From the moment we announced it, we've been getting questions regarding the rules for our next Engine Masters competition. So, we thought we'd share our complete rules package on the pages, with in-depth explanations of the intent and ideas behind each rule we've got. This is important for participants and readers to understand, as the theories behind each rule have been well researched, and are not open for discussion.
We should also state there may still be more evolution of the rules, as the program moves on, and questions get asked and answered. However, after completing the Challenge last year, this rules package has been refined, and should any changes be made to this set of rules, they should be minor. The differences we're up against with regard to setting up a big-block Challenge do exist, and we're doing our best to keep the spirit of the Challenge exactly where we feel it needs to be. We're keeping everything street-flavored, with a nod toward budget and attainability. We're trying to limit builders to parts anyone can acquire, and we're limiting the specific materials many parts are created from, to further limit budget. We created this Challenge so readers building street engines could benefit, and if we stray beyond our original purpose, we'd be failing those we intended to assist. So, look over the rules and decide if the Engine Masters Challenge sounds like a good idea to you. We're already receiving applications, and we'll have to maintain the field to a maximum of fifty entries. We hope to create even more excitement than we did last year, and while that may be a lofty goal, we're committed to it.
Any normally-aspirated, domestic, big-block engine is acceptable. Maximum displacement is 470.0 cubic inches. Power adders such as superchargers, turbochargers, nitrous oxide, or other such devices, are not allowed.
This is fairly self-explanatory, but it means we don't wish to see obscenely-stroked small-blocks in this deal. We want these engines to be typical big-blocks our readers can relate to. Naturally, this does not apply to Pontiac entries, since they only made one V-8 in many different displacements. We allowed Pontiacs into last-year's small-block version of the Challenge, and we'll also allow big-inch variants of the Pontiac family here. Olds diesel blocks with long strokers are not allowed, even though they almost fit these same criteria. If you wish to enter an Olds, the block should be of the 455 family.
Power adders of any kind are expressly forbidden, as we hope to see what each engine design is capable of, without any "help" from mechanical or chemical superchargers. If you've got a "device" on your entry we feel is a power adder, it's a power adder, and you'll get disqualified.
Any commercially-available cast (iron or aluminum) engine block is acceptable. The engine block must retain OEM bore spacing. Lifter bores must retain OEM angles (+ or - one degree) and the diameter as originally cast (+ or - .005 of an inch). The block must be equipped with engine mounts.
What we're asking for here, is factory-type, and factory-type replacement blocks only, as opposed to full-on racing pieces. Once the bores start getting cast in different places, and lifter bores start being altered, our readers can no longer relate. So, we're holding entries to factory-type block dimensions to keep things sane. Also, this will ensure that participants choosing to build their entries based on factory blocks, will have a solid shot at winning.
Any commercially-available, street-style cylinder heads are acceptable. Purpose-built racing heads including GM DRCE, Dart Big Chief, and other similar heads are not allowed. Porting, polishing, and valve resizing are acceptable. Raised runner heads that meet all other rules criteria are acceptable. Valves must retain OEM angles (+ or - two degrees) and OEM location (relative to bore centerline), as originally cast. Any commercially available steel valve is acceptable. Titanium valves and/or springs are not allowed. Ports, intake flanges, and exhaust flanges must retain OEM configuration, as originally cast. Changing the as-cast horizontal centerline or location of either the intake or exhaust port is not allowed. Use of custom exhaust flanges to connect the exhaust port to the header is not allowed.
Lots of information is living in that paragraph. The cylinder heads must retain an OEM configuration, which means they must duplicate the factory part in design. If the intake ports on a big-block Chevy were teamed up next to each other at the factory, they'd better still be side-by-side for the Engine Masters Challenge. There are many aftermarket cylinder head designs available now that both change the port configuration or basic design of domestic big-block engines, and we've made a point to make all of them illegal for this competition. Raised-runner designs are fine, since they do not change the basic layout of the head. However, if the as-cast port spacing of the heads you choose is altered beyond the original parameters of the OEM factory heads produced for the same style engine, the heads were never intended to be OEM replacement heads, and will be declared illegal. We will not research every possible illegal cylinder head to publish a list of parts you cannot use. We simply do not have the resources to do this effectively. Our rules are very clear, and should benefit our readers by showing them heads they can use on their street machines.
The "horizontal centerline" rule is raising plenty of eyebrows, so allow us to explain. We heard rumblings of some saying they'd simply bandsaw off the marginal exhaust ports from their heads, and re-weld them higher to gain performance. That would mean they'd have moved the factory horizontal centerline of the port flange, and this is illegal. If you can purchase raised-runner heads from the aftermarket, we're allowing these as they are commercially available, but only within reason. Our reason is simply explained--if a factory intake or exhaust gasket will not line up with your intake or exhaust port bolt holes anymore; your heads are illegal. We're basing this Challenge on the flexibility of factory-type replacement aftermarket parts, like headers and intakes. If out-of-the-box parts no longer fit your needs, we're not doing this correctly. So, any cylinder head used in the Engine Masters Challenge must have a factory-type port design that will accept a factory-type gasket on both the intake and exhaust sides. We're allowing and encouraging porting and polishing, but you've got to start with a head that duplicates a factory offering.
You'll also notice that no titanium valves or springs are allowed. This is a budgetary consideration. Also, we don't want extensive valve guide relocation happening, so the valves have to stay where they came relative to bore centerline and at the same angle the factory designed them with (+ or - two degrees). There will be no moving valves for better unshrouding. Factory canted valve angles must be maintained as the factory designed them, and the canted angles cannot be altered at all.
Any commercially-available, non-programmable ignition system (including points, electronic, or capacitive discharge) that incorporates a distributor is acceptable. Crank triggers, magnetos, and ICTs are not allowed. Engines designed and produced by OEMs with distributorless ignition systems, or engines that have been modified to accept a distributor are not allowed. Engines must be equipped with a distributor, ignition box, ignition coil, spark plug wires (with suppression shielding) and related ignition wiring designed for easy connection to the dyno. Electrical power will be supplied by a single 12-volt source.
We've designed this Challenge for our readers on a budget, so only the basic types of aftermarket ignition will be allowed. The old-school distributor is the only way of controlling ignition, as all the modern forms have been outlawed. We feel our readers want to see the same ignition systems they are already familiar with, and even the newest OEM offerings are illegal here. We don't want to see laptop-programmable setups, or anything requiring any type of programming to operate. The entire system (box, coil, etc) should be mounted on a board or plate for easy hookup, and a single connection is all it should take.
Any commercially-available carburetor is acceptable. Fuel injection and/or water injection systems are not allowed. Carburetor gaskets and/or spacers are limited to a maximum total height of 2.25-inches between the intake and the carburetor base. All engines will utilize fuel being fed by an electric pump supplied by the dyno facilities. A single -8 or -6 AN fitting will be provided for connection to the EMC dyno. Fuel will be EMC-spec 92-octane.
There's not much more to say here. We want to see four-barrel carbs atop cast intake manifolds, and that's it. We expect to see modified carburetors, and this is encouraged. We saw many last year, and it was great to see so many different approaches to carburetion. There are no limits on carb size or design; it simply must be available to the general public, and have a good part number to prove it. Dominator-type carburetors are legal.
Any commercially-available air filter is acceptable. All engines must utilize one 14-inch diameter, 3-inch tall air filter while running on the dyno. Any modifications to the air filter, or the air filter fixture, are not allowed. Air horn-type fixtures will be provided to accommodate each air filter. Filtered lids are not allowed.
We hope you saw our Engine Masters-specific, air filter assemblies in our coverage of last year's event, since we'll be running them again this year. The big air horn is required for our dyno data, so it will be required in all our pulls. Some entrants griped about it last year, but everyone had to breathe through the same part, so it makes no difference. Naturally, no modifications are allowed to your filter, and if you think you can punch a few holes through a filter without us noticing, go ahead and try. It'd be a pretty dumb thing to be disqualified for, don't you think?
Also, the filtered lids pioneered by K&N will not be permitted either. Our dyno air horns have custom lids, and we cannot make concessions to those who would choose to run a filtered lid, so we must make them illegal. Of course, a typical K&N 14x3 round filter is perfectly legal.
Any commercially-available camshaft is acceptable. Custom-designed and custom-ground camshafts are acceptable. Roller camshafts are not allowed. Solid roller, hydraulic roller, Mushroom style, and Schubeck brand or style of lifters is not allowed.
We did allow hydraulic roller cams in last year's Challenge, and they did win. However, we also ran into several issues regarding roller lifters that forced us to outlaw them this time. First, there was a dramatic nationwide shortage of hydraulic roller lifter bodies, which had many builders contacting us and begging for rollers to be outlawed because they could not get them. Since this happened long after we'd announced the Challenge, many builders already had their parts, and it would not have been fair to them. So, we've decided to make hydraulic and solid roller lifters illegal this time to give the roller lifter body industry a chance to recover. Second, we heard allegations from some builders about how hydraulic roller lifters could be modified, or even adjusted, to replicate the performance of solids. While modifying the hydraulic lifter bodies was something we checked for on teardown, we felt it would be much simpler to outlaw the pricier rollers this time, and re-evaluate the situation prior to next year's Challenge.
Otherwise, the camshaft rules are pretty wide open. We're curious to see the specs on the cam that wins, and we don't wish to restrict builders only to existing profiles. Anyone can get a custom cam ground, and we're sure our readers want to see this.
In reference to Schubeck brand or style of lifters, we've heard about some enterprising, potential competitors who were considering rounding the edges of their flat-tappet lifters to take advantage of the Schubeck style of a rounded-bottom lifter. If we see lifters have been modified in this or any other way, you'll be disqualified.
Any commercially-available single-four barrel cast intake manifold is acceptable. Tunnel rams, sheetmetal, and/or composite manifolds are not allowed. Porting, polishing and/or sizing is acceptable. Using an intake manifold that is designed and cast for use on a different make or family of engine is not allowed.
We know how critical intake manifold selection and modification is when average power numbers are the goal, so we hammered out this simple rule. Get a manifold designed for your make and family of engine, port and polish to your heart's content, and run it. We don't recommend our readership radically alter other kinds of manifolds for use on their engines, so we cannot encourage it here. It must be a part others can get in the marketplace, which is the basic foundation of the entire program. You can modify it, but it's got to be the same as the part anyone in the world can get before you begin grinding.
Any commercially-available steel connecting rods are acceptable. Aluminum, titanium, or any other exotic materials are not allowed.
Simply put, steel rods are the only way to go on the street, so they are the only way to go in the Engine Masters Challenge. There is a good selection in many different styles, weights, and price ranges from many different sources. There are no secrets here.
Any commercially-available aluminum pistons are acceptable. Custom-made, modified, and/or coated pistons are acceptable. Compression is not limited.
Again, this is fairly straightforward. Custom pistons, like custom cams, are not hard to craft and are readily available. Many builders modify their pistons to each engine they build, while others use the services of their favorite piston manufacturer. Regardless, it's not hard to get the right piston to do the job, and we've decided to let the builders have their choice of pistons. The 92-octane pump gas will be the only limit to compression, and the builder's design talents will show us how much a hot street engine can handle.
Any commercially-available, stud-mounted rocker arms are acceptable. Shaft-mounted rockers are not allowed unless they were an OEM offering (Mopar, Buick, etc). Multiple rocker shafts per cylinder head are not allowed. All rocker arms must maintain no greater than a 1.7:1 ratio, unless factory OEM passenger car engines of the same family were produced with higher ratios. All rocker arms must retain the factory OEM mounting location.
There have been a few changes here, so let's review this carefully. If your engine was designed and built with stud-mounted rockers, you'll have to have stud-mounted rockers. Some big-blocks were designed with shaft-mounted rockers (like the Mopar 440 and Hemi, and the big Buicks), and they must be in place on dyno day. Even these factory shaft-mounted systems must replicate OEM, though. The parts should be OEM replacement by design and should not require modifications to install.
Regarding rocker ratios, we went with a 1.6:1 maximum ratio with the small-blocks last year, and it seemed to be a common-sense move. After initially considering limiting the big-blocks to factory ratios, we've decided to draw a line in the sand at 1.7:1 for the big-blocks, since this is a common setup as well. So, unless the factory offered more than 1.7:1 as a standard ratio in passenger car engines (not over-the-counter only "race" parts), 1.7:1 is the rocker ratio limit.
Any commercially-available, chassis-style exhaust headers are acceptable. Headers must be unmodified and designed to fit a '55 or newer passenger car chassis, without modification to the vehicle or the chassis. Port matching of the header flange is acceptable. Any diameter primary tubes and collectors are acceptable. Slip-on style collectors are acceptable. Custom headers, header kits, multi-pieced headers, fenderwell headers, and headers designed for trucks are not allowed. Crankcase ventilation systems that vent to any component of the exhaust system are not allowed. Bungs for EGT probes and/or oxygen sensors are acceptable, but must be plugged. Thermal header wraps (such as Kevlar fabric) are not allowed. Headers must provide a minimum of 16.5-inches of inside clearance to properly fit on the dyno chassis.
We had some header issues last year, so hopefully this re-write of the rules will help. We saw street rod headers, truck headers, and headers that required a modified chassis to fit. We don't want to see any of those things this time. We've limited header selection to passenger cars only; no trucks, and the car must have been made after '55 like most of our street machines. All the domestic big-block engines were offered in suitable post-'55 cars with many headers offered, so we want to see the same pipes our readers use.
The only performance mods we allow are a simple matching of the header flange to the exhaust port on the cylinder head. This is the kind of modification we encourage our readership to make anyway, and it's a good call. The plugged fittings we're allowing are for use with dyno test probes, and these plugs must be in place prior to testing. We allowed this last year, and it worked out fine.
We also allowed the valve cover breathers to be plumbed into the headers last year, and it did not go as smoothly as we'd have liked. For this reason, and because we've seen precious few street machines ever plumb into the exhaust with their crankcase vents anyway, we've decided to outlaw this modification. A typical breather atop the valve covers is fine and legal, but no part of the crankcase ventilation system can be plumbed into the exhaust, period.
Any commercially-available street-style mufflers are acceptable. Race-style mufflers are not allowed. All engines must utilize two mufflers while running on the dyno. Muffler inlet and outlet diameters are each limited to a maximum diameter of 3-inches. Slip-on street mufflers are acceptable. H-pipes, X-pipes, or any such connection between the left and right sides of the exhaust system are not allowed. Muffler inlets must be located at least 24 inches, but no more than 36 inches, from the back edge of the engine bell housing.
There is a distinct difference between "race" and "street" mufflers, and this is a street contest. If we determine your mufflers were designed for life under a race car, not a street car, you'll be disqualified. Because of dyno connections, the left and right exhaust systems must remain independent. The 24- and 36-inch dimensions are guidelines for dyno clearance--if your exhaust system does not clear our SuperFlow dyno, you cannot run. Take this consideration seriously.
Any commercially-available chassis-style wet-sump oil pan is acceptable. Oil pans must be an unmodified, out-of-the box part designed to fit a '55 or newer production car chassis, without modification to the vehicle or chassis. Dry sump systems and vacuum pumps are not allowed. Oil pans designed for trucks are not allowed. External crankcase ventilation and/or oil drainback return systems plumbed externally to vent oil to the pan are not allowed.
You'll note this rule looks like the header rule, and for good reason. Like the headers, we don't want to see street rod or pickup truck parts. We don't want to see oil pans for modified chassis race cars, and we don't want to see oil pans from any kind of "custom shop". We want to see oil pans offered for use on cars you'd see on the pages of PHR, and that means post-'55 production cars with factory frames. Like the headers, we had a few issues last year we do not wish to duplicate. So, we'll say this clearly--if you modify your oil pan, you will be disqualified. You cannot plumb it for any lines, you cannot special-order it from a manufacturer with "options", and you cannot run a dry-sump pump or vacuum pump. It must have a part number that will correlate to a chassis, and you must be able to prove it to us. Keep this part of your buildup simple and you'll have no worries.
All engines must contain at least five (5) quarts of motor oil during each dyno pull. Engines must be shipped "dry" to the certified dyno site, along with at least five unopened quarts of oil, to verify the oil quantity and contingency.
This is another fairly simple rule. We need to know there is oil in your engine, and we need to know who makes it and what grade it is. So, bring the dry engine in, crack the seals on your favorite lubricant, and let us watch you fill up the crankcase. Simple.
Any commercially-available oil additive is acceptable, but is not required. Engines must be shipped "dry" to the certified dyno site along with at least one unopened bottle of oil additive, if you intend to use it, to verify contingency.
We've decided to include oil additives as a contingency category this year, so we need to see if you're using one and who's it is. If you're a believer in additives making power, here's a chance to show it. If you'd rather not add anything to your oil, that's fine too.
Any commercially-available electric or mechanical water pump is acceptable. Engines using a mechanical water pump, must be equipped with an operational belt and pulley drive system. Water pumps must be mounted in the OEM configuration. Remote-mounted water pumps are not allowed. Use of a cooling system thermostat is not allowed.
We know the water pump market is growing, with new offerings in both electric and mechanical designs coming to market every year. Your water pump of choice must be a stock-replacement type, and it must be mounted in the factory water pump location. We did see some creative water pump use last year, including second-place winner Dave Storlien's engineering of a remote electrical pump. While we appreciate this level of creativity, our readers cannot easily duplicate this in their own cars. So, we've decided that the water pumps must be similar to OEM offerings in location and shape, but we'll leave the electrical vs. mechanical decision up to the builders.
Any commercially-available electric starter motor is acceptable.
We've got to start each of these engines, so make sure your starter of choice functions well, and has the correct clearances to the flywheel. We had a couple Challenge engines last year with starters that barely got the engines lit. We had no starter failures, but we'd have felt horrible if a bad starter, or the wrong flywheel had eliminated a competitor. There were also a couple engines with minimal starter clearances, and we could hear the flywheel barely touching the starter as the motors ran. This did not grow to be any kind of a problem, however, we'd just like to keep it that way.
Any commercially-available SFI-certified flywheel is acceptable. Engines are required to be equipped with an approved flywheel or flexplate.
We also saw some scary welding on some of our entries last year,, and it frightened us. Welding big chunks of metal onto a flywheel to balance it is dangerous and we don't wish to see this again. By requiring all of our flywheels to be SFI certified, we're only looking out for everyone who may be in the vicinity when the engines are running. We needed to do something about this potential safety issue, and forcing entrants to have SFI-certified safe gear is a smart move.
Any commercially-available SFI-certified bellhousing is acceptable. Engines are required to be equipped with an approved bellhousing.
Like the flywheels, we want our bellhousings to step up a notch in safety, too.
Any commercially-available performance coating is acceptable. The application of thermal and/or friction coatings can be performed at any time prior to the competition on any part. Coating a part is not considered a modification, and parts not allowed to be modified may be coated.
We saw plenty of coatings last year, and we've decided to make coatings a new contingency category as well. There were some questions as to whether coated parts (like headers) would be considered "modified", and we decided they would not. The coating process does not change the design of the part, it simply may give additional protection, so we're all for it. There's been much progress made in coatings lately, and we want the Challenge to be a great place to showcase this technology.
All engines will run on EMC-spec, 76 Racing, 92-octane, unleaded pump gasoline. We can make it available to you if your entry is accepted.
Participants are responsible for coordinating and funding their own engine transportation to and from the Engine Masters Challenge regional and final testing locations. Participants are also responsible for funding their own transportation, lodging, and meals while attending Engine Masters Challenge regional and/or final competition dyno sites.
So, there you have it. The ground rules for the Engine Masters Challenge for 2003. We're looking forward to seeing the level of competition, and what kind of combination will beat out all the others to take home the big cash.
We also wanted to add, that engines converted to overhead camshafts, multiple plugs per-cylinder, or any other radical design modification will not be permitted, and should anyone be considering such an entry, you'd be well-advised to contact us first to see if your plans are illegal. There may be some mods being developed that would be fine with us, but we cannot judge what we cannot see. We'd recommend that any and all rules questions be accompanied by a letter, photograph, or drawing of what you're planning.
We also promise with all sincerity, that any and all ideas and questions submitted to PHR will be held in strictest confidence, and will not be shared with anyone else. Please feel free to send in your questions, and know that we will not share any of your secrets or ideas. Naturally, once the Challenge is over, you may have to divulge what got you to the top. However, prior to the runoffs, we have to be able to inform entrants of the legalities of their planned modifications. No worries, your secrets are safe with us.