The year 2012 marks the 11th year Popular Hot Rodding has presented the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge. Over the years, weve had various format and rule changes that were designed to mix things up in the interest of diversity, but one thing that hasnt changed over time is our belief that the engines featured in PHR should be, above all else, street worthy. Its an indisputable fact that the vast majority of younot to mention the staff here at PHR--would rather spend their money on a tire-smoking daily driver or weekend street warrior than, say, an NHRA index racer or an alcohol-fueled circle track car.
In the early days of the EMC, we recognized that there was a disconnect between the engines PHR readers craved and the ones professional engine builders were actually building. On the one hand, you had garage-bound enthusiasts gobbling up millions in bolt-on cylinder heads, intakes, camshafts, ignitions, and carburetors, and on the other you had the worlds elite engine builders crafting high-revving, high-octane, high-tech race engines. Youd have an easier time explaining a card trick to a chicken than selling one of these $30,000 race divas to a guy with a street car. The gap between street and race shouldve shrunk over the decades, but the two extremes continued to drift apart. These days, the street guy reads about some whizbang race motor in a magazine, has a good chuckle, and goes back to the real world of bolting a Holley double-pumper on his dual-plane intake.
Through it all though, the aftermarket knew what side its bread was buttered on. The numbers dont lie: Guys like you and I wrenching on stuff in our garages make up the lions share of the performance aftermarketnot sponsored race teams buying high-winders that run a few hundred laps and get rebuilt. The biggest impetus driving the race engine biz is that racers hate losing. Theyd rather take out a second mortgage or raid juniors college fund than lose to Bubba at the local bullring. Racing is addictive, and it doesnt take a lot of hard-core racers (relative to the rest of us) to keep the race engine business grinding along.
engines built for the EMC are a unique blend of street and race that push ordinary parts into extraordinary territory.
The really cool thing is, when you strip away all the high-tech parts from the race engine deal, theres a huge base of accumulated knowledge that engine builders have, and it can be put to great use in the real world. The problem is, how do you get race engine builders interested in street motors?! Thats where the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge comes in. First, you offer engine builders a lot of crazy money and a national spotlight. Check. Then you tell them they not only have to make a lot of power, but they will need to do it over a 4,000-rpm test range using off-the-shelf parts. The highest average power and torque per cubic inch winsnot the highest peak. In the case of the Street class, youve got to start getting with the program as low as 2,500 rpmthe real world where the rest of us live.
With a street-oriented rpm range, competitors are compelled to look at the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge in a different way. The benefit is that engines built for the EMC are a unique blend of street and race that push ordinary parts into extraordinary territory. Its often frustrating for the engine builder, who would just love to use super-trick parts and lots of rpm, but its the same limitation you and I face every day. The EMC culminates in a room filled with engines thatwhile not necessarily cheapare well within our grasp, and worthy of true street status.
One engine builder who I know wouldve welcomed the AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge with open arms is John Lingenfelter. John was the founder of the company that bears his name, and he was a unique blend of engine builder, racer, and true street enthusiast. While he rose to fame racing down the NHRA quarter-mile, his real passion was for fast street cars. John died in 2003 when the EMC was in its infancy, but something he always liked to say convinced me that he really got it. Im paraphrasing here, but Lingenfelter said that if you make lots of torque, everything else will come. And he had a shelf full of NHRA Wally awards to back it up.
John had a really fun way of proving his point about torque. With me strapped in the passenger seat, John would pull onto Indiana State Route 33 just north of Decatur, Indiana, check the rearview mirror for cops, give me a sideways smile, and roll into the throttle in Third gear. Didnt matter if it was a Corvette or a truck, twin-turbo or all motor, automatic or stick, smoke would be boiling off the hides at 80 mph, and wed be laughing like two juvenile delinquents playing hooky.
Johns customers appreciated his torque-heavy street-biased credo too. They lined up for months or even years for the privilege of owning Lingenfelter torquethe same kind of epic torque that we now see at the EMC. But John didnt need to be coaxed by us into building tire-melting twist. He figured it out on his own, embraced it, and built a legacy from it. It seems so simple: keep it real, build for mountainous torque, and people will love it. Forthwith, we present the 2012 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge!