With so much attention paid to the battle between the top six qualifiers, it's easy to forget that 33 teams came, saw, but didn't conquer. Even though they went home empty handed, these guys are Engine Masters in their own right and we hope to see them again next at year's challenge. Here are a few of their stories.
Though Fords and Chevys rose to the top of this year's competition, a refreshing blend of non-mainstream entries were fielded. Here's the 409.5-inch Pontiac of Whitewells Auto Repair of Tuscon, Arizona. Whitewells team consists of Charles Roebuck, Paul Carter and Robert "Smitty" Smith (not shown). Based on a Pontiac 400 block, 389 crankshaft, CAT 6.8-inch Chevy rods and ported Edelbrock heads, an ignition misfire limited peak output to 541.5 hp and 500.4 lb.-ft. resulting in a score of 856.5 points. Charles says, "We made our own plug wires and maybe one of the crimps wasn't good. I sure wish the rules allowed plug wire changes after the engine is in the dyno room. We lost 60 hp and 20 lb.-ft. to that darned ignition problem."
Ron Shaver of Shaver Racing Engines in Torrance, California says: "We took a real gamble on the ring package in our Chevy 409. The radial tension of the oil scraper rings is very low to reduce friction as much as possible. But I think we are oil fouling spark plugs and getting some detonation from oil contamination. I was really cringing during the long warm up period. At power, the top rings seal great but at idle the oil rings are the Achilles heel. A vacuum pump would have helped. Too bad they're not legal." Despite the handicap, Shaver and Tom Masek (on right) managed peak numbers of 639.6 hp and 579.2 lf.-ft. and scored a respectable 988.0.
Joe Sherman of Joe Sherman Racing Engines in Santa Ana, California got a scare when he started his 409.6-inch Chevy for the first time and the ignition timing read 15 BTDC regardless of engine speed. Here he shouts, "It's waaaay retarded," as PHR's Scott Parkhurst (left) takes a look. The problem was solved by MSD's Todd Ryden who traced it to an incorrectly wired ignition box. Judged not to be Sherman's fault, the offending wires were uncrossed and the engine produced 461.4 hp, 530 ft.-lbs. and a score of 990.0. Sherman advises: "Too many guys are making tune-up changes on cold engines. They're shooting a moving target. I tune for the third pull, when the engine is as heat soaked as it's gonna get."
M&M Performance of Billings, Misouri had a close shave with the rule book. Here, Dan Morley shows off the big-tube headers and requisite adapter plates he had intended to use in competition on the team's 401-inch Chevy. Problem is, rules prohibit the non-stock exhaust bolt pattern caused by the adapters. Fellow competitor, Andy Brown of the Performance Crankshaft team loaned the M&M guys a set of smaller headers and 571.3 hp, 538.1 lb.-ft. resulted (score 917.1). As for Performance Crankshaft, their stroked Chevy made 559.3 hp and 541.1 lb.-ft. on its way to a 917.6 score. Though neither team qualified for the finals, both exemplify the helpful spirit of Engine Masters competitors.
The West Covina, CA-based Speed-O-Motive team of George Ullrich, Bill Shoemaker and Mike Ostling entered this 406-inch Ford Windsor but encountered tuning problems. Ostling tells us: "We walked in the door expecting the same 1,030 scores we got on our DTS dyno in California but only scored an 819.7 with peaks of 503.2 hp and 484.4 lb.-ft. I think our problem is the oxygenated gasoline formulation sold in California has a very different burn rate than the gas used in competition. This put us at a real disadvantage and we had to start from scratch and come up with proper jetting all inside of 20 minutes. It didn't happen."
The Crower Power / ESI team looked tough with this 408 cube Ford Windsor and was in the number three qualifying position with 963.3 points briefly before getting bumped. Dan Crower (left) and Jon Cloud came all the way from San Diego. In this shot taken during the tuning period the team increases jet sizing from 86 to 88 and retards timing from 31 to 29 BTDC.
John Beck of Pro Machine in Placentia, CA was a one-man band, tuning his Chevy 406 all by himself. Peak numbers were 592.1 hp and 565.9 ft.-lbs. with a total of 971.0 points. Beck, shown here on right, says, "Even though I was a little worried about the New York air, the motor did exactly what it did on my DTS dyno in California after I switched from 90 to 93 jets in the Dominator. I guess I just didn't bring enough poop to run with the boys."
Nelson Racing Engines brought a 410-cube Chevy with 11.8:1 compression from Chatsworth, California only to lose the number-six intake pushrod and rocker arm during the third qualifying pull. Tom Nelson (shown) says, "I knew something went away when power dropped off by 140 hp during the last pull." (The peak numbers were 536.3 hp and 491.5 lb.-ft. before breakage.) Bad luck was no stranger as the crated motor was quarantined by the Los Angeles International airport ground crew for 3 days because handlers smelled residual gasoline fumes and tagged it as hazardous material. Team competition number was 13.
Dave McLain of Cuba, Misouri-based Team 335 poses with the fuel drum that ran dry in dyno cell 3 during a full power qualifying pull. Fortunately, no harm resulted and the team's 408-cube Ford Cleveland subsequently made 657.8 hp and 561.7 lb.-ft. while scoring a 955.7. Team 335 is made up of a bunch of Ford fans who met on the internet and entered last year's Engine Masters Challenge with a 466 Ford (385 series) big-block. The team takes its name from the Ford engineering designation for the 335-series Cleveland small-block engine family.
The Traco Engineering entry experienced massive bad luck due to broken and misfiring sparkplugs that were damaged during cross country shipment of the team's 409 inch Chevy. Here Robert Griego and Larry Salisbury extinguish flames caused by severe backfiring. Prior to shipping, the 11.5:1 motor made 610 hp and 580 lb.-ft. on the Traco dyno and should have been a contender. A $1.00 part can cost so much.
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