The Engine Masters Challenge Southern Regional Qualifying sessions were once again held at the well-outfitted Comp Cams facility in Memphis, TN. While Memphis had the fewest engines to test, the region was also one of the more dramatic to follow. A broad range of engines showed up to give it their best shot, and Comp's testing covered the broadest variety of powerplants. This is where Buick, Olds, Pontiac, and Cadillac valve covers could be seen amongst the Fords and Chevys. It's where one diehard team worked for 24 straight hours in the parking lot to ready their entry after experiencing a devastating parts failure right before leaving for the Qualifying session. It's where one customer showed up to see his engine run prior to picking it up for use in his street machine.

PHR Editor Johnny Hunkins oversaw the happenings at the site, and while only ten engines actually posted scores, the stories that came out of Memphis could fill an entire issue of this magazine. The Engine Masters Challenge has proven to be a source of high drama for all fans of big horsepower, and nowhere was this more evident than in the test facility at Comp.


1075 Hwy. DD, Dept. PHR
Cuba, MO 65453
(573) 885-3920
BORE: 4.390-inches
STROKE: 3.850-inches
PEAK HP:592.4 @ 6,200 rpm
PEAK TQ:576.4 @5,000 rpm
AVG HP: 469.8
AVG TQ: 517.5 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 987.3

Another Internet Team entry was fielded by the 460 Ford fans at the Network 54 community for the Ford 385-series (429/460) family of engines. The members of the site pooled their resources and talents to craft this entry, and McLain had engine building skills and the dyno necessary to fine-tune the final product.

Team member Scott Johnston (Tacoma, WA) told us what a resourceful lot the team was, relying on donated parts and services from members to limit actual cash outlay to around $1,500. Steve Leonard, Wes Littrell, Chris Mann, and David Willingham all contributed heavily to the final product, and the Super Cobra Jet-headed Ford made incredible numbers considering the patchwork nature of the build. When using parts from many sources and integrating many ideas and opinions from all over the country into a single effort, the odds of actually completing a competitive powerplant stack up against you. Seeing the good result is a credit to all those involved, and we hope to see more participation from Internet teams like this in the future.


6235 Hwy. 54, Dept. PHR
Philpot, KY 42366
(270) 729-5556
BORE: 4.350-inches
STROKE: 3.95-inches
PEAK HP:617.3 @ 6,400 rpm
PEAK TQ:583.5 @ 4,700 rpm
AVG HP: 490.1
AVG TQ: 540 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1030.1

Mike Phillips was excited to show the capabilities of his well-refined Buick "crate engine" program. The Kentucky-based shop has invested much research into developing a Buick street engine worthy of hard street life and occasional competition use. The Engine Masters Challenge was a perfect place to show how well their engines respond, and we were impressed to see the owner of this particular mill show up at the test site to receive his new powerplant. Philips shared his thoughts on the Challenge:
"This is an extension of our crate engine program. 'Crate engine' is kind of a misnomer because every one is different. We have an option list, which includes items like the TA block girdle and SRE oil pan. We primarily do street and street/strip engines, but the Buick crate engine program is more than 50 percent of our business. We probably do 18 to 20 of these engines each year; all of them custom. Our basic Stage 1 long-block crate engine is $5295, completely blueprinted, assembled, balanced and dyno tuned. This engine here is our top-of-the-line crate motor and it runs about $11,000. This ain't no dyno queen! It's a true pump gas engine. After we're done with Engine Masters--whether that is Memphis or California--we're putting it into the customer's '71 GSX and driving it home."

David Wink, Buick porting maestro, had this to add:
"One of the biggest advantages to a Buick is the 15-degree valve angle. Other engines have 23-degree or 18-degree valves, so the advantage is that the Buick valve is flatter to the deck and the top of the piston. The swirl is better because there is more bias to the port and the mixture is encouraged to rotate in the bore. Ford SVO even has a head that has a 10-degree angle, which is more like a center-dump head, causing tumble. The Buick head has swirl in comparison, which tends to be better for low-end and mid-range torque. We'll usually hit torque peak somewhere around 4,200 rpm on our street/strip combinations."


103 Dunn Rd., Dept. PHR
Leoma, TN 38468
(931) 762-4596
BORE: 4.181-inches
STROKE: 4.250-inches
PEAK HP:616.1 @ 6,100 rpm
PEAK TQ:609.6 @4,600 rpm
AVG HP: 502.8
AVG TQ: 555.6 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1058.4

The Butler clan stands on the current cutting edge of Pontiac performance. Known for many years as the best Pontiac tuners nationwide, the Butlers entered the Challenge to show us why they've earned such a reputation.

The results of the Regional testing earned Butler the second and final ticket to California, and the family is anxious to see how the Poncho does in the California air.

"We're excited to be there. We know the Pontiac is an underdog with its inline valvetrain, but this is one of our pump gas crate engine packages based on the 400 block with some fine-tuning. It's a proven and reliable package, and we think there's more in it. We're looking forward to making some tuning changes once we get into our 20-minute tune-up time at Westech, and we're confident our score will increase. This engine broke 1,100 points on our dyno at home, and we should be able to find the power we know is in there. It's a great example of a solid Pontiac engine legal for your competition and ready to bolt-in to any classic Pontiac vehicle."

How has the evolving aftermarket helped make the Pontiac competitive in the Engine Masters Challenge?

"The availability of Pontiac-specific aftermarket parts has changed not just our business, but other Pontiac businesses because the availability has increased and the cost has decreased. High performance Pontiac parts have always been hard to get and very expensive, but not any more. Edelbrock and Eagle have been a huge help. BOP Engineering is a smaller company that has been very helpful in bringing specialty parts to the Pontiac market. Because of manufacturers like these, the cost of building a Pontiac performance engine is comparable to big-block Chevys and Fords. That obviously has a lot of Pontiac guys happy, plus it's bringing back a lot of Pontiac guys to the hobby who had left it."


311 Lee Pike, Dept. PHR
Soddy-Daisy, TN 37343
(423) 870-0752
ENGINE: Cadillac
BORE: 4.375-inches
STROKE: 3.90-inches
PEAK HP:618.7 @ 6,400 rpm
PEAK TQ:551.74 @5,400 rpm
AVG HP: 464.2
AVG TQ: 507.9 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 972.1

Potter's Caddy had to undergo an all-night rebuild in the parking lot at COMP prior to his scheduled run. The team had prepared for this by bringing a run stand and all the necessary tools to accomplish the task. While the stress of the deadline loomed overhead, Potter's team was unwavering. They had the engine ready, although they admitted it was not as good as it could have been. Considering the thrash required to get this far, we were mighty impressed. "Cadillacs are traditionally hard to get parts for. Nobody built them. We saw the potential and started making them. As this has progressed, we are fortunate to have other quality manufacturers who also have gotten interested. That's how we got here."

"The Engine Masters Challenge is a wonderful program. The parameters it was set under made it an even playing field for everybody. Nobody's got a big edge over anybody else. The competitors I've met so far--Jon Kaase offering parts and Dick Miller offering me a place to work--shows the camaraderie. Nobody's counting on this to make their next house payment, we're all here to have a good time."

"I'd like to thank a few folks who helped out on this engine. J. P. Holt, Tim Ottenger, William Pippin, Robert Pelfrey, and Dick Bradshaw made it possible to be here.

"Being a competitor in the Engine Master's Challenge, we hope to enlighten the public of the potential of the Cadillac engine. It has several advantages including 5-inch bore spacing, a high-nickel block, super-strong crankshafts, an abundancy of cores and the ability to make good power on an inexpensive scale. With aluminum heads and intake, it weighs about the same as an iron-head small-block Chevrolet. Pound-for-pound, it's a lot of dog."


6856 Keystone Dr., Dept. PHR
Memphis, TN 38115
ENGINE: Oldsmobile
BORE: 4.185-inches
STROKE: 4.267-inches

Olds guru Dick Miller was excited about running the newly-released Bulldog cylinder heads for the Oldsmobile, but just prior to the Regional Runoffs, he encountered problems. This setback caused him to go to a backup plan after initially informing us he'd have to pull out of the competition altogether. We were just glad to see him show up, but the higher compression in the rebuilt Rocket was too much for our 92-octane gas, and the motor detonated itself out of contention.

"I competed last year so I knew without a better head we couldn't compete this year. Bulldog contacted me that they were going to come out with a new Olds head with much better flow numbers. Basically I got in it to show the rest of the world that with a good head the Oldsmobiles could be as good as the rest of them. Bulldog wanted to get involved with their new head and due to production reasons the head didn't get finished in time. The engine made 585 peak hp and 585 peak ft.-lbs. on 112-octane race fuel when we tested it, and there was more left.

"At the last minute, I pulled some heads off another engine, which weren't as good, but at least allowed me to compete. But the combustion chambers were too small and it wouldn't run on 92-octane gasoline.

"If we had cylinder heads flowing as much as the other manufacturers, we could've had equal power. We had 310 cfm on the intake with these heads, but the combustion chamber was only 65cc, which was way too small. The Bulldog heads would've been in the 360 to 370 cfm range, and the combustion chamber is going to be 77cc. The calculated compression ratio would be around 12:1, which would've been fine--I would've squeaked by. COMP did the cam--they were great. They ground the cam in three hours while I waited. Then, I worked until 4 am the morning of the competition putting it in. The whole thing was really planned around the Bulldog heads though.

"I do this not because I'm here to beat everybody, but because it's fun. You do something different that you don't do on a daily basis. I like the way people pull together to help each other. They feel bad when it doesn't work as if it's their own motor."


735 W. Winder Industrial Pkwy.
Winder, GA 30680
BORE: 4.250-inches
STROKE: 4.125-inches
PEAK HP:709.0@6,100 rpm
PEAK TQ:645.5@ 4,900 rpm
AVG HP: 551.6
AVG TQ: 606.8 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1158.4

Jon Kaase's application surprised us when we received it. We'd not heard from many IHRA guys, and seeing a well-researched entry from the guy who designed the Super Cobra Jet head for Ford was an eye-opener. Expectations were high, and Kaase delivered. He shared his feelings for the program with us.

"I think the Engine Masters Challenge is a great deal for engine builders. I don't race a car anymore because I build all these engines for racers, and I don't do anything for myself. It's kind of like racing without having a car or a trailer.

The other thing I like is that it's an engineering contest, and that's what I do. I come up with different stuff. I spend about two hours a day in my car commuting to work and back. A good deal of that time over the last 11 months was consumed in figuring out how to build this engine, and how to make it run good down low and with pump gas."

Kaase's engine looked, sounded, and ran different than others, and we asked why.

"The one thing that's way different than what other people have done is the small bore and long stroke combined with a relatively short rod. When you're running on pump gas, the bigger the bore and the slower moving the piston is on top, the more likely it is to detonate. This is a very similar concept to our bigger engines, like the 815-inch IHRA Pro Stockers. We didn't spend very much time on airflow; we simply ported the heads and checked the airflow on a couple of ports. The intake port flows 420 cfm, and the exhaust is 280 cfm."

What does a respected builder like Jon love about the Engine Masters Challenge format?

"This Challenge is like putting a boat in a lake that nobody's fished. You have no idea how it's going to come out, and neither does anybody else. It's really been nerve wracking over the last few months. I've got people calling me asking how it's coming. We're carrying the torch for the whole IHRA community and we're expected to do well, which is tough, because we may not necessarily have the best engine design to start with."


2115 North Lyon, Dept. PHR
Springfield, MO 65803
(417) 862-7114
311 Lee Pike, Dept. PHR
Soddy-Daisy, TN 37343
(423) 870-0752
BORE: 4.250-inches
STROKE: 4.125-inches

The M&M team encountered difficulty when they discovered their "good" heads had a crack in the exhaust port from "over-enthusiastic" porting work. This forced them to employ a backup set of heads with minimal work, which killed their chances at nailing a well-matched combination. As it turned out, their combination was thrown too big a curveball with the head swap to be competitive, and the engine would not run correctly at all. They were forced to retire from the competition, and while their initial effort was less than optimal, we're confident these enthusiastic builders from Missouri will be back to "show us" what they know.

Chad Morely shared his thoughts:
"My partner Mark had built a similar engine to this last year; a 468-inch Chevy. He put it in his own car and it did very well off the nitrous. When you announced the rules for this year's Engine Masters Challenge, it made us think this combination was a good candidate for the Engine Masters competition. Our goal at the outset was to prove you didn't need $20,000 to create good horsepower. We're realists; when we came into this we knew we weren't going to be number one, but we can still use it to prove a point that regular readers like us can take readily available parts and make horsepower."





The Westech facility in Mira Loma, California, is home to both the Western Regional runoffs and the Engine Masters Challenge Finals. It also became our most-populated regional test location, and this regional runoff will be remembered as a remarkable event. Attended by both engine building legends and some of the brightest up and coming builders anywhere, the Engine Masters Challenge is succeeding at bringing out the best engineering possible.

A total of 15 engines were tested. The makes represented included Buick, Cadillac, Chevy, Ford, and Mopar. Chrysler's Hemi and Wedge designs were both represented, and fans of the Pentastar would drool over the hardcore hardware showcased at this Regional event alone. The power numbers reflect the current state of excellence, and the finest powerplants will be seen here again for the Finals. Thanks to our longtime pal Mike Petralia for shooting pics and taking notes while our own Michael Simpson was overseeing the competition.


5567 Road 148
Earlimart, CA 92319
(661) 849-2596
ENGINE: Mopar Wedge
BORE: 4.375-inches
STROKE: 3.90-inches
PEAK HP: 759 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 641.5 @ 5,500 rpm
AVG HP: 554
AVG TQ: 600.3 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1154.3

Steve and Ross work on small projects out of their own small shop, allowing them to focus completely on each task at hand. This particular engine was designed completely on their engine modeling software, and they built it precisely as the program suggested. By following the virtual model, they were able to minimize their research testing and dyno time prior to the Challenge. They did not test many cams or combinations; they went with the suggested combination completely. While their computer model showed the engine would make 780 horsepower, the "real life" version made 776 during their break-in runs prior to our tests. A difference of 4hp is certainly minimal, and this only verifies how accurate engine modeling software can be, but its obvious you must keep to the prescribed blueprint, too.

We'll see Steve, Ross and their "virtual" screamer once again. While we were wholeheartedly impressed with their design, we are curious to see how effectively the engine will put up with our repeated thrashing. Should the popular low-deck stroker combination survive, it will stand as a great model other Mopar enthusiasts should emulate.


2302 W. Second St., Dept. PHR
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 524-0515
BORE: 4.314-inches
STROKE: 4.015-inches
PEAK HP: 691 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 619 @ 5,400 rpm
AVG HP: 535
AVG TQ: 583 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1118

The reigning Engine Master came back for more, and he was less than pleased with the results. Sherman told us he was confident his engine would approach 800 horses at peak, but when it was strapped to the Westech dyno, it fell short of these goals. Sherman still scored high enough to make the Finals, and there was word he may be holding back a bit. Could this poker player mentality work? It's long been a drag racer's strategy to sandbag during qualifying, then bring out your best stuff for the Finals. We know Sherman is a drag racer, and we're curious to see what (if anything) he's got left in his bag of tricks.


19743 Bahama St., Dept PHR
Northridge, CA 91314
(818) 341-4143
ENGINE: Mopar Hemi
BORE: 4.250-inches
STROKE: 4.125-inches
PEAK HP: 733 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 623.8 @ 5,500 rpm
AVG HP: 531
AVG TQ: 574.8 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1105.8

The Dandy one showed up at Westech with his monster Hemi loaded in the rear of an obviously-stressed mini truck. When he exited the cab, his first question was "What's the highest score so far?" Landy came to play, and he showed well. While his Elephant made enough sauce to qualify him for the Finals, he looked over the data and knew something wasn't right. He chose to retire the engine from the Challenge competition.

"I saw it was down about 40 horses from where it'd been when I tested it. I knew something was wrong, and I didn't want to hurt it. I also didn't want to return (to the Finals) if I didn't have a chance to win."

Subsequent teardown at his shop revealed a trio of flattened cam lobes. For a wounded motor, we'd have to say Landy finished extremely well, averaging 735 peak ponies over three runs. We can only hope his presence becomes a regular part of the Engine Masters Challenge.


3881 S. Jason St., Dept. PHR
Englewood, CO 80110
(303) 762-8196
BORE: 4.312-inches
STROKE: 4.018-inches
PEAK HP: 666 @ 6,200 rpm
PEAK TQ: 612.7 @ 4,900 rpm
AVG HP: 524
AVG TQ: 571.9 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1095.9

The lone Blue Oval representative on the West Coast pumped plenty of power through the Westech SuperFlow dyno, and we were impressed at how well all the Fords did in the Challenge. We're the first to admit we've been less than responsible at covering the latest big-block Ford developments, but its apparent we'll be seeing plenty of Dearborn iron on the pages in the future. Scott Main's MPG entry will be seen again at the Finals, and he'll not be alone again. As you've seen, the few Fords entered almost all made the Finals, and this statement should encourage those considering a 460-based engine for serious street duty on pump gas. The big 385-series engine family has tons of potential, and we're seeing it clearly in the Engine Masters Challenge.


2101 W. Cornell Ave., Dept. PHR
Englewood, CO 80110
(303) 781-1118
BORE: 4.504-inches
STROKE: 3.68-inches
PEAK HP: 680 @ 6,500 rpm
PEAK TQ: 605.8 @ 4,400 rpm
AVG HP: 525
AVG TQ: 575.1 ft.-lbs.
SCORE: 1100.1

After meeting the Mile High guys at the Advanced Engine Technology Conference (AETC) last year, we were looking forward to seeing their entry. It was great seeing them run, and run hard enough to make the Finals. We've not heard much from Mile High prior to the Challenge, but it's obvious they did the homework. Even with the handicap of building and tuning at altitude, then coming down for our Challenge testing, it's exciting to see if there's any more left in this engine. They'll have another 20-minute tune-up period to further fine-tune their Chevy, and we would not be surprised to see the Colorado crew step up another notch or two.


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