The Engine Masters Challenge is a competition that for the last five years has brought builders together from around the country. Each strives to have the highest average horsepower and torque between 2,500 and 6,500 rpm. As in any contest, there are rules and specifications for these engines. The rules require the factory bore and stroke, with a tolerance of plus .035 inch, and plus or minus .015 inch, respectively. An aftermarket OEM-replacement cylinder head, a flat-tappet camshaft, and OEM-style intake manifold must be topped with a 14x3-inch air cleaner. To keep this more a battle of the builders and less of the manufacturers, several modifications are left for the contenders to perform. Custom camshaft grinds are allowed, as well as extensive porting to the cylinder heads. All of the engine power is locked inside the cylinder head design; this is the key to winning the competition.
Judson Massingill is an extremely skilled engine builder and machinist who has the reputation of having one of the best cylinder head departments. This crew consists of Chris Bennett, Shawn Hooper, and Ryan Fischer. Judson is far from a dirty-handed man who jealously guards what the years have taught him, and takes those secrets to the grave. Judson has taken the experience he has acquired, and built the School of Automotive Machinists (SAM) to teach the youth about this trade.
His background consists of building race engines for drag, circle track, oval, and road race cars. His employees would often move on and start their own shop after learning everything Judson had to show them. He always seemed to have more work than help. His wife Linda said to him in the mid- 1980s: "It seems like we just train employees. There needs to be a place to do that for the industry." After three years of paperwork and leg work, Linda got SAM up and running. Its success has allowed Judson and his students to participate in these EMC competitions together.
His graduates have been hired by countless top racing teams. "Nine of the top 10 NHRA points leaders in Pro Stock have at least one SAM graduate. Some have two or three," says Judson. His students also build and maintain record-breaking LSX engines.
In 2006, Judson chose three students to assist him with his first Engine Masters Challenge entry. His debut engine was a Ford Cleveland that was third highest in peak horsepower, and sixth overall in the competition. This engine is still being shown as a display, but has jumped back on the dyno to prove its 715 peak horsepower was still present. "This engine would last forever in a drag car," Judson shares. "Its only weakness is the valvesprings that are required to control the .850-lift roller cam."