We designed the rules of our engine challenge to encourage engine builders to demonstrate that great power can be made while still remaining within the confines of a realistic budget. By factoring the cost of the parts that were used to build each engine into the combined horsepower and torque of the engine, we pretty much forced the builders to spend sensibly in order to be competitive. Even so, it took a combination of high-horsepower, stump-pulling torque, and prudent spending to place highly in our challenge. Some builders obviously went for big power numbers, sacrificing money on expensive parts, and a couple went for the win with extremely budget-friendly builds.
This year's winner was David Bruns of Mid America Racing Engines. David didn't make the most power, nor did he spend the least amount of money to build his engine, but he was close enough in both categories to win this year's challenge.
Though Mid America's engine won this year's challenge, all the entries put up a respectable showing. Most of the wedge engines easily out-powered last year's Hemis, partly due to our relaxation of the roller-cam rule. Also, the 3,000- to 7,000- rpm range definitely favored the big-block's wedge cylinder-head design. Our Rockett Brand 93 octane fuel limited the compression in most of these engines, though some tricks were utilized to avoid detonation while pushing compression to the limits of what can be considered pump-gas friendly.
In the next several issues, we'll go inside each of the engines entered in our contest, letting you look at what it takes to build a killer street wedge. While learning from experience is great, gaining knowledge from other peoples experience is far cheaper, so read and learn!
This month, we'll go inside the engines of both the first and second place finishers: Mid America Racing Engines and J.D. Engine and Machine.
Best Machine Racing Engines
24808 Romano St.
Warren, MI 48091
13915 Radium St. NW Ste C
Ramsey, MN 55303
J.D. Engine and Machine
900 Spencer Ave.
Columbia, MO 65203
Mid America Racing Engines
1945 W 18th St.
Washington, IA 52353
Mopar Engines West
David Timmons & Richard Nedbal
37530 Enterprise Ct. No. 4
Newark, CA 94560
4651 Culley Ln.
Jackson, MI 49201
Ben Gorman & Mike Stark
30-A Gasoline Alley
Indianapolis, IN 46222
131 N. Lang Ave.
West Covina, CA 91790
Mid America Racing Engines, Washington, IA
Drag racing is what prompted David Bruns to start his own engine shop in Washington, Iowa. After building his own engines for years, it became apparent that a quality, performance-oriented machine shop was needed in his area. Since then Mid America Racing Engines has been providing quality high-performance racing engines to its customers nationwide. For this year's engine challenge, David decided it would take a stout combination to make enough power to be competitive. His theory was to build this engine like most race engines he builds, with a stout bottom end and good parts in all the critical places. Follow along as we show you what went inside the winning engine of this year's challenge.
The Bottom End
When it came to a bottom end for his challenge wedge, David used a combination of stock and aftermarket parts to form a tough, but economical, short-block. An Eagle 4.15 stroke forged crank and H-beam 6.76-length rods, combined with SRP flat-top pistons, were fitted into a 440 block, which had been bored and honed for a final bore size of 4.380. All the machine work on the block was performed in-house, and no special coatings were used in this engine. Knowing that no engine will live long without adequate oiling, David opted for a Clevite oil pump matched with Milodon's high-capacity oil pan (PN 30930) and windage tray (PN 32005). An internal pickup was utilized as it cost less than comparable external units. Since camshaft selection is critical to making power, a solid roller unit manufactured by Cam Motion was used to actuate the valves. Lift was a somewhat moderate .705-inch intake and .701-inch exhaust with duration at 274-degrees intake and 280-degrees exhaust measured at .050-inch lift. Lobe separation was a somewhat aggressive 110 degrees. Economical PBM roller lifters were also utilized in this motor, and a Cloyes double-roller timing chain and gears actuated the valvetrain.
The Top End
Cylinder head flow is vitally important to making power, but intake runners with too much volume will sacrifice torque. Even though he didn't receive his heads in time to do any flow-bench testing, David relied on his years of porting experience, hand porting his heads to optimize flow from the new Edelbrock Victor castings (PN 77919). Harland Sharp 1.6-ratio roller rocker arms with the .650-inch intake offset necessary for the Victor heads were used to transfer the cams lift to the valves, and PBM valvesprings were chosen for their great durability and reasonable cost. Knowing the big-block Mopar's healthy appetite for fuel and air, an Indy Cylinder Head single-plane intake was matched to a Barry Grant King Demon carburetor to handle the mixing of the fuel and air. An unmodified MSD Pro-billet distributor was used to light the fires.
J.D. Engine and Machine, Columbia, MO
Jeff Dickey is another drag racer who opened his own machine shop to support his racing habit. As an avid drag racer, Jeff was tired of waiting for parts or for someone else to finish machining his pieces, so he went into business for himself in 1988. Starting small, J.D. Engine and Machine is now arguably the best equipped engine shop in central Missouri. Having made the most power in last year's Hemi challenge, engine builder Jeff Dickey had a reputation to live up to. Rather than going for all-out power, however, this year Jeff decided to capitalize on the big-block Chrysler's propensity for torque to go for a win.
The Bottom End
Any powerful engine needs a solid foundation, so Jeff used a combination of tough parts to form the short-block for his challenge engine. Like all this year's competitors, a stock block was utilized to keep costs in check. In addition to installing aftermarket four-bolt main caps, he bushed all the lifter bores of this block for valve-timing accuracy. To attain the challenge limit of 500 ci, he bored and honed his block to a 4.375 bore size, then utilized a 4.15-inch stroke Eagle forged crankshaft, combined with Eagle H-beam connecting rods and custom Diamond dish pistons. The pistons skirts were coated with a friction-enhancing coating to free up a few ponies. Diamond piston rings were used to seal the cylinders, and the rotating assembly spins on Clevite main and coated Clevite rod bearings. A Pro gear double-roller timing chain and gears were utilized to spin a custom roller cam and lifters manufactured by Comp Cams. For oiling, Jeff also used Milodon components, but opted for a single-line external pickup in his engine.
The Top End
Having state-of-the-art equipment is vital to performing good machine work, and J.D. Engine and Machine is one of the best equipped engine shops in the country. In fact, Jeff's shop is currently working on a CNC program to port the new Edelbrock Victor heads. He chose these heads not only for their excellent flow for the cost, but also because they respond well to porting. He used the valves supplied with the heads, but chose Comp's roller valvesprings (PN 26091) to keep the valvetrain stable. Harland Sharp offset roller rocker arms ensured accurate valve timing. An Edelbrock Victor intake manifold was ported to work with the Victor heads, and a Holley Dominator took care of the fuel metering. An MSD Pro-billet distributor was tweaked in-house to provide the sparks.