Tony Bischoff and his team at BES Racing Engines are all about making power, and they proved it at the 2005 Engine Masters Challenge. Tony has been a professional engine builder since the age of 22, and a competitor for longer than that. When asked how he liked the competition, he joked, "I liked everybody but Lennart," referring to Lennart Bergquist, who walked away with the top spot. A three-time competitor, Tony is always playing to win. On a more serious note, Tony related that one of the best parts of the Engine Masters competition has been getting to know the other builders, "All the people there are really good, so I really enjoyed that part of it." Tony's BES Racing Engines has been in the competition for the last three years, and their big-block Chevy entry came home in the runner-up spot with a 1265.67 score in the finals, making as much as 838 hp at 6,200 rpm. That's pretty astounding, and made us want to go in for a closer look.
Racers and engine builders aren't too quick to spill their hard-earned speed secrets, and Tony was no exception, but he was more than willing to elaborate on the detailed aspects of his build--after we twisted his arm pretty hard. The toughest part for Tony is managing the day-to-day duties of the business, and working in enough time for adequate testing. This year, the engine was finished only a week before the contest. Tony says, "You don't necessarily start it that late, but end up finishing it that late." Tony doesn't subscribe to a grandiose philosophy when it comes to a combination for the overall engine configuration, "You can get theories on bores and strokes that go both ways, and they're just theories." Tony continued, "I've never done a real small-bore, long-stroke combo. Of course, those are the guys who keep winning, so maybe that's the best way to go, but I'm not really convinced that that's the case." Tony built a bigger bore engine, with a 4.421-inch bore and a 4.140-inch stroke. According to Bischoff, the bore and stroke was arrived at because he already had the crank.Tony does believe that a relatively short rod versus the stroke is a good thing, especially down low at 2,500 rpm.
Tony explained, "I think the rod angle helps torque on the bottom; then there's the thing about the dwell at TDC being faster so it doesn't detonate so bad. I don't know if that's actually true or not, but I do know it makes more torque down low." Tony utilized a 6.300-inch Eagle rod, and conceded that he would have gone with even a shorter rod, but the added piston length and weight can be a problem. Tony pointed out, "It would pull the pin so far to the bottom of the cylinder that short of sleeving the block and hanging the sleeves down lower, it will hurt more than help, so I didn't want to go any shorter."
Bischoff believes the real secret to the competition is getting done with everything you want to do in time and testing extensively. Because the engine was completed so close to the deadline, Bischoff felt additional testing could have made a difference. "Ideally, you'd want to try a bunch of different cams and intakes, but as the timing worked out, we didn't have a chance to try a lot of different parts, and just worked on the tune-up."
The compression ratio was pretty stout at 12.5:1, and that may have been pushing it. Bischoff disclosed, "It may have been a mistake. Lennart was smart enough to test with 89 octane, while I was really thrilled when I was testing, since the engine didn't rattle at all, but that testing was on 93 octane. When we put the 91 [octane fuel] in it in New York, we had 5 or 6 degrees less timing in it than in testing." In the qualifying tune-up period the BES crew worked to dial in the timing for the local conditions and spec fuel with extensive tune-up pulls. Tony relates it can be difficult to tune within the time limitations of the competition: "It's tough to see the gains you're going to get with one- or two-degree changes in timing during the tune-up period of competition, since the (engine) temperature can change."
Pop the lid on Tony Bischoff's 508-cube big-block Chevy and start the hunt--there are cust
Tony custom-crafted the chambers to create a dual-quench pad, substantially filling the pl
A closer look at the Ross custom pistons reveals a mirror image of the Brodix head's chamb
A look into the chamber with the valves out reveals the hand-ported bowls. The porting was
The heads were re-located on the dowels to move them 0.100 inch inward, to align the valve
On the exhaust side, Bischoff regrets not going bigger with the port. Bischoff relates, "T
The intake ports carry epoxy work in the floor, a move to dial in the port cross-sectional
This big-block shares the rod journal diameter with a Honda four. Bischoff disclosed that
Reduced bearing diameter follows through to the mains, which is harder to accomplish than
Competing in an event like the Engine Masters Challenge demands that the total combination is working optimally for the rpm range. Tony was quick to point out that much of the development of his engine was directed at producing power down low, while keeping out of detonation. Here, Tony applied some conventional techniques, as well as some unusual tricks. The fire slots on the pistons were something Tony had little previous experience with, at least that he would admit to. Tony laughs, "I have no idea what they do, this is the first motor I've put together like that, and it wasn't tested before and after, so I don't have any idea of whether it helped." We did note that the engine did not detonate, and upon tech inspection after the competition the pistons and rings didn't show any signs of scuffing.
On a more conventional front, to help control detonation, Tony went pretty tight on the quench clearance, about 0.035 inch, which was about as tight as he was willing to cut it with the weight of the pistons and the stroke length. An area Tony would have liked to explore further is the use of thermal coatings. Pressed by time constraints, there was a worry about getting the parts back in time for the competition. Some thermal management techniques were employed, basically trying to keep heat away from where it hurts, and keep it in where it can help. Here again, the thermal coating would have been a useful tool, but some other tricks were employed. The lower valley tray of the intake manifold was cut out, and a divorced valley plate was substituted to try to keep the heat out of the manifold. As is usually the case, Bischoff had more ideas than time, "I wanted to make some phenolic spacers for it but didn't have time to get it done. I know that stuff works."
The heads, needless to say, are extensively modified, with the work performed in-house at BES Racing. Starting at the chambers, the sparkplug side was filled in to produce a squish zone on both sides of the chamber. A noticeable modification was the use of a very small diameter sparkplug. Bischoff explained, "I moved the plug closer to the center of the chamber, and Brodix runs coolant around their plugs; without knowing exactly where the water is, the smaller plug let me remove less material when moving the plug from one side to the other." Filling out the chamber were large 2.300-inch intake valves and 1.800-inch exhaust valves.
Bischoff saw some room for improvement with the valves, "I originally had Manley No. 424 springs in it, and just before shipping the motor, I took the centers out of the springs. I knocked a bunch of spring pressure out of it, taking the load from 290 closed and 675 open to 220/500. It picked up my score a couple of numbers, so I left it that way, but if you look at my dyno sheet, I believe it was going into valve float at 6,400 or 6,500 rpm. I wish I had put in lighter valves, maybe put 5/16-inch stems in it and it might have let it carry the higher rpm. Peak power changed from above 6,600 to just 6,300 after taking out the inner spring." The Brodix-4 heads were fully ported at BES, but Tony saw more potential there, too, "I think my intake port was a little too big, and the exhaust was way too small; I just left it too small." The final size of the intake port was given as 3.9 square-inches. Asked about what it takes to cut a good intake port for the competition, Bischoff replied, "Make it flow as good as possible without making it too big."
The intake manifold and induction configuration is another vital aspect of a competition engine. Tony finds that the operating rpm range used in the competition adds a level of difficulty to getting the ideal combinations, "What works at 2,500 in the manifold is exactly the opposite of what works at 6,500. All the work we did on the manifold hurt peak horsepower a little, but at 2,500 we picked up 50 to 60 ft-lbs." The BES racing dyno is equipped with individual Lambda sensors for each cylinder, which helped to dial in the air/fuel ratio. Tony continued, "The work we did on the manifold may not have helped or even hurt the top-end. The end cylinders at 2,500 are really lean, and at 4,500 it would cross over and everything would go the other way. Basically you need a lot of air speed to keep the fuel in the air suspended, and at low speed it gets separated. That's why you need to try to direct the fuel where you want it to go. We dammed the center runners at the floor with epoxy to richen the end cylinders at low speeds. The end cylinders were dead lean that low; the air/fuel ratio was in the range of 16 or 17:1. As rpm went up they would even up; it was just at the low-end. Interestingly, the dams were originally just crudely put in there at the four center runners, making a rough 1/8- or 3/16-inch ridge, and that helped the score a bunch. Then I took the manifold off and polished it all out and made it real nice, and it actually hurt my score a couple of numbers. The HVH spacer helped the low-end numbers too, but didn't really make much difference at the top."
To make the most of the induction and heads, the camshaft is a critical component. Here, experience is the key. Tony used a custom 256/268 Comp roller cam with 0.846-inch lift. When selecting lobe profiles, Tony revealed that he was after high intensity: "We looked in the Comp book and found the quickest lobes we could find, and put that in it. I've never seen a quicker cam not make more power everywhere. They may make some faster ones, but that was the quickest one they had in the book." The quick lobes were linked to the valves with Crane 1.8:1 rockers, while a Jesel belt drive provided the spin. Speaking on the cam's timing, Bischoff elaborated, "Originally the cam went in at a 102-degree intake centerline; I would have liked to try putting it in a little more advanced, but it didn't have enough valve-to-piston clearance. Advancing and retarding did exactly what you'd expect; retarding would pick up the top-end numbers, but cost down low."
An extensively modified Eagle crank was the main player down at the bottom end. We asked Tony about the small journals, and how they fit in with his plan. Tony replied, "Oil control is important, but I never use scrapers. I'm a firm believer in controlling the flow of pressurized oil. You have to set the bearing clearances for the oil viscosity you are going to run. The small journals bleed-off less oil with tight clearances, and also help with the slower bearing speed. The roller cam bearings were used primarily to control oil. Restricting the oil to the top end is a big help. I like to spread the drainback though the whole motor instead of putting it all in the front or the back. Unless you can get it completely away from the crankshaft, dumping it all on top of the (No.) 7 and 8 cylinders isn't such a good idea. If your oil is restricted enough to the top end, keeping just enough to keep your pushrods in, there will be very little drainback anyway. The trick is to restrict it right.
Bischoff's big-block carried tricks and custom touches practically everywhere we looked, and probably a few we missed. That's this racer's edge. Most of the modifications were learned with hard work by the builder and his team, and done in-house at BES. You've got to respect the competitiveness of a man willing to work that hard for that little bit of an edge. The BES racing crew's performance at the Engine Masters Challenge proves the point.
Edelbrock's 454 R intake manifold didn't escape Bischoff's handiwork. The intake runners w
A closer look into the plenum shows the extended runners. Asked what they did, Tony disclo
Flipping the intake over reveals that the entire bottom of the manifold was cut away. Tony
As installed in the engine, the separate valley plate creates an air gap under the intake.
Hooker 2 1/8-inch headers were the standard catalog item. Bischoff felt a more elaborate s
A Steff's full-length pan was used, with a screen type tray. Tony controls oil flow past t
A Pro Systems Dominator delivered the fuel. Inside, Tony worked the circuits and jets at e
Beneath the carb Bischoff used an HVH two-inch tapered spacer, "The spacer was definitely
Tony's valvetrain looked conventional and if there was any trickery in the Crane 1.8:1-rat
|Basic Engine Specs: |
|Size:||508 ci |
|Bore:||4.421-inch, Dart block |
|Stroke:||4.140-inch, Eagle crank |
|Rods:||6.300-inch, Eagle |
|Compression ratio: ||12.5:1 compression, Ross pistons |
|Heads:||Brodix-4 Extra |
|Carb:||1100 Pro Systems Holley |
|Camshaft:||Comp, 256/268-duration, 0.850-inch lift, 108 LSA |
|Top horsepower:||834 at 6,300 rpm |