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Update 2-13-14

Contact: Skip: oholber@yahoo.com
(225) 356-6803

April - May -June 2014  

1st Qtr. 2013  2nd Qtr. - 2013 3rd Qtr.-2013  

 4th Qtr. 2013    1st Qtr. 2014

555 BBC Engine Pt. 8 (Final)

During the construction and painting of the new car, I was asked by Silas Rogers' Racing Team to help convert their car over to electronics. After that was finished they asked me to join them at No Problem Raceway, on a Weds. night, while they tested to see if everything worked. When we got there, Silas, Sr. insisted that I drive the car so I could determine if everything worked. I had not been in a car since the wreck! I protested, but they kept at me until I gave in.

This car had a larger engine than I had in my car, built by Durham Engineering, the same people that built my original engine (540 CID), but this one had much better "stuff" inside.

I staged and made a good pass, 10.05 @ 140 MPH. I was very nervous and was happy to get back to the pits. When I got back, they told me they had the throttle stop set to limit the engine RPM. That was it for me for the night. Everything worked perfectly and I was happy about that.

During my down time, I had decided to go with a new converter. I decided to use my Pro-Shop membership and get a discounted converter that was suppose to be the correct one for my setup.

We took the car to the Father's Day Race and I drove on Saturday and Houston Hawking drove on Sunday. The car did not perform as we thought it should have. Early Monday morning we called the converter maker and they said I had the wrong converter! They would not take it back or work on it. This was not a Louisiana, Miss. or Tenn. company.

After the frustration with that converter, I talked to my friend Van Johnson, who I know had done all the homework on every piece of equipment in his car, and asked him about his converter. He had a Coan Engineering converter. I called Coan and talked to a technician, gave him all my specs. and they recommended a converter, which I ordered.

The converter was a 9", sprageless, 5700 stall unit that had a great guarantee. The first weekend at the track was very disappointing. The car did not run any better than before. I called Coan, they said send it back, but before I do, would I make just one more pass and bring my starting line RPM up from 3500 too at least 4000 RPM? I decided to try that new RPM at launch and the car almost threw me out the back window! It was Awesome! I called Coan and thanked them for the tip and for the converter. It has been freshened up once, by Coan and flushed once by Keith Hunter and has never given any trouble.

The next work on the engine was the head porting. That was all done by Alvin's Porting Service on his CNC machine. We were trying to pick up a couple of tenths to get into the 8.90's and the porting helped me to get there.

I have been very blessed since the last overhaul. We have had to replace a intake gasket and a head gasket. I put a new set of roller rockers and roller lifters in the engine. I also had to put all new, .150" longer exhaust push rods in to make the rocker geometry corrrect after Comp Cams changed the specs. on my replacement roller rockers (strange that only the exhaust push rods had to be changed). We cracked the pan and had to have that welded. I have done a lot of cosmetic changes and air flow changes (isolating the carb. from the underhood hot air) but overall, everything has been excellent.

Over the past 4 years the engine has run a best time of 8.93 @ 149 MPH. That was in 2010. The best time lately has been in the 1/8 Mile: 5.68 @ 121 MPH. In late Feb. 2014 we had a 5.70 @ 121 MPH pass as we broke out to lose in Top Doorslammer.

The End

July 7, 2014

It's A Boy!

Preston Jayson Underwood,
born 6/26/2014 (7lbs. 5oz.).

Born to, Samuel and Catherine Underwood of Yorktown, VA. Mother and child are doing fine.

Mr. Skip's 6th Great-grandchild.

 

Working On Car

Wheelie Bars

Trying to determine what is making the car veer to the right on launch, Houston suggested the left wheelie bar is not working the same as the right one. I have springs in my wheelie bars, which is NOT recommended for a high powered drag car, and we determined one of the springs is weak. I tightened the adjusting nut to try to equalize both wheelie bars. Now I want to adjust my front, drivers side shock to try to keep the front left from going so high on launch. Essentially it will be going back to the way Brandon had it when he scaled it. I changed it myself. The result of me changing it was, I picked up some 60' time. I think this also contributed to my problem on launch. We will see.

555 BBC Engine Pt. 7

After the crash, the car sat for weeks. I had a body man look at what was left and it was determined that it was not worth fixing. I traded the car, less M/T for some work around my home and Arnold Jordan asked if he could purchase several items off of the car before I got rid of it which included all of the wiring that I had meticulously done in the trunk for the batteries and fuel pump, including relays. I kept all the electronics.

The transmission sat on the floor of the shop for a long time, months, before I did anything with it. Van Johnson and I drove up to Ashland, MS, to TCI and dropped the trans. off for the 5 year certification on the case and freshening. The engine just sat on the engine stand because it was still fresh.

One afternoon, "Bert" Riley came to the house with a deal on his yellow 1967 Camaro. I told him I was not interested in getting back on the track right now. He left, but in one or two days he was back with a much better deal for the car. I made a bid that I knew he would not take and too my surprise, he agreed. I had my 4th Camaro of my life!

September 1st of 2008, hurricane Gustav hit the gulf coast and we had major damage to the house. Our recovery took almost two months for the major work and several more months on the small stuff that had to be done after the major repairs.

I did not like the yellow color on the new car and a man that had a friend who was a painter got me a "deal" on a paint job. The painter closed his business shortly after finishing my car. I will spare you the details of that experience. All I will say is, you get what you pay for!

I ordered several trim pieces from Camaro suppliers and installed all of the trim pieces myself (that's why my front end does not look like any showroom Camaro). I also did the tail lights, another one of a kind. I cut and fitted all the Lexan, with the help of Charlie Robinson's tools.

I completely rewired the car from front to rear. While I was at it, I made a wiring diagram of the whole system. There is about 5-6 pages of individual system wiring and one composite drawing of the whole system. All the wiring is numbered on each end and color coded by circuit.

Retired people have a lot of time to do things like that!

The new car was a real blessing and I love it! The car that was wrecked was all mild steel and was box tube from front to back. It was a back-half car, but was not very conservative when it came to weight. It did have a Ford 9" rear end, but not a very good one. The new car is also a back-half car, but is all tube, chrome-molly from under the driver to the rear bumper. Double rail on the bottom and very good sheet metal. It has a very good Ford 9" that has all Strange Engineering parts. There are a lot of excellent things about this car that I love. I screwed up on wheelie-bar selection, but that is an easy fix. If I ever want to change over to solid wheelie bars and eliminate the springs I can do that.

We installed the engine and then put a lot of new stuff around it, new fan, new radiator, new electric water pump and crank trigger. Some of these items were added later but most were installed shortly after the engine was fitted to make sure the old engine would go into the new body. Bert Riley was nice enough to provided the headers and radiator.

Next: Testing, getting over the crash, feeling out the new combination and installing a new converter.
June 26, 2014

 

What A Day! What A Weekend!

Prayer works! Bracket Masters Racing Team prayed for good weather for our race and by the grace of God, we did not get any rain at State Capitol Raceway on Saturday for the Fathers Day Classic! There was rain in Baton Rouge and Port Allen, but not at the track. Thank God for answering prayers. Mrs. Jerri Harris (deceased spiritual leader and member) would have been proud of us.

The race came off without a problem. Most racers had a good time and their were many cars. The Ray Neal Band was great and almost played as loud as the race cars!

My car ran well but one of my mistakes was not running more in the weeks leading up to the race. When you lay off for that long, things get rusty and you forget what you are suppose to do. I was able to get the car back home in one piece with everything working as well as when we left. My best time trial was a 1/4 mile pass of 9.19 @ 145 MPH. All of my later passes were 1/8 mile and they were not good passes at all, getting out of the groove and lifting or just being all over the place. I was helped by both, Houston Hawkins and Silas Rogers, Jr.. They were both a big help and I appreciate all the support from both of them. In eliminations, I got a competition bye in round 1, and got beat by Keith "Young Blood" Veal in the 2nd round. Young Blood went on to win Super Pro 1/8 mile. At least I was eliminated by the winner!
Photos

Father Of The Year!

My church, Shiloh Missionary B. C. of Port Allen, selected me the 2014 "Father Of The Year"! It was a total shock. Mrs. Angela Moore and my wife Barbara pulled off the surprise. All of my friends, team mates and relatives knew about it and not one of them told me.

I received many gifts, and a very nice plaque. There were lots of good words, cards and congratulations from the member of the congregation. It was a very moving experience. The church read a very nice summery of my career and contributions to the church along with the presentation of the very nice Plaque.

Many of my family were in attendance: My wife, Barbara, Mrs. Barbara Morris and son Tray, Lizzie Herbert and Roland Gardner. I also got calls from all of my children, some of the grandchildren that are not in the area, my niece, Milana and Sister Bea Bea. In todays environment of Text Messages and Facebook, some of the communications was via those vehicles (It's all good!)

Team mate J. Lacey presented a card signed by all of my Bracket Masters Racing Team members and some friends. Kevin Gray and Suzon were in attendance along with Mr. Willie Beathley.

Friends and neighbors that Barbara told came by the house or called to say congratulations and all wished me a happy Fathers Day. Thanks To All Of You! Photos
June 18, 2014

 

Getting Ready For Father's Day Race

It seems like everything is happening at once. I have been given a new assignment by my pastor, I had to complete a project for another web site, and I have a list of things that I just wanted to do for myself.

I started getting the truck all shined up by giving it a good washing and I did all the black rubber and other trim. I have about 2/3 of the truck polished and it really looks good. After I finish the truck I will do the same to the car. I will get it loaded up on Friday and go get a good parking space. I need a little "seat time" too!

We are all praying for good weather on Saturday for the race. I have a feeling that it will clear up and we will have a good day for the race. The temperatures are suppose to be in the high 80's, which is good for this time of year in Louisiana.

After the race I will get back to telling the story on the 555 engine. Things are going to slow down then.

I have officially taken the car off of the "for sale" block. I am going to keep it. With the exception of about 6 years, I have owned a Camaro since 1972. Starting with a real 1969 Z-28 (302 CID) and moving along to three other Camaros after that.

I was talking to Mr. May, owner of the really quick gray Mustang with FAST fuel injection, and he has really made me think about installing one of those systems in my car. Many of you know that I tried the "Ron's" mechanical fuel injection system back in the mid-90's but did not accomplish very much. Not because of anything to do wit the system, but the engine was not in good enough shape to benefit from the system. I did not fine that out until I tore the engine down. Broken rings, poor clearances and other problems, including continuous gas injection from my priming system (I was running Alky). All these problems led me to sell the system. Now I am ready to try again, but this time I want Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI).
June 11, 2014

Read Story On Shannun

 

Father's Day Race!

Bracket Masters Racing Team will sponsor their annual Father's Day Race on June 14, 2014 (Saturday). Gates open at 8 am for parking, Jr. Dragsters will start and complete their race starting at 9am.

The big cars will not start until 4pm (gets us out of the heat of the day), and will race until completion.

Team members have T-shirts for sale, $15.00 each.

Three, 39 inch Flat Screen TV's, are being raffled off. See any member of Bracket Masters. Tickets are $5.00 each.

Racers will have several brackets to compete in, including a Super-Pro 1/4 mile bracket and a Super-Pro 1/8 mile bracket. Non-E (Footbrake), Street and Motorcycle will be 1/4 mile. This information in not official and is subject to change.

Please visit State Capitol Raceway web site to see the official flyer for the event to get more information.

 

Tray Morris Turns Two!

Birthday Party - June 1, 2014

 

State Capitol Raceway Bracket Race
Photos - 5-17-2014

 

You Tube Video: Shannun, Brian. Keith & Patrick Time Trials, PLUS: Assorted Super Pro Racers

 

You Tube Video: Round 1 - Top Doorslammer - 5-17-14 at SCR

 

555 BBC Engine Pt. 6

Let's go back some. There are a few things that I left out about the development of the engine, namely the adventure with my heads and pistons.

After the dyno testing and removing the right side head for shipment back to Dart, I decided not to do any more dyno testing. After getting the engine home and on the engine stand, I discovered all of the exhaust valves had been hitting the tops of the pistons. Not much, but enough to leave a small indention in the valve relief pocket. We removed the other head and found the same thing.

The engine was disassembled and the pistons were taken to Remi for work on the valve relief pockets. Before doing that, we talked to Ross Pistons and they made a recommendation on how to remove the material to give me at least .200" under the exhaust valves while using a .050" head gasket. The old compression ratio was, 14.5:1 and the new ratio would be approximately 14.1:1. We had to allow for the block and the heads to be cleaned up so everything would seal just right and I was already at zero deck height.

We also discovered the cam had a few groves on two of the lobes, so I put a new cam in the engine and had the lifters and rockers reconditioned by Comp Cams. The old cam had a little more overlap, 99 degrees vs. 66 degrees for the new cam, but the other specs. were fairly close. We would lose some compression and some horsepower from the cam change. I thought I would still be able to run in the low 9's in ET, so it really did not matter that much. This was before they started the Top Doorslammer class and I wanted to run in the high 8's.

When the new head came back, Alvin did a flow test and found the new head almost matched the work he had done on the old set of heads. The heads were approximately 8 years apart but technology and advances in tooling had almost produced a head that flowed as much as a hand ported head (A few years later we would put those heads on the CNC machine and get more flow out of them).

Now we were ready to install the engine and do some testing. Van Johnson and I met at the old track in Eunice, LA and did some practice runs and time trials. When I finally got my timing correct, put all 8 spark plug wires on and did everything I should have done, I tried to make an all out pass. The car left with the wheels up in the air and just after the shift, the engine hit the rev. limiter and everything cut off momentarily, then came back on and the car had made a 9.05 sec. pass! We were happy, but did not know why the engine had shut down and come back to life.

We left Eunice without making another pass and came home to check everything out. We did not find a problem and decided to take the car to No Problem Raceway Park for the Wednesday Test & Tune, Nov. 14, 2007.

On the first pass, the car left with the wheels in the air and came down and pulled hard to the right, I moved the wheel to bring the car back to the center but before I could do anything, it took a hard left and went into the concrete wall. When the car hit the wall, all I saw was stars! My glassed flew off, my helmet came down over my eyes and I could not see anything. When the car hit 1st the wall, I had a solid rod between the accelerator and the carburetor, that rod got stuck in the firewall and kept the carburetor wide open. I could feel the car headed for the opposite side of the track, I said to myself, "I'm still alive", and I was trying to reach my switches to shut down the engine. I did not know it at the time but the whole transmission tunnel, where those switches were located, had been moved over toward the passenger side of the car. I hit the other wall! I was doing about 119 MPH when I hit the first wall and just a little less when I hit the other side. The car hugged the wall and went down the track towards the finish line where one of the track safety crewmen caught up and clicked off the outside safety switch. I put the safety net down and opened the door but could not get out.

Stevie Ray had to cut the bars to get me out. My left foot went through the firewall, but was only scrapped. I was restrained and transported to the hospital. Nothing was broken, except the car body was totaled. The No Problem Raceway Park Safety Crew was great! I cannot thank them enough!

We later determined that the cause of the problem was the Rack & Pinion arrangement on the front had come off and I had no control of the car after it came back down on the launch. Lots of folks inspected the track, including Houston Hawkins and Pat, but no moisture was found on the track.

The engine and transmission did not get any damage. We later found that the converter was the problem in Eunice. The insides were junk.

After that accident, I found out that I was not invincible and could NOT drive through any situation. This was my first on-track accident in over 40 years of Drag Racing. now, at the first sign of trouble, I get out of it and live to fight another day.

Next: Bert Reilly and the new "Mr. Skip". Getting back on track with my old engine after long hurricane repairs to our home!
May 20, 2014

 

Blast From The Past!

My old friend, Wallace Keese, past driver and crew member of "Masterpiece", back in the early 90's , stopped by to say hello. It was a surprise visit as he and wife, Rusty, along with family friends, were in town for a graduation and did not have a lot of time. I was very, very glad to see Wallace. We took a tour of the shop, took photos of the car and with each other and talked about old times.

Wallace keeps up with "Mr. Skip" on the web site and could not help from teasing me about selling the car! He has also been keeping up with the 555 engine story.

Wallace is currently Dean Of Students at Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, GA. When Wallace was in Baton Rouge, he worked in a similar, but lower, position at LSU.

This was the most gratifying tree I have had in a while. There have only been three people that have driven any of my cars, Wallace, Houston and Kevin. We go way back a very long way.

Wallace Keese Visits With Skip In Racing Shop.
May 12, 2014

 

555 BBC Engine: Pt. 5

Head Repair And Dyno Testing The BBC Engine.

After blowing the engine and causing major cylinder damage, I also incurred some major head damage on one of the heads. I enlisted the advice of Mr. Alvin Calhoun, head porter and testing expert. He recommended a machine shop that could fix the aluminum head for me. After several try s, the head was finally ready and I slapped it on the engine.

The next step was the Dyno Testing. I decided on Tim's Engines in Denham Springs, LA. Tim's had hosted a Bracket Masters Racing Team meeting at their shop and demonstrated their new dyno machine to the team a few months before.

After some initial test runs and making sure all was well for the pulls, we made the first of 12 runs for the day. We got 821 HP and 743 ft.-lbs. of torque. Just as we had done up in Maryland, after the first two runs we shut down and changed the oil. We had put a filter screen on top of the oil filter to catch any trash or debris that might have been inside the oil system or in the oil pan. The screen was as clean as it was when we put it on.

The next two runs netted just over 830 HP. We changed jets several times (going up each time) and changed the timing to try to find more horsepower. The first 10 runs were made with my New Holley 1150, with jets ranging from 92 square up too 98 square. Run #11 was the best producing run, and that was made with the first run on my BG 1090 carburetor with 94 square jets and 38 degrees timing. We got 841 HP and 766 ft-lbs. of torque. The last run was not very good, as some things went wrong during the test and we only got 836 HP. We got a lot of smoke during that last run and we decided that the BG Carburetor was in need of a tune up.

By this time, we were forced to stop testing (church curfew down the street). We decided to make two more runs the next day with a fresh BG carburetor that I was to clean and put a kit in overnight. We left everything else on the dyno and went home.

The following morning, we got ready for the next pull and the engine would not turn over when we tried to start it. We checked and found #2 cylinder full of water! This was the cylinder where the work had been done to fix the head. Inspection of the head, after removal, showed a crack in the cylinder head right in the weld area.

We decided to send the head back to Dart for repair. After about two months, Dart informed us that the head was beyond repair and we should purchase a new head or a new set of heads. My budget said we could only afford one head and that was what we did. The new head was ported to match the flow of the old head by Mr. Alvin and we were back in business.

I decided not to do any more dyno testing and installed the head and put the engine back into the car. This was around August-September 2006.

Coming up next: Testing the new engine and "The Wreck"
May 11, 2014.

 

555 BBC Engine: Pt. 4

Learning About The BBC Engine and Other Things

We were very happy with the engine during the first few years of running it. I purchased the two volume set of books by Rehearser-Morrison which is for racing engines. The two volume are: Lower Engine Assembly and Upper Engine Assembly. I was introduced to the books by my good friend, Van Johnson of New Iberia, LA.

The two books take you step-by-step through the assembly process of each part of the engine. They don't recommend any specific parts by name, but talk about some of the choices that are available, the materials, what too look for that indicates quality. Lots of specifications, photos, how to;s and why things are done in a certain way and sequence. There are many recommendations and many warnings about what not to do. I learned a lot. Some things that I had been doing for years I found out that they were wrong. My set of books are copyright 2001 and was the 3rd Edition. I know by now they are way up in the editions, if the books are still available.

In the year 2000, the Quartermasters Racing Team of Forestville, Maryland, invited Bracket Masters Racing Team, along with many other black racing teams from all over the Eastern USA, to attend a, "Millennium Drag Racing Conference" on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in January 2000. The purpose of the conference was to get more of the clubs and racing teams around to area to sponsor more big time events. In attendance at the conference were, Lawyers, engineers, journalist, writers, businessmen from large corporations and many potential sponsors. The racing teams in attendance were: United Black Drag Racers of St. Louis, MO, and Milwaukee, WI, United Black Drag Racers Association of New Orleans, Memphis Racers Association of Memphis, TN., The Jackson Racing Team of Jackson, TN. and there were many other individual racers from all over the Eastern USA.

During the conference, I had a chance to have lunch with Malcolm Durham, the first black Funny Car driver and Lenard Miller, author of the book, "Silent Thunder", which chronicles the plight of black racers as they tried to get into NASCAR, from the early 50;s until the late 1990.s.

From the many ideas discussed and suggestions on how to get started, representatives from Bracket Masters Racing Team got on the ball and sponsored the first of four, "Louisiana Drag Classic's" in Baton Rouge, LA. Race number 5 was scheduled for the weekend that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Things were never the same after that event.

Back to the engine. Had it not been for the engine, purchased in Maryland, we would not have been invited to the conference.

The engine ran very well until around the 300 run range, I had two roller rockers go out. Bryon told me that I should have changed them, or had them refurbished at around 200 runs and the same was true for the roller lifters. He also told me to change valve springs every season If I was going to put that many passes on the engine. The original engine had "Pop-up" lifters, which made it easy to change cams, but they are not as strong as the "Vertical Gate" lifters. I did away with the old lifters, rockers and springs and replaced them with quality parts, except for the valve springs, which I went back with the original recommended spring for that cam. The new springs lasted about 4-5 trips to the track and I had 6 broken inner springs.

At the local level, I have almost always worked with Remi Baker of Womack's Block and Head in Denham Springs, LA. Remi recommended a new spring material called "Pacoloy". This material was suppose to give longer life while maintaining spring pressure. I have never broken another spring since switching to this spring material.

In April 2006, the engine broke #2 rod and did a lot of damage to #2 and #6 cylinders. It was a strange failure. The small end of the rod unwrapped itself from the piston pin and the caused a lot of cylinder wall damage and it put a hole in the steel oil pan. The crank was not hurt. There were bent valves and piston damage, but the piston pin was still in the piston when the engine was disassembled.

Back to Womack's and the decision was made to put two sleeves in the engine since two of the cylinders had very deep gouges in the cylinder walls. In October 2005, when I assembled the engine, I did not tighten the cam bolts and did not put the locks on the cam bolts that hold the cam gear on the cam. The engine lasted a few runs before it let go and ruined two more cylinders and a lot of valves. Back to Womack's again.

What I really need at this point is a new block, but the $$$$ is not available. Since I am now retired and no way of doing overtime or getting a bonus to help pay for the new block, I decided to go with two more sleeves. The Reher-Morrison book says, "Do Not Use Sleeves In A Racing Engine"!

At this time we decided to make the engine a 555 CID engine. This allowed us to put the new sleeves in and bore the other cylinders correct and straight. That was October 2005 and the engine is still running very well with the 4 sleeves. I do not recommend that anyone else try this. One thing that you might think about. Cadillac, and a few other companies, run engines with all sleeves, but they were designed that way.

The 540 engine got me down to 9.21 @ 146 MPH in the quarter. That was before I overhauled ti the first time around 2003. After I "worked on it", the best I could do was 9.24 @ 145 MPH.

I have all the tools that are needed to assemble an engine. I have inside and outside micrometers, dial bore gauge, snap gages, rod holding tool, ring compressors and many of the ring & piston insertion tools for different size pistons. When I assemble an engine, with the exception of the springs, I can do it all. I also have all the cam decreeing tools.

With the exception of the Studebaker, my first racecar, I have built (assembled) or rebuilt all the engines that I have raced. Most of them have performed better than expected and held up very well. I am not mistake proof and have make some errors in the past. But for the most part, I build a good engine. Almost as good as my carburetors!

Coming up, Dyno testing 555 and head work drama.
May 3, 2014

 

Five Fifty-Five Engine: Pt. 3

Installation Problems, License Passes and St. Louis

You know, after returning home with the engine and getting the body ready to install the engine, I thought everything would go in just right and very easy, WRONG!

As I said, a lot of Bracket Master team members and friends showed up to help me install the engine. The first problem we encountered was the big, kick-out oil pan. We tried to installed the engine with the stock cross member in place. We had to slice up, beat up and in general, make major changes to that cross-member. When we got it in, there was not much room for anything. At the time I was not using a motor plate. The largest engine that that car had seen was a 383 SBC.

I had been told that we should have custom headers built for the engine, but I ordered a set of Hooker Headers that were suppose to fit the 1967 Camaro with a BBC engine. When we put the headers on, everything fit as they said. I was very happy, until we tried to put the spark plugs into the Dart Pro-1 heads. I think maybe two or three plugs went in without a fight. The other 5 were: (1) Too long (2) The incorrect angle. We had to take a ball-peen hammer and dimple several of the tubes to make room for the plugs. We also had to abandon the long Autolite plugs that we had run on the dyno. We ended up with much shorter NGK plugs. Over the years I have run NGK-9, NGK-8 and right now I am running NGK-7, gapped at .040". Autolite AR3911 have worked well for me also.

Back in 2004, I think, I purchased a set of custom headers and they were perfect. They had O2 bungs for sensors, thermocouple fittings in each header tube for dyno testing and they were coated with the latest no-rust, no-fingerprint coating, inside and out. Everything fit and there was a noticeable increase in power. Unfortunately, they got crushed when I hit the wall at No Problem Raceway in November 2006. Custom headers are the way to go!

Back to 1999. When we finally shoe horned the engine into the Camaro, we put all the fluids in, checked everything and we were ready. The oil pan did not have a provision for a dipstick and we put 6 qts. of oil in and we were ready. We started it up and it woke up the neighbors! It sounded awesome! We did encounter some oil leakage from the front seal, but not much. We made a make-shift diaper and put under the front of the engine.

We could not wait to get to the track. I had planned to get my NHRA License that first weekend and then hit the road to St. Louis the following weekend to attend "Black Sunday". I contacted Allen Miller, Manager of State Capitol Raceway and asked if he would allow me to make all of my runs on Friday night. Allen said he would make sure I got all of my 6 passes done, if I would show up early and be in line when time trials started.

The first two passed were easy passed and everything worked just as it should. The next two passed were 1/8 mile passes and they went well also. The first full pass was 9.76 @ approximately 140 MPH and the last pass was 9.74 @ 142 MPH. I was happy! We got all of our paperwork signed and it was in the mail on Saturday morning. We got our license back by Fax the following week from NHRA Div. 4 Headquarters.

With the 540 BBC engine, the car weighed 3040 lbs., with the driver. I was very pleased with the performance. When I negotiated with Bryon for the engine, I wanted an engine that I did not have to rebuild every year and it would run in the mid to high nine second range.

Here are some of the specs. for the 540 CID BBC engine: General Motors Gen. V Bow-Tie block that was line bored and modified for a two-piece main seal. Comp Cams Roller Cam, 748/714 lift and 286/286 duration @.050", 110 L.S.. The roller setup had pop-up lifters and steel roller lifters, double springs with damper and chain drive. Very mild by today's standards. The heads were the aforementioned Dart Pro-1, 345's with only a mild blending of the bowls and port matching of the manifold. The rotating assembly had Eagle rods with a upgrade to a Eagle 4340 crank and ATI damper. The rotation assembly was balanced with the Pioneer flexplate. The Pistons are Ross, 12.8:1 C.R. @ 121cc. Moroso 7qt oil pan with High Vol. oil pump.

We had made the license passes with the old hood and scoop on the car. Before leaving for St. Louis my new hood was installed and sealed to the carburetor. When we got to St. Louis and made the first two passes, the best time we could get was around 10.05 and it was running very bad off the line. Bryon and Malcome were in St. Louis and I went to them and they started questioning me about what was different from the run in Baton Rouge. Barbara said, "That is not the hood you had in Baton Rouge". The other hood had not been sealed, and was open to the engine compartment. We removed the sealing material and made another pass.

This pass will forever be called, "The Flight". Bryon and Malcolm were on the starting line when I left. When the trans-brake button was released, the car left the line just like a 747 takes off at the airport, wheels low at first, then they slowly raised, and raised and raised. I had never had a car pull the wheels like that. Normally it just jerked the wheels up right off the line, but this was very different, like an airplane takeoff.

Bryon had told me a story about a person he had built a 505 BBC engine for a few months ago. When he left on his first all out pass, the car went up and he got out of it and it came back crashing to the ground and hurt the oil pan!

While I was up in the air, looking at the sky, I thought about that story and I stayed in the throttle, my foot pressed to the floor. The car peaked out at about a 45 degree angle and held it for a few feet and then came back down to the track with a bounce. The car had gone straight as and arrow, but I was all shook up! When I got back, Barbara was complaining about me making changes, Bryon and Malcolm were smiling and saying, "That's how our engines are suppose to perform!" That pass was, 9.54 @ 144 MPH.

When I was up in the air, all I could see was blue sky and out the side window, the guard rails going past, swoosh, swoosh, swoosh! That was how I knew I was still going straight! When I returned to Baton Rouge, I took the car straight to the fabrication shop and had "Wheelie Bars" installed, I was not going to take a ride like that again.
April 24, 2014

 

You Tube Video of Saturday - Mr. Skip and a few others.

 

Mr. Skip, Back On Track!

Barbara and I took the car out for the Saturday Bracket Race at State Capitol Raceway. The car performed great! On the first pass, we were just hoping that we could make 5.79 to make it into the field of Top Doorslammer. We laid down a 5.705 @ 119 MPH! I was super happy. Now many people may not think that is much of an accomplishment, but for me it was just great. The quickest I have ever been was, 5.64 @ 119 MPH, and that was on a fresh motor and new tires back in 2010. Lately the best we have had was, 5.723 @118 MPH, in the same type weather.

The lanes at the track this weekend were very uneven. The best I could manage, while spinning the tires in the right lane was, 5.745 @ 119 MPH. I lost in the first round of Top when I was put in the right lane, but it did not matter, I turned on the red light anyway.

I bought back into Super Pro and won when my opponent returned the favor and red lighted. I lost in the third round of Super Pro when both of us broke out and I had a 5.700 on a 5.72 @ 120 MPH. My opponent was just .003 closer to his dial in. I was still happy with the way the car performed and went home happy.
4/21/2014

Photos: SCR - Saturday, 4-19-14

 

Photos, SCR - Street Night Friday 4-18-14

 

555 Engine, Part 2

Engine Building and Dyno Testing

Barbara and I wanted to go to St. Louis to visit her cousin in September 1999, and I thought it would be great to take the car up there for "Black Sunday". This is an annual race sponsored by "United Black Drag Racers of America" and is held at Gateway International Raceway each September. All racers are welcome and the event is attended by thousands of fans and racers, just like a national event. The stands are packed on both sides and the cars are some of the most beautiful in the nation.

Bryon had promised the engine for June, but that date slipped and now we were into July. I had ordered an enclosed trailer from Classic Trailers in Michigan that was suppose to be ready in July. They had called and said the trailer was ready. Entergy, my employer, was sending me to a school in Knoxville, TN in early August and I would be able to get the trailer when the school was over. I told Bryon that I would be in Maryland to pick up the engine in August. After the school, I picked up the trailer and arrived on a Tuesday morning at Supercar Automotive to pick up my engine.

When I walked in, they were still boring the block! Seems they had had some delivery problems, but everything was there and ready for assembly. They put me up in a hotel for the night and I was able to park the trailer at their shop in a safe area. Haittsville, MD is a close suburb of Washington, DC. I spent most of the day talking to Bryon's father, Malcome Durham, about the current state of racing, new technology and how he had had to build his own Dyno and do all of his testing to get his engines built the way he wanted them. This was the start of Supercar Engineering. He had raised three boys, two had graduated from college and Bryon was now the manager of the business. Malcome spent most of the morning boring my block and then after a clean-up, some measurements and fit-ups, the engine was assembled.

They worked all night and when I got to the shop, around 10am, the engine was sitting on the Dyno, ready to make a pull. We made two pulls, they shut down and changed the oil, cut the filter open and inspected it, reset the valves and made another couple of pulls. The horsepower was not where they expected, mostly because when I ordered the engine I specified a 4160 style intake and we used a Holley (Divenchi) 825 CFM carburetor. We only had 670 HP from my 540 CID BBC engine. Bryon checked everything and decided to lock out the MSD distributor by welding the internal lock-out mechanism. I had used the normal method of locking it out but Bryon said welding it in place would be better. That gained us 50 HP! We were now up to 720 HP and 680 ft.-lbs. of torque (I now have a MSD Crank-Trigger).

Bryon and Malcolm were not very happy and Malcome started looking for a larger carburetor and different intake. I said no, because I wanted to get on the road. I did have a BG 775(RS) carburetor with me that had larger venturi and larger baseplate than the aforementioned Holley. Bryon said he was sure that one would make more horsepower than the Holley.

We bolted the BG 775(RS) on and made one last pull. We got 746 HP and 700 ft.-lbs torque! Bryon and Malcolm both recommended I put a Holley 1150 on the engine. I would eventually purchase a new BG 1090 CMF carb and a Holley Dominator 1150 CFM (Ultimate) carb.. Both perform about the same but the Holley is more durable than the BG King Demon. Before installing the larger carburetors, I changed the Removable Sleeves (RS) in the BG 775(RS) and upgraded it too 1025 CFM.

BG corporation has gone bankrupt and no longer produces the King Demon. The people that now make the Demon. carburetors do not supply any Parts for the King Demon. so parts are very hard to come by. The BG carb. was a little more responsive and just a little quicker, but had to be refreshed (cleaned and adjusted) a lot more often than the Holley.

While the engine was being removed from the dyno, some of the co-worker constructed a support for the engine to ride in the trailer back to Baton Rouge. While I was gone, the painters finished the car. I would make it all the way to Durham, NC on the first leg of my trip home and I was home for the weekend and a host of friends helped me install the engine.

In Part 3, we will talk about headers, transmission, license passes, my trip to St. Louis and "Looking At The Sky".
April 17, 2014


Car Update After Pan Repair

With the exception of the alternator, everything is ready to go. I may have forgotten to mention that I put a new, SFI flywheel on an a overhauled starter. Everything sounds good now when I start it up.

I was talking to Reggie Jackson about running in the Super or Rod classes and having the room to put my linkage style throttle stop back on. He reminded me that the carburetor could be rotated 180 degrees and everything would have a lot of room. I looked at it and he is right. The only problems would be extending the air lines, the throttle cable and moving the fuel lines to the driver side. I plan to test the old throttle stop before I move anything. If it is not working, I would just purchase a under carb. type air operated unit and go with that. All of that costs money and it may not be worth it to just race in those classes two or three times per year.

I actually saw a Camaro that my friend, Ed Stuart, from Pensacola had set up for a young lady, with the throttle cable coming in from the front of the car and the carb. rotated. Looked strange, but it worked. The car was running in Super Street.

Speaking of money, I had a parts catalog in my hands yesterday. By the time I got past the first 40-50 pages, I had almost talked myself into a new engine, EFI, CNC heads and a lot of other good stuff. There is a reason why I don't keep one of those catalogs in the bathroom (my reading room)!
April 16, 2014 (Day after tax deadline, now I can live for my family!)

 

Five-Five-Five - BBC, pt.1

How I Decided To Go Big Block & Builder Selection

It started when I decided I wanted to get my NHRA Competition Drivers License in late 1998. At the time I was driving "Masterpiece", my 1967 Chevrolet Camaro with a 383 SBC engine. I had been running in the mid-10's for a long time and the engine was doing very good, but not strong enough to get me down where I wanted to be, 9.90's to be able to get that license.

The first move was to purchase a "Flying Toilet" mechanical fuel injection system. This resulted in some low 10.0's, no matter how hard I tried and how much money I spent. I also spent a lot of time crying, due to the "Alky" that I was running. Later, after dissembling the engine, I discovered a few broken piston rings and a few other internal problems that kept me from getting the maximum performance out of that system. I had to take back all the bad things I said about the Flying Toilet.

After talking with a few friends that had Big Blocks, they finally convinced me to try a BBC engine.

Almost all my racing career had been associated with Small Block Chevy engines. We will not count the Studebaker and Mopar (not mine) that I raced on the west coast.

I did not know a thing about a Big Block engine. I could build a SBC in my sleep! I had helped a few friends install them and all I could think about was the extra weight, lots of it! I decided the best way to do this was to have a complete engine built. I started searching around and asking questions locally and one day I was looking in National Dragster and saw an ad for a 850 HP, 540 CID, BBC from a company. I called and talked to them and placed an order. After 5-6 weeks of waiting, I called again and was told, there were no BBC blocks available. Not from GM, World Parts or any of the other suppliers. They returned my deposit.

I talked to one of the members of Bracket Masters Racing Team about my problem and he, the late Cecil Augustus, directed me to talk to Bryon Durham, engine builder in Haittsville, MD, and son of the famous funny car driver Malcome Durham. Cecil had done business with Bryon and said I should talk to him. Bryon runs a business called "Supercar Engineering", consisting of a auto repair shop, a chassis building shop, a engine building shop (machine shop), dyno shop, head porting and testing shop and anything else to do with building and testing race cars. At the time, Byron's father was still alive and working in the machine shop.

I decided to give them a shot and referenced the ad in National Dragster and said if they could build me an engine like that one, for the same price, I would agree to purchase it. After looking over the ad, Byron agreed to do the job.

After about three weeks of looking for a block, Bryon called and said he would have to use a GM Gen. V block that his brother was getting directly from GM. Byron's brother is an engineer that works for GM and had access to that type of thing. So instead of having a Big M block, I settled for a GM Gen V block. This would prove to be a big headache in the future, right up to last week when I took the pan off for leak repair.

During this time I had taken the car to Michael Jackson & Son, to be painted. Any photos you see of "Masterpiece" with white paint means the car has a SBC engine. The new engine would be installed in a freshly painted strawberry red painted car, which was the best paint job I ever had. This all took place in the Spring/Summer of 1999. (To be continued...)
April 10, 2014

Startup After Pan Repair

Friday afternoon I finally started the engine. Everything went real good and I had no leaks. I warmed it up to around 180 degrees and checked the valve settings. Only a couple were tight on the passenger side and three exhaust valves were loose on the drivers side. They had not been checked since September of last year.

I still don't have the alternator back in place. I will get around to it before the next race.

I noticed the big race at SCR this weekend does not have a place for the "X" cars (bracket racers). I had gotten to the place where I really looked forward to participating in the Div. 4 events each year. I guess there is not enough parking space for us little guys, or some other money reason. I could run Hot Rod or Super Rod, but that would cost me a few dollars to put an electric throttle stop under the carburetor. I have all the electronics. I also have an air operated throttle stop, but it will not fit between the firewall and the carburetor on this car.

New Engine Story Coming

I have decided to write a story about the history of the engine that is in the car. Starting with the reason I switched from 383 SBC, too Fuel Injected 383 SBC, and then too the 540 BBC, back in 1999. I have been thinking about this little history story for a while and I think some of you will enjoy the step back in time, up too the the present 555 BBC. This engine has the original block and crank that we started with back in 1999! As I like to point out: "The crank is still standard on the rods and mains"! We have gone from using 10W-30 oil, too 20W-50 Racing oil, always synthetic.
April 8, 2014 (One week until tax time...)

Present From A Friend...

Yesterday I received a pleasant surprise in the mail. My friend, Robert Randolph, had sent me a collection of old NHRA drivers cards from the early 90's. This was the first time I knew they existed. They are just like baseball trading cards, with their stats. on the back and a nice photo of their car or the driver on the front.

Robert and I go back a long ways and he and his son, "Chip", have always cheered for me. He and his son are Pontiac people and I forgive them for that! After opening the package, I picked up the phone and called. We had not talked in a couple of years, but he reads the web site all the time. It was nice to reconnect to an old friend. He had read where I was celebrating 50 years in drag racing and thought I would like looking at those cards. Most of those professional drivers are retired, but John Force is still going strong.

Robert said a lot of good things about our lasting relationship and I appreciate every word that he said. Thanks for the encouragement and all your support in the past.

Update On Car

The engine is back inside the car, thanks to "Outlaw". I helped a little, but for the most part, I just provided conversation. After putting the engine in place, I have taken my time and connected everything else. I set the timing with the engine on the stand (Crank Trigger) so I could get a good look at where the mark was. With the placement of my alternator, it is hard to line up the marks and I have been guessing at 36 degrees. It actually was 38.5 degrees. The starter was replaced along with the new flexplate.

Today I put water in, and it ran out as fast as I added it!. As of this minuet, the alternator has been on and off three times, the right motor plate has been off and back on a number of times and right now I am waiting on "The Right Stuff" to cure before I try it again. I used another brand of silicone the first time.

(late PM) I got the water in without a leak. Now I can start it up and get some pressure in the cooling system. That 17 psi will tell me if there is a problem...
April 3, 2014

 

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