It’s been said having a nitrous bottle in your hot rod is cheating. I say it’s the easiest way to add 40-50% more horsepower to your drag racing car. Nitrous oxide was used by the Germans towards the end of World War II. The used it to give their fighter planes more power at higher altitudes. At sea level our air only contains between 19-20% Oxygen, it only gets lower the higher you get. Nitrous Oxide on the other hand is 33% Oxygen. This is the real beauty of the nitrous bottle.
An internal combustion engine is just a large air pump. The more air you can pump, the more horsepower you’re going to make. A 302 cubic inch engine pumps approximately 302 cubic inches of air in & out in one revolution. In order to get more air to flow through your engine, you need to increase its efficiency. Most engines as built from the factory don’t even come close to 100% efficiency. Meaning our 302 engine might only actually move 250 cubic inches of air.
This is where larger valves, carbs, headers, and manifolds come into play. Larger straighter passages allow for freer breathing, which creates more power. A Pro-Stock drag car or a Formula-One car have been engineered to have the highest efficiency possible. This has come at great expense and after many hours of modifications and dyno testing. Which is why some people think of having a nitrous bottle as cheating. They call it “Throttle in a Bottle” for a very good reason. It has the ability to add as much or more power to a properly set up engine as almost anything else available.
The only thing comparable to a blast from the nitrous bottle, would have to be either a supercharger or a turbocharger. All 3 of these methods greatly increase the amount of your engines airflow, by forcing it into the engine. “Forced Induction” whether it be by a supercharger, a turbo or from nitrous oxide, makes the engine think it’s bigger than it actually is on paper. By increasing the engines efficiency to 110% or more, the engine is able to burn much more fuel than normally, greatly increasing power.
Besides being one third oxygen, nitrous oxide has the added benefit of cooling the intake charge when it enters the engine. As it turns from a liquid to a gas rapidly it becomes very cold, around -250 degrees. This also improves power output, you know how your car runs so much better on a cool fall day. It’s like that only better. It’s been used to nitrous racers advantage at the drag strip on numerous occasions. While the turbocharged and supercharged guys were literally sweating it out, in the hot and muggy summer heat. The nitrous oxide racecars were enjoying the cool air on their side of the track.
So get yourself a nitrous bottle and kit before you get left behind at the starting line your next time at the track. There’s not much that will compare to the rush of the first pass on the juice. You’ll be hooked for life, I know I was. Watch for my tailights, that way you’ll know it’s me!