Powered Up: Turbocharged Antique Tractors

Aftermarket turbochargers and superchargers can give antique tractors a boost, but make sure you know what you’re getting into.

| March 2019


Adding aftermarket turbo/superchargers to antique and classic tractors has gained popularity in recent years for both work tractors and “pullers.” Since most of us live at some distance above sea level, this can restore lost power plus add a little more.

A supercharger is a device that increases the pressure of the fuel-air mixture in an internal combustion engine. It is used to achieve greater volumetric efficiency, to make up for pressure loss due to altitude, or to garner more horsepower from a given engine displacement. The two main types are the exhaust-driven turbocharger and the mechanically driven supercharger.

Turbochargers have become commonplace on diesel engines, and, lately, on gasoline-powered autos and light trucks where the purpose in both cases is to achieve more horsepower from a given displacement and to normalize power loss due to altitude.

The exhaust-driven turbocharger generally uses a scroll-type compressor and a scroll-type turbine, or turbo, on a common shaft with foil, or air, bearings, and turning at speeds of 30,000-60,000rpm. Pressure ratios of 4:1 are achievable with speed and pressure limited by an exhaust flow bypass, or “waste gate.” Other types of compressors include Roots-type, screw-type, sliding-vane, Wankel and multi-stage axial-flow. These, as well as the scroll-type, can be used in mechanically driven (non-turbo) applications.

A matter of efficiency

Some engines, such as aircraft radials, use low-pressure “blowers” to ensure distribution of the fuel-air mixture to all cylinders. Also, some 2-cycle engines use blowers to purge exhaust gasses, but there is little, or no, supercharging.


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