After his street car was murked by a truck and sent to dereg-ville, Ross Burn rebirthed his RX-8 as a dedicated track car. And, despite having given the 13B Renesis all the usual love — turbo, exhaust, etc. — over the years, it just wasn’t quite cutting it for Ross any more. The answer to what to do next was found across the ditch in the form of a blue oval-built engine. The now infamous Barra turbo packs four litres of destruction and promises impressive amounts of power with little effort required. Teamed up with Ryan Phillips from Outlaw Garage, a step-by-step plan was put in place to make it happen.
“From then on, the focus was to turn the car into a dedicated multipurpose race car. I wanted it to be capable of competing in all events — from time trials and rally, to drifting and hill climbs,” explains Ross. “I teamed up with Aaron and Ryan from Outlaw Garage to achieve that vision.”
Ryan tells us that this particular motor was sourced from a Falcon FG, chosen for its sump configuration, which sees the pan at the rear of the motor, enabling it to clear the front cross member in the RX-8 — BA/BF Falcon-sourced Barras have the pan at the front. It also has the benefit of being the strongest generation internally, as Ryan explains: “The FG ones [Barra] are just a better motor. They are proven to handle 500kW with factory internals without breaking a sweat. The BA/BF ones are only rated to around 450kW, with the rods being the weak point. So, really, all you need to do with these is upgrade the head studs, chuck on a billet oil pump, and upgrade the valve springs for the added boost, and you’re making power all day.”
Despite the hefty dimensions of the Barra, no chassis cutting or fabrication was required to fit it into the engine bay, although Ryan did recommend flattening the seam up towards the top of the firewall to get the motor as far back as possible for better balance.
“You have to remember that the Barras are 800mm tall, so you might have to cut the bonnet, but that means not having to modify the front cross member, and Ross’ motor sits roughly 4mm above it,” explains Ryan. “We did it this way so that, if he ever wanted to, he could put a factory RX-8 motor back in again without requiring modifications or a new cross member to do so.”
Ryan whipped up the engine mounts in house, and they are constructed out of 5mm plate to create the brackets on the cross member and the mounting point on the block. Schedule 40 tube was used to form the main arm, while 32NB pipe houses a 30M Nolathane bush, so that the motor isn’t solid mounted to the chassis.
“The Barra has an offset valvetrain, too, so, when fitting it, you need to centre the motor off the crank to the chassis, not the head itself. It’s best to remove the rocker cover and use a level to get the motor up right,” Ryan explains.
To help aid placement, Ryan has used a Wisefab E36 kit that allows an E36 electric power-steering rack to be retrofitted into the chassis, which was done using custom mounts and by sitting the rack lower for sump clearance.
Backed by a Tremec TR-6060 with an XR6 bellhousing, the tunnel is large enough to accept the box and a custom mount was easily made — Ross’ uses a custom chromoly driveshaft to link the box to the factory RX-8 LSD. Ryan noted that they have used a bracket at the snout of the diff to support it, as the factory set-up has a torque bar between the gearbox and the diff to keep it in line.
Working on paper, the chassis balance equates to roughly 52:48 with the new heart and promises a whole heap more power. Ryan and Ross agree that it’s a worthwhile conversion and relatively hassle-free if you have someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to fabrication: “The swap can be done quite fast. It was a total of 16 outs to put the motor in, make the mounts, and modify the rear diff bracket. The only downside is that the rear axles are weak and will only handle around 400hp [298kW] before breaking.”
BARRA TURBO ORIGIN CHASSIS: Ford Falcon (FG) CAPACITY: 3984cc CONFIGURATION: Straight-six turbo BORE/STROKE: 92.26x99.31mm COMPRESSION: 8.8:1 FACTORY POWER: 270kW at 5250 rpm / 533Nm at 2000–4750rpm WEIGHT: 195kg (bare) NOTES: Strongest internals, transient 10-second over-boost bumps torque to 586Nm at full throttle, rumoured to be underquoted power figures