CLASSIFIED-EYES-ONLY MATERIAL: June 2009 Summerstown, Ontario, Canada. Jesse Robinson and his elite cadre at SKMFX had been planning their assault on the relatively peaceful town of Lima, Ohio. They just got the big break they were looking for-the testing facility for their Weapon of Mopar Dominance (WMD) was finally completed, and they could begin final preparations on their ambitious plan to take out the competition at the 2009 Engine Masters Challenge.
The 471ci Commando in its...
The 471ci Commando in its natural habitat is prepared for battle by the SKMFX team and the students at the University of Northwestern Ohio where the Challenge took place.
The crew at SKMFX Engines spared no expense when it came to creating the facilities in which they would work. A division of SKM, a company who produces industrial electronics components, SKMFX is a group that specializes in building racing engines for circle track, drag, and hot street applications and has access to the full complement of CNC machines, powdercoating operations, and engineering facilities of their parent company. With brains and brawn on their side, it made it a relatively easy task to build this 471ci pump-gas Mopar without breaking the bank. In fact, the budget for this operation was a scant $8,000-far from the cost of an MX missile.
Robinson had thoughts of this mission for years. As a youth he had always been a Mopar guy and when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped at the chance to build one of his favorite engines. He told PHR: "Back in 1995 when I first got into the trade, I started piecing a 451 combo together based on a 440 steel crank. My partner Joe ended up turning that very same crank for me. I finally got that engine going in 2000, and it made a ton of power, and it's still running in my friend's '72 Road Runner. It's just kind of near and dear to my heart." When asked how SKMFX got involved in the Challenge Robinson told us: "I followed Engine Masters since 2002 when it was the first year for it. I've always wanted to do it. I've always been a Mopar guy ever since I can remember. I've built a number of big-blocks for myself and for customers, and felt it would have been a good fit for those Edelbrock heads." Starting with a stock 400 block they got for free, Robinson's teammate Joe Rutters did a half fill of Hard Block and made sure all the specs were dialed in. Boring and honing the block to 4.375 inches with the torque plates they made on site with their CNC mill was first on the checklist. "When it comes to cylinders, Joe's just about the best guy out there." History told them that the stock-block would be more than strong enough to handle a solid 800 horses. With their eyes planted on the 700-horse mark, they knew this Commando would survive the mission. "We didn't line hone it. We just put studs in it and a 440Source girdle, and pretty much put the bottom end together. No magic there."
The HP1000 carbs sitting on...
The HP1000 carbs sitting on the tunnel ram were a pair of standard out-of-the-box pieces that performed flawlessly. The SKMFX team tried various carb spacers with very little change between each one, so they stuck with an open half-incher.
Big-block Mopar engines often went by that Commando moniker, and rightfully so, as they took charge of making power. They first appeared in Plymouths bearing the Sonoramic Commando name in 1958. Though that first year the engine was a mere 350 cubes, it was poised to push the bounds of current technology by being offered with either a dual four-barrel carb setup or an extremely high-tech (for the day) Bendix electronic fuel injection. During this early Cold War era, casting and machining techniques were being improved rapidly, making the old WWII heavy flathead engines obsolete. Lightweight thin-wall castings and overhead-valve designs allowed the new engines to flourish as the space age came into being. As the budding big-block program gained its footing, it expanded into the massive 440-cube Super Commando by 1966. Dubbed the Magnum in Dodges, or the TNT in Chrysler trim, the 440 used its long-rod, big-valve, high-compression design to destroy the enemy on the asphalt battlefield. This was, of course, most notable with the Plymouth Superbirds and their potent 440 six-pack cannons.