Power Struggle at the 2005 Engine Masters Challange
The 2005 Engine Masters Challange crowns a new king -- and queen
From the February, 2009 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Steve Dulcich
Photography by Johnny Hunkins, Steve Dulcich, The PHR Staff
With the wrap-up of the 2005 Engine Masters Challenge, we mark the fourth season of our engine building compe-tition with a new champion team: Lennart and Birgitta Bergquist of Autoshop Racing Engines. The handshakes have been made, the checks presented to the three money finishers, and, before we pack our bags, editor Hunkins has the photo-graphy sorted. We organize our notes, tapes, and spec sheets while the last of the competitor's engines are boxed up for the return ride home. It seems kind of lonely at World Products Headquarters late Saturday afternoon, as a light rain begins to fall and Jon Kaase loads his mighty Pontiac entry into the back of his Ford pickup for the long drive back to Georgia. Kaase is the last competitor to leave. The former champ finished Fourth in this year's event, after having taken the top spot in the last two of the previous three years of competition. This man's engine-building talent brought with it a pervasive fear of a virtual hammerlock on the number-one position. Right to the end, it was a wild and exciting week of racing engines.
On opening day, it was anyone's game. The Engine Masters Challenge is run over the course of a week, taking advantage of the three DTS dyno cells built into the back of Bill Mitchell's World Products engine facility in the heart of Long Island. The receiving area of World Products was alive with activity as the engines were uncrated and prepped for their round in the preliminary qualifying runs. Long before the competitors arrived, World had prepped the facility for the onslaught. Inside, assigned DTS dyno-docking carts awaited in rows, and Mitchell's normally busy engine-building stalls were cleared. The crew from DTS also arrived in advance, and each of the three dynos were calibrated and confirmed by running a test engine in each cell. To aid in acquiring tuning data, the latest Lambda air/fuel ratio acquisition instrumentation from Exhaust Gas Technologies was added to the battery of data-gathering equipment feeding the DTS dyno computer. On Monday morning, the place was prepped and ready for a rumble--and so were the competitors.
The Stage is Set
Under the rules for the 2005 Challenge, the engines were carbureted big-blocks running on 91 octane Shell V-Power pump gas, with a displacement limit of 509 ci--the fattest displacement ever for Engine Masters. There was no doubt this year's event would shatter the power levels seen before; the big question remaining was who would finish on top. The qualifying sessions would provide some insight as the engines showed their numbers. The top two competitors in qualifying from each dyno cell would earn a place in the finals, and these six finalists would duke it out for a piece of the healthy $160,000 purse and the prestige of a podium position.
This year's Engine Masters is scored by a combination of the average horsepower and average torque over a set rpm range, 2,500-6,500 rpm. After the engine is fired up, it is run to reach an operating temperature of 160-degree coolant and oil temp, or for a maximum of five minutes if those temperature levels are not met. The dyno pulls immediately follow. First comes a series of three warm-up pulls run back-to-back over the entire 2,500-6,500-rpm range. Sound simple? Consider it from a builder's perspective. There is no tuning allowed through the three back-to-back warm-up pulls, giving no real opportunities to "test the waters," so to speak, on how the engine will respond at wide-open throttle under the local conditions. An error in judgment on the initial settings of fuel mixture and timing can prove disastrous.
Detonation is always the limiting factor in this pump-gas war. Cylinder pressure is torque, and torque production equates to power output, so it is no surprise that pushing cylinder pressure to the limits is part of any serious competitor's program. With 91-octane fuel, the limit of cylinder pressure is constrained by the level at which detonation has the engine feeding upon itself rather than making power. It's a fuzzy, ill-defined limit that can vary greatly with atmospheric conditions of barometric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and vapor pressure. The high barometric pressure and October air served to accentuate cylinder pressure and aggravate the potential for devastating detonation. This would prove to have quite a bearing on the competition's final results.
In the qualifying rounds, many competitors found themselves with a lump in their throats listening to unexpected and brutal detonation on the first warm-up pull. Unfortunately, by then the point of no return has been crossed. Under the rules, the builder has no recourse but to let things ride and suffer through two more pulls in rapid succession, or withdraw from competition. With the heat added by each subsequent pull, the tendency toward detonation is amplified. By the third pull, the detonation can become disastrous. Too aggressive a tune-up out of the chute stung more than one competitor in qualifying. Needless to say, the dyno procedure is no walk in the park, with the low 2,500-rpm starting point and back-to-back protocol conspiring to exact a brutal toll on these edgy pump-gas mills.
The testing is brutal, but it's a fitting punctuation to what it takes just to make the show. These are the private stories of the builders that don't get told or captured by the camera, the months of planning, building, hands-on wrenching, and testing that goes into an Engine Masters effort. Every builder who made it to the event survived the trials of building and the inevitable setbacks. For some of our competitors, component failures in testing prior to the event meant `round-the-clock repairs eating into precious testing time. In other instances, holdups in parts availability had the entire engine programs changed and rethought at the 11th hour. All our builders had lived the competition for months prior to the final showdown at World.
By the first day, pre-event attrition had brought our field down to 19 competitors for the qualifying rounds. The anticipation was high for the first day of competition, with two engines scheduled for qualifying attempts. The opener was Donald Williams, son of two-time Second Place finisher Charles Williams of Newport News, Virginia. Donald's engine, fielded under the Pump Gas Performance banner was actually the very same mill run by his father in the `03 Engine Masters Challenge, reconfigured to fit within this year's 509ci limit. There was no doubt this was a well-developed powerplant, as proven by its performance two years ago. However, the first up for qualifying was also the first to succumb to savage detonation and the unforgiving testing regime. Donald's engine finished the qualifying session, but the damaging detonation compromised its potential. It was a scenario we would see repeated throughout the competition. For the second and final competitor of the day, Gary Blair of Blair Racing, the event ended in a much more decisive fashion, with an unlikely failure involving a seized distributor shaft stripping the distributor drive gear. This dashed Blair's hopes of success with his big-block Ford in the most disappointing way--ending its bid before the engine could even flex its muscle.
It was clear from the experiences of the first day's competition that the test conditions would undoubtedly take a toll. The lineup for day two included six hopeful entrants, beginning with the Chevrolet of Lennart and Birgitta Bergquist of Autoshop Racing Engines. Veterans of last year's events, the Swedish duo seemingly sought a detuned effort, with their 11.5:1 compression big-block. While the quietly confident, reserved, and methodical Bergquist went steadily about the business of preparing the mild-appearing engine on the dyno, there was little to give away the display of power to come. Lennart, aware of the critical nature of detonation tolerance, defied convention by performing his pre-event testing on 89-octane fuel. Even so, in view of the experiences of the previous day's competitors, Lennart conservatively backed timing out of the engine prior to qualifying. The big-block laid down a staggering 844 hp and 740 lb-ft of torque, and a qualifying number of 1285.33--a number that would stand at the number-one spot until the last day of qualifying.
Next up was the Cadillac entry of Donovan Harrison and John Wallace of Torque Inc. The team made a valiant effort to make the show, burning the midnight oil to repair damage incurred in prior testing. Pre-event dyno testing had shown this big production-based Caddy entry made the power for a strong showing. Despite the hard work, the engine experienced bearing problems and possibly a down cylinder in qualifying, leaving the team with the tough decision of withdrawing after the second scored pull, or risk total destruction of the engine. Reluctantly, they left with a DNF. Automotive Machine and Performance's Buick fared better. The Buick, essentially a street engine destined for a customer's car, was built to showcase the Buick's potential in true street trim. The big Buick was obviously fully prepared and ran flawlessly through the regime. Mike Phillips and Dave Wink handled the tuning chores with precision, tuning to an 1138 score, while delivering as much as 713 hp.
Tony Bischoff's entry was next, and Bischoff is always one to be taken seriously. This engine was clearly a powerhouse, and Bischoff was determined to get the most from his combination. With the assistance of Richard Kolb, Tony beat on the Chevrolet relentlessly during the tune-up phase of the competition in an effort to find the optimal carb and timing settings. The downside of this strategy is that the engine will retain heat, which would be sure to hamper the output during the scored qualifying runs. Nevertheless, with the engine producing as much as 834 hp and a final qualifying score of 1265.67, Bischoff was no doubt confident the entry would make the finals, so inevitably, it was time well spent in exploring the limits of his healthy Chevy. The extensive experimentation during qualifying would give Bischoff an edge in knowing how the engine would respond to tuning changes going into the finals.
Dove Performance, followed by Cadillac Performance Parts, would finish out the day. Dove, well known in FE Ford circles, had encountered parts-delivery problems, which curbed its development program on an all-new engine. This forced the team to field a well-seasoned and somewhat undersized 488-cube FE, originally built back in 1991. With tuning, Jim and David Dove scored a 1029 from their second-string mill. The Cadillac entry of Richard Potter was next and possessed the purposeful look of a real contender. Its debut was much anticipated, creating a buzz at the World shop as Potter prepared to run. Potter is intensely competitive and a true gentleman. By the number of custom mods readily apparent in this entry, Potter had seriously raised the bar on Cadillac engine development for this competition, no doubt an effort entailing endless late nights at the workshop. Apparent disaster struck when the harmonic balancer split the hub and launched from the crank snout on the second warm-up pull. As allowed by this year's rules, repairs can be made during the tuning period, and Potter was able to source a replacement damper from withdrawn competitors Torque Inc. A frenzied effort had the balancer replaced in the allotted time. Nevertheless, in the process, all of the available tuning time had been devoured. Potter had no choice but to run the engine in its baseline tune agonizingly lean of the required mixture. Hampered by a lack of fuel, the engine posted an 1130.33, well short of Potter's expectations and the performance the engine had proven capable of in pre-event testing.
Day three opened with the only Mopar entry of the event, the B1-headed wedge of Monroe, Wisconsin's T&B's Performance Machine. Tom and Brenda Foley built the engine to reflect the real street potential of a Mopar wedge and, in fact, this very engine was built for a customer's car, rather than as a definitive dyno-race exercise. The husband and wife shared equally in the building duty, with Brenda having ported the cylinder heads. The team, along with their four young children, made the trip to Long Island a family event, and their pleasant and warm attitude added immeasurably to the friendly and inviting spirit of the competition. The Foleys were pleased when the Mopar made numbers on par with their testing at home, posting a solid 1173 composite score, and making as much as 732 hp.
Following the Mopar was the strongest Ford showing: The 385-series big-block from Livernois Motorsports of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. John Lohone and crew calmly and methodically undertook to tune the serious Ford via air bleeds and timing, and found the powerplant capable of 817 hp and 733 lb-ft, delivering a composite average score of 1251. The Livernois engine was one of the few that showed power progressively gaining with each of the subsequent qualifying pulls, indicating this engine setup was far from the ragged edge. A sharp tuning aid employed by Livernois was the use of a knock sensor to indicate detonation. The total score put the Livernois team deep in the running for the finals.
Another Ford, and the second FE big-block in the field, was Barry Rabotnick's West Bloomfield, Michigan, entry. Rabotnick, a long-time Ford man and a well-known aftermarket industry insider, entered the competition as a privateer. The initial plans were for a much more radical FE, but as with the Dove FE Ford effort, parts delivery was to prove elusive before the required deadline. With resolve, Rabotnick realigned his program to a more conservative effort, rounding up the required FE parts to affect a build in time for the competition. The 505-cube engine, topped with Blue Thunder heads, delivered 752 hp, which was more than Barry had expected based on preliminary testing and a strong showing from a very practical Ford powerplant.
As the Rabotnick Ford was dismounted from the dyno cell, yet another Ford, the 385-series engine from Englewood, Colorado's MPG Heads was fired up in the next dyno cell. Scott Main and Bob Moore had determined ahead of time that the air conditions in their native Colorado differed significantly enough from those at World, and that relevant testing would have to be done away from their local facility. The engine was tested in Iowa just prior to the event and was seriously damaged in the process. Leak-down testing showed compromised cylinder sealing, and the engine was triaged upon delivery at World. The most apparent problem was a destroyed valve-seat insert. Scott and Bob actually machined and replaced the insert at World prior to the preliminaries and managed to make it to qualifying. However, the damage to the engine proved more extensive, as the power was down and declining, while a metallic knock signaled the need to withdraw for a DNF.
Mile High Performance's big-bore big-block Chevy was to be the last engine tested on day three. The entry, built in conjunction with Pro-Built engines, looked to be a well-developed piece, and the crew of Jay Kidwell, Wayne Gill, and Fred Morgan worked with amazing coordination and competence in the cell. Their abilities were really put to the test when catastrophic sounds of destruction rang from the dyno cell on one of the warm-up pulls at the top of the rpm range. A check of the damage revealed that the flywheel ring gear had been thrown and lodged between the block and flywheel. It would have appeared that their day was done, but with unreal determination, the trio set upon the engine to make a repair using the tune-up period. Remarkably, the Mile High team had the Chevy disconnected from the dyno, rolled back, the flywheel removed, the offending ring gear dislodged, and the engine planted back onto the DTS in the time allotted. Back in the hunt, but with every scrap of tune-up time consumed, the engine ran for a score of 1196.67, which would prove to be enough to make the finals.
It wasn't all sunshine as...
It wasn't all sunshine as the minutes ticked down after months of preparation. Scott Main of MPG works to remove and replace a valve seat in his wounded warrior, but engine damage would lead to a DNF.
Some of the competitors had...
Some of the competitors had to make last-minute adjustments to meet the exhaust requirements; however the Williams' experience had executed the needed system perfectly.
It was anyone's game on opening...
It was anyone's game on opening day of the 2005 Engine Masters Challenge. Our host, World Products, was fully prepped for the onslaught, and the World crew tended to loading the competitors' engines on the DTS dyno carts for the powerfest to come.
Gary Blair (right) of Blair...
Gary Blair (right) of Blair racing was the only other competitor to run on opening day, with a big-bore Ford combo. Engine Masters has evolved into an event with unwavering camaraderie amongst the competitors. Randy Malik (left) also competing with a Ford, was Blair's corner man, offering advice and assistance.
Blair's Ford effort fell to...
Blair's Ford effort fell to a bizarre failure when the distributor shaft seized, stripping the drive gear bare of teeth. It was a painful and unexpected end for Blair, and marked our first day's end with two DNFs.
As Lennart and Birgitta wheeled...
As Lennart and Birgitta wheeled the Autoshop Racing Engines Chevy into the dyno cell to launch our second day of qualifying testing, few expected the team to set a high-water mark that would last to the very end.
Fired up and run through the...
Fired up and run through the warm-ups, there was little fanfare early in the competition as the Autoshop Chevy posted its massive numbers on the DTS dyno.
Experienced FE Ford specialists...
Experienced FE Ford specialists Jim and David Dove brought a 15-year-old back-up motor well under the cubic-inch limit at 488 cid. Even so, the team showed their tuning skills in the cell, reading plugs for mixture reference and posting 646-peak hp.
Automotive Machine's Mike...
Automotive Machine's Mike Philips fielded the lone Buick, a high-end flat-tappet street engine. It performed flawlessly, punctuating the ability of the Buick to make power, but not at the level of the purpose-built engines.
Tony Bischoff and Richard...
Tony Bischoff and Richard Kolb tune the BES entry at a mind-boggling rate, flogging their Chevy in the qualifying tune-up period like no other team.
Disaster struck the Potter...
Disaster struck the Potter team when the balancer spit a hub and launched across the cell during the warm-up pull. Potter was able to secure a replacement from eliminated Torque Inc., and with a frenzied effort, made the repair just in time.
Brenda Foley of T&B Performance...
Brenda Foley of T&B Performance wheeled the company's Mopar wedgeto meet the DTS dyno. Having performed all of the porting work, then machining and assembling the engine with her husband Tom, Brenda had an integral role in the effort.
Barry Rabotnick, who decided...
Barry Rabotnick, who decided his engine was running so well it didn't need any tuning, fielded another FE Ford entry. Barry's buddy Tim Young handed him a mallet and suggested going to work with that. The FE put out a peak of 752 hp, a number that is a strong showing in anyone's book.
Jay Kidwell from Mile High...
Jay Kidwell from Mile High brings years of carb-tuning experience to the Mile High/Pro Built Chevy team. The well-organized group made the finals with a 1,196.67 score.
Bad luck struck the Ford 385-series...
Bad luck struck the Ford 385-series entry of Randy Malik when an unresolved cooling issue sent temperatures through the roof, forcing the resignation of this formidable Ford.
Traco Engineering's big-block...
Traco Engineering's big-block Chevy was an exquisitely detailed showpiece. The company's sole representative, Larry Salisbury, handled the wrenching duties with the deft precision of a surgeon.
Misfortune struck a second...
Misfortune struck a second time at the Williams camp when Charles' Chevrolet exhibited severe detonation in qualifying. Though Williams worked the light in the tuning period to determine the best balance of power and longevity, the Chevy fiercely rattled in protest, causing a DNF.
Day four would mark the final day of qualifying, and the drama was only accelerating. With the qualifying ladder loosely based on reverse of the competitor rankings in previous competitions, some of the heaviest hitters were going to make their bids to qualify on the final day. Randy Malik, running a 385-series Ford under the RM Competition banner, would start the day's events. Malik is a cool and competent builder, an expert with the large Ford, and experienced in the Engine Masters event. In other words, he's as dangerous as a Cobra to the competition. With the help of fellow Ford competitor Gary Blair, Malik was ready to do battle. Soon after starting the engine, however, a cooling problem became apparent. Under the rules, there is a strict time limit allowed to fire the engine for competition. The erratic readings of the temperature probe suggested an air lock in the engine curbing the precious flow of cooling water. Malik immediately went to work to determine the cause of the problem, but it remained unresolved. The dyno crew set upon the cooling system, only to confirm water present at the engine's junctions. With the exact reason for the problem undetermined, time was called and Malik was in the unenviable position of having to run his engine with the cooling systems function unconfirmed. Under the load of the dyno the coolant temperature became critical, forcing Malik to withdraw.
Hubbard, Ohio's Clayton's Performance has been a competitor in every Engine Masters Challenge since the inception, and its hopes were high for a strong showing with the company's small-bore, long-stroke, short-rod, big-block Chevy. Neil Clayton and Ron Mathews used the limited tuning time attempting to wring out the best jetting and timing setting to extract the most from their engine. The team had little development time before the event, and was disappointed to be short on their power goals, scoring a 1099 in qualifying. Neil related, "We were just way too short on development time on testing the combination for this year's event. This was the first time I had put together a long-stroke combination, and I'd never do it again. I didn't like it and it didn't like me." Always the competitors, we expect these guys to be back.
All eyes were on returning...
All eyes were on returning two-time champ Jon Kaase's Pontiac entry, and the professional didn't disappoint. Kasse's Pontiac didn't make the most horsepower, but the torque was unimaginably brutal, with as much as 626 lb-ft present at the 2,500-rpm bottom and a peak of 764 lb-ft. Maintaining the numbers through three pulls would be Kaase's Achilles' heel.
Next into the fray was Traco Engineering's big-block Chevy from Los Angeles. The engine looked like a showpiece, exquisitely detailed in every way. Larry Salisbury was alone to tend to the engine's needs, and the man went about the duties with deliberateness and precision that defined an intensely cool and unwavering professionalism. The engine was not purposely built as a dyno competitor, but more representative of an endurance road-race-style engine. On pump gas, detonation proved to be a plague, undoubtedly costing power. With a score of 980.47, the engine fell short of qualifying for the finals.
Another Southern California entry followed, again a big-block Chevy, this one fielded by the well-known Sprint Car engine specialist Ron Shaver of Shaver Specialty Co. Shaver brought a serious piece with sights set on a top finish. The modestly over-square engine at 12:1 was an edgy piece and tuned just outside the bounds of dangerous detonation. Shaver's engine was clearly ready for the games, as the veteran competitor had his engine up and running with no undue hang-ups. After the warm-up period, the duo of Shaver and Tom Masik took advantage of the tune-up period to make some fine adjustments to the mixture and timing, and the engine was let loose to throw down a score of 1233.33, making as much as 822 hp in the process. With that performance, Shaver had locked a place for himself in the finals.
Under the immense pressure...
Under the immense pressure of competition, Lennart never flinched. Rather than risk losing it all this late in the game by gambling for horsepower with an edgy tune, the Swede loosened the Chevy's intake lash to hunt for low-end torque.
Earning the second-to-the-last qualifying spot based upon two consecutive Second-Place finishes in the last two events, Charles Williams was also fielding a big-block Chevy entry, based upon an under-square smaller bore combination. Competing in cell two for one of the two qualifying spots, Williams was under the gun to deliver big numbers. An odds-on favorite, the Senior William's 12.5:1 compression effort fell to the ravages of detonation. Although the engine delivered as much as 827 hp and a 1239 score with the first qualifying pull, the engine was clearly suffering the effects of detonation-induced damage and losing power, leaving Williams to make the only available decision and withdraw.
As the time came for the final competitor in qualifying to make the show, the crush of the crowd filled the floor in front of the dyno with standing room only. As Jon Kaase made his way into the ring, the collective thought of the crowd had to be whether this master of engine building could do the unthinkable and sweep the competition for the third year in a row. Kaase and his well-respected Winder, Georgia, enterprise Jon Kaase Racing Engines selected a Pontiac engine for this year's event, but what a piece it was. The 508-cube powerplant was built on an Indian Adventure's block from All Pontiac, which Kaase considers bulletproof. Kaase explains, "They're built by Roush, so that says it all. I think they're awesome. Four-bolt cap, Siamese bore, the machine work is impeccable, the cast-iron quality is really nice." Capping the block are no ordinary Pontiac heads; the All Pontiac castings feature large raised runners and were extensively massaged by Kaase. Expectations were high as the Pontiac was lit in the dyno cell.
After the three warm-up pulls, Kaase and IHRA Pro Stock champ John Nobile moved into the cell to give the engine its competition-ready tune. All of the plugs were inspected and timing adjustments were dialed in. With that, confident in his engine's abilities, Kaase was ready to let it fly for the qualifying round. With the first pull, the engine delivered a 1291 score with peaks at 811 hp and 764 lb-ft of torque. The two subsequent pulls yielded 1285 and 1282 scores, respectively, for an average composite score of 1286, just a fraction of a point higher than the qualifying score posted by the Bergquist team of Autoshop Racing Engines. It was interesting to note that Kaase's first pull was the best, and the score dropped nine points by the third pull. In contrast, the Swedes' Chevrolet started with a 1284 and improved to a 1286 in the second and third pulls. Kaase's powerplant could throw down a serious number out of the gate, but its staying power seemed to trail that of team Autoshop. The event was shaping up to be a real showdown.
Well-known Sprint Car engine...
Well-known Sprint Car engine specialist Ron Shaver brought a strong contender, and made his way through the tuning and qualifying process calmly and without incident. Shaver was helped by Tom Masik.
The Final Countdown
The field for the finals was heavy with experience and proven talent, with Mile High/Pro Built, Shaver, Livernois, Bischoff, Autoshop, and Kaase making up the field. The finals are run in the reverse order of qualifying scores, so the most powerful engines in qualifying would earn the honor of running last. The advantage here is knowing just where the competition had scored, and how much to roll the dice in setting up the engine for the big numbers. Push it too far, and disaster is always there to greet you. First up was the team of Mile High/Pro Built, whose tuning time in the qualifying eliminations was lost to the flywheel failure. This raised the question of whether there was significantly more left in the big-block Chevy entry. The double-edged sword here is that Jay Kidwell and his team would go into the finals without having thoroughly explored the effects of tuning changes in a prior session. With a lot of unknowns, the crew spent the entire tuning period working to dial-in the combo. The Mile High/Pro Built team tweaked the mixture and added timing advance, coming out with a final score of 1197.67.
Shaver's entry put down a strong showing in qualifying, and the experienced builder knew there was some catching up to do for the finals. After the warm-up pulls, Shaver and Tom Masik studied the data from the dyno intently, planning their moves. During the tune-up period, Shaver added timing and jet, and adjusted the air bleed size in the carb, looking to extract more from the powerful Chevrolet, making several trial pulls to gauge the progress. Shaver was finding power throughout the curve, and at the end of the tuning session, all eyes were on the display screen for the results in the final pulls. The engine seemed comfortable with Shaver's tune, pulling cleanly through the rpm range with very little detonation, scoring a 1246 with the first pull. Subsequent back-to-back pulls, however, saw the score decline mildly, as heat effects and detonation down low robbed valuable points, giving Shaver a final average score of 1239.67. Shaver was pleased with the performance of his engine.
Kaase knew that team Autoshop's...
Kaase knew that team Autoshop's score would be hard to beat; it would take all the Pontiac had to offer. According to Jon, "The power would have to be up well past their mark to get an average good enough to win." Kaase's concern clearly showed during his interview with "Hot Rod TV."
While big Chevrolets made up the field early in the day, the purposeful Ford of Livernois was next to take the stage. During the warm-up, light detonating was apparent, but John Lahone and Chris Goeble knew it would take an aggressive tune to place in this field. Tuning with even more timing and a larger air bleed showed impressive gains in the trial tune-up pulls. The team decided to simply shut the engine down and wait out the remaining time of the tune-up period. The strategy was to let the engine rest. Upon firing up for the scored runs, power was down on what had been seen in the trial pulls. Allowing the engine to sit may have unintentionally created a heat-soak situation, costing valuable points. Detonation was definitely present and easily verified by the knock sensor display employed by the Livernois team. Despite detonating, the sturdy Ford seemed to survive unscathed. The final score was a solid 1258, placing Livernois in the lead.
Bischoff's Chevy was mounted to the dyno after the strong Ford. Tony confided that his strategy was not to do a whole lot, hoping the extra humidity would help on the score. With the extensive flogging accomplished during the qualifying tune-up period, Bischoff was fairly certain the engine was dialed-in for maximum power. The plan was to run the same tune-up as in qualifying. After the warm-up pulls, Bischoff surveyed the data, and stunned the crowed by electing to forgo the tune-up period altogether and move straight into the final scored pulls. The strategy was to take advantage of the temperature drop in the intake manifold from the previous run. Tony explained, "I was trying to keep the manifold chilled. There's a lot of temperature in the room and it was starting to draw back into the motor; oddly the chilled manifold hurt the low-rpm numbers, but picked up at the top." Bischoff posted a new leading score of 1265.67, and with just two competitors left, was assured a podium finish.As runners-up by just a fraction of a point in qualifying, Lennart and Birgitta were certainly feeling the pressure as the Autoshop entry was readied on the dyno. The stakes were high, but you'd never know it from the stoic Swede. The pair's demeanor was as calm and measured as the pressure was high. Following the three warm-up pulls, the team briefly surveyed the numbers and then moved into the cell for their tune-up. At this stage, a nervous competitor may have gambled heavily with an aggressive tune-up in the form of more timing and a leaner mixture. Lennart went straight for the valve covers. It was clear that the team from Florida had contemplated their move with a long and thoughtful process well before the final round. Rather than risk a crushing fall to detonation with a ragged top-end tune, Lennart chose to loosen the intake lash in a bid for more bottom-end grunt.
It was getting down to the...
It was getting down to the crunch for Bischoff in the finals, who went right from the warm-up pull straight into the finals, deciding to skip the half-hour tuning period altogether.
With resetting the lash, the engine was allowed to cool for the entire tune-up period prior to the final-scored pulls. Inside World, the crowd's attention was riveted to the action at the dyno as the engine was fired for the scored pulls. Once at operating temperature, the signal was given to begin the final scored runs. As in qualifying, Autoshop's Chevy pulled up the rpm range cleanly, with nary a trace of detonation, turning the torque meter with tremendous force. The first pull netted a 1289, an improvement of 3 2/3 points. Lennart and Birgitta looked on with quiet focus as the engine was loaded against the DTS dyno's absorber for the second pull. A 1287. With the next pull, the engine repeated within a tight range, scoring a 1288.
Although the Autoshop team had seen the raw numbers and score tallied on the dyno sheets, the crowd waited anxiously for the composite score numbers to flash on the scoreboard. Applause broke out when a 1288 appeared on the screen, the highest score in the competition so far. However, it was not enough to ease the tension the husband and wife team was experiencing, as Lennart was clearly hoping for more from the lash change. With a 1288 score and the lead, it all came down to what Kaase's engine would do.
The Moment of Truth
Kaase was in control of the situation as the Pontiac was wheeled into the dyno cell. With all the scores in front of him, there was no ambiguity about what needed to be extracted from this potent mill. As with any true competitor, Kaase had played out every possible scenario in his head, and the score put down by Autoshop was formi-dable. Kasse's tuning partner, John Nobile, was absent on the day of the finals, with a racing commitment taking precedence. Fellow competitor and friend Ron Shaver stepped in to offer assistance to the two-time champion. Everything was riding on the events to unfold, and the crowd filling the floor was braced for a real showdown as Kaase's engine was fired for warm-up. The Pontiac was run through its required three warm-up pulls; Kaase and Shaver reviewed the numbers as the sheets came off the dyno's printer. The veteran engine men could see it was going to be close, with the initial pull being enough to cover the competition, but the score declining with the two subsequent warm-ups, as temperature effects took hold of the Pontiac.
Birgitta and Lennart Bergquist...
Birgitta and Lennart Bergquist embrace as the results are announced. Their First Place finish netted them the respect of engine builders everywhere--and a check for $82,000.
After studied contemplation of the dyno data from the warm-up pulls, Kaase and Shaver moved into the cell to set the tune. The timing was bumped forward, while the carb's air bleeds were opened up. Apparently, Kaase was playing for the win. With the Pontiac's characteristic dropping of score through subsequent pulls, the engine needed to come out strong to make a sufficient average to take the win. Following the tuning change with a test pull, it seemed Kaase had found what he was after. Although the engine detonated going in, as seen only by Kaase, Shaver, and the officials working the dyno, the aggressive tune had added healthily to the score, surpassing the 1,300-point level. Still, there was worry in Kaase's face. He knew the detonation seen at the roll-in could prove costly in the back-to-back final pulls. We overheard as Kaase and Shaver conferred over whether to pull back some on the timing. In the end, the decision was made to let it ride. With over 1,300 showing in the test pull, it was just a question of how well the engine would hold on as heat and detonation effects whittled away at the output.
Kaase chose to allow the engine to sit for the remainder of the tune-up period, while the tension in the air continued to rise in anticipation of the final pulls. As the clock on the tune-up period expired, the officials called time, and the Pontiac was fired. After the mandated warm-up, DTS dyno operator Matt Boyer opened the throttle, loading the Pontiac at 2,500 rpm to begin a pull. Moderate detonation could be heard as the engine worked up the rpm range. Kaase received the sheet from the printout--a 1,290 score on the first pull, over 10 points down from what had been seen only minutes before during the non-scored tune-up pull. Heat soak while sitting idle cost points on the first money run. Going into the second pull, the Pontiac had gained even more heat, detonation was more evident, and the score reflected the situation, dropping to 1,256. By the final pull, the Pontiac was succumbing to the effect of detonation and retained heat, factors which feed one upon the other, causing the score to spiral downward to a heartbreaking 1,221. There would be no repeat for the returning champion this year.
While Kaase and those in the cordoned-off dyno area had seen the numbers, the crowd of spectators and competitors had to await the posting of the results on the official scoreboard for the tally. Within minutes, the final score flashed, a 1,255.67, putting Kaase in Fourth Place. The ecstatic Livernois team reacted with excitement, as the unexpected problems with the Pontiac entry had allowed them to finish in the money with Third. Emotion also ran high with the Bischoff crew, as Tony's cool-handed play of just laying down a safe number in the finals paid off with a Second Place finish. For Autoshop's Lennart and Birgitta, there was relief and jubilation as the couple embraced to celebrate the success of nearly a year's effort at putting together their mighty Engine Masters Chevy. The tall Swede from Florida has proven to the world that his engine-building talents rank among the very best as a new Champion reigns in the Engine Masters Challange.
The Power To WIn
Leading off our second day of qualifying, the husband and wife team of Lennart and Birgitta Bergquist of Autoshop Racing Engines rolled their big-block Chevy entry into dyno cell one. The native Swedes are based in Orlando, Florida, and if anything was notable about their entry, it was the clean but conventional look of their innocuous-appearing Chevrolet. This big-block certainly did not carry with it a threatening aura, with a 4150-series 850 Holley in a field of Dominators, and none of the custom one-off external plumbing distinguishing some of its competitors. In fact, externally it had the appearance of a typical big-block Chevrolet, the kind that looks at home sitting in the engine bay of a street-bound Chevelle. Even though it was only the third engine to run in qualifying, it was clear to anyone who really understood the numbers that the 1,285 composite score put down by the quiet Swede would be hard to beat. The engine literally came down like Thor's hammer, thumping the dyno with 844 hp and 740 lb-ft of torque in qualifying. (You can expect a complete feature story on this mighty Chevy in our March `06 issue.)
Following the theory of a relatively small-bore/large-stroke combination, the Autoshop entry achieved its 509 ci with a bore size of 4.250 inches and a stroke of 4.480 inches. Lennart unassumingly cited the successful under-square combinations in previous Engine Masters events in selecting this configuration. A 6.350-inch rod length was used, primarily because Lennart wanted to drop the ring pack down on the custom CP pistons, and have pistons built with thick crowns for strength. As Lennart put it, "That was the longest rod that I could put in it with the other parts." We inquired about the compression ratio and Lennart informed us that the ratio was set at an unusually conservative 11.5:1. Relating his experience in last year's event, Lennart explained, "Last year I had 12.5:1, and I got here with a 30.3 barometer, and the motor just detonated itself to death. That scared me quite a bit, so this year I was not going to do that again, so I limited it to 11.5." Lennart continued, "I may be backed-off a little too much for the weather we have now, but I did not know that when I designed the motor. I just had to figure that we would have similar conditions to what we had last year."
Things were a little trickier inside, with a billet Sonny Bryant crank featuring undersized 1.88-inch rod journals and small-block-sized 9.270-inch piston pins. The idea here is to lighten the assembly and give the engine less weight to accelerate, with a bobweight of only 1,640 grams. Lennart elaborated on the crankshaft: "I had Bryant cut the counterweights down really small, so small he almost didn't want to do it, and then I put heavy metal in there to balance it." Lennart didn't really admit much else in terms of windage control, "I didn't do anything other than bolt on that (Steffs) oil pan, and it has that screen in it." Besides the light internal weight, Lennart was able to build the engine with dramatically reduced rotational friction. Part of the credit goes to the ring pack, consisting of SpeedPro 0.043-inch rings, aided in sealing by gas ports in the piston tops. Lennart disclosed that the complete assembled engine, with just the plugs removed, required only 24 lb-ft to rotate, complete with valvetrain, while the short-block required only 12 lb-ft--that's slick!As with may of the entrants, Lennart's engine took advantage of modern coating technology for an edge in friction reduction and thermal management. The rod and main bearings are coated with a friction coating, while the pistons received a friction coating on the skirts and the crowns received a thermal barrier. Up top, the combustion chambers, exhaust ports, the face of the intake valves, and the face and back of the exhaust valves all were treated to thermal-barrier coatings. The Brodix oval-port manifold received a thermal dispersant.
Some of the key components to putting down healthy power numbers are the choices in heads and the cam. From the results, it was clear that Lennart was right on target with his component selection. For cylinder heads, Lennart selected Brodix raised oval-port castings, which were fully ported by Mike Horney, who also ported the intake manifold. The intake valves measure 2.300 inches, while the exhaust valves spec out to 1.880 inch. The resultant flow as measured by Lennart was 380 cfm on the intake ports and 280-plus cfm on the exhaust side. The cam, a roller follower grind which rides in needle-roller cam bearings, was speced by Lennart and ground by Competition Cams. The cam features 258/260-degree duration at 0.050-inch tappet rise, and was ground on a 108-degree lobe separation angle, installed at a 106-degree intake centerline. Lobe lift is 0.460 inch on both the intake and exhaust; however, the intake rockers are 1.8:1, while 1.7:1 is used on the exhaust. Figuring the rocker ratio, the valve lift works out to a theoretical 0.828 inch on the intake and 0.782-inch on the exhaust--serious numbers in the pursuit of serious power. Exhaust flow was enhanced by the use of Stahl 2 to 2 1/8-inch stepped headers.The Autoshop team's hard work and expertise certainly paid off with an impressive win in this year's Engine Masters Challenge. While some of the key components that made this impressive engine perform have been highlighted here, as might be expected the details go much deeper. We'll be revisiting this engine in greater detail to reveal just what it took to build this champion.
Autoshop Racing Engines
PHR's 2006 Feature Engines
We went away from this year's Engine Masters Challenge determined to bring the innovative technology in these powerplants home to the readers. The simple specs belie the true level of execution and know-how that goes into these monsters of power. How did the builders do it? It's the details and execution that make the difference, and these builders didn't get to the top of their field by just opening boxes and bolting parts together. The thought process involves visualizing how each part interacts in the system that makes up the finished engine and taking steps to optimize the package along the way. You might not want to follow each of their moves to the full extent, but understanding what was done and why goes a long way to improving anyone's power-making game.
To really dig into the nuts and bolts, we were far busier at this year's Challenge than just running the show. Ace lensman Hunkins busted hump for the duration of the week, capturing images detailing these stout powerplants, both before the competition and during teardown. While traditionally only the three winning engines are torn down in the normal course of the post-competition tech inspection, this year we requested that some of the other competitors subject their engines to teardowns, just so we could have a look and record what we found inside. Fortunately, the builders were willing to comply, giving us an unprecedented level of detail in documenting these mills. Here's a brief on the Second-Place BES and Third-Place Livernois entries, as well as a rundown onfour other engines we will be featuring in upcoming issues of PHR.
AUTOMOTIVE MACHINE AND PERFORMANCE
Philpot, KY * (270) 729-5556
Mike Phillips' Buick was another engine built for a street customer, rather than as a specific dyno-race star, to show the credibility of the Buick design. The production-based entry features a square 4.325x4.325-inch bore and stroke, with the stroke provided by a Moldex crank, and the bores filled with JE pistons and rings. The displacement calculates to 508 ci, making this engine perfect for the Challenge format. Power parts are the T/A Stage 2 castings, well-known in the Buick world, and T/A also cast the SD-2 intake manifold. In contrast to virtually all the other competitors, Mike did not take advantage of the allowable roller cam, but ran a Lazer flat-tappet solid. With the flat-tappet and a relatively conservative 11.4:1 compression ratio, the 713hp Buick is ready to ship to its new owner, Steve Bachorski of Chicago.
West Harrison, IN * (812) 637-5933
Tony Bischoff showed the cool hand of experience and racing savvy in taking home Second Place with his big-block Chevrolet entry. The engine showed as much as 838 hp at 6,200 rpm, a truly remarkable power level for a powerplant swilling ordinary pump gas. The 508ci combination went against the small-bore convention in this competition with an over-square combination of a 4.421-inch bore and a 4.140-inch stroke. Bottom-end hard parts highlights include Ross pistons giving a 12.5:1 compression ratio, a 256/268-duration at 0.050-inch Competition Cam's camshaft, and an Eagle crank and rods. Up top, reworked Brodix-4 Extra heads and an Edelbrock manifold direct the airflow, while a Pro Systems Holley Dominator suppliesthe mix.
Dearborn Heights, MI
John Lohone and his Dearborn crew brought the strongest Ford entry to this year's event and walked away in the money with a Third Place finish. Producing as much as 817 hp right at 6,500 rpm, the Livernois entry showed serious force. The slightly under-square combination of a 4.300-inch bore and 0.375-inch-stroke Moldex crank proved again the power of the 385-series Ford big-block. Filled with Leutz Rods, Total Seal rings, and BMR pistons, the 12.9:1 compression big-block survived with the highest compression ratio of the top three finishers. A COMP cam with 253/263-degree duration at 0.050-inch lift moved the valves in a hurry, achieving a 0.775-inch lift. Feeding the beast was a pair of Ford Super Cobra Jet heads and an Edelbrock Victor manifold, drawing from a 1250 Holley Dominator.
John Kaase Racing
Winder, GA * (770)307-0241
Kaase may not have repeated to take the win this year, but right until the final moments, this Pontiac was within striking distance to take it all. What does it take to get this kind of output from a Pontiac mill? Kaase knows, and you will too, because Jon has agreed to tell all. The basics include the awesome new block and head castings from All Pontiac, which allows serious cubic inches to be built into the Pontiac's architecture. To reach the 508 cubes for this year's competition, Kaase opened the bores to 4.310 inch to give the inline valves some room to breath, and packed in the cubes with a longish 4.360-inch stroke. A COMP 261/268-degree at 0.050-inch cam ground on 107-degree centers provides a Herculean 0.886-inch lift. Jon related that this engine saw a huge number of dyno pulls in development before the competition, so he went with premium components inside, including a Bryant crank, CP pistons, and Carrillo rods. An Edelbrock intake directs the mix provided by a 1,100-cfm King Demon carb. Jon doesn't hold back with the subtle and custom mods, and there is plenty to see when we dig deep into this incredibly torquey 811hp Poncho.
T&B Performance and Machine
Monroe, WI * (608) 329-6800
There was only one Mopar entry in this year's big-block competition, the wedge effort of T&B, which stands for Tom and Brenda Foley. This husband and wife team really worked together, both in building the big wedge and tending to it in competition. The Mopar was built on a vintage factory 383 block that was bored 0.040-over for a final bore size of 4.290 inches. A 4.375-inch-stroke Eagle crank brings the cubes up to 506. Custom JE pistons bring a stout compression ratio of 12:1, but the team managed to keep entirely out of detonation. Brodix B1 heads and a Brodix intake, both ported by Brenda Foley, handle the airflow into the engine, while TTI stepped 2 to 2 1/8-inch headers handle the outflow. The Mopar showed us consistent 730-plus peak power numbers, and sounded remarkably clean and happy while delivering it. This engine was built for a T&B customer, and is truly destined for the street.
West Bloomfield, MI * (248) 931-0358
Rabotnick loves the big FE Ford and has been building these engines as a hobby for years. While a super Engine Masters Special was planned for the event, Rabotnick had to shift gears when some of the key parts didn't arrive in time. Instead, Barry just put together a combination based on regularly available parts, many of which he just pulled from stock from the leftover FE parts in his garage. With a 4.350-inch bore and a 4.25-inch-stroke Scat crank, the FE displaced a cool 505 cubes. The Speed-Pro pistons and rings are shelf parts,as are the Scat rods. A pair of Blue Thunder Heads prepped by ET Performance ensured the power, as did a COMP roller with 257-degree duration at 0.050-inch and 0.747-inch lift. Rabotnick's 11.8:1 engine ran just beautifully through all of its dyno pulls, making the most output on the last pull of qualifying at a mighty 752 hp. Here's an engine that a Ford FE fan can take notes on.
Cadillac Performance Parts
Soddy Daisy, TN * (423) 332-7636
Richard Potter came as a serious competitor into the Engine Masters Challenge, and the wild Caddy he was packing looked set to kill. It was obvious Potter had pushed the envelope in development, with many one-off parts and systems of his own creation. Reportedly capable of over 800 hp in pre-event testing, the entire audience at World was at attention to see what this unconventional engine combination would do. This was Potter's intent, to draw attention to the power capabilities of this neglected marque, and help spotlight his business specializing in these engines. Unfortunately, a failed damper preventedtuning the engine on the dyno. The engine featured a 4.250-inch bore fitted with Mahle pistons and Speed-Pro rings, while a Moldex crank, extensively reworked by Potter, provided the 4.470-inch stroke. A 53mm custom roller worked the valves, built on a core Potter machined from billet, and given to COMP to grind the lobes. Potter also extensively reworked the Bulldog head castings, and essentially molded his own runners into a Boogie Man intake. There are endless things to see when this one is featured.