Engine Builder Showdown
A competition between ten VW "street" engine builders
to see who can make the most horsepower and torque on pump gas
was an idea that has been brewing around VW engine builder circles for
years. A one-day dyno challenge to see who could make the more horsepower
and torque. Plain and simple. But knowing that every engine builder
would have his or her own ideas as to what limits should be placed on
this engine challenge, someone had to step in and make sense of all
the conflicts and confusion, and come up with a set of rules that would
actually work. In stepped Anibal Chico of Chico Performance Racing in
Monrovia, California - an up and coming VW engine builder who started
to discuss this idea with guys like Jack Sacchette, Brother's Machine
Shop, Performance Lab and many others. But while the idea was embraced
by a number of VW tuners, things just couldn't seem to get off the ground
and get going.
back at the past nine months, if it wasn't for the internet, specifically
three of the more popular VW forums (Cal-Look.com, TheSamba.com, and
ShopTalkForums.com), we seriously doubt if it would have ever come to
pass. So, back in early summer, Chico announced to the VW world that
on Sunday, October 15th, at JayCee Enterprises in Huntington Beach,
California, there would be a one-day VW dyno showdown. The rules were
announced, and posted to all potential engine builders (see sidebar
for rules), so they could get started on their engine entries well in
rules outlines a high performance "street" engine (although
the word "street" was never actually used) that had to run
on 91 octane pump gas, use all the cooling tin, fan, alternator/generator,
be normally aspirated, with a size limit of 2332cc, Carburetor's size
was limited to 52mm, and a muffler was mandatory. EFI, superchargers,
nitrous oxide, and turbos were not allowed. The use of aftermarket cylinder
head castings was also prohibited, as was relocated valve guides (centerlines).
main idea of this challenge was to show up with a complete engine, ready
to run, that could be hooked up to the dyno in a matter of minutes.
Time was of the essence as, according to the rules, once the engine
was ready to fire and the starter button pushed for the first time,
there would be a 35-minute limit for that particular engine. During
that time, it was possible to make sever dyno "pulls" to check
jetting or timing, but as the clock drew closer to the end of the session,
it was time to make the final RPM runs. According to the rules, power
readings would be taken at 3,500, 4,500, and 6,500 RPM, and from those
numbers maximum horsepower and torque were to be extracted. In most
cases, the peak horsepower was recorded at 6,500, while peak torque
was often at 5,500 RPM. Once the final pulls were taken, the engine
was then removed from the dyno to make room for the next contestant
- but it all had to happen within one day (albeit a rahter long one).
The actual readings taken during this eight-hour session would be straight
off the dyno without any correction factor given for weather conditions,
hence the reason this dyno session had to be run during one day only,
rather than two or more.
dyno at JayCee Enterprises is an industry standard Stuska, which is
a water brake "flywheel" dyno, able to read up to about 400
hp. But knowing his dyno better than anyone else, Jack Sacchette has
learned to "add 4" (dyno) pounds to every reading to match
that of other dynos within the VW industry. Dyno readings taken from
these tests would be multiplied by the rpm to equal horsepower. That
same dyno reading was then multiplied by 5.252 for the torque reading.
the basic perimeters of the challenge were drawn up and posted, word
quickly circulated among the VW industry, and the serious players began
to throw in their hats to enter this unique horsepower contest. Early
on, it was hoped that there would be somewhere around 5-8 builders participating
in the challenge, but with the test some months away, no once could
be sure who would actually show up. As the big day drew closer, more
and more engine builders began to confirm their entry. One in particular
was James Beahm, who drove all the way from Macon, Georgie with his
engine loaded onto the back seat of his late model Golf! Now, this guy
the day before the big dyno challenge, many of the engine builders began
to show up at JayCee Enterprises to drop off their engines and get a
lok at the dyno setup - not to mention size up the other engines. During
that afternoon, several entry engines were pre-run on Jack's dyno to
establish baseline figures, and get an idea of jetting for the next
day. Unfortunately, three of these engines ran into problems that required
significant amounts of work to get them back into action, which in some
cases went into the wee hours of the night and early morning. Those
engines belonging to Brothers Machine, So Cal Performance Lab, and CB
Performance went back onto the engine stands for a time, but luckily,
in all three cases, they finished up their work in time for Sunday's
Sunday morning, JayCee Enterprises' shop quickly became a hotbed of
excitement. Since this event was open to the public, Chico Performance
and JayCee both chipped in and supplied plenty of drinks (nearly 1,200,
thanks to Corrie Sacchette's 7-Up connection), burgerss, and hot dogs
for everyone to enjoy throughout the day, cooked-up by Chico's brother,
Jose. Later on, a huge delivery was made by the local Pat & Oscars,
which included chicken, salads, bread sticks, and pizza. Man, what a
feast! Most spectators came to see all the engines, and hear them roar
on the dyno. But limited space in and around the dyno room prevented
only but handful being close to where the action was. But Chico came
to their rescue with a huge flat screen monitor placed at the back door,
so everyone in the back alley could see a close-circuit picture of the
engines on the dyno. Great idea.
10:00 a.m. the dyno session begain, and the first task on the list was
to establish an order to which each engine builder would use the dyno.
With eight engine would use the dyno. With eight engine builders present,
names were drawn out of a hat; Clyde Berg, Esther (aka E-Girl) and hubby
Dempset Hollister, Pat Downs (CB Performance), Shawn
Moore (SRM), James Beahm, Steve and Greg Tims (Performance Workshop),
Geoff Hart (Geoff Hart Racing Engines), and Bugpack Performance Products
(Gary Fulton, Rick Sadler, and Bill Taylor). Two others were still back
in their shops working on their engines - So Cal Performance Lab and
Brothers Machine Shop - so they were given the last #9 and #10 spots,
allowing them every possible minute to join in the dyno session. As
the names were announced by emcee "Dyno Don" Chamberlain,
Clyde Berg was #1 on the roster, and the VW Engine Builder Showdown
was off and running!
Berg's engine looked very different from the rest, in that his 2275cc
entry was fitted with a 1-3/4-inch header, full heater boxes, and fresh-air
fan housing. Not only did he use 48 IDA's (like the majority of the
engines), he also had stock fuel pump, air cleaners, and relied on only
a 7.0:1 compression ratio - by far the lowest of the entire field. After
his thirty-five minute time on the dyno was up, his best numbers were
172hp @ 6,500rpm, and 162 ft.-lbs. of torque @ 5,500. (This engine was
later installed into his chop-top racer and run at Fontana, where it
took Berg to the finals in Pro Eliminator, running low 12's in the quartermile).
second engine to go on the dyno was built by Pat Downs, who heads up
the engine department at CB Performance. This 2332 featured CB crank
and rods, gas ported AA pistons, a stout 10.97:1 CR, 51.5mm
Ports, with titanium valves and CB's LS-1 spring package. And, like
all engines run this day, it had a full fan shroud, doghouse cooler,
and a muffler. Pat, with help from Alex Jimenez, made a few jetting
changes during his 35-minute period. When the final numbers were read,
CB's engine raised the bar considerably to 224hp @ 6,500, and 189 ft.-lbs.
of torque. Those would prove to be tough numbers to beat as this day
#3 came all the way from Macon, Georgia, and was built by James Beahm
(aka James 2). Now, everyone who was there that day really had a lot
of respect for James, driving all the way to California to show his
stuff. Appearance-wise, his 2332cc engine looked slightly different
in that he used a Jake Raby DTM fan housing, and dual 48 DRLA Dellorto
carburetors with air cleaners. Inside, James' engine featured an Engle
FK45 cam. Steve Sands cylinder heads with 9.5:1 compression and 1-5/8-inch
headers. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and once his
jetting and timing were dialed in, this long-distance traveler twisted
the dyno to an impressive 201hp and 184 ft.-lbs. of torque.
in line was the Geoff Hart Racing team from Lake Havasu City, Arizone,
comprised of Jon Hart, Matt Adragna, and Ronnie (Old Volks) Feitelson.
But what everyone wanted to know was, where was Geoff? Well, with a
new baby due at almost any minute, the family decided that Geoff needed
to be by his (very) pregnant wife's side, and not at a dyno test! So,
with full confidence that his support crew could take care of business,
the engine was loaded up, adn they drove out Saturday night. The Hart
entry consisted of a 2332cc, with custom JE forged pistons, special
Web Cam grind, Guy Bryant cylinder heads with 46mm intake and 37.5mm
exhaust valves. 9.5:1 compression, 48 IDF Webers, and a crank-fire/MSD
ignition. So you have to picture what happened inside the dyno room
with brother Jon, and buddies Matt and Ronnie making changes on the
engine, and "soon-to-be-dad" back home barking off jet changes
over the mobile phone. But when the numbers were recorded, and Harts'
engine made 211hp and 195 ft-lbs. of torque, the phone line was buzzing!
Racing was next up, as Esther and Dempsey Hollister brought their 2332cc
engine (on the middle seat of their minivan) to join the challenge.
This engine consisted of a vintage 84mm Okrasa crank, Porsche 912 rods,
A.J. Sims 44mm x 38mm valved heads set at 11.0:1 compression, IDA's
with 42mm chokes, and a CB 2298 cam. With last minute help from Greg
at Vee Dub Parts Unlimited and Steve Tims, they were able to get their
engine together in the nick of time. Technically, their engine was not
exactly up to the rules, in that they did not have all the necessary
sheet metal, or a doghouse cooler. But no one seemed to mind . . . this
time. After the normal warm up period, E-Girl's 2332cc powered up to
188hp with 170 ft-lbs. of torque.
engine entry from the Riverside, California area was up next, the team
of Greg and Steve Tims of Performance Workshop. Their entry was actually
the engine out of Lee Gong's street car, but since the original rules
stated that readings would be taken at 3,500 and up, they decided to
make some changes to the came and compression. So, the day of the dyno
test, they showed up with a 2332cc, fitted with a (smaller) Web 86C
cam, IDA's with 42mm venturis, and (lower) 10.5:1 compression, and of
course, Steve Tims Signature cylinder heads. But once they saw that
dyno runs were rarely taken at 3,500, and were no longer mandatory,
they were more than upset about the change. But, with no time to make
any kind of changes to their internal combination, the engine was installed
on the dyno and made ready for the test. As the Tims/Gong engine was
being warmed-up, a few onlookers made comment about how loose the fan
belt was, knowing that it could be a way to save a few extra horsepower
by spinning the fan slower. And after a bit of "heated" discussions,
the belt was tightened slightly, and (most) everyone was now happy.
Final output numbers for the Tims/Gong engine were an impressive 14hp
and 183 ft-lbs. of torque. We should note that this engine really sounded
smooth as it pulled through the rpm range. (A few weeks after this test,
Lee's engine was re-installed into his 1,720-pound sedan and ran 11.90
@ 108 MPH . . . on pump gas).
#7 was next, and this 2275cc was built by Shawn Moore of srmvw.com in
Stanton, California. Shawn assembled his engine with a DPR crank, VW
rods, a special Steve Long cam, and a pair of Jeff Denham 42mm x 37mm
heads with only 8.37:1 compression. His exhaust was an 1-5/8-inch Sidewinder
from A-1 Muffler, and carburetors were IDA's with 42mm venturis. Shawn's
engine ran up to 195hp @ 6,500 RPM, and peak torque was 173 ft.-lbs.
Impressive numbers for a relatively low compression engine.
then came the over-the-hill gang from Bugpack! Now, all kidding aside,
the big three from Dee Engineering - Gary Fulton, Rick Sadler, and Bill
Taylor - got together and decided to build an engine in-house, using
mostly Bugpack parts, and entered this challenge. Their 2332cc engine
used a Bugpack 84mm crank, 5.500-inch rods, 1.4 rocker arms, 1-5/8-inch
headers, and head castings, but had Shaun McCarthy port and polish the
heads. Compression was set at 9.97:1, and IDAs were fitted with 40mm
chokes. Once the test began, the team quickly decided that since 3,500
rpm readings were no longer an issue, that larger 42mm venturis would
be best suited for this contest. So during their 35-minute setup, the
guys quickly changed venturis, and then ran the engine as is. The result
was a 211hp reading at 6,500rpm, and best torgue was at 181 ft.-lbs.
We can tell you that these guys were more than happy with those numbers!
the Bugpack engine was being removed off the dyno, it was about 3:20
in the afternoon. And unless the engines from Performance Lab or Brothers
Machine showed up, the contest was over. But as fate would have it,
both engines showed up in the nick of time, giving a full field of ten
entries. Judging from the look of these guys, they probably had been
up for most of the night rebuilding their engines for today's test.
#9 came from the So Cal Performance Lab in nearby Ontario, California.
Headed up by Victor Menjivar and Shag Leon, with help from Mike, Shahim,
and Jason, their 2332cc engine used a CB crank, 94mm AA pistons, custom
Steve Long cam, Brothers Machine cylinder heads with 10.4:1 compression,
and 51.5mm carburetors with 44mm venturis. With time quickly running
out, they had to hustle to get this engine up and running smoothly.
For their efforts, the best reading turned out to be 195hp and 176 ft.-lbs.
final engine of the day went on the dyno at about five in the afternoon.
The engine from Brothers Machine, also from Ontario, was placed on Jack's
dyno by Renato and Marcial Morales. This 2332cc engine had a DPR crank,
5.500-inch rods and 94mm Wiseco pistons. Cylinder heads were done in-house,
with 9.9:1 compression, cam was a custom grind from Web, and IDAs used
44mm venturis. The last pull of the event shows the Brothers' engine
to make a best of 24hp, and 181 ft.-lbs. or torque.
things began to wrap-up, the numbers revealed that all the late night
wrenching on his engine paid off, as Pat Downs (CB Performance) was
tops in both horsepower and torque with a very impressive 224-horsepower
and 189 ft.-lbs. Best Appearing Engine was awarded to the Bugpack boy's
2332cc, and the "Better Luck Next Time" so-called honors went
to Clyde Berg.
a first time event, the VW Engine Builder Showdown turned out to be
a very interesting, and most exciting one-day throw-down of who can
make the most power under strict guidelines. Certainly there is room
for improvement, with more clarity in how the test should be run. Rules
will be modified before next year's event takes place, you can bet on
that. One of the most important changes would be to prohibit contestants
from using the host dyno one week prior to the dyno day. Other rules
about mandatory rpm range, fans, belt tension, will no doubt be addressed
in the weeks and months to come. Sponsors of this awesome event include:
Chico Performance Racing, JayCee Enterprises, Vee Dub Parts Unlimited,
DPR Machine, BMD Pulleys, AA Automotive Products, Quality German Auto
Parts, Brothers Machine, CB Performance, Bugpack, Scat, Jake Raby, So
Cal. Performance Lab, and Chico Towing.