The two cars in 1964 were...
The two cars in 1964 were the Max Wedge-turned-Hemi hardtop that won the Detroit "dollar a foot" race, and the Hemi sedan seen here on the starting line at the '64 Nationals (Pitcock/Drag Racing Memories collections).
As far as I remember, there was only one engine we used in the Max Wedge testing. There might have been a few running around in cars, but I had the only one on the dyno there. Those old dynos just couldn't hold that kind of power, and we ended up building new dyno rooms to handle the 600 horsepower the Hemis made; the water brake was the only kind of dyno that could take it. Once the car went into production, we might get an engine back to test it.
The first 426 engine we got from the engine room was sort of funny. Normally, the early castings were not so great, and the builder there would leak-test it. This engine made over 400 horses, and, on the very first pull, something in the jacket casting gave way; it had a 2-inch split behind the motor mount and began leaking. We looked it over, took a piece of sheetmetal, cut a rubber gasket, then tapped and screwed the plate in place. That block did most of the testing for the 426 Max Wedge.
MM: How were the engines set up?
FP: A lot of that would depend on whether it was a gross run or net run; net was with all accessories attached, and the gross was bare gross, no fan, no nothing, just the water pump. We would use an idler pulley in place of the alternator for that. When we first began testing an engine, we would do a cold, bare gross pull, and would put shims between the heads and intake to block the exhaust crossover. The one thing we always did was maintain 160-degree water temp and 180-degree oil temp.
Regardless, the Max Wedge was very short-lived as a race engine because of the Hemi; most of it was done on the 413, and that was later developed into the 440. Now, with the Hemi, we would change pistons, parts, whatever we had, right on the dyno. I was comfortable with doing that, but some of the other dyno operators were uptight about it, and we had to go through the union. Once it was OK'd, we'd do cam-phasing, valve jobs, head volumes, piston volumes, and right back up on the dyno it would go.
For the testing, we would run the basic engine to get the baseline; we recorded everything in the lab, which would give us a baseline to compare future runs and changes with. Then we would begin changing things based on the engineer's plans; we might do two or three cam-phasings in a day, and did a lot of work with fuel distribution. There is no vacuum at wide-open throttle, so you need to have a manifold that will provide good distribution. We did all those little dams and stuff inside the intake; an engineer would draw a sketch, we would add the dam, test it, and tell him the results. He would double-check it, listen to our suggestions, and we'd try something else. That big, open-plenum NASCAR Hemi intake, I spent hours and hours working on that thing. A lot of those bases had Helicoils in them so we wouldn't strip them out taking them apart so much.
Only the endurance lab ran all the time; the race dyno rooms were run on two shifts, and we had the same people running them all the time. The afternoon shift came in, and everyone had priorities depending upon the project they were working on. If one of the race room guys was missing, it was very hard to get that day's work done. A lot of the parts and engines were one-of-a-kind, and you had to be on top of it because if something went wrong, you wanted to find out. Luckily, most mechanical things would be caught in the engine room before they came to us. I eventually became the supervisor over the engine room.