to go delving into trying to eke more ponies out of my engines for the most part. I'm not a "tuner", but I do know a few, LOL. I had one tune my LS-1 powered 'Vette into the stratosphere as far as performance went, until I blew the RL460E transmission all over the pavement... My C7 'Vette came stupid crazy powered from the factory and I do not mess with it at all. I guess I'm getting older physically, but my mind still wants to be back in the 60's when the muscle cars were brutish monsters instead of the refined power of today's cars. Yeah, I'm old, being 71 rotations around the sun now, but I can't help that. I stay young at heart with my toys now, a few of which have been passed on to my kids and even my grands. Some of them, they'll just have to wait until my bucket list has been completed before they get them...
Intermediate Driver

In the early 1970, my dad bought a 1966 Corvair Corsa with the 180hp turbocharged engine. Around 1975 he got bit by the performance bug and had the turbocharger rebuilt with a tighter scroll and I think a bigger compressor. We built an adapter to put a 2in SU carburetor from a Jaguar on it and ended up with a monster that required an ethanol spray to keep from melting pistons. He finally put a waste gate on it to limit boost to 15psi (from the over 30 he had been running), and it transformed into a more docile Porsche beater.

I got the bug, and when a student at dad's technical school brought in a turbocharger from a junked Oslmobile Rocket, I had to put it on my 1965 Corvair Monsa. The turbo was seized, and when they pushed it apart on the press the bearings were destroyed. But we found a sintered bronze bushing that had the right inside diameter, and the machine shop teacher took the challenge and turned out two perfect bearings from the bushing. A whole lot of plumbing later, and I had a turbo Corvair (6psi at about 3000rpm controlled by the built in waste gate) also sporting a SU carburetor..

I miss those days when time was plenty and there seemed to be nothing you could not do.

Very interesting Phillip! I'm glad you saved that sort of cool from the scrap yard. Please do get it running and do another article on it! I'd love to hear what you did to make it work and run properly.

Oh my Gawd I can't ditto this enough. It breaks my heart whenever I hear of some ancient almost-forgotten piece being scrapped for a few pennies when a simple eBay listing could put it in the hands of a desperate searcher and real money in the pocket of the seller.
Pit Crew

I was working at a parts store in NW Montana when these first came out. I was building a 55 Chevy at the time so I bought what would have been one of the early kits. It came with an upside down exhaust manifold for the passenger side for the turbo to mount. A friend working at a machine shop in Spokane, WA built a balanced .30 over 283 with 8:1 Jahns pistons, 300 HP Corvette cam and we used a 600 CFM Holley. The kit used an aluminum wastegate under the carb and in order to get the right mounting height I used a spare intake manifold I had sitting around.

I ran a 3" single exhaust through a big Chrysler muffler and it was really quiet. We could put a glass of water on the air cleaner housing and not see any ripples. I used a Borg Warner super T10 trans with a 3.44 first gear going back to a Dana 60 (out of a 69 Roadrunner- that's another story)

It was a really sweet setup and ran really hard through the mid range. I sold the car a year or so later and have always missed it.
Pit Crew

I forgot to mention that the spare intake I used was off a 67 Z28 and now it's worth far more than the whole 55'

Very informative! Thanks!

I don't know very much about the mechanical side of vehicles, but as I have gotten older I am getting more and more interested. Now when I see certain classics - and not so classics too - I have some knowledge base. These articles help a great deal, but the first time I read them I truly accept that what I know mechanically is the literal equivalent of a hair on a gnat's a$$ lol

Had a Judson supercharger on a Sprite for a while. What a useless piece of junk!
New Driver

An interesting story. Thank you for sharing.

Garrett wasn’t the first to add an innovative self starter for the jet engine. The German’s used a small two-stroke boxer motor on each Jumo 003 turbine to start the Messerschmidt 262 jet. Each motor was tucked behind the nose cone of the 003. A ring handle protrudes out of the center of the nose. It is used as a pull starter to start the small boxer motor. Once running the pilot would jump into the cockpit and engage the motor to the turbine to initiate the start up.
New Driver


 I’m running one on a 283 sbc. Mine is branded “Turbonics” and lacks the water preheat that your unit has. I have a “manual” for it that I would copy for you if you want it. 
I’m getting 8 pounds boost as it is set up now. 

Pit Crew

I'd love any documentation I can get, please email me at


Great bit of early turbocharging history. As a kid turbos had a magical place (thanks Knight Rider) and were cool if misunderstood. I remember the turbo Trans Am, Buick Grand Nationals and of course all of the Japanese turbo cars that came after. Now turbos are everywhere but in the early days they were a rare thing to see.
Intermediate Driver

I bought my Accel turbosonic kit in the late spring of 1976. Installed it on a '72 Nova with a 400 small block. While waiting for a boost gauge I had ordered, I got impatient one night fooling with the boost control (an intake spoiler controller) and blew the engine.

Subsequently I built another 400, fixed the bearings in the turbo and ran the car until 1984 (with a boost gauge and exhaust wastegate) until I twin turboed the car with a system I built myself.

I still have the turbosonic kit (and the '72 Nova) although the priority valve is on my turboed 65 Chevy pickup (since 1986) and the rest of the parts are in my inventory.

In 1984, I was managing a retail performance store in our town when a young F4 Wild Weasel pilot came in inquiring about the then-new Edelbrock Vara Jection water injection system. "What are you putting it on?" I asked. "I've built a turbo'ed 350 small block for a '69 Corvette I bought less engine. It was a big block car and I snagged it for three grand.(!)" We were instant friends! I told him that my store was going to be three weeks out on the kit, but I was sure that the SuperShops store 35 miles away in San Bernardino probably had one. He brought the car to my "secret projects" shop behind my house and there before me was the only Marvin Miller draw-through turbo system I have ever seen. It placed the 780 Holley in the stock location but it sat on a priority manifold that used a vacuum/boost flapper that redirected the intake air through a tubular casting into the turbo when the boost hit. The turbo sat on the right side of the engine and the exhaust actually fit down the right side with a tiny amount of room to spare. We tidied up a couple of exhaust issues and drove the car to Berdoo. He bought a Vara Jection and we installed it on the parking lot. The trip back up the Cajon Pass told us how much water the system needed and it did a commendable job of controlling detonation. I seem to recall that the return trip only took about ten minutes... fun memories!

Way back in the late 70s or early 80s, there was a guy (I think he was an engineer for Mid Engineering, a company that made kits to convert Corvairs to a mid-engine set-up) who showed up at national CORSA conventions with a Crown mid engine Corvair. He ran a twin turbo Olds 350. He also had the Accel diverter thingie, but I don't remember it looking quite like the one shown in the article. Even though I was running a Crown kit with Chevy 350, we were in different classes, as he didn't run race tires. His car was fast in a straight line, not so good in corners (autocrossing). I always thought the diverter was a good idea, but sadly, I never talked to the guy much. No idea whatever happened to his car.

Neat bit of history.
New Driver

Friend just bought a 1970 Firebird with one of these on it,.came from california, has big fiberglass fender flares on all 4 corners, looke like they were put on well at the time, they put a ton of time in the turbo installation, pretty sure it was black, anyone remember this BIRD !!!