Pontiac isn't a name most regular PHR readers would associate with our annual Engine Masters Challenge competition, but make no mistake, Ponchos can make a mountain of power and a torque curve as flat as the Kansas prairie. Anybody who thinks the march of technology has left Pontiac enthusiasts back in the '60s ought to have a long talk with famed engine builder, Jon Kaase. You may recall that Kaase won two consecutive Engine Masters Championships with his weapon of choice: Ford power. This past year, Kaase focused his attention on the seminal Pontiac mill seen here, which makes the most out of recent Pontiac developments, including blocks and cylinder heads.

If you're not familiar with the Engine Masters Challenge, here's a quick rundown. For the 2005 event, competitors had a 510 cubic-inch limit and could build any V-8 they wanted, so long as it runs on 91-octane pump gas and uses commercially available (read off-the-shelf) components. Competitors are then judged on their average horsepower and torque in a super-wide 2,500 to 6,500 rpm range. Sound like a recipe for an awesome street motor? That's kind of the point of the EMC. The engines produced by EMC competitors are the sickest street engines you'll find anywhere, many of them ending up in customers' cars.

This silver-blue Pontiac entry from Jon Kaase Racing did achieve the highest qualifying score in the preliminary session, and was poised in contention to strike for the win in the finals. Victory was not to be, however, as the engine faltered with pangs of detonation in the closing rounds, leading to a Fourth place in the final standings. However, the torque displayed in qualifying was certainly noteworthy, with 767 lb-ft (at 5,000 rpm) qualifying as downright astonishing. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to delve into the inner-workings of Kaase's wild Pontiac, and get some insight from the builder.We had to wonder why the change to a Pontiac-based entry for the man who had built his reputation with Ford engines. Kaase revealed a long-time fondness for Pontiac performance. As Jon told it, "When I was about 12, I really wasn't into cars at all, and I had never been in a car that was really fast. When you are that age you drive around with your parents your whole life; you really aren't at an age when you are driving around with people who are going wide-open throttle. Then, all of a sudden, one day my older sister and her boyfriend come over and he has a brand new GTO, a '64 389 Tri-Power. He puts me in that thing and we go down the street about a half-mile and we stop, and he puts that thing through the gears. I may as well have been in an F-14. That pins you back in the seat so hard when you've never been in a fast car--I still get goose bumps thinking about it. It ruined me; I was ruined from then on. I've always liked the Pontiacs."

Kaase's engine may have been a Pontiac, but as far as the components, it was definitely a no-holds-barred build-up. Built on the new AllPontiac.com iron block casting, the structure was there to support the most serious of efforts. Kaase commented, "I knew they had these blocks [manufactured by Indian Adventures and sold by AllPontiac.com], and they are built by Roush, so that says it all. The things are awesome, four-bolt caps, Siamese bore. The machine work is impeccable. The cast-iron quality is really nice."

The aftermarket block offers the flexibility to be creative with the combination, and we inquired as to Kaase's theories on how to fill it out with the basic combination. Kaase continued, "Being that it is a wedge that doesn't have canted valves, I didn't really think you could run the bore size much smaller than 4.310 inches. I might have chosen 4.250 inches or so if it was a Rat motor or something, because of the side-cant, but as you know, having the valves against the bores is terrible. If you have the intake valve up against the bore it is a bad thing. The best overall average good combination I thought for this motor was 4.310 by 4.350 inches. That would give 507 cubic inches, and it would give the heads just enough room to breathe. I just looked at it and decided that I wanted 200-plus thousandths between the intake valve and the bore and did what it took to get there."

Achieving the required stroke employed a custom Sonny Bryant crank, with 2.000-inch rod journals, and 2.500-inch mains. The reduced journal diameters were primarily to reduce the oil requirements, necessitating main bearing spacers made by Kaase to allow the undersized main bearings to be used with the Pontiac block. The main bearings are 340 Chrysler units, and naturally the Bryant crank was custom built with these bearings in mind, with the appropriate journals and thrust surfaces. Kaase commented on the crank, "It's bordering on being too small of a main for that large a stroke, but since it is not going to go over 6,500 rpm it probably wouldn't flex too bad, and it has eight counterweights. It is a really nice crankshaft, and once I got it from Bryant, I just washed it and put it in. I had to have the people at All Pontiac find me an old junk crank and ship it to Bryant, and then Bryant had to make blueprints from it, because he's never made a crank for a Pontiac. Since this motor, he has made five or six of them, so I guess he's in the Pontiac crank business now. The [factory] cranks on those are sort of a problem, apparently."

The connecting rods are custom Carillo units, a manufacturer Kaase felt provides the kind of quality he was after for an engine that was destined for over 200 dyno pulls in testing. The rods measured 6.500 inch. Kaase favors shorter rods for this application. "I like the short rod for a motor like this, but if it was any shorter than that, it mechanically would have worked, but the wrist-pin part of the piston would have been out of the bore at the bottom, and you don't want that. The bores are sort of short on these blocks. I think cylinder wall length is about six inches or so, and you don't want the wrist pin centerline coming out of the bottom into the crankcase with nothing to support it, so the 6.500-inch was a good all-around spec for it to work."

For the lubrication system, Kaase used a Stef's pan, aided by a custom-built scraper. Kaase was impressed by the Stef's pan, relating that it worked really well as delivered. He added the scraper, and really wasn't sure if it contributed any further gain, making a point to say that the pan by itself seemed to work just as well. A stock Melling pump moves the oil, though Jon found the small bearings caused too much oil pressure. To relieve the problem, the pump was modified by trimming the bypass spring. This reduced the pressure. Of course the overall success of the engine is reliant on an effective set of cylinder heads, and again AllPontiac.com provided the castings. The heads were fitted with valves measuring 2.230 inch on the intake side, and 1.710 inch, exhaust. As Jon put it, "The bigger you get, the worse it closes it off [due to bore shrouding], but that is a good size for that size of a bore." The fully ported heads certainly flow well, peaking at 420 cfm on the intake side, no doubt aided by the substantial intake port size. The intake port cross-sectional area measures 3.4 square inches at the smallest point, adjacent to the pushrod area, while the short turn is just a little bigger, as is the rest of the runner. The intake port throat area, just under the valve seat, measures 90 percent to 91 percent of the valve diameter. On the exhaust side, peak flow measures approximately 275 cfm.