2004 Jeg's Engine Masters Competition Side Bar Articles
Of the 50 entrants selected from all over the country, 39 made it to the 2004 Engine Masters Challenge showdown venue at Bill Mitchell's World Products in Ronkonkoma, New York. While the flesh and bone components of each team either drove or flew in for the shindig, the vast majority of the engines were shipped via truck freight. In more than a few cases, rough handling in transit or improper packing took its toll. The Traco crew in particular paid dearly for such roughhousing. Here are some tips on how to ship your engine to next year's Engine Masters Challenge.
Joe Sherman shipped his 409-inch Chevy engine all the way from Santa Ana, California. He says, "My business--Joe Sherman Racing Engines--ships engines all over the country and the price ranges between $500 and $600 by truck freight. Air freight will double that. I use FedEx ground exclusively and build my own shipping crates. They have rugged 2x6 floorboards with 2x4 skids, 3/8-inch plywood walls and 1x3 frames. Screws, rather than nails, hold it together because screws make opening the crate easier for the customer and don't splinter the wood so it can be reused. The engine is fastened to a $50 Jeg's cradle that is bolted to the floor boards. I make sure no bolt heads protrude past the bottom skids as they can snag on the floor and flip the crate if the shippers The Pirates of Horsepower team (Andy Dunn and Scott Miller of Upland, California) learned firsthand about shipping damage when their 408-cube Ford Windsor took a tumble in transit. Fortunately, the damage was limited to this broken valve cover. Bill Mitchell loaned the team a replacement from World Products' new Man-O-War Ford product line. The Pirates scored a decent 926.4 with peak numbers of 598.9 hp and 544.8 lb.-ft. of torque.aren't careful." Shown in this photo surrounding Joe Sherman is the World Products team who uncrated the 39 entries, mounted each one on a DTS dyno cart then re-crated them for shipment home. From L-to-R: Dave Watson, Teddy Osania, Carmine Franco, competitor Joe Sherman, Simon Fell and Chris Honett. Great job guys!
The Traco Engineering team from Los Angeles suffered a heart-breaking DNF due to shipping damage. After getting loose in the crate, the team's 409-cube Chevy ended up with the munched spark plug shown here. A replacement was installed but when the motor misfired violently and refused to pull over 2,500 rpm in qualifying, it became clear that other plugs were also likely damaged. Unfortunately, the rule book prohibits spark plug replacement after the engine enters the dyno cell, putting team Traco out of the running.
Plastic shipping crates are a convenient alternative to homemade wooden crates, but remember, shipping charges are based on container volume and weight. If you stick a small-block Chevy in a Hemi-sized shipping crate you're wasting money. When it comes to pickup and delivery, you'll always save money by going to the depot. Door service costs plenty extra and most shipping companies assume you have a forklift and shipping dock to load and unload the crate. If you don't, have a plan to get it on and off the trailer truck's four-foot high floor. Cherry pickers and carburetor flange lifting hooks work best.
The Pirates of Horsepower team (Andy Dunn and Scott Miller of Upland, California) learned firsthand about shipping damage when their 408-cube Ford Windsor took a tumble in transit. Fortunately, the damage was limited to this broken valve cover. Bill Mitchell loaned the team a replacement from World Products' new Man-O-War Ford product line. The Pirates scored a decent 926.4 with peak numbers of 598.9 hp and 544.8 lb.-ft. of torque.
Here's how not to ship your engine, especially if you are crossing New York's George Washington Bridge in rush hour traffic and the Dept. of Homeland Security agents spot you. It seems Evansville, Indiana competitor Mark Brittingham was in the Halloween spirit when he packed his 563 hp / 538 lb.-ft. Chevy and decorated the crate with this tasteful jack-o-lantern motif. (The orange "MB" script easily being mistaken for "mega-blast" or "monster bomb," take your pick.) It took Mark 12 hours to convince federal agents he was an Engine Master, not an engine blaster! Mark scored a 902.3 in qualifying.
We asked World Products head honcho, Bill Mitchell, if flywheel selection is critical to success in the Engine Masters Challenge and the answer is no. He told PHR: "A flywheel's job is to store energy so crankshaft speed recovers quickly when you shift gears. Without the inertia stored by the mass of the rotating flywheel, the engine will lose rpm very quickly and create major drivability problems on the street or track. The mass of the flexplate and torque converter perform the same function when there's an automatic transmission behind the engine.
"But on my three DTS dynos, peak horsepower and torque readings are not influenced by flywheel choice and there is no advantage to using a lighter or heavier flywheel. This is due to the inertia correlation factor program of the DTS dyno, and the fact that the Engine Masters test mode used does not simulate upshifts. The only critical item is balance. If an Engine Masters Challenge candidate has an externally balanced reciprocating assembly, he must bring his own flywheel to the dyno and provide information on its weight to the dyno operator so it can be entered into the DTS computer and we get the correct inertia correlation factor. All of my dyno flywheels are neutral balanced so they can be used on any internally-balanced engine with no problems." Sharp observers may note the lack of a starter ring gear on the flywheel in the picture. That's because DTS dynos have built-in starters.
AVOIDING AND SURVIVING DETONATION
Because Engine Masters Challenge competitors are restricted to 92 octane unleaded gasoline, the greatest obstacle to success is detonation--that metallic pinging sound that signifies combustion by explosion rather than by controlled burning. As every hot rodder is painfully aware, a fuel's octane rating is a measure of its resistance to detonation, and the lower the octane, the lower the resistance. Though the vast majority of this year's Engine Masters contestants rattled audibly during their numerous dyno pulls, the successful entries were the ones that built their engines to survive detonation without sacrificing too much power despite erratic flame fronts and porcupine-like cylinder pressure spikes. The lure of a hundred thousand bucks will make a hot rodder do the craziest things! Here are some tips on how to walk the fine line between maximum power and destructive detonation.
REVERSE FLOW COOLING
Reverse-flow cooling isn't new to the hot rodding scene. In fact, it helped open the door for the 1992 Chevy LT1's then-astronomical 10.25:1 compression ratio in an age when 9.5:1 was considered the limit for factory offerings. Reverse cooling systems pump coolant from the radiator first through the heads then down into the block, the opposite of how most traditional OE systems flow. The idea behind reverse-flow cooling is to get the coolant when it's at its lowest temperature (fresh from the radiator) and direct it immediately to the water passages in the heads where localized heat from the combustion chambers and exhaust ports will transfer quickly and be carried away.
Here's the reverse-flow cooling system on the MPG Heads 409-cube Boss 302 entry. The MPG b
Reverse cooling works because the rate of heat transfer is regulated by the difference in temperature between the coolant and the surfaces in contact with the coolant. If the coolant is first routed through the block rather than the heads, then the difference in its temperature and that of the cylinder heads will not be as great and less combustion heat will be carried to the radiator for dissipation into the atmosphere. The hotter the heads run, the closer they are to detonation.
Detractors of reverse-flow conversions (and there were a few in attendance at Engine Masters '04) claim coolant temperature is constant throughout the cooling system and that you only need to concentrate your efforts on keeping the needle on the temperature gauge as low as possible. What they may fail to realize is the gauge tells the average temperature and cannot detect isolated hot spots (like in the heads) where the localized temperature can be significantly higher. This is a controversial subject and it is telling that Jon Kasse's big-inch Ford Cleveland won the event with a standard bottom-to-top OE cooling system.In this photo, we see John Beck's home-grown LT1-style reverse-flow conversion that uses a Meziere electric pump, braided hoses and simple external connections. John takes it a step further by blocking coolant flow to the intake manifold and says the dry intake provides a 3-degree drop in intake charge temperature.
REDUCE INTAKE CHARGE TEMPERTURE
The temperature of the fuel/air charge entering the combustion chambers plays a big role in establishing the detonation threshold. Though the World Products dyno cells are supplied with fresh outside air and there is no direct (or legal) way for competitors to alter air temperature, sharp cookies like Richard Holdener devised simple sheet aluminum heat deflectors to serve as barriers between the air cleaner (removed in this photo) and the scorching plumes of heat rising from the engine at WOT. Plastic, wood and aluminum carburetor spacers are also effective heat barriers that are legal for competition as long as total height does not exceed 2.25 inches.
Though it is not permitted in the Engine Masters Challenge, another way to reduce air inlet temperature is to cool the intake manifold with ice or water. It's a between-rounds trick drag racers have been using for eons. Here, PHR Tech Editor and Engine Masters Challenge director, Scott Parkhurst removes 5-ounces of cool water one contestant "accidentally" spilled into the valley of his Edelbrock Air Gap RPM intake manifold just before a qualifying pull. Though not technically illegal, the water could serve as a heat sink and reduce temperature. The incident prompted Parkhurst to state that next years rules will specifically require that all fluids must be contained inside the engine. Nice try guys!
Oh what a tangled web the Engine Masters weave! Because friction robs power, builders instinctively use low-tension top, second and oil rings. But because of the reduced radial tension of the low-drag oil rings, the combustion chambers are made vulnerable to oil that sneaks past the rings from below, thanks to crankcase pressure and windage. Oil has a very low octane rating and is a sure fire detonation maker unless measures are taken to keep it out of the chambers.Most racers control internal oil windage using the minimum allowed oil capacity (5 quarts), the deepest allowable oil pan (rules mandate unmodified, chassis-style wet sump designs), windage trays, crank scrapers and even ultra-trick camshaft windage baffles consisting of carefully-sculpted sheetmetal tunnels affixed to the block beneath the camshaft with epoxy or miniature threaded fasteners.
All-out efforts like the runner-up Chevy from W. Enterprises also seek to minimize crankcase oil splash using specially-contoured crankshaft counterweights. Shown here is the team's trick Callies 4340 arm. Note the aerodynamically sculpted and knife-edged counterweight profiles that reduce windage.
ENRICHED CARBURETOR JETTING
Racers often say "lean is mean, fat is happy". But when it comes to low-octane racing, a little fat is better than a little lean. That's because leaner mixtures, when vaporized, absorb less heat and heat is the root cause of all detonation. By running mixtures that are a tad richer than they'd be for an unlimited-octane application, the intake charge can absorb more heat as it enters the chambers. This can make the difference between avoiding detonation and hearing the dreaded rattle.
ACCURATE IGNITION TIMING
Traditionally speaking, the best way to avoid detonation is to retard the ignition timing. Unfortunately, retarded ignition timing also reduces peak cylinder pressure, torque and horsepower, and that's no way to win the Engine Masters Challenge. To have their cake and eat it too, entrants like Corey Short and his Mopar small-block know that an accurate ignition system, capable of maintaining minute adjustments, is a must. They never trust factory timing tabs. In fact, most don't hassle with factory tin, preferring much more accurate aftermarket replacements with adjustable pointers. Even with these superior parts, it is imperative to use a degree wheel and piston stop during assembly to confirm the number one piston really is where the timing marks say it is. An error here will have you chasing your tail, and rattling your engine's guts, until it is corrected.
The other half of the equation is lighting the spark at the right time and nothing but the best ignition controllers, coils, distributors, plug wires and plugs will do. Tony Bischoff also says it is crucial to "make sure the advance curve is correctly matched to the needs of the engine." Because programmable ignition controllers are not legal for competition, this means spending dyno time to see what springs, bushings and weights deliver the best spark curve. Tony has found the tuning advice supplied with most aftermarket distributors to be right on. Finally, El Cheapo timing lights have no place in competition. Successful tuners use a quality name-brand dial-back light for insurance against erroneous timing adjustments that can induce detonation. Corey's impressive Mopar registered peak output of 641 hp and 564.7 lb.-ft., average output of 441.3 hp and 504.3 lb.-ft. and totaled 945.6 points.
SHORT CONNECTING RODS
Short connecting rods and small cylinder bore diameters (used in conjunction with a custom stroker crankshaft to restore displacement) are more able to resist detonation than longer rods and bigger bores. According to two-time champion Jon Kasse, the short rod yields very fast piston action at TDC and minimizes dwell time so the pistons get away from the chambers as quickly as possible. More time spent at TDC increases the chance that non-homogenized portions of the mixture will ignite on their own and rattle the motor. Smaller bores are advantageous because they reduce the distance the flame front has to travel and the smaller area also offers less opportunity for unwanted secondary flame fronts to develop. The small bore theory must not be taken to the extreme or valve shrouding becomes a larger issue. Canted valve cylinder head designs are more forgiving of small cylinder bores as they open the valves toward the center of the bore. Under the 2004 rules, only builders of Ford Cleveland style engines can take advantage of this fact.
ALTIMETERS FOR CARB TUNING
Many contestants learned quickly that barometric pressure (Bp) in Ronkonkoma, New York can vary widely in October. The days generally start with a cool, low-lying fog in the chilly morning, warm up and dry out by mid day, then cool rapidly as the sun settles. Each weather mode brings with it a change in Bp (the amount of atmosphere pushing down on the carburetor). Savvy Engine Masters know to make carburetor jet changes to compensate for these fluctuations.We saw more than a few barometric altimeters in use. They're aircraft surplus and can be had for around a hundred bucks in good used condition. The kink is, you ignore the altimeter function and use the gauge backwards. To read Bp, turn the instrument calibration knob to zero (it must be on zero or you'll get erroneous results) then look in the small window to read Bp (pen points). Increased Bp means there is more air available so jetting can be enriched. When Bp drops, reduced jetting is the plan.
Though the DTS dynos have internal Bp monitors that measure the atmosphere ten times a second, tuners found their private altimeters handy to help identify tuning opportunities prior to competition.
THERMAL BARRIER COATINGS
Thermal barrier coatings are used widely by many competitors on piston crowns, valve faces, combustion chambers, and exhaust ports. These coatings can reduce the absorption of heat and reflect it away from the surface of the coated part. The goal is to ward off the formation of isolated hot spots that can ignite the fuel mixture prematurely and yield detonation.
Another benefit of thermal barrier coatings is that they increase resistance to heat-caused fatigue. By keeping the coated parts cooler, fatigue strength is increased. Testing shows that the pressure spikes caused by detonation can be ten times higher than those achieved during controlled combustion. Also, the temperature at the center of these rogue combustion events can reach 18,000-degrees Fahrenheit and can result in collapsed crowns and ring lands in even the toughest forged pistons. Other places where many competitors depend on thermal barrier coating are on the underside of the intake manifold. Here it helps reduce the migration of engine heat to the intake runners for a cooler, denser charge and less chance of detonation.
These ceramic-based coatings are only the beginning. Also popular are Teflon-based oil-shedding and molybdenum-based anti-friction coatings. The oil-shedding formulas are applied to the inside of the crankcase, crank counterweights, connecting rods and other internal engine surfaces to reduce the parasitic drag of windage and also to keep oil away from the bottoms of the pistons.
Anti-friction coatings are used throughout the motor but are of particular value on piston skirts and rod bearings. Coated skirts are better at surviving detonation when it rocks the pistons in their bores than uncoated skirts, which are more prone to snagging the bore wall and fracturing, galling or deforming. Coated rod bearings survive the jackhammer blows of detonation better and in those engines we inspected after the competition ended (Jon Kaase, W. Enterprises and BES) showed no signs of wear.
COMBUSTION CHAMBER DESIGN
Because detonation is usually fostered in the area last to burn, many teams prefer small, tight combustion chambers and restrict quench area (any flat portion of the cylinder head that is exposed to the piston) to the bare minimum. This is done by running extremely close piston-to-head clearance, as little as 0.025. Obviously, open-chamber heads are unpopular in this realm.
Here is the heavily reworked combustion chamber of Tony Bischoff's BES Racing Engines Ford 409 Windsor, this year's third-place champion. Note that the spark plug has been moved .25 inch toward the center of the chamber. This allows Tony's team to use less ignition lead time and has been proven on the BES dyno to be worth 30 points in a-b-a testing versus otherwise identical ported Trick Flow Street Heat heads. Also note the filled area between the massive Ferrea 2.125 / 1.600 valves (highlighted in black ink). Welded and blended aluminum fills this low-lying trouble spot present in the stock chamber.
Here's an external view of the repositioned spark plug location on the BES Ford 409. The pointer indicates where welded metal fills the old plug opening.
The Ross pistons used in the BES Ford small-block have 0.060-inch domes and show telltale marks where the pistons just barely kiss the heads at full power. Again, this is done to negate quench area so detonation has to find someplace else to start. We observed similar telltale contact marks in Jon Kaase's winning Ford. It is also important to radius and deburr any sharp edges on the pistons, valves and combustion chambers that can absorb heat and become impromptu spark plugs. Note the drilled gas ports dotting the circumference of these tricked-out pistons. Gas ports allow combustion pressure to get behind the top ring and pressurize it for improved ring seal and cylinder efficiency. Every little bit adds up.
BACK TO EM CHALLENGE