We'd planned all we could possibly plan. The logistics for running the second annual Engine Masters Challenge competition were in place and ready. The day had finally arrived to begin running engines and seeing results. We'd staffed three separate regional locations around the country for participants to bring their powerplants, and we'd be inviting a dozen of them to the same location for the Finals.

First, we'd have to run every single entrant.
This daunting task was made possible with the support of each individual dyno site and the personnel sent from SuperFlow to assist in data collection. The assemblage and complete, fair, and honest testing of the many big-block engines at each site made for a daunting task, yet we were absolutely determined to give each builder a fair and level playing field to display their talents. We'd supplied 92-octane gasoline from a single source, and we'd tasked SuperFlow with calibrating each dyno to be absolutely accurate. Finally, the noise would start. What had been a series of rules on paper had become representative of some of the finest naturally-aspirated 470-inch domestic big-block engines ever crafted anywhere to run on pump gas.

Follow along with our coverage on each entrant. You'll note how, after accepting a total of fifty entries, a total of 35 engines actually showed up to compete. Obviously, some builders fell out of the competition. Many reasons surfaced, from family issues to financial hardships to parts breakage and even theft. But, we're not here to cover who couldn't show up, but rather those who did.

We saw Chevys, Fords, Mopars (both Hemi's and Wedges), Buicks, Pontiacs, Cadillacs, and a single Olds. We were able to see how much potential exists in all the domestic makes, and how bright the future is for many of the lesser-known marques. A bevy of new parts are being released almost daily for these engines, and while we didn't see any of the newest parts forge their way to the Finals, we did see glimpses of the future in many of the entries.

We were all duly impressed with the tenacity many of the builders possessed. When faced with problems many would have found insurmountable, many of the builders showed uncommon perseverance. Their refusal to surrender spoke volumes without saying a word, and regardless of how they finished; they truly showed the kind of spirit we'd hoped to find.

Enjoy the stories of the 2003 Engine Masters Challenge. We are proud of the success and also the growth our program was able to glean in a mere twelve months from the running of the inaugural event. Our Challenge is growing up, and the level of professionalism is on par with other disciplines of Motorsports. Enjoy the Regional competition, and be sure to see how each of the Qualifiers does in the Finals, which will be covered in next month's issue of Popular Hot Rodding.

 

DETROIT - MOTOWN MADNESS

We arrived at Vince Impostato's spacious and spotless facility to find the proprietor hard at work. Vince's place was exactly what we'd hoped for, and his kind demeanor and efficient work ethic made our job easier. Top-notch equipment abounded throughout, and with assistance from dyno operator (and former Pro Stock standout) Andy Manarino, we knew we were in good hands.

We'd also like to thank Bret Williamson of SuperFlow, who was a great asset to the Detroit Regional competition and did a wonderful job of data control.

 

RANDY MALIK
RM COMPETITION ENGINES
44890 Heydenreich Rd., Dept. PHR
Clinton Township, MI 48038
(586) 468-4399
ENGINE: Ford
BORE: 4.470-inches
STROKE: 3.74-inches
PEAK HP: 687.9 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 623.7 @ 4,800 rpm
AVG HP: 532.3
AVG TQ: 586 ft.-lbs.SCORE: 1118.3

We first met Randy Malik last year, when his bucks-down "spare parts" entry almost made the finals. He got our attention, and that of our readers. This year, he chose to complete a focused buildup plan and spend some cash to show what he knew. His effort was still a budget-conscious buildup, as he based the engine on a factory block and worked his magic on affordable components. He claims a total investment of "around $8,500", which is less than half what most others spent.

Malik came to play hardball, and his results prove he knows his stuff. His score in Detroit led all other entrants, and earned him a trip to California. We'll see him again in the Finals, and Ford fans should keep an eye on this guy. He's doing more with less on a regular basis, and we look forward to seeing future projects from Randy.

 

ADNEY BROWN
AWB CRANKSHAFTS
29430 Legion St., Dept. PHR
Roseville, MI 48066
(586) 776-1162
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.320-inches
STROKE: 4.0-inches
PEAK HP: 674.1 @ 6,300 rpm
PEAK TQ: 616.5 @ 4,700 rpm
AVG HP: 524
AVG TQ: 575.4 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1099.4

Adney Brown is a good friend of Randy Malik, and he did the crankshaft work on Malik's Blue Oval entry. When Adney decided to jump into the Challenge, he chose to run a Chevy and asked Randy for help on cam specs. Together, these two Detroit-area gearheads focused their efforts and both of them finished very well. We'll see them both at Westech for the Finals, as Brown's big Chevy cranked out plenty of grunt with power to spare.

Another budget effort, it shows how much can be done with affordable and "previously run" parts. You can call many of the components on Adney's engine "used", but they're obviously far from being "used up."

 

CHARLES AND DONALD WILLIAMS
W-ENTERPRISES
3 Wallace Cir., Dept. PHR
Newport News, VA 23606
(757) 591-0743
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.250-inches
STROKE: 4.125-inches
PEAK HP: 664.6 @ 6,400 rpm
PEAK TQ: 620.6 @ 4,600 rpm
AVG HP: 530.4
AVG TQ: 586.5 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1116.9

This father and son team from Virginia almost didn't make it to the Regional runoffs due to hurricane Isabel. The vicious storm that invaded the East Coast knocked the electrical power off during their planned assembly week, and they were forced to assemble their entry by flashlight in their home shop. In recognition, they named their engine "Isabel" and pressed on, doing whatever was necessary to get her together and make it to Detroit.

Just prior to being loaded up on the dyno, the Williams' decided to swap rocker arms; going from 1.7:1 units down to 1.6:1 parts. It turned out to be a good move, as they'd been unhappy with the power peak stretching past our 6,500 rpm ceiling. The lower-ratio rockers killed just enough lift and duration to bring Isabel into the proper window. The engine made solid torque and produced a flat torque curve, contributing greatly to their final score. The horsepower curve was also a solid one and combined with the pound-feet to qualify them for the Finals. The best part of the saga is their cylinder heads- the Weld-Tech units were virtually untouched, and made great power for being "out of the box" parts.

 

GINO AND DOMINIC LANCIA
ASTRO AUTOMOTIVE AND MACHINE
112 Fenmar Dr., Dept. PHR
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
(416) 746-4744
ENGINE: Pontiac
BORE: 4.189-inches
STROKE: 4.250-inches
PEAK HP: 633.9 @ 6,000 rpm
PEAK TQ: 604.1 @ 4,500 rpm
AVG HP: 511.4
AVG TQ: 566 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1077.4

The Astro crew showed up and ran very well with their Pontiac-based engine. In fact, they scored higher than Jim Butler's engine down in Memphis, which made Gino quite proud. He'd have liked to face Butler Pontiac-to-Pontiac in the Finals, but it was not to be. Butler made the cut down in Memphis, while Lancia just missed the cutoff in Detroit. We'd have liked to see the two Ponchos run at Westech for the Finals as well, but it was not to be, at least not this year.

Congrats to Gino and the entire Astro Automotive crew for crafting a dead-serious Pontiac. They proved their knowledge and capability, and proved their perseverance just by getting over the border (there were stiff fees and delays due to their bringing the engine down from Canada).

We hope to hear from these guys again soon, as we'd love to see more of their creations on the streets to challenge all other makes. They obviously know what's up.

 

TONY BISCHOFF
BISCHOFF ENGINE SERVICE
78 Harrison-Brookville Rd., Dept. PHR
W. Harrison, IN 47060
(812) 637-5933
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.250-inches
STROKE: 4.140-inches
PEAK HP: 673.3 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 594.8 @ 4,700 rpm
AVG HP: 514.4
AVG TQ: 570.1 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1084.5

Well-known drag race engine builder Tony Bischoff showed up with wavering confidence. His expectations for his entry were understandably high, yet the engine just didn't crank out as much as Tony expected. Still, one builder's expectations may not be as high as another's, and Bischoff grabbed a slot to California. He told us a new fuel curve may be worth more power, and with the timing and jetting allowed during the 20-minute tune up period, he plans to make some changes and find some power. Time will tell.

 

DALE EICKE
EICKE RACING ENGINES
65 Dayton Rd., Unit G, Dept. PHR
Newark, OH 43055
(740) 587-4075
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.600-inches
STROKE: 3.520-inches
PEAK HP: 679.1 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 595.3 @ 5,500 rpm
AVG HP: 508.7
AVG TQ: 558.9 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1067.6

Expectations were justifiably high regarding Dale Eicke's creation. We knew Dale had been working with the esteemed crew over at Detroit Racing Components (DRC), a shop known for their cutting-edge materials research. We'd heard about many experimental and prototypical sciences going inside the Chevy-based 470, but when the dyno finished telling the tale, Eicke's engine came up short. "I just plain missed the combination. My dyno could only test the engine from 4,500-6,500, and I really needed to see the data down to 3,000."

We saw the power curve continuing on a steady rise to 6,500, and it was obvious the engine was prepared to keep making big sauce into the 7,000+ rpm range, but none of those numbers would count here. Dale promised he'd be back, now that he knows how the Engine Masters Challenge is done. We're already looking forward to seeing his application next year. He's a nice guy with quick wit and tons of engine knowledge, and he'll certainly be one to watch in 2004.

 

NEIL CLAYTON
CLAYTON'S RACING ENGINES
1954 Drummond Ave. Dept. PHR
Hubbard, OH 44425
(330) 717-2989
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.50-inches
STROKE: 3.685-inches
PEAK HP: DNR
PEAK TQ: DNR
AVG HP: DNR
AVG TQ: DNR
SCORE: DNR

We met Neil Clayton last year when his home-brewed Chevy made it to the Finals. This year, Neil's entry was not so responsive, as a glitch of unknown origin prevented the engine from taking any kind of load whatsoever without serious misfire. Since the testing had not begun, we allowed Neil the chance to try and find the problem. Even with the aid of many of the other contestants, the gremlin remained elusive and no manner of diagnosis could prove or disprove the various theories being tossed around Impastato's facility. Neil had plenty of test runs on the engine prior to bringing it to Detroit, so we know the powerplant had worked previously, but there was no fixing it here.

Eventually, our schedule got pressed and we could not allow any more time for Neil to find the problem. Unfortunately, his entry had to be retired without being tested.

 

JOHN WENETTA
MOPARTS.COM
330 Marbleridge Rd., Dept. PHR
N. Andover, MA 01845
(781) 981-0540
ENGINE: Mopar Wedge
BORE: 4.378-inches
STROKE: 3.89-inches
PEAK HP: 637.5 @ 6,500
PEAK TQ: 608.8 @ 4,600 rpm
AVG HP: 511
AVG TQ: 563.4 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1074.4

The members of Team Moparts proved plenty to us simply by showing up with a running engine. Their numbers were certainly strong, and the engine scored well. What they accomplished was amazing, considering the entire engine was developed by a group of Internet-based enthusiasts, many of whom never met beyond the site at www.moparts.com. Built on a message board with countless e-mails, phone calls, deals, donations, and ideas, the final product was an amazing mix. We don't feel any other competition has ever been attended by an Internet team in this way, and knowing the logistical nightmare great distances can cause, we've got all the respect in the world for the Moparts.com guys. The engine ran well and produced good numbers, and we hope to see continued interest from Internet teams. We especially hope to see further developments from Moparts.com, as these guys proved they could really make it happen.

 

VERN COGAN
COGAN'S AUTOMOTIVE
189 Seneak Ave., Dept. PHR
Franklin Furnace, OH 45629
(740) 354-9709
ENGINE: Chevy
BORE: 4.500-inches
STROKE: 3.685-inches
PEAK HP: 692.7 @ 6,300 rpm
PEAK TQ: 601.1 @ 4,500 rpm
AVG HP: 522.6
AVG TQ: 575.9 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1098.5

The father and son Cogan team built a serious engine, and it pulled hard until an ignition miss developed past 6,000 rpm. It was a mystery, and the engine seemed destined for California had it not been for the mysterious miss. Further research showed the Cogan's brought a "race-level" ignition, and inquiries with the manufacturer resulted in them learning the box wanted more than the 12+ volts we were feeding it, especially past 6,000.

It's truly a shame, as we're just about sure a lesser street-based ignition system would have had plenty of juice to light off a 467-inch motor at 6,500, and their want for overkill ignition spark may have cost them a trip to the Finals. Still, the power potential was obvious, and had the Cogan's not chosen to retire from the competition, they'd have made it to California. Their decision was wise at the time, not wanting to chance hurting the engine they'd researched so heavily and invested in so deeply. Their talents were not to be questioned, we (and they) just wish they'd have brought a different ignition setup.

 

DON JOHNSTON
DCI MOTORSPORTS
3575 B Gilchrist Rd., Dept. PHR
Mogadore, OH 44260
(330) 628-3354
ENGINE: Pontiac
BORE: 4.181-inches
STROKE: 4.210-inches
PEAK HP: 616.3 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 557.8 @ 5,300 rpm
AVG HP: 476.8
AVG TQ: 525.9 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1002.7

The DCI Pontiac entry looked and sounded great, and we were expecting a solid finish from the Ohio-based purveyor of Pontiacs. As his testing pulls continued and the engine gained temperature, it began making evil noises. We didn't like what we heard, and builder Don Johnston agreed to shut the motor down after the first of three scheduled competition pulls. The results we've shown are a composite of the last 2 pulls made during Johnston's 20-minute tune-up time, and his first and only competition pull.

A post-Challenge teardown showed the minimal piston-to-wall clearances Johnston hoped would contribute to better power had diminished in the heat, and the pistons began scuffing the cylinder walls enough to hurt.

Regardless, Don did not let the setback get him down, and he was already looking forward to introducing his new aluminum Pontiac cylinder head in time for the 2004 Challenge. Don's a nice guy we look forward to seeing again, and we'll bet he'll not let minimal clearances ruin his fun next year.

 

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