Written by Moore Good Ink

Jon Kaase

Jon Kaase

“That’s how close it was,” said Kaase. “Two horsepower or two foot-pounds of torque could have overturned the result.”

Though the 2012 Engine Masters Challenge (EMC), held annually on the campus of the University of Northwestern Ohio, consisted of two divisions, the Street and the Xtreme Street, the imperative lay with the latter as the competition reached its climax.

“Invariably, this is a hard-fought contest,” comments Johnny Hunkins, editor of Popular Hot Rodding magazine, the EMC organizer and founder. Indeed, thirty-three of the country’s finest engine builders have been preparing for the rigors of this annual event for the past year. Most of them will freely admit it is nerve-wracking, especially in these final stages.

Assuredly, this is not work for beginners. It calls for vivid imagination, tempered by engineering acumen, and painstaking attention to detail. Work that has taken a year to complete will be decided on three 11-second dyno pulls. The points system is awarded by adding the average horsepower and torque recorded between 4,000 and 8,000rpm and dividing the total number by the engine’s cubic inch displacement.

Chris Bennett, Preston Mosher, Shawn Hooper, Jud Massingill, Linda Massingill

School of Automotive Machinists team: from left, Chris Bennett, Preston Mosher, Shawn Hooper, Jud Massingill, Linda Massingill

Now in its 10th year, Hunkins added, “EMC attendees, always supremely knowledgeable, watch the screens intensely as the dyno sweep needles are projected on the wall, along with a video feed from the dyno cell. They hear the engines strain under load and they watch them—they watch everything. Groups huddle around the screens. They whisper. They calculate. They speculate who is going to win. You cannot help being absorbed by the excitement and tension.”

In the end, the School of Automotive Machinists (SAM) competing with a 402cu in small-block Chevrolet (SB2 combination) claimed victory by the smallest of margins from EMC stalwart Jon Kaase. Kaase, who entered a 537cu in Chevrolet with twin King Demon carburetors that produced more power than anyone said, “When we completed our qualifying round I thought I was in with a good chance. And on reflection my entry performed as well as I could have expected—there wasn’t much more I could have done to have improved my position.”

SAM’s, has been competing in the Engine Masters Challenge since 2006 and has been using Diamond pistons since 2009. “It’s their billets I like,” said Chris Bennett, “because we can do things with them that we’re denied with forgings,” As far as performance gains are concerned, I picked-up power when I first switched to Diamond and I’ve stayed with them since.” Kaase’s standing with Diamond is similar—as is that of Kenny Duttweiler, engine builder to Poteet and Main and their Bonneville record-breaking Speed Demon (439mph, Sept 17, 2012)