The FinalsThe Engine Masters Challenge competition has gained the attention of our readers, the automotive aftermarket, and many of racing's best minds. For 2003, our goal was to find the best-possible pump gas-urged domestic big-block 470-inch powerplant, and Jon Kaase of Winder, GA showed everyone how it was done.
Check out the power figures on his 460-based Ford engine. His final score of 1178.8 is a combination of the horsepower and torque averages between our target rpm levels of 3,000 and 6,500. The 745 peak horses show the engine is a model of efficiency, while a torque peak of 657.5 ft.-lbs. at 4,900 rpm backs up the power with grunt. Tested with a 14x3-inch Accel round air filter in place, and exhausting through a pair of Magnaflow 3-inch in/out mufflers, Kaase's Ford represents the pinnacle of what could be living under the hood of any late-'60s/early '70s street Mustang in the country with the Hooker headers he chose to run (they will fit an unmodified Mustang chassis).
The engine will be dissected and explored in detail (along with the second and third place winning powerplants) on our pages next month, but first we'll show you how the competition went down. For now, we'll share that the engine wore a set of Kaase's own (by design, not manufacture) Super Cobra Jet heads. Cast and sold by Ford Racing, these cylinder heads are available through your local Ford dealer, and fit our rules contention of being "factory replacement" parts. No mods are required to install them, and they share architecture (intake and exhaust patterns, along with rockers) with factory 460 heads.
Naturally, the heads are only one part of the puzzle, and Kaase's personal hand-finishing of these heads must figure strongly into the equation, but know the parts capable of winning the Engine Masters Challenge are readily available to you, and know the power potential living within them is evident on these pages. This is why the Challenge was created, and you can reap the benefits.
The 12 engines were all shipped to Westech from their respective Regional Qualifying sites. The engines were tested in an identical manner, and each builder was once again informed of the procedures to be followed. The engines would be loaded up on the dyno, with a safety checklist to be gone over prior to firing. Once the builder and the Engine Masters Challenge staff had approved the installation, the engine could be fired and brought up to our target temperatures. With coolant going into the engine at 160 degrees, we were confident the engines were operating at about 180 degrees, which represents a real number on the street. Oil temps were brought up to a similar level, and then the warm-up runs could be made.
The warm-up runs consisted of three pulls at 600 rpm per second, and served to both heat-soak the competing powerplants and ensure they were thoroughly heated up to replicate a street scenario. These pulls also provided preliminary data for the builders to see, should they choose to alter their tune in a 20-minute period to follow. Once the warm-ups were done, each builder was given twenty minutes to fine-tune the timing (through distributor movement only) or jetting (through freedom to change jets and air bleeds) to find their best score. Builders were not limited to the amount of pulls they could make during this time, but the clock would be their only nemesis. Some builders found power; others lost some. Some did both- finding a good tune, then making a last-minute change hoping for more, but ending up with less when the "real" pulls happened. This is racing, and in racing these things happen. In searching for the nation's Engine Master, such calls become the difference between making a name for oneself or learning an important lesson for next year.
The final part of the Engine Masters Challenge for the builders was the three competition pulls. These three dyno passes would be averaged together to find the horsepower and torque numbers used to develop each entrant's score. The ability of an engine to make consistent power over three runs is the key to winning the title, and factors like temperature increase from pull-to-pull becomes paramount. For our readers, this filters out engines making one "good" pull and not being able to back it up immediately. It sidesteps the "peaky" engines that don't make tremendous average power, but do well only within a slim rpm window. It's what makes the Engine Masters Challenge hard, and why it's such a big deal to win. Note that all of the power figures shown here (both peaks and averages) are derived from accumulated data averaged over the three "competition" dyno runs, and peaks on individual passes showed both higher and lower numbers. By sharing the average data, we can confidently post these numbers and know each of these engines can easily claim the power figures we've printed.
SummaryWith the results posted, the testing complete, and the unofficial winner named, we had the chance to look over the field and come to a few conclusions regarding 92-octane big-blocks, the Engine Masters Challenge, and street performance.
The 92-octane gasoline is key to making the Challenge both exciting and unpredictable. Builders are learning to squeeze the most out of these limited octane engines and really make some incredible power. We heard many participants and sponsors asking for higher (race-level) octane to truly showcase the potential within both the engines and the builders. We had to turn them down, and in fact we'd rather run the Challenge on 87-octane than 110-octane.
We genuinely feel the actual power numbers generated in the Challenge are less important than the competition itself. Seeing a variety of professional engine builders doing their best to work with the same 92-octane gas our readers fight with was refreshing. Knowing some of the best tuners on the planet were having to develop ways around low compression to make big average power numbers is beneficial to our readers, and in the long run, will be beneficial to all. Learning to curb detonation and preignition in low compression engines will guide researchers and racers to better efficiency by eliminating the hot spots where pinging starts. Using Engine Masters Challenge winners as models for street performance engines is a good move, and it starts with the capability to burn pump gas effectively when the engine is up to operating temperature and being heavily loaded. This is what we do in the Challenge, and is also why we do it in this manner.
The Engine Masters Challenge program, as a whole, is a good thing. It brings together an eclectic mix of builders and philosophies, and runs them against each other head-to-head. There is room for improvement, however, and we're not blind to it. The logistics behind shipping engines across the country, the difficulty of developing a truly fair rules package fair to all makes, and the need to effectively load and unload engines during testing are all being addressed for next year's rumble. We learned plenty, and the program will continue to evolve toward a higher level of competition. Look forward to where we're headed, as we're confident you'll be as excited as we are.
The Engine Masters Challenge will impact the current state of street performance. We know many of the engines you've seen may not be what you could comfortably define as "daily-driver street engines" and they clearly push the limit of the term "street engine." We think this is fine, as we expected limits to be pushed and innovation to be seen. To truly take Engine Masters Challenge information and make it work under your hood, we encourage you to look at these engines as "models" to build from. The tips, tricks, modifications, and parts used can all assist you in making more power in your street machine. Sure, some compression ratios are too high for your daily driver, and yes, some of the camshafts in these engines are too aggressive for a smooth idle. We know this. What you should be doing is seeing what works on engines of your favorite make and also those of other makes.
Next month we'll be offering a look inside the top three engines. We took plenty of measurements and photos, spoke at length with the builders, and even flowed the cylinder heads. The 470-inch dimensions of these engines should be able to offer readers a really solid benchmark to build from, and the top-end packages should work wonderfully on lower-compression street-type short-blocks our readers can afford, or already have.
We've included the contact information for the builders involved in the Challenge, and we'd recommend working with them on your own project. They have proven their knowledge to us without question. They've earned the respect of their peers and those who manufacture the parts that helped them do so well. They've researched the needs of a 470-inch engine on 92-octane and they figured it all out so you don't have to. So, as we've said before, of you've got a 440, 454, 455, 460, or 472-inch engine with a normal overbore, this information will help you go faster. All you have to do is pay attention, and work with those who've proven their knowledge in our forum.
Congratulations to all the Engine Masters Challenge finalists on your accomplishments. You're all experts, and we look forward to seeing more of your expertise next year, when once again we'll be on a nationwide search for the best engine builder in America. Who will be the next to hold the huge check and take home the coveted trophy? Will it be Jon Kaase again? Will Joe Sherman come back and win once more? Or, will we have an entirely different winner? Only time will tell, but we're already looking forward to crowning the next Engine Master!