Restoring vintage engine blocks in five steps

Restoring vintage engine blocks in five steps

By Freddie Heaney: Rare casting repairs: Five-step process in restoring vintage blocks to race-ready condition Each winter frozen coolant causes severe damage to hundreds of racing engine blocks in the northern hemisphere. Though troubling, its effects are usually even more concerning when frost damage strikes a rare, historic racing block. However conscientious you are the misfortune can happen, but if it does don’t be too dismayed for the problem is not insoluble. In Chatham, Virginia, there is a well-established engineering firm, Virkler & Bartlett, who possesses a knack for returning severely damaged engine blocks, often considered unserviceable, to race-ready condition. Their most common candidates are vintage blocks like this Maserati example damaged by frozen coolant. Here is their five-step repair process: 1. Inspect to determine mechanical and dimensional condition.  This includes examining deck angles, deck squareness to main bore centerline, main bore alignment and other critical dimensions. 2. Find crack locations using Magnaflux or dye penetrants and determine repair strategy.  Welding repairs work well in some applications, but V&B prefer steel or aluminum pins with special barbed threads that pull cracks together for most castings.  Pin repairs have the advantage of not distorting the casting. As a result, ridged fixtures are unnecessary and re-machine work is kept to a minimum.  Pins are installed with anaerobic sealants to lock them in place and prevent leaks.  Sometimes it is necessary to machine away a portion of the damaged metal and replace it with an insert that is pinned in place.  Pins are stronger than the casting and V&B has successfully pinned cracked main bore housings on highly stressed race engines. 3....
Emperor of Engine Masters Challenge: Kaase claims purse

Emperor of Engine Masters Challenge: Kaase claims purse

By Ben Mozart, Photography by Moore Good Ink: It takes uncommon pluck to enter an engine performance contest—what happens if you finish 39th? Developing racing engines is a serious business. Your reputation, your record of success and your credentials are constantly on the line. Despite the obvious reservations, however, entering the annual Engine Masters Challenge is generally beneficial for all competitors. Some engine builders bring along unusual or rare engines, knowing the media will fill pages with their editorial in the aftermath of the competition. Others build engines not to compete for the best average power output at all, but instead with peak power in mind, knowing their achievement will also receive recognition. Importantly, most if not all engines will be photographed and featured in the magazine articles during the following twelve months. So even if the event turns out not to be the shining hour you’d hoped, entrants gain much more recognition for their engine shop than by staying at home. For the front runners in the dyno room though, tension is usually high and interestingly the contenders deal with stress in very different ways. Some like Accufab’s John Mihovetz remain quiet; deep in thought he scarcely issues a word. On the other hand, the face of Chris Thomas, Kaase’s right hand man, is profoundly focused. Kaase himself seems to play it like a sport—with a lighthearted gusto, but plays to win. Lima, OH: The 2013 Engine Masters Challenge, the eleventh in a series first started in 2002, was won by Jon Kaase Racing Engines. His fifth victory in the Challenge, he collected a purse just under $70,000. When the reward amounts to more than any Pro Stock race...
Kaase’s P-38 cylinder heads: Greatest Windsor news since 1962

Kaase’s P-38 cylinder heads: Greatest Windsor news since 1962

By Sam Logan:   The Chevy faithful like to tell us that their small-block engine is cheaper and easier to build than the Ford counterpart—but it’s a myth. First, the cost of aftermarket high-performance and competition parts is similar whether they are Ford or Chevrolet. And with regard to the simpler engine build, the small-block Ford is probably the all-time easiest engine to build. In street form, the head bolts—of which there are only 10—don’t penetrate the water jackets, unlike the SBC, thus their threads don’t need sealer applied. In addition the Ford engines don’t have mirror-image pistons and ports, so they don’t have a right and a left piston—all the pistons are the same. Further, the Ford distributor is clamped directly to the block, unlike the SBC distributor which is located by the intake manifold. Therefore the height of the SBC distributor can alter if the heads or the intake manifold has been milled. Washers are often used to correctly position the Chevrolet’s distributor, allowing its gear to mesh correctly with the camshaft. On the Ford you can remove the intake manifold without touching the distributor. Moreover the Ford distributor is located at the front of the engine, thus more accessible for setting the timing compared with the rear mounted Chevy unit. Lastly, the SBC uses a cam thrust plate—a little bearing that pushes against the timing cover—that prevents the cam moving fore and aft when using roller tappets. When Kaase first conceived the P-38 cylinder heads for Ford’s small-block Windsor engines, they were created with high performance in mind. They were also obliged to be user-friendly. Porting to...
How Clever Induction Systems Build Potency in World’s First Aftermarket Cleveland Crate Engine—The Titus

How Clever Induction Systems Build Potency in World’s First Aftermarket Cleveland Crate Engine—The Titus

By Sam Logan, Photography by Moore Good Ink: The world’s first aftermarket Cleveland crate engine was unveiled recently by the Waldorf, Maryland, firm McKeown Motorsport & Engineering (MME). They call it Titus. Though MME’s Titus crate engine distinguishes itself from its mighty predecessor of the 70’s and 80’s in many ways—internally balanced forged crankshaft, deck-plate bored and honed, priority mains wet- or dry-sump lubrication systems and so on—it is the multiple choices of induction systems that set it apart from the conventional crate engine. To this end MME offers five different cylinder heads for five different duties, and they require specific information to select the correct cylinder heads and induction system for every engine. The most important element in building a high performance engine—an engine that accelerates quickly—is to know the crucial rpm range in which it will operate. It’s also helpful to understand that high average power output prevails over peak power output—always—at least in a muscle car if not a dynamometer. In addition to stating the engine’s operating range, which influences the runner lengths of the induction system, MME needs to know the car’s weight. The induction system of a Titus engine powering a 2,000lb Cobra is obviously different to that of a 3,800lb Mustang. Gearing also has an effect on induction choice. For example, a Titus engine powering a gear ratio of 3.25:1, used predominately to propel the car at 1,500rpm along the street, dictates a different cam and induction system to that of one empowering a 4.11:1 gearing, operating at 3,000rpm. Hood clearance is a further consideration, although the Titus’s 9.2in deck height usually provides...
Beerhorst on boosted engines and how a Spintron finds power and detects trouble

Beerhorst on boosted engines and how a Spintron finds power and detects trouble

Written by Moore Good Ink: HOT ROD magazine has been at our industry’s forefront longer than most of us have been around. Though they’ve been sustaining the momentum of hotrods since January 1948, often it’s to their big ideas they owe their supremacy. Reflect for a moment on one of their biggest and brightest: HOT ROD Drag Week™. Presented by Gear Vendors, this may be the toughest test ever invented for the engine builders of high horsepower road-registered muscle cars. The rules require the cars to travel approximately 1,400 miles on public highways over the course of five days in late spring and participate in a week of drag passes. Those that survive the journey and record the best five-day average at the drag strips win their class. Clearly, the emphasis on survival is high, particularly in the Unlimited and Modified classes where some vehicles pack 2,000hp at the rear wheels. Of the approximately 186 starters in last year’s Drag Week, which also included Daily Driver classes, 106 powerful Muscle cars started but only 87 of them finished, 7 of them failing on the first day. So how do these extraordinarily powerful engines succeed in this most grueling test? Accomplished race engine builders are individuals with rare abilities. They have endlessly inquiring minds, unusual vitality, and remarkable resilience—Facebookers and Tweeters they ain’t. They simply don’t have time for it. So how can you reach them when they aren’t working? In a 25-minute chance meeting at the Trend Performance booth at last December’s IMIS show in Indianapolis, Norm Beerhorst agreed to answer a few questions on his successes with centrifugal...
Power Company I

Power Company I

Kevin Stoa Engine Build part 1 of 3. Text & phots by Sam Logan: By the end of his first year in business Kevin Stoa had built 80 race engines. A twice Super Nationals winner in IMCA Modified, Stoa formed his company in January 2009, on his fortieth birthday, in his home town of Albert Lea, Minnesota. He renovated his shop and hired two trustworthy engine builders he’d known for decades, Preston and Jerry, and KS Engineering was in business. Located near the town’s water tower, the shop curiously displays no name. In fact, callers eager to visit the establishment can stand outside the building at 117 North Newton Avenue in confused silence while inside a dynamometer races at 7,300 rpm—a masterpiece in urban sound suppression. Acclaimed race engine shops usually succeed through the aspirations of one individual, and it’s unlikely there is a single shop of any consequence that is not the lengthened shadow of one man. And so it has been with the able young Stoa. Over the past two seasons KS Engineering’s race engines have demonstrated impressive pace and durability. In 2012, on Memorial Day weekend, four different customers prevailed in four different races. By mid-season the KS order book contained reservations two months ahead. Our interest aroused, we decided to pay a visit and try to document some of the secrets of Stoa’s race engine building techniques. On the dirt ovals Stoa is a much-admired man: quiet and understated he is uncomplicated, direct, and sincere. In the workshop, he has a thorough yet pragmatic approach to his craft, and his deftness around an engine cradle...