The 948 Sprite engine is a delightful little powerplant, and it works just fine for noodling around country roads, or for running up to the grocery store, or for taking the long way home. But it was designed in an era where there was no such thing as a 500 horsepower new car that you could buy from the local car dealer. It was designed when the everyday bloke had some free time, and didn’t have to rush home to check his instagram account. It was designed during a moment in history when 46 horsepower worked just fine.
Of course it still works just fine, and this year, TJ and Karen proved that they could jump into a 948-powered Bugeye and drive “Ducky” from our shop to Washington state. They cheated a little with a five speed transmission, but they demonstrated that 46 horsepower is, in fact, all you need to make it coast to coast, and therefore, to make it just about anywhere.
This week, we are preparing the white Bugeye “Delores” for her new home in New Jersey, and when the rough idle invited further testing and we found it was time for a valve job on the 948 set-up in that car, we jumped on the opportunity to rip off the head.
One of the nicest things you can do for a 948 engine to make it just a little more compliant with modern life is to put on a 1098 head. You’ll notice the combustion chamber is more open. The valves are slightly larger. It breathes better. It just looks faster.
With this new head, Delores won’t be laying down rubber when shifting into third gear, but a few more horses will be nice. I’m guessing that this upgrade adds about 10%. Add to that a new header, larger exhaust diameter, sport muffler and then new HS2 new carbs (1 1/4 throats instead of the stock 1 1/8). More air in, more air out, better breathing head… all this work and you end up with perhaps another four or five horses. But the smile when you arrive is more than 10% wider, and it is thus well worth the effort.