Entering its third year of existence, the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge competition is now recognized as the premier engine building competition anywhere. Having given birth to what's being called "Dyno Racing," we took great pride in launching our 2004 series Rules and then selecting fifty outstanding applicants from a large group of submissions. Wanting to keep the subject engines dead smack in the midst of reader interest, a series of parameters were developed which limited the entries to street-type specifications. These parameters change with every Challenge, so no precedent exists for builders to gauge their work. This is unique in Motorsport, as all other forms have stable rules that don't ever change, which has resulted in established classes and predictable results. We have no such thing, meaning no one will know how much power it'll take to win the Challenge until it's over. We like this, and we feel it makes the Challenge what it is--a unique and interesting competition where no one knows if they've brought enough power to dominate or even show well. This mystery keeps everyone on the edge during the Challenge, and we love it.
We made our participant selections based on many factors, including make (bringing a non-Chevy helps expand the spectrum), builder experience level (you'll see everything from families working in their garage to full-time World Championship-winning professionals), components chosen (you'll see a wide range of parts combos from many different manufacturers), engineering design theory (you'll see a wide mix of bore/stroke combinations, cam dimensions, and more), and race discipline (you'll see street guys, drag racers, sprint car enthusiasts, and others). This broad spectrum of ideas ensures a colorful competition, and serves as a research Mecca for readers contemplating high-horsepower pump gas combos for their own cars. If you're ready to build a solid street engine, looking to the builders, parts, and dimensions that show well in the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge serves as an excellent start. The people and parts have already shown their 92-octane potential, and working with proven personnel and components gives you a head start toward a terrific powerplant for your own ride.
This year's parameters call out for a 410-ci small-block engine. The "small-block" designator means all small-block Chevys, Ford Windsor and Cleveland, small-block Olds, all traditional Pontiac V-8s, LA-series small-block Mopars, small-block Buicks, and all AMC V-8s are legal. We did not receive any small-block Buick applications, but all other makes are represented in the 2004 Challenge.
We did not allow smaller-inch big-blocks like the 396 Chevy or 383 Mopar to compete in this year's Challenge because these engines are big-blocks, and we wanted to focus the competition on stroked small-blocks. This particular market segment (the big-inch small-block) has become one of the hottest growth segments of the aftermarket engine arena, and we wanted to see how much pump-gas power was possible with a 410ci small-block on pump gas with filters and mufflers in place.
The entire range of limitations are spelled out in the official Rules, along with the engine test procedures and any other questions you may have, at our official Website (www.enginemasters.com). We'd recommend checking out the stiff limitations we've put on our entrants just so you completely understand what they're up against, and also how close these engines are to being bolted into your car and fired up. Very little can stray from factory architecture, and most major components are limited to "factory replacement" parts. This is to make sure the Challenge engines can relate to the street engines we hope they inspire. The headers, oil pans, intakes, rockers, heads, and blocks must all be capable of replacing factory parts, which means you'll see many of the same parts in the Challenge you'd use (or are already using) in your street machine.
So, let us introduce you to the chosen ones. These fifty engine builders will all be doing their very best to create engines that make incredible horsepower and torque between 2,500 rpm and 6,500 rpm--no more or less. This rpm window is where their scores will be generated from, and we feel this range best represents where street engines need to perform. It's not an easy task, and we look forward to investigating what it'll take to out power all the others and take home the big check. A carefully-crafted engine taking full advantage of our contingency payouts could net our first-place Champ nearly $100,000. If that's not enough motivation, we don't know what is. Check in with us every month for updates, results, and teardown information. Until then, we are proud to present our participants in the 2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge. Good Luck to all!
2004 JEG'S ENGINE MASTERS CHALLENGE COMPETITORS
Jon Kaase Racing Engines
Winder, GA * FORD
After winning the 2003 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge with it's 470-inch big-block parameters, IHRA Pro Stock standout engine maestro Jon Kaase is coming back to defend his well-earned title. Kaase is not only a proven master engine builder and Engine Masters Champion, he's also one of the biggest supporters of the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge format.
"This Challenge is like fishing a lake no one's ever fished before. You drop a line, and hope you pull out a big one, then, you have to hope it's bigger than all the rest. It's truly an engine builder's dream--to compete flywheel-to-flywheel with the nation's finest. I was honored to win last year, and you can bet I'll be back with another Ford. If anyone is going to take this title from me, they'll certainly have to earn it. I take this Challenge seriously, and so should anyone else who has the guts to enter."
Kaase's formula is based on the Cleveland design, and will be topped with Cylinder Head Innovations (CHI) "3V" heads. These heads were developed by CHI from the second-place finishing engine from the inaugural 366-inch battle. Now available to anyone who'd like a set, the heads will certainly be key to Kaase finishing well. After seeing the masterpiece he brought last year, all sights are set on Jon. It'll take plenty to beat him, and we're as anxious as you are to see if anyone can.
Sonny's Racing Engines
Lynchburg, VA * CHEVROLET
Known for his expertise in mega-inch fat-block Chevy engines in drag racing competition, Sonny Leonard needs little introduction. His recently-released Hemi heads for big-block Chevys have certainly been taking up much of his time, but Sonny wants to see how he'll do in our Challenge. His Chevy-based formula will breathe through "Either Brodix or World Products" heads. We say readers can bet heavily on immense research being done toward the ultimate small-block Chevy induction package for pump gas coming from Virginia. Like Kaase, Sonny Leonard has plenty of IHRA Pro Stock experience he's bringing to the game, and if previous experience is any clue, this oughta be a wild one.
We asked Sonny what his philosophy was to win, and he stated, simply: "I'm going to build an engine with a broad torque curve, high velocity intake and exhaust runners, and plenty of power. My engine should win because of my past history. This is what I do."
Joe Sherman Racing Engines
Santa Ana, CA * CHEVROLET
Joe Sherman won our first Challenge, and placed a respectable 5th in the second go-around. This time, he's back to claim top spot, and with a World Products block and AFR heads, the 410ci small-block he's bringing sounds like the 366-cube beauty he won with back in '02.
There's no doubt Joe knows how to win, and he also knows what level of performance his small-block Chevy needs to achieve to claim the top spot. Joe is a cagey, brilliant, reserved kind of guy, only predictable in his unpredictability. Many years of making good money at the underground street digs proves he knows the game, and his extensive experience milking pump gas for every possible pony has become local legend. We were treated to quite a show a couple years ago, and this level of intensity will surely be seen from Sherman once again.
Earlimart, CA * MOPAR
Steve Dulcich finished Third overall in last year's Challenge competition, while simultaneously posting the highest peak power number. Since we base our scoring on averages, all the big power did was contribute to his overall score, but it was a generous contribution that surely helped him grab the third spot. He can certainly run with the big dogs, and we'll get to see his prowess with the small-block Mopar this year.
His build will be based on a stock replacement-type 340 block with Mopar Performance cylinder heads, and with the block's 4.125-inch bore capability, we can expect another Pentastar thumper from the always-dangerous Dulcich. "Mopar small-blocks have the advantage of a factory 18-degree valve angle and stable factory shaft rockers. This plays well with the requirements of the competition. The attributes of the small-block Mopar will allow me to build a very competitive entry with a very straightforward combo."
Kuntz and Company
Arkadelphia, AR * FORD
Jim Kuntz's application included words of praise for the Challenge we wanted to share.
"It's really great to have a race for the engine builders, without the race cars. There are no excuses here! Thanks for considering us for participation in the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge."
Jim nailed it when he stated this was for the engine builders. We dig it for the same reason, but we must admit--we love the cars we've seen his engines in! The highly-touted Booze Brothers have used ample Kuntz and Company engine power to succeed in the nostalgia-class drags and now the Mustang-only events we proudly cover on the pages of PHR.
CHARLES and DONALD WILLIAMS with MIKE WEAVER
Newport News, VA * CHEVROLET
The father and son team of Charles and Donald Williams proved plenty when they took second place at the 2003 Challenge. Their carefully-designed fat block showed the worth of well-researched components and careful tuning. We expect a similar entry from the W-Enterprises team this year, and after gaining invaluable experience at last year's Challenge and picking up a multitude of connections as a result, we can expect a very competitive entry from the Williams' and pal Mike Weaver this time. Charles shared his strategy with us: "We plan to use a small-bore/long stroke combo like we did in the previous Challenge. We'll run the same brand parts we used before, since they worked so well. Expect a Holley carb, Edelbrock intake, and Comp cam. We like the Brodix heads, World Products blocks, Ross pistons, and Callies cranks that got us where we wanted to go last year. All the components will have coatings, which we've learned really work. Charlie Morgan will once again handle the carb tuning, and we hope to be solid contenders once again in '04 at the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge."
Nelson Racing Engines
Chatsworth, CA *CHEVROLET
We've covered Tom Nelson's past efforts on the pages of PHR, and he's done well in our past competitions, making the Finals both times. Should we expect to see him again?
He's relying on the proven power of the Chevy small-block, which is no surprise and obviously he's not alone. Will the Nelson motor have something the others do not? If past history is any clue, it'll have more lift and duration. Nelson's past cams have been relatively huge.
"As always, I'll push the limits and learn what the engine wants as I go. I'll once again run a big port with a big cam, and I'm sure you already knew this. But, this year I intend to experiment with many more parts like intakes, cams, headers, and carbs. I haven't done as much of this in the past as I'd liked to, but I will this year. My history of making the Challenge Finals two years in a row lets you know I'm not messing around. This year, I want to win."
One of Tom's twin-turbo street motors lives under the hood of Mark Stielow's "Malitude" Chevelle you've seen coming together on our pages. It's obvious Tom knows how to make big power on pump gas, and that precious experience with 92-octane is one of the reasons we feel he's done so well. Like few others, Nelson actually specializes in high-horsepower pump gas engines destined for life on the street. He's done much more research than most on what it takes to support limited octane, and it's this experience he's relying on to turn up the wick on one of his naturally-aspirated combos and maybe even take home the big money. The Challenge is right up his alley, and we've got high expectations for him.
West Covina, CA * FORD
One of the greatest old names in high performance engines is Speed-O-Motive. Long known for their stroker engine packages and complete engines, George Ullrich and the rest of the power brokers at Speed-O-Motive are looking to show the nation they know how to make big pump gas power. Their Dart-based combo will push a big 4.170-inch bore and a 3.750-inch stroke, which means we can expect big power on the top end. Will this oversquare combo be taxed to make big torque at 2,500 rpm?
"We have great confidence in our Dart-based 351W combo stroked out to 409ci. Friction coatings will be used extensively, as will low-tension rings. The heads will be hand-ported and a custom solid roller cam will be ground to maximize the torque. We intend to equip the block with roller cam bearings to further minimize internal friction."
The Dart block is a relatively new piece, and we're anxious to see how well the entries using it will do. We know street enthusiasts are curious as to its pump gas potential, and so are we.
RODNEY and DAVID BUTLER
Leoma, TN * PONTIAC
Before entering last year's Challenge, the Butler clan needed a little prodding. After explaining what the Challenge was and how it worked, they chose to dive in and bring one of their crate engine packages out to play, with a few tuning tricks. The result was a 6th place overall finish, the highest for a Pontiac, and the respect of their peers whose expectations for the 470-inch Poncho were not so generous.
Now that they've had a taste of what the Challenge offers, the Butlers are back to battle at 410 cubes. Unlike any other make, Pontiac only made one true V-8, which many refer to as a "mid-block". It's neither a big-block or a small-block, but was offered from 326 cubes all the way up to 455. Taking these facts into consideration, we allow the traditional Pontiac V-8 to compete in both big- and small-block Challenges, and it stands alone in this regard. It's been neither dominant nor ineffective at any past Challenge, and we intend to maintain this policy until we're given reason to think otherwise.
Knowing this, the Butlers are bringing a 409-inch Injun (3.915-inch bore x 4.250-inch stroke) to make the ample torque Ponchos were famous for on the streets. While last year's 470-cube entry was, admittedly, a mildly-modified representative of their pump-gas crate program, we've got a feeling this 409 will be quite a bit further refined. As Rodney and David explained, the Pontiac could be the hot ticket at this displacement:
"We're going with a long stroke, small-bore design to gain good average numbers. The competition is being scored from down at 2,500 rpm this year (compared to the 3,000 rpm starting point for last-year's big-block rumble), so we want big torque right off the start. We'll also be designing an aggressive cam to allow a strong and solid finish at 6,500 rpm."
If past history is any clue, this Pontiac will come on hard and post a solid score. Keep a close on eye on any Pontiac with Butler's name on the valve covers, but especially on Dyno Day at the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge.
R. M. COMPETITION ENGINES
Roseville, MI * OLDSMOBILE
Engine builder Randy Malik has been with the Challenge since its inception, and has brought different makes of engine to each Challenge so far. He'll continue this for '04, as he's chosen to build an Olds after already showing his abilities with both Chevy (in the 2002 Challenge) and Ford (in '03) powerplants. We really like Randy's approach, as his previous entries have been budget-based and performed admirably. As we previously reported, Malik's 470-inch Ford would have placed higher last year, but an aggressive tuning session during the finals found him slightly down on power when the competition pulls were made. His Olds will make use of a factory block and the new Mondello/Knowlton Oldsmobile cylinder head.
Why did he chose an Olds at 410ci for '04? In his own words, Malik explains: "These theories of reducing pumping losses and parasitic friction work with all makes of engine. The parts for an Oldsmobile are harder to come by, especially in small-block form, but this seems to be the perfect level of displacement for the Olds design to be in perfect harmony. Everything inside the engine can work together in the correct power band at 410 cubes, and the 2,500-6,500 power band where this contest is run is great for an Olds small-block. If my calculations are correct, the small-block Olds not only has a good chance, it will be the winner at the end."
Placentia, CA * CHEVROLET
John Beck's Pro Machine shop has also been present at all previous Challenges, placing third overall at the inaugural event. While his results in '03 were disappointing, he's made a commitment to anyone who'd listen regarding '04. "I'm not messing around. I've done a ton of research and I've got a solid game plan. I will not wait until the last minute, as I'm sure the competition won't." Beck's plan is based on GM Performance Parts, including a new block and the same Fast Burn cylinder head he did so well with in '02. The long stroke combo brought plenty of torque to his overall score--A feat he'd like to repeat.
"Based on my 3rd place finish in 2002, I will stay with the small-bore/long-stroke combo (4.030 bore x 4.00-inch stroke for 408 ci). I have some new ideas I'll be trying, and I do not want my entry to fall short of expectations like last year. As PHR printed, I'll be bringing a nuclear bazooka to this gunfight."
Also, showing his sportsmanship, Beck has volunteered to work with the other West Coast entries to assist in shipping. Since he'll be trailering his engine coast-to-coast, he's offered to take other builder's entries too. Any interested parties can contact John at (714) 777-1324 during business hours.
Shaver Specialty Company
Torrance, CA * CHEVROLET
Ron has also been involved with the Challenge all of its short life, but his luck has been less than great. First, he had a spark plug crack and lost power in '02, then, his mufflers were determined to be illegal last year. Believing the third time to indeed be a charm, Shaver is back to claim a spot atop the Challenge podium.
Known as one of the finest engine builders in So-Cal, and also as one of the better Sprint Car engine guys anywhere, we're confident Shaver knows the desires of the 410-cube small-block Chevy (it's the same 410ci limit used in sprint cars). Always quick with a smile and never one to give up, Shaver is determined to shine. After seeing his work on the track for many years and knowing the high level of personnel and equipment under his expansive roof, it'd be foolish not to respect his entry.
His bore and stroke choice (4.135-inch bore x 3.800-inch stroke) is right out of a sprint car, and you can bet the heads will have all the necessary mods Ron has researched over the years to properly feed engines of this dimension. How much of that sprint car knowledge will translate to pump-gas dominance? Only time will tell, and we can't wait to find out. Shaver has a long and positive association with Pro Topline cylinder heads, and we expect to see a pair of these topping his Chevy.
Dick Miller Racing
Hernando, MS * OLDSMOBILE
Dick has been carrying the torch for the Olds faithful since we began the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge, bringing Olds-based entries to our Memphis Regional test site in both '02 and '03, but a series of unusual glitches have kept him from truly showing the potential of the traditional Rocket. For the 2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge, Dick is determined to show both he potential in the Olds and his own formidable engine building talents.
While some have been quick to criticize Miller's past efforts, those same individuals have yet to even enter the Challenge, let alone do better than Mr. Miller. So, with a few more Olds in the running this year, we expect the DMR Olds entry to not only finish, but to finish strongly. After the rough road he's traveled so far, Dick is looking forward to some smooth Rocket-powered sailing for '04, and we can't wait to see how well he does. It's not easy to build a solid pump-gas Olds, but it's far from impossible. The greater number of entries will certainly showcase the immense potential within.
While some Olds fans are entering converted Olds Diesel blocks, others are fortifying factory 350 "gas" blocks. Miller is taking another route altogether, basing his entry on the 403 Olds--the largest of the small-block Oldsmobiles and a common sight under the hood of many late '70s/early '80s Trans Ams. The huge bore (4.381)/short stroke (3.385) 403-based Dick Miller entry may have an edge, but we'll have to wait for the results to see. If nothing else, Olds guys will see the small-block in many different flavors, which should help shape their choices.
B.E.S. Racing Engines
West Harrison, IN * FORD
Drag racer Tony Bischoff builds engines for his own race car and many others, too. We saw some of his work in the Finals last year, but he admitted he was less than happy with his own entry. Wanting another chance to show his skills, Tony's back for more. Now that he knows how we play the game we expect to see him in the Finals again, and maybe even write his name on the big check.
Bischoff's combo is Ford Cleveland-based, checking in with preliminary choices like a 4.06-inch bore and 3.95-inch stroke. The block will be a Ford piece and it'll breathe through Blue Thunder heads. Bischoff is putting his experience to work this year, and he told us how it'd go down.
"My engine design theory is based on cylinder head flow versus intake runner length and cross-sectional width. We will also be trying out some new ideas we've thought up and some other innovations that can only be classified as out-of-the-box thinking."
We're anxious to see what Tony and his able crew are crafting, but regardless of what it is, we're confident it'll make solid power. Bischoff doesn't disappoint.
WESTECH PERFORMANCE GROUP
Mira Loma, CA * CHEVROLET
After hosting the Challenge since its inception, the crew at Westech finally has the chance to enter the competition, and even though they've never competed before, we'd have to give solid odds on their placing well. They've seen every past Finalist, they've acquired all the data we've used, and they are just plain bad ass engine builders. Few know how they've worked toward achieving World Records in several land speed and boat categories, and readers of almost any magazine will see testing going on at Westech's spacious and well-equipped Southern California facility. These guys live horsepower 24/7, and we know because we've worked with them too.
This time, they're on their own against those they've helped in the past. After helping us take the Challenge to a high level of integrity, they wanted to come after the big money and the big trophy. Can they hold their own against these competitors? We're betting they'll do fine, and considering how no other shop has had as much experience with all the engines that have ever made the Challenge Finals, everyone knows the Westech guys are coming East to play hardball. Look out for these guys.
Westech partner Rick Stoner told us: "We are using the largest-possible bore teamed with the appropriate stroke to maximize breathing. We will strive to minimize friction and pumping losses. Our heads will utilize the smallest-possible port size consistent with the flow rates we feel we'll need. We hope to emphasize the basics and not get too carried away with trickery. We feel we can do well because we know how to build engines, and we know how the Challenge works."
TIM BARTHOLOMEW and CLINT HARRELL
C&J Racing Engines
Rocky Mount, NC * CHEVROLET
Without a doubt, the most colorful and cool characters we've met since the inception of the Challenge have been the guys from C&J Racing Engines. Their lighthearted nature teamed seamlessly with their driven desire to win in our '02 event, where they were finalists and showed they knew how to make good power and torque. They scored extra points by helping others, including one competitor who ended up passing them in the standings. It's selfless acts like this, combined with the drive to win and the smarts to know being nice to everyone around you never hurts, that got them a slot in this years Challenge. Attitude is a big deal when you're starting a new program like we have, and the positive nature of the C&J crew is something we can all look forward to. On the flip-side, negative attitudes and the want to sling mud have gotten more than one entrant's application moved to the "reject" pile, since we don't need that kind of attitude here. Remember--this is an invitational event, and if you're nice we'll want you back. If you're not nice, why would we want you here? Why would anyone? When asked how they would approach this year's Challenge, Tim and Clint were all business...
"We'll do much of what we did the first year--minimize weight, concentrate on flow quality over quantity, and then tune it so sharp it'll cut ya. We plan on doing lots of testing this time, and running coatings so we push compression more than we did previously. We did well before, and we've gone back and looked over every part and piece of that engine to see how we could have made it better. You'll see all we've discovered over the last couple years represented inside this engine."
Hubbard, OH * CHEVROLET
Neil Clayton entered our first Challenge as an enthusiastic amateur builder. Now, he's on the edge of "going pro" and hopes a solid finish in this year's Challenge will help. After a disappointing finish last year (he had serious ignition issues that would not allow his engine to be tested), Neil is back with a small-block. After making the finals with a small-block, we feel the Ohio resident will once again find his groove, and with as much Challenge experience as anyone else, Clayton knows what it'll take to do well. We know he'll be back with a vengeance, and hopefully, he'll do well enough to make his passion a full-time gig. What's his strategy this time around?
"I'm planning to use many of the same components I found success with in '02, and the same principles will apply. A simple bore/stroke combo with high gas speeds and low friction, minimal windage, and efficient combustion. I feel this relatively simple and straightforward combination is affordable, attainable by your readers, readily available, and extremely powerful. I look forward to another exciting year participating in the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge."
Autoshop Racing Engines
Orlando, FL * CHEVROLET
Originally one of the many horsepower gurus from Sweden, Lennart moved to Florida with aspirations toward building professional race engines and enjoying year-round sunshine. Since arriving in 1985, Lennart has gained an outstanding reputation in the Southeast as an engine designer/builder/tuner, working with such notables as chassis maestro Jerry Haas toward his IHRA Pro Stock effort.
Lennart has also provided power for record setting cars, trucks, and dragsters in many sanctioned classes in North America and abroad. His expertise has been seen on the dragstrip, road course, and even in mud bogs. Engines from Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and other makes have seen Lennart's talented touch, and we look forward to what he'll bring to the Challenge.
With a shop full of DTS dyno testing equipment, both wet- and dry-flow benches, and many years of experience, we look forward to seeing how well Autoshop's entry performs. It may be their first year as competitors in our Challenge, but Lennart and his trusted team of tuners are far from rookies.
PAUL CARTER, ROBERT (Smitty) SMITH, CHARLES ROEBUCK Jr.
Whitewell's Auto Repair
Tucson, AZ * PONTIAC
Here's another stock-block/stock-crank combo readers can easily emulate. The Edelbrock-headed Pontiac has had some time to evolve (their Pontiac head has been available for almost a decade now) and many tuners have been able to milk incredible power from the bolt-on setup. With the right parts in place and careful porting accomplished, there's no reason the legendary street torque of the Pontiac 400 on pump gas shouldn't be able to run with the best.
Maximizing this solid combination is the challenge within the Challenge. The Tucson trio of Carter, Smith, and Roebuck are putting their collective effort to the test, and they're using all the best Poncho tricks (from coatings to big-block Chevy rods) to get it done.
Interestingly, they stated how an off-the-shelf Comp Cams grind would control valve motion, and with a Holley 950 feeding through an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, there's no doubting the simplicity of duplication.
We assume there's plenty of mods we're not hearing about, and should this team place "in the money", we'll be plenty anxious to find out what lives inside. The Whitewell's Auto Repair team let us in on their strategy.
"We're going to build a Pontiac engine because of its high torque producing capabilities. With a long rod and lightweight reciprocating assembly, teamed with high-velocity heads and the right cam, we know we can build a very powerful Pontiac engine with a flat, high torque curve and strong horsepower to meet or exceed expectations. We're planning a tight quench and thermal-barrier coated aluminum heads to produce 10.7:1 compression without detonation on pump gas. This combination was designed specifically to produce high torque from 2,500-6,500 rpm, and be a versatile race or street engine in a mid-size car."
GINO and DOMENIC LANCIA
Astro Automotive Machine
Toronto, Ontario, Canada * PONTIAC
One of the reasons we wanted to have our entire competition in a single location is the result of the experiences of Gino and Domenic Lancia at last year's Challenge. They'd hoped to be able to compare their power figures and scores to those of the other Pontiacs entered. Since the rules and test procedures were all the same, this seems like a simple thing. But, due to the geographical and minor technical differences between the sites used in our previous "regional" format, power levels were hardly comparable from site to site, and only engines tested in the same location could be properly compared.
For that reason, and several others, we've moved our competition to a single site. Now, all the engines will be able to compare data and see how they stack up to the competition. For the Astro Automotive team, they'll get their wish of facing other Pontiac entries flywheel-to-flywheel, and letting the results speak for themselves. This team of Canadian Pontiac enthusiasts knows how we play the game, and readers should look forward to the Lancias battling for the highest score to be posted by a Poncho. As you've already read, other Pontiac-based entries are being fielded, and no matter where they may finish in the "overall" standings, being the highest-placing Pontiac is obviously a big deal for these builders, as well as for their potential future customers.
The Astro Automotive shop has a great reputation in the Northeast US as well as in Eastern Canada. A good showing could greatly expand their horizons, which is precisely what they're out to do.
CRAIG BROOKS, JAY KIDWELL, and CARY CRUMB
Competition Engines/Mile High Performance
Colorado Springs, CO * MOPAR
The Mile High team also did very well last year, and made the finals with their Ford. This year, they're going Mopar and have the experience it takes to build and test at high altitude and be deadly competitive at our sea-level location. Like the others who've chosen Mopars, Kidwell/Brooks/Crumb have made mention of the engineering advantages like factory 18-degree heads and shaft rockers. While these design advantages normally only show their worth at very high rpm (which would be considered beyond the 6,500 rpm redline we've imposed), any advantage is an advantage at the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge!
In their own words, the Colorado team shared their philosophies: "We are hoping to take advantage of the shaft rocker system and larger-diameter lifter bores. We feel these will contribute to less torque and horsepower loss all through the rpm range. We're hoping to see benefits down low, in particular when the engine is most-heavily loaded. These facts, along with our chosen bore/stroke ratio, should contribute toward a strong finish for us. We expect to be in the hunt."
Davis Racing Engines
Indianapolis, IN * CHEVROLET
Like many others, Tim has been dabbling in the Challenge as long as we've been running it. He's entered both years prior, but had to drop out of the running last year due to other business obligations. He did finish fourth overall in our first-year's event, proving he could master the huge rpm window and tune effectively.
He did make a showing at the Finals last year, helping Tony Bischoff get the most out of his tune up. Tim's knowledge and talent is not in question. What is in question is his level of commitment. He was the first to admit he left some power on the table when grabbing 4th place in '02 (as he said, "I didn't even test the mufflers I ran...Once the Challenge had concluded, I determined a different set of mufflers could've made me competitive for Third.") and last year when he had to pull out of the running ("my business obligations have to take priority.")
So, now that we've accepted his application, will Tim Davis finally show us all he is truly capable of? Only time will tell, of course, but we can only hope. As the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge competition gains in size, scope, and importance, it's becoming a greater priority for many others. Tim told us his feelings: "I'd like another chance at the Challenge competition after finishing 4th in 2002. I believe this engine has a very good chance to win, once I combine the proper bore, stroke, cam, and head. Compression will be high for pump gas, but I can find a way to keep detonation away. The small-block Chevy benefits from a tremendous selection of parts, and I hope to show well in '04."
If Tim makes time to build his best stuff, everyone had better watch out for him. If other priorities continue to keep him from a full 100-percent effort, he might get lost back in the pack. We'll see "which" Tim Davis Racing Engines powerplant shows up.
DALE EICKE, Ai L. "Woody" WOOD, DON JOHNSTON
Detroit Racing Components/DCI Motorsports
Ortonville, MI * PONTIAC
Here's a dream team for Poncho fans--Pro Stock veteran Dale Eicke, advanced engine technology expert and Detroit Racing Components owner Ai. L. "Woody" Wood, and Pontiac cylinder head manufacturer DCI (Don Johnston).
All these cool cats were at Vince Impostato's outstanding dyno facility in Michigan for our regional runoffs last year, and each had issues that prevented them from making it to the finals competition. This year, they've teamed up ideas and resources to field a 410-cube Poncho unlike any seen before. The new heads offered by Johnston have shown to flow over 400 cfm as manufactured, which is more than any other "as-cast" Poncho head we've seen. With Woody handling the shortblock, Don handling the heads, and Dale dialing in the cam and laying the tune, we have high expectations. After talking to the team, they also have high expectations--like an overall win with their Pontiac. While many have other ideas, consider this: Eicke and Wood have been pals for years, and Johnston has been a "Pontiac-specific" engineer for decades. Their combined knowledge and talents have all the ingredients to win, it's "simply" a matter of stewing all of this knowledge into a single 410-cube Pontiac entry. If all goes well, this one will blow minds and make incredible power. It may even change the way enthusiasts look at the traditional Pontiac V-8. We're keeping our fingers crossed and our cameras ready for this one.
"We'll be using cylinder liners with Ni-Sil bore coatings to minimize friction and seal completely. Don Johnston's new DCI Motorsports cylinder heads will be maximized for performance in the target rpm band, and we're doing extensive modeling of the piston in the ring stack area for maximum efficiency. The traditional Pontiac has always been a personal favorite, and in this competition, it can truly be built to excel."
Coast High Performance
Anaheim, CA * FORD
Richard Holdener's name has been seen on the byline of many great engine stories, and he's working with the Ford-conscious crew at Coast High Performance to craft a Windsor-based killer to represent at the Challenge. Using Air Flow Research (AFR) heads and the new Dart Windsor block, Holdener will be putting his reputation on the line against some of the country's best. We think it's cool to see Holdener, Dulcich, and even the Westech Performance Group participating in the Challenge, since these guys write so many magazine stories sharing information with our enthusiastic readership. Now, in our engine-only forum, we'll get to see how much weight their words truly carry. Richard told us his feelings:
"The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is a unique opportunity for engine builders to demonstrate their capabilities in a unique environment. Rather than evaluating peak horsepower and torque numbers, the effectiveness of the engine is based on performance over a broad rpm range (2,500-6,500). Why am I telling you something you already know? It is this unique (street-oriented) concentration on average power production that enticed me to apply for acceptance to the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge. It is also this unique power band that allows what might be called "Average Joe" engine builders like myself to compete effectively with legends like Joe Sherman or Jon Kaase. In many cases, pro builders who have dedicated their buildups to specific race applications (mountain motors for Kaase, and screaming small-blocks for Sherman) have no more experience building a dedicated Engine Masters-type pump gas engine than I do. What they do have is knowledge gained from years of hands-on experience combined with extensive dyno time. I hope to focus squarely on this engine, and develop a combination that should hopefully place me in the top 10."
Performance Crankshaft, Inc.
Roseville, MI * CHEVROLET
Lat year's 4th-place finisher is back with another Chevy-based mill. Will it be as budget-conscious as last-year's? Will it be as competitive? Adney became a reader favorite for piecing together a great motor with minimal investment and lots of work with pal Randy Malik. We expect another great showing from both Brown and Malik, since they both know how to play the game and they both enjoy working with the proven dyno at Vince Impostato's facility.
The team of Malik and Brown both did very well last year by working together on engines of different makes. The differences and similarities between the two engines allowed for both guys to give it their best without worrying about their teammates. Malik is bringing an Olds this time, while Brown is sticking with a Chevy. We have high expectations from this pair of Motor City madmen, and we're betting once again they'll win the "horsepower-per-dollar" vote of our vast readership. What these guys do with used parts is better than what most can do with new. Brown told us what he was up to: "After being a little tentative last year, I now am sure I can build an engine to win this thing. Although I'm not the best tuner, I certainly am proficient at assembling the needed parts, which can provide a complete engine package with the capability to provide competitive horsepower and torque numbers. The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge has the parameters where I'm most confident of my own engine design abilities because it's a streetable engine--however highly refined. The parts needed to win are not prototypes, they're not unobtainable, custom-fabricated, or one-of-a-kind. The rules were well-written so guys like me can be competitive, and it worked for me last year."
If Adney pushes as hard as he can push, we'll see him in the finals once again, and maybe even on the podium. Time will tell.
DANIEL CROWER, GREG GROSSET
Crower Motorsports and Total Performance
Santee, CA * FORD
Like so many other participants, Dan Crower has been with us from the start as an avid supporter and enthusiastic participant. This year, he's picked up a partner in Greg Grosset and a customer in Jon Cloud, who will own this engine once the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is complete.
Their Ford Windsor is based on a Ford Motorsport block with AFR heads. The bore/stroke combination is near "square" at 4.0-inch bore and 4.065-inch stroke. This normally results in very balanced power curves, but that could be an old engineer's myth. We'll see. While Crower is never short on power, his aggressive porting caused him to retire from last-years Challenge...what will be different this time?
"Our 409-inch Ford is a joint venture between Total Performance, Crower Motorsports, and Jon Cloud. The combined knowledge of these two shops will lead to a very competitive entry, hopefully with enough to win overall.
The Windsor will use a small-bore/long-stroke design with a small-chamber head to promote high compression and efficiency. A flat-top piston will encourage a superior flame front and resist detonation. Thermal barrier coatings will also help. Calico anti-friction coatings will be used throughout. Our greatest asset may be choosing to start with AFR CNC-finished heads and teaming them with a Crower Motorsports solid roller cam personally designed by Daniel Crower. We will see you in New York."
While we've not heard of Total Performance of Santee, California, we sure know Dan Crower. He's got a habit of infusing great power to any engine he touches, and we know he'll have his hands all over this one. We look forward to seeing what it'll do.
MARK MANSU and CHAD MORLEY
Billings, MO * CHEVROLET
We almost couldn't accept the application from the M&M guys because we received so many. If another applicant (who'd been accepted) hadn't dropped out for personal reasons almost immediately after we'd informed them of their acceptance, we might not have seen the Mark and Chad show this year.
But, as luck would have it, a slot opened up and M&M got the shot. Now, what are they going to do with the chance they've been given?
Last year's entry had some last-minute problems that didn't allow them to be competitive. Then, this year, they barely got in at all. We hope these issues will motivate them to bring their very best stuff, since another failure will not increase their chances of acceptance in the future.
They are determined to do well, and have very specific ideas about how that's going to happen. They told us plenty:
"The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge represents a broad spectrum of abilities and ingenuity. We feel we represent "the little guy" and we know we've got as good a chance as anyone following your rules. Our big-bore/short-stroke combination has been proven to make power, and with the proper setup we know we can put up some excellent numbers.
"Also, we want redemption. Some last-minute problems last year shortchanged our chances, but not our enthusiasm! Our respect for the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge program has increased plenty after dealing with everyone involved. From the contingency sponsors, to the Primedia personnel, it was all a first-class operation and we were ecstatic to be a part of it. Thanks for giving us another shot."
Lesco Race Engine Development
San Luis Obispo, CA * FORD
"I've chosen the 351 Windsor powerplant to base my Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge entry upon, based on the availability of high quality cylinder heads and the block's taller deck height. Using wet-flow bench technology to develop the top-end package with a good rod ratio, I feel this combination will produce high power numbers. I plan to use coatings to reduce friction, such as DLC-coated valves, moly-coated pistons and bearings, ceramic Nic-O-Sil coated sleeves and oil-shedding coatings.
"Thermal control will be done via polishing the piston tops, combustion chambers, and exhaust ports to a mirror finish to reflect heat back into the chamber, as opposed to using coatings as a barrier. Other methods of reducing friction include roller cam bearings and piston-guided rods. I also plan to use hot honing of the block to optimize ring seal, along with the most-current ring end-gap technology.
"Yet another area of focus will be valvetrain stability and rocker geometry to maximize performance. I feel the combination of these technologies and a fair amount of dyno time will produce a winning engine."
So says Travis Kennedy of Lesco Race engine development. His Ford-based thumper will have plenty of competition to test his theories, and we anxiously await the results of his research.
Applied Dyno Technology
Eagan, MN * CHEVROLET
Dyno driver Bob Kison has seen countless engines pass through his Northern Minnesota shop, and in doing so he's seen which combinations work and which do not. In focusing on the Challenge, he plans to design a small-block Chevy that'll go together easily with readily-available, off-the-shelf parts. We dig the idea.
Basing the build on a Dart block with AFR heads is a good start, and Bob plans to do plenty of compression ratio research and run plenty of pulls to optimize camshaft timing. This kind of work should result in a terrific powerplant, but whether it'll be enough to conquer the competition is still a mystery. Win or lose, we look forward to seeing what Bob brings to the party, and if he sticks to his philosophy, it should be easy for readers to dupe. The big-bore (4.165-inch), short-stroke (3.750-inch) combo already has our attention (as 3.75-inch is the stock stroke for a 400 Chevy, and the basis of many 383s), so cam size and cylinder head airflow should be something 383 owners pay particular attention to.
Being an experienced dyno guy, we also expect Bob to know all the tricks to fine-tuning an engine for dyno performance. If there's a way to make big power on a dyno, we'd expect Bob to know how. Since he won't be running the dyno this time, he'll have to watch as someone else does his job. It could be interesting, and we'll be paying close attention.
Evansville, IN * CHEVROLET
Mark is one of the many independents who's done very well in past Challenges. He made the finals in our first Challenge, and he's coming back with another small-block this year.
His Chevy will definitely be a budget effort and he's sidestepping the coatings others have had success with. He's keeping it truly simple, and hoping his combo of a factory block, Crower 3.825-inch stroke crank, and AFR heads will be enough to pull him into another final round.
He calls himself an "average hot rodder" and readers can relate. He's teaming up with his pals, and careful assembly and tuning of his garage-built small-block should serve as inspiration to many. He hopes to win, and if he does the world will certainly want to know how. He's going with a 4.130-inch bore, so he's got a good balance between bore and stroke. Should the rest of his combination fall in line and breathe well, he could once again be a contender.
TOM and BRENDA FOLEY
T&B Performance and Machine
Monroe, WI * FORD
Few contestants brought as much positive enthusiasm to the Challenge as Tom and Brenda Foley did the first year we produced it. Their little Ford cranked out enough power to get to the Finals, but not enough to grab a check. No one could forget the pleasant Wisconsin pair or the polite and knowledgeable crew they brought with them. Friendly people who know their stuff is precisely what we're looking for in a contestant, and seeing an application from T&B Machine made it an easy choice.
Their 409-inch Ford formula draws much from what made their 366-inch version so strong. A 4.125-inch bore teamed with a 3.825-inch stroke should make beautiful HP and TQ curves, and teaming a pair of AFR Ford heads atop a Dart block won't hurt either. They told us what they plan to engineer for the competition.
"The first step in any competition is to analyze the rules to determine any possible advantage or disadvantage. We are open to building engines of any make, but based on the rules and the fact we've got many of the items required to get a Windsor together for the Challenge, we again have chosen to build a small-block Ford.
"Utilizing the same block we competed with in '02, we'll be adding roller cam bearings and coated bearing inserts to minimize friction. We plan to utilize a few more 'trick' processes and parts this time, and we'll take more time fine-tuning too. We'll be testing carb spacers, mufflers, headers, and more radical carburetor configurations than we did previously. We, as always, feel confident that top-quality machine work and precision assembly are critical in any engine build, and especially in one headed for the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge."
JASON SPOHR, NORM GRIMES
Pasadena City College
Pasadena, CA * CHEVROLET
We know master engine guru Norm Grimes from last year's Challenge, and we're glad to see he's helping out Jason Spohr with this College project. Jason is an instructor at this local community college, and he hopes to use the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge program as an instructional tool for his students. He hopes to use the intelligence resources at the school to assist in the quest, and will be tasking colleagues in engineering, machining, welding, physics, and electronics to complete their entry. With Norm Grimes offering his advice and the braintrust of the college willing to offer their learning, this could be one to watch.
We must also remember this is a learning exercise, and may not have huge financial backing. It's our opinion this team will win no matter what the score. Their true quest is for knowledge, and by teaming the students with the professors (and Norm Grimes), then having them follow through on their research with an actual, running engine, we feel the students will gain invaluable experience. This is their true prize, and anything else the competition gives them will be a bonus.
By building on a Dart block with Brodix heads, they've sure got a solid foundation capable of being very competitive. How well it gets refined remains to be seen, and we wish them the best of luck in their learning experience.
Traco Engineering Co, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA * CHEVROLET
If you don't recognize the name Traco Engineering, we'd recommend a quick time trip back to the '60s. Check out the winningest Trans-Am cars from the era. Now, check the hood for decals. Most will say Traco Engineering. Want more? Check out the Can-Am cars of the early '70s, with their sexy shapes and big-inch American V-8 power.
Traco was formed under the masterful hands of Jim Travers and Frank Coons (hence TRA-CO) and was the primary engine supplier to both Trans Am (Penske) and Can Am (McLaren), and built hundreds of winning engines for every form of motorsports including LeMans, Daytona, Nascar, and Bonneville.
Lawrence Salisbury would like to add the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge to the long list of wins in Traco's history. Traco Engineering has always specialized in Chevrolet engines, and their Challenge entry will continue this tradition. Lawrence is basing the engine on a GMPP block with AFR heads, and if Traco is looking to once again be on the forefront, we'll gladly supply the forum to showcase their capabilities.
"Traco Engineering's theory in engine design is, simply put, to leave nothing to chance. Our engine designs are based on fifty years of experience. Chevrolet engines have always been our specialty. A combination of modern engine components, our unique blueprinting procedure, and numerous race-winning engine designs are the reasons we think we'll win. This particular engine will be built to fit into '63-'82 Corvettes."
Dearborn Heights, MI * FORD
Readers will recognize the Livernois Motorsports name as the shop responsible for the powerplant in Dan Millen's Super Street Outlaw Mustang, which is credited with being the world's fastest drag car on a 10.5-inch tire. They also work on Nextel Cup, Busch, IHRA, NMCA, ARCA, and other types of professional racing engines. Now, they're focused on the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge. While some entries are purely personal, Livernois is truly taking a "team" approach to the Challenge.
"Our well-recognized background and bright future are built around a nucleus of race-driven team members with a growing hunger to win. Our Ford small-block entry will definitely give the contingency sponsors, Primedia staffers, fellow competitors, and magazine readership a reason to choose Livernois Motorsports for all their racing engine needs. We know how to put people in the winners circle!"
Time will tell if the Livernois team can put themselves in the Winners Circle for the 2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge, and we're anxious to see how they do in their first go-around at dyno racing.
Rochester, NY * OLDSMOBILE
Bill Trovato's Olds has been seen on our pages racing in head-up, Street Legal wars. Being one of the few Olds-powered Olds in the series might have been recognition enough, but Bill has won more than his fair share of rounds, proving the Olds can be built to be absolutely competitive with other makes. Our pump-gas format only adds to this, with a broad rpm range and the teaming of average torque and horsepower in our scoring. Makes like Olds have more than a chance and some feel they've even got an advantage.
Travato's combo will be one many Olds fans will truly appreciate. He's teaming a factory block and factory crank with the Edelbrock Olds cylinder head. This head has been seen on many big-block Oldsmobiles, but Travato is convinced it'll be a great way to feed 410 inches of small-block Rocket for the Challenge. He told us why:
"I have built many hard running Olds engines, including my personal 403-cube motor that makes over 1,200 hp w/ nitrous. I have designed and assembled naturally-aspirated Olds engines in the 415ci range that have cranked out 800 horses with high compression on race gas. I feel these engines can make as much as any Chevy or Ford, and I've proven this on the track at the NMCA in my own car, and others."
We look forward to the results, and we hope to see Bill's Olds do well in it's first Challenge competition.
Lawrence Racing Engines
Westhampton Beach, NY * FORD
Jeff claims our Rules limitations are "right up his alley", so we anticipate seeing his entry. As an NHRA Stock and Super Stock veteran, Lawrence is familiar with working past limitations to make big power. He's chosen to build a Cleveland with a 4.035-inch bore and 4.00-inch stroke. The block will be a factory piece, and he's chosen to re-work a pair of factory 4V iron heads to feed it. How much potential is there in a factory block/factory head combo like this? For many, we'd say not enough to win, but knowing how quick Super Stockers run, we'll have to keep a keen eye on Lawrence's motor.
Jeff shared more with us on how he anticipates the Challenge will go: "The experience I've gained from nearly 30 years of building Stock and Super Stock cars for NHRA will be quite applicable to what you're doing. The 4-inch stroke Cleveland engine we're bringing will be a version of the engine we used to power our World Record-setting '88 Mustang GT/AA Super Stocker. This combo only pushes 10.5:1 compression, so adapting to 92-octane gas won't be a problem. We plan to use a custom-ground solid roller cam using Comp Cams' newest short duration/fast action lobe designs along with all the friction- and windage-reducing tricks we have learned racing over the years. The modified Cleveland heads we use will provide the high velocity and airflow required to produce a broad torque curve and big high rpm power figures necessary to score well."
Bower's Racing Engines
Fort Collins, CO * CHEVROLET
Bret is working with Bob Wagenhals, who we know as a finalist in the inaugural Challenge competition. What most remember is the claimed 16:1 compression ratio of that engine. We never tore it down, but the telltale rattling and solid power levels sure backed up the claim. When the motor wasn't rattling in the low rpm ranges, it sure made big power!
Bret and Bob are teaming up to build another high-compression small-block Chevy and hope to keep the detonation demons at bay more effectively than before. Further research should allow them to push limits, but we doubt the previous 16:1 claim will be surpassed. If there's a new or better way to sidestep expensive detonation, we want to see it! Bowers and partner Jim Kelly shared their philosophy with us.
"A shorter connecting rod will reduce the piston's dwell time at TDC. My planned piston and connecting rod combination will allow us to use more compression - we're looking at 14.5:1, which will equate to more power output.
Specially-developed porting techniques teamed with our own port designs and chamber shapes will make more power in your 2,500-6,500 rpm test range. This will still be a budget-conscious effort, built on readily-available off-the-shelf components we hope anyone could duplicate."
KEVIN STUDAKER- RICK WATERS
Eaton Enterprises LLC
Glendale, AZ * PONTIAC
We think readers can appreciate where Kevin Studaker is coming from, so we'll share his philosophies directly.
"I propose to use a .040-inch overbored (to 4.160-inch), standard stroke (3.750-inch) 400 Pontiac with a factory production block. This combination will displace about 408ci. I'll use a 6.8-inch long Scat H-beamn rod designed for the big-block Chevy. This will better my rod/stroke ratio to 1.81 and it'll let me reduce rod journal diameter to 2.2-inch (from the stock Pontiac 2.249-inch). This will contribute to lessening weight on the rotating assembly.
"I think this basic concept should be a good basis for the build because it keeps costs down (no custom crank or custom-length rods). I think it'll prove to make good torque and horsepower in your chosen rpm band (2,500-6,500) because it's not a short-stroke high rpm-dependent engine.
"I am putting this engine in a street car after the Challenge competition, so I need it to be a truly useful powerplant as opposed to a high-dollar purpose-built motor with flyweight internals that couldn't be used afterwards." After reading his entry info, it was impossible to deny his admission. His ideas are aligned with exactly what we'd hoped to see in the Challenge, and we're curious as to the final tally on budget from this stock-block/stock-crank combination. If it makes big power on 92-octane, we'll want to write about more than just the philosophy behind it.
SCOTT MAIN and BOB MOORE
Englewood, CO * FORD
Scott Main was one of several Ford enthusiasts who made the SCJ-headed 460s roll into the finals last year. Knowing his capabilities, we were happy to see an entry from the capable Englewood, Colorado, cylinder head shop.
This time, they've got their sights set on a Windsor-based 410. The development of this engine has been well-documented on the pages of all enthusiast magazines, but we feel a contest like our Challenge really offers readers a look at the bottom line--pump-gas, naturally-aspirated engines with no power adders, mufflers, and air filters.
Scott's "Boss" style build uses a Boss 302-style block with CHI Boss 302 heads. This means big breathing capabilities without mods, as these parts all go together easily. We're hoping to show readers exactly how in the near future, but we'll look forward to seeing the potential in the combination as assembled by M.P.G.
Scott Main wrote in his application: "The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is a great program, as designing and building a competitive engine is indeed a huge challenge. We intend to be competitive once again."
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada * AMC
The lone AMC representative in this year's Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge comes to us from Canada. Ken Parkman is working over a factory 360ci Trans-Am block with a stock AMC 401 crank to displace 409 cubes (4.125-inch bore and 3.825-inch stroke) and it'll breathe through Indy Cylinder Head's new 401-SR heads.
This is one we're anxious to see. The potential within the AMC engine design has been seen in many forms of racing, from many outstanding Super Stock drag cars over the years to many wins in the Trans-Am series back when it was still cool (and the cars participating looked like production vehicles).
An excellent cylinder head design has been credited with providing power to these underrated engines, and when Indy Cylinder Head stepped up and cast their new stock-replacement "SR" heads, we were anxious to see results.
While we've yet to see numbers on a max-effort pump gas engine with these heads, it's apparent we will. We're hoping for excellent results so owners of AMC cars can demand the respect they rightfully deserve. Huge horsepower and torque numbers have a way of doing that.
Ken explained how he intends to showcase American Motors power in the Challenge, and we'll share his game plan: "The 410-inch limit is ideal for the AMC. The basic architecture is correctly-sized, and the factory 18-degree valve angle is an advantage as well. My hope is these design advantages will overcome the limited parts availability AMC owners know all too well. I will use the new Indy heads, and I will target intake charge kinetic energy first, and then work on flow levels. To build upon, I've procured one of the true AMC Penske Trans Am 360-cube blocks from the early '70s, and this will allow the small bore I need to complement the longer stroke and hit the 410-inch limit.
"Personally, I am an AMC racer who builds the occasional engine for others. This engine is a customer piece, belonging to Bob Reeves of Fergus Starter and Alternator, and this powerplant will find a home in his '68 AMX street machine. I worked with the Astro Automotive guys on their 2003 Pontiac-based entry to this Challenge, and they'll be working with me on this one. I hope to build on these experiences and continue to learn how to craft great pump-gas street engines of all makes."
How can you not like this guy?
TODD OPITZ, ERIC OPITZ, and WILLIAM OPITZ
Phillipsburg, NJ * CHEVROLET
Interestingly, the AES team from Jersey is bringing a 383 to a 410 fight. This is mainly due to budget, but we were very curious to see how it'd do.
Sacrificing power-making cubes is not a great strategy, but this is a family effort (with a pair of brothers working with their Dad) and we saw this family formula work very well last year with the second-placing Williams team. So, we accepted the application and we want to see how a family raised in the shadow of their own business (a speed shop) would do on a national level.
The Strawchurch Speed Shop grew from a gas station, and is representative of the kind of local hangout we all know. Seeing how they fare on a national level will be eye-opening indeed, and we wish this family the best of luck.
"Our shop has built over 300 different engine combos, from injected to carbureted to supercharged, and of many different makes from Chevys and Fords to Pontiacs and Mopars. We feel our 383 will make a ton of torque--between 500 and 600 ft.-lbs.--and strong horsepower numbers. This is a budget effort and will be easy to duplicate with solid roller and GM Bowtie heads, and will run an Eagle crank inside a GM Performance Parts block."
TERRY FRITSCH Sr. and TERRY FRITSCH Jr.
Omaha, NE * OLDSMOBILE
The Fritsch's 403-based build will incorporate the new Olds heads being offered by Bulldog. We saw Bulldog's Cadillac cylinder heads in last year's competition, and they did well--giving a new meaning to the term "Cadillac performance." We appreciate innovation and parts development for non-mainstream makes (like the Olds and Caddy), so we're hoping the Bulldog head does well.
The Fritsch's know their Oldsmobiles, and are avid keepers of the traditional flame. We have long believed in the potential of the 403 Olds, yet we've seen precious few examples that truly screamed. This year's Challenge may provide ample evidence, and hearing the "Terry's" tell the tale makes you want to believe they can do it.
"We selected the 403 Olds because of its large bore size and breathing capabilities. There is not another small-block that offers such a large bore in a factory block, and we feel the 403 has been long overlooked as the basis for a performance street engine. It needs a chance to prove its worth, and we intend to do so in the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge competition. There's a host of Cutlass and Pontiac Trans-Am owners out there who'd love to see this, and we're happy to show it to them and all the readers of PHR."
We're seeing a fresh influx of other new Olds goodies too, like headers from Kooks (which the Fritch's have selected to run) and many new parts from companies like BOP Engineering. We like seeing non-Chevys built to perform on 92-octane using stock-block/stock-crank combinations like this, and we've got high expectations on what the Fritsch family will bring to Long Island.
LEN CAVERLY and SONS
Barrington, NH * PONTIAC
Again, the Edelbrock head is being used (along with an Edelbrock intake) and this combo should be a serious consideration for all Pontiac enthusiasts. Interestingly, Len will port and test three different Edelbrock intakes (a Victor, Torker II, and Performer RPM) and will bring the piece that delvers the highest score. Readers should take note.
Len feels the Victor will be the final choice (or as he says "I feel the Victor will be, well, victorious") and he'll also test many different Challenge-legal headers. Len is our kind of guy.
"I've been building and rebuilding all types of engines for upwards of 40 years. I find it difficult not to enhance the performance in some way or another, whether it's a hot rod V-8 or a class 8 Diesel for a semi truck.
"With my experience building Pontiac engines for street and strip use since the early '70s, and after teaching my sons the intricacies of building and tuning high performance engines, I know we can build a very competitive engine for your Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge."
DAVE McLAIN, SCOTT JOHNSTON, BRIAN ADAMS
McLains Automotive, Reincarnation High Performance, and AD Performance
Tacoma, WA * FORD
This crew from Washington showed us they know their stuff in last year's battle, and this group of avid Ford fans is developing a Cleveland-based entry for 2004. Based on a stock block and wearing CHI heads, the Cleveland will rely on a SCAT 4-inch stroker crank to push the cubic inch limits out to 409.
They told us how they're going to do it, and after seeing them work last year we have to take them seriously. Here's their game plan: "Our build is centered on the proven CHI head/intake combo. An early start, in-depth R&D, and some dollars are in the works this time around. We firmly believe the factory canted valves in the Cleveland design offer the best odds for a winning Ford-based combo.
After our great experience in the '03 Challenge, we couldn't resist coming back for the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge again in '04. Dave McLain is again the builder. Scott Johnston is the team coordinator and airflow development guru, and Brian Adams (of AD Performance) is sponsoring the effort."
These guys are driven, and their motivation will carry them all the way to Long Island. Once there, we expect big things from them, and we expect they'll deliver once again.
Upland, CA * FORD
Andy Dunn is a self-admitted "computer geek builder" and will develop his engine design in software prior to assembly and testing. He's also an avid Cobra enthusiast and has been toying with pump gas power for his street car.
He's got pals with PhDs and sold his Cobra recently, so with a pocket full of change and a computer full of numbers, Andy's going after the Engine Masters crown and he's banking on the capabilities of the Ford Windsor to get it done. He'll push displacement to 408 cubes via a SCAT stroker, and top it with AFR heads.
He's also got plenty to say. We appreciate those who share ideas openly, and Andy has no problem chatting it up.
"I believe my engine will finish at least in the top five, and has an excellent chance of winning. I expect to bring a near-1,100-point engine to the Challenge. The Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is one of the only pure "engineering" contests. It removes the driver from the equation. Past contestants have been engine builders, dyno operators, engineers and computer guys. I am the latter." We'll keep an eye on Dunn's entry, and see how real horsepower compares to his virtual simulation. We're used to the computer programs we use being about 95 percent accurate, and where that is normally fine for a magazine story, it's too much variance for something as tight as the Challenge competition. Or, is it? We'll see for sure during dyno week!
Pacific, MO * PONTIAC
Byron is another veteran of our first Challenge, when 366-inch small-blocks were the rule and solid rollers were outlawed. Byron entrusted his entry to another builder and didn't fare too well, so he's taking matters into his own capable hands this time.
Byron has been a fan of the sub-400-inch Pontiacs more rabidly than anyone else we know. He races the 350 Pontiacs many don't waste their time on. By studying the needs of the smaller-displacement Pontiac, he feels the gift of 50+ cubes will allow him to showcase what he's learned over the years.
"I'm going to build a simple .040-inch overbored 400. These engines already have terrific mid-range torque and I believe I can build a winning combination with careful reworking of the heads for flow and velocity. I've got the engine pretty much together, so I expect to start testing within the next few weeks. Hopefully, with plenty of time to make pulls and do the research, I'll be able to find the best-possible combination.
"This will be an engine many can relate to. It'll have very good burn rate, so increased compression is possible I'll start by testing with 11.4:1, and go up from there. This Challenge is really exciting, and I thank you guys for giving engine guys a place to race."
Indianapolis, IN * MOPAR
Corey chose to build a 360 Mopar with a simple .030-inch overbore and a SCAT 4-inch stroker crank to arrive at 408 cubes. This simple formula is one we'd like to see become as common as the 383 Chevy! By topping the stroker 360 with Indy cylinder heads and intake, the engine's "hard" parts are quite simple to dupe. Corey also tasked Indy Cylinder Head for their rockers and pushrods. Hmmm...he lives in Indy and uses lots of Indy parts in his motor...could he be connected? We bet he's got some pals at Indy Cylinder Head, and that's cool. We were happy to see Indy field an entry in our inaugural Challenge and it's good to see their excellent products making a showing in our second true small-block shootout.
Corey's plan is to take full advantage of the small-block Mopar's natural design advantages (factory 18-degree heads, shaft rockers, larger diameter lifters) to overtake the competition. He's also running a longer rod than most (at 6.125-inches in length) and by pushing his Ross pistons to 12.3:1 compression ratio, big numbers should certainly result. Whether it'll be enough to take home the big trophy remains to be seen, but we'll sure be looking. It sure sounds like a solid entry to us.
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN * FORD
University Lab Instructor Allan Wodtke is taking all his knowledge and resources from the classroom to the dyno cell. He intends to use the resources available to him (including a cylinder head flow bench, an engine dyno, and an emissions analyzer) to develop, build, test, and refine his entry to perfection. He also made a point to mention his engine design and port design software collection, so we expect this engine will be built "virtually" before any wrenches are turned.
"Using these assets, I believe I will be able to build a winning combination of high velocity heads and a rotating assembly designed to control dynamic and affected cylinder pressures to control detonation and produce maximum horsepower and torque in your target rpm range. Engine optimization on pump gasoline will be the key to winning."
Interestingly, while Allan made copious mention of the university's outstanding facilities, he made no mention of students. We first thought the development of this engine may have been a class project for Allan's students, but it turns out Allan is doing this on his own, and hopes the results of his research will be interesting to share with his students in the future. We certainly hope it is, since the research and work required to produce a winning engine for our Challenge has proven to be a learning experience for even the most-seasoned performance engine designer/builders nationwide.
We wish the students could be involved in all phases of the project, since we are all about encouraging education and development of hot rod savvy graduates, but if the info gleaned in retrospect from Allan's personal quest helps a little, that's okay too.
Pettit Racing Engines
New Milford, CT * OLDSMOBILE
We mentioned the variety of Olds engines this year as being something we're happy to see. What's even cooler is that within the Olds entries are several different approaches to Olds-based dominance at 410 cubes. Pettit is starting with a Diesel 350 block, which was not a great passenger car engine, but makes a great gasoline performance foundation. The engine will be fitted with a stock crankshaft, and topped with Bulldog heads.
The 403-based Olds entries will be compared directly with Pettits, and we know the many internet Olds-specific message boards will be lighting up with discussion regarding the various philosophies at play in the Challenge competition. This is encouraged by us, as building a better small-block Olds is something we don't hear enough about. With a few new cylinder heads coming to market, the small-block Rocket has never had such a bright future, and we're hoping Mike Pettit can show our readers the true potential of this lethal combination on pump gas. We've seen race versions of 350 Diesel-based Olds pushing 900 horses, and it's about time we saw a few of these engines refined for street use. The 2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge seems like the perfect place for it to happen.
Fishers, IN * CHEVROLET
Dave sent a business card attached to his application that showed a '64 GTO drag car. We were hoping to see another Pontiac entry, but, alas, he chose to craft up a Chevy. He's building on a World Products block topped with Pro-Topline heads and plans to take a different course than the majority. He's planning on shorter rods to increase piston speed, and after decades of hearing how the longest rod that will fit is the best one for the job, we're curious to see how the shorter rods will compare.
His bore and stroke choices (4.250-inch bore and 3.60-inch stroke) are also some of the more extreme we've seen, so this Indiana-based entry will certainly offer a different look at the small-block Chevy. Is the big-bore, short-stroke, short-rod theory a good one? Only time will tell, but we're certainly curious. We also noticed Dave was one of the many builders who took the time to thank us for developing this competition. His words were sincere, and we'll share them along with his Challenge philosophies.
"Thanks for the opportunity to compete in the Challenge. You guys are doing a great service not only to your readers, but also to the smaller professional engine builders like myself. On behalf of all of us, thank you for the Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge!
"My theory on the winning engine combination is a large bore, average stroke, and as short a rod as possible. It will take excellent airflow characteristics, utilizing as high of a compression ratio as possible, aided by the use of engine coatings. The larger bore will unshroud the valves, the short rod will speed up the piston, and with proper engineering and good tuning, we should be able to produce a winning combination."
You've met our fifty competitors, and we'll be following a few of their buildups on the pages prior to the competition. If past Challenges are any indication, expect awesome power in a usable rpm range and entries that could literally bolt right in to many of our reader's cars. We built this Challenge so you could look on the pages and see engines that'd work well in the car you've got in the garage. The parts and power are all available to you, so stay tuned and see how the competition develops.
We've got some big plans for the running of the competition we simply cannot share yet, but once the ink is on the paper and these deals are done, we'll be able to share with all of our readers, sponsors, and participants some exciting news that'll prove we're working as hard on the Challenge as the participants are working on their engines. We want all interested parties to be satisfied with the forum we've built to run this program, and if all our plans work out, there is no doubt everyone involved will be anxious to come back again and again.
The 2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Challenge is ready to go, and we've got fifty builders who all believe they've got what it takes to be the Engine Master. Only time will tell who will be crowned king, but until then, check out www.enginemasters.com for updates and the latest info. If you wanted to get involved but couldn't, check into our Virtual Engine Masters Challenge for your chance to win up to $10,000 by building a virtual representation of the winning Challenge engine. All the details are on the web, so log on to the Engine Masters website and get involved!