Sig Erson: the rise of an unusual mind

Sig Erson: the rise of an unusual mind

This story languished for a month, at least; materials revealing the timeless technique of racing camshaft development seemed obscure and far away. Then Californian Lyle Larson, the accomplished former drag racer, emerged with illuminating experiences from the nineteen sixties and seventies that we feared had been lost. Two weeks later, we found Steve Tanzi near Lake Tahoe with a further treasure trove of material, turning possibility into reality, especially during the 1990s and early years of this century. More recently, Jack McInnis discovered some wonderfully evocative printed materials and photographs that illustrate much of what has long been relevant to hot rodders and motor racers and like-minded persons.     By Sam Logan.   Five and a half decades ago, in 1963, the shop foreman at Isky Racing Cams in Los Angeles departed to form his own camshaft company. He called it Sig Erson Racing Cams. He orchestrated its agenda, and he led its pursuits until he sold it in 1982. In business, his central aim was inseparably linked to the tricky concept of keeping his customers and distributors happy. In outdoor activities, Erson was unusually adventurous and in practical terms, particularly in surviving the austerity of desert life, he was unsurpassed. In his youth, there were periods when he lived on the beach by himself and could readily sleep beneath the night skies unperturbed. In Mexico’s austere landscapes, both mountainous and arid, he would embark alone on an entire Baja 1000 pre-race reconnaissance. In spending his nights in the barren wilderness, he was undismayed by the threat of being stranded or perishing on the vast, silent desert soil...
Tom “Mongoose” McEwen

Tom “Mongoose” McEwen

By V. Moore: Tom McEwen was a rare bird: he had an intelligent, productive mind, a gambler’s nerve, and a dependable nature. Remembered for his lack of envy and guile, he was one of the most popular and charismatic personalities in US drag racing. More importantly, his horizon extended beyond the dollar bill. He kept racehorses, as many as twenty, and though some were uncompetitive he cherished them anyway. During his heyday with Coors sponsorship, he had earned between 3 and 4 million dollars a year. Yet, on the topic of finances he described himself as “not too reliable”. On matrimony: “not easy to live with day in and day out.” On diet constraints, where his compulsive nature was well known, he regarded himself as, “on the goofy side—impossible to control.” On the topic of Prudhomme and others, he would warn: “By nature, racers are self-centered and often ruthless, at least most of the successful ones. To sustain relationships in professional racing, you have to bite your lip often.” And, on plotting a successful career, he reiterated Sam Clemens: “The trick in getting ahead is getting started.” His darkest hours came with the appalling tragedies of his two sons; Jamie died at the age of 13 of leukemia and Joey at 35 as a result of a car collision. No miracle of thrift was McEwen, and he consequently toiled with financial burdens and also with family troubles during his final years. Though, occasional mutterings would escape from his gloomy heart, he tried valiantly to ease his life’s increasingly complicated circumstances. Born in Florida in 1937, he moved with his...
We should have done better in promoting it:

We should have done better in promoting it:

Relying on your own initiatives for growth. By Victor Moore:   Writing lives or dies on read times. If you prepare a seven-minute article for your website or general consumption and the average read time reports 2mins 22secs, you lost your reader. You may think you prepared work of value but its value was zero. Time and money wasted–your straight-talk express with no wheels on it. When composing website materials, it’s probably better to omit mission statements and similar content, for few read them. Old-fashioned and usually disingenuous, these types of materials are not just confined to the written word, for videos that contain them are also annoying. One of the most agonizing was produced some years ago by Delta Airlines, whose CEO spoke interminably of his company’s mission and its endless admirable qualities. The captive listener was buckled to a seat with no mute button and no escape. I once observed a woman beating the seat-back monitor with both hands in exasperation. All commercial operations should be aware of the old adage: When a company boasts of its integrity, or a woman of her virtue, avoid the former and cultivate the latter. The better path to creating value is to compose compelling content. Years ago, I asked engine builder Jon Kaase about his topic for the AETC conference at that year’s PRI exhibition. “I’m hoping to tell my audience something they didn’t know before,” he replied. He was right, for in the art of engagement, enlightenment trumps all. And if you can pepper your content with credible testimonials or quotations from noteworthy sources, so much the better. This...
Oil Leaks, Tuning Issues, and Proper Crankcase Ventilation

Oil Leaks, Tuning Issues, and Proper Crankcase Ventilation

By Gordon Young: Is improper control of blow-by gases in your crankcase causing problems in your engine?  If any of these questions below sound familiar, then read on. “Why does my engine leak oil?  I took care when fitting the gaskets and seals.” “Why do my valve covers persistently display oil around the breathers?” “Why does my car smell oily?” “Why can’t I perfect my idle tuning?” Imagine a small tailpipe constantly pumping combustion byproducts into your engine’s crankcase.  In effect, this is what is happening when your engine is running.  Blow-by gases entering the crankcase by leaking past the pistons and rings during the combustion process need proper evacuation.  If left unchecked, they cause numerous side effects, inducing engine problems that may seem unrelated. Side effect #1:  Crankcase pressure (“My engine leaks oil”) The job of the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system is to remove blow-by gasses from the crankcase by vacuum and recirculate them via the intake manifold to be burned in the engine.  If the engine is producing blow-by gases faster than the PCV system can dispose of them, an increasing surplus becomes trapped in the crankcase, causing excess pressure and, inevitably,  oil leaks.  Even the most carefully sealed gaskets leak when confronted by rising internal crankcase pressure. A properly functioning PCV system will expel the gases from the crankcase faster than the engine produces them.  In addition, the low-level vacuum draws in fresh air to the crankcase from the crankcase breather. In 99% of normal driving conditions, this is how a properly functioning PCV system works. Obviously, the gasket’s job is made easier when the crankcase...
Custom-made billet camshafts:

Custom-made billet camshafts:

A few questions, some interesting answers – By Bertie S. Brown: Most camshafts look indistinguishable from one another—even custom camshafts. “Not mine,” declares blown alcohol pulling tractor champion Mike Wilhite. “Mine are 2.5 inches in diameter.” Wilhite, who runs an engine shop in Bardstown, KY, thirty miles south of Louisville, purchases a 12ft length of 2.5in case-hardened 8620 alloy steel or S7 tool steel bar stock. He then takes the long length of round bar to Russ Yoder at Erson Cams, who makes four camshafts from it. When finish-ground and heat treated, Wilhite installs the custom-made billet camshafts in the engines of his alcohol pulling-tractor customers. Six-cylinder inline engines adapted for pulling tractor competitions begin life as 200hp diesels revving to 1,500rpm, but when increased to 505ci (Light Super Stock) and converted to alcohol and assisted by three turbochargers they generate close to 4,000hp and 7,000rpm. On the topic of pulling tractors, Yoder says, “We’ve made camshafts for 7.8 liter Ford diesels to an A22 International, from Cummins to Walkinshaw, Oliver to Massey Ferguson, Allis Chalmers to antique pulling tractors with engines originating from the 1920s.” Why no shelf stock for the extreme categories? “Its common practice for competition engine builders to increase cam bearing sizes, and our shelf-stock materials accommodate increases of up to 60mm for big-block Chevrolets and also big-block Fords and for some Hemi engines,” says Yoder. “But, beyond this it just isn’t practical to inventory cam cores of such diversity.” Hence, in this regard, Erson identifies the optimum grade of steel required, the customer brings them the appropriate round bar stock (some measuring 70mm), and...