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Competition Engine Building: Advanced Engine Design and Assembly Techniques
Competition Engine Building: Advanced Engine Design and Assembly Techniques
Competition Engine Building: Advanced Engine Design and Assembly Techniques
Ebook501 pages5 hours

Competition Engine Building: Advanced Engine Design and Assembly Techniques

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars



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About this ebook

This book focuses on the needs of high rpm, high durability, high-powered racing engines. It begins by looking at the raw design needs, then shares how these needs are met at various phases of development, assembly, testing and tuning. It also serves as a reference for professionals anxious to learn the latest techniques or see how new tools are used.
PublisherS-A Design
Release dateAug 12, 2013
Competition Engine Building: Advanced Engine Design and Assembly Techniques
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Rating: 4.428571428571429 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Very informative! Not a insert tab A into slot B type of book, but, rather a book that goes from theory to practice. The author goes logically from theory to goals to implementation, system-by-system.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I received this as part of the Early Reviewers program. I'm a little out of practice tinkering on engines so the fact that the author starts out at a moderate skill level & works up was a big plus for me. Allowing for readers that weren't at HIS level of "Pro" makes sure that we can all still get a lot of use out of the book. The conversational tone of the book also keeps it very approachable. I was very happy to see that, along with just giving over-views, from alloy comparisons & piston clearances to cam specs and dimensions of the primary exhaust tube, Mr. Baechtel included a healthy of the math & physics required to understand the processes at the most fundamental level (referring readers to his other book of formula should they want more info).
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I received this book several months ago as part of the LT Early Reviewers program. It's taken me some time to fully read and absorb, as the book has many interesting ideas that you don't typically find in other books of its kind. First let me qualify what I'm about to say - I've only ever rebuilt one engine from scratch - a 1275cc motor for a 1970 MG Midget and that was in the early 80's. At the time about the only resources for builds were manuals by Haynes and Chilton - I used the former. Along the way I also added some information I had garnered from various resources, like Hot Rod Magazine (woefully lacking, especially in super-tuning the dual SU carbs on my motor) and the various mechanics I knew at the time. Most of those guys knew a few things about building motors, but in general they were all stock. I did learn to balance the cranks to the pistons, used dome-top pistons for extra compression, ported the intake and exhaust ports and did some general things during the build, which made me learn a bit more than I did about tuning. Since then I've only had a cursory interest in tuning, until I got my first ECU-controlled Honda.Now tuning using various ECU mapping is a totally different animal - I've done little to enhance my knowledge other than play with the mixes and timing using software. A few years ago I picked up a book "Restify Your Muscle Car" published by the National Street Machine Club - this got me interested a bit in tuning old-school and it also had some good ideas on what you can do to build-out the motor (there was some knew info in there but in general most of the information was what was being repeated from earlier). This brings me up to this current volume on Competition Engine Building. Wow - what a difference between this book, what I've read previously and what I practiced on my first build.Competition Engine Building contains great new information, using modern technology to increase the performance of your engine. As I read the book I kept thinking that the information was probably going to be over my head - and at first glance there's quite a bit of engineering and science being related to the reader. The bottom line, though is that if you have some good understanding of the mechanics of your engine and you have the patience to read through this book, I think it can make a stunning difference in your engine build. I kept wanting to go out and wrench on my truck while reading this - it's really written from the perspective of someone who wants high performance and wants to understand why certain tweaks work the way they do. Much of the focus is on the inter-relationship between the various parts, the mechanics, why certain materials are preferable, and how every piece unifies into a whole that will produce fantastic results. Great stuff in here with lots of full-color photography, text with context and some how-to information. You can do a lot worse and pay a lot more.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I gave it to my brother and he was very excited to read it. It looks like a very good resource to have.

Book preview

Competition Engine Building - John Baechtel


While the physical phenomena occurring within a high-speed racing engine don’t necessarily approach the level of quantum mechanics, for the purpose of discussion we can almost treat them as such. Well over a century after the invention of the internal combustion engine men still puzzle over various mechanical and thermodynamic relationships that produce astonishing amounts of power from a mechanical device that is at best 20- to 30-percent efficient.

So many complicated interactions occur inside a racing engine that it can be difficult to fully comprehend the unseen dynamics that ultimately emerge as torque and horsepower. It’s hard to imagine near-1-pound slugs of reciprocating metal changing direction 75 to 150 times per second or more within a collection of cylinders not much taller than large coffee mugs. It’s harder still to grasp the unsteady gas dynamics and valve motion required to create and effectively harness combustion pressure when everything is moving so fast. Still, some engines are more efficient than others and for the purpose of general transportation even the most inefficient combinations are surprisingly useful.

As racing engines go, a thoughtful mix of mechanical components and fundamental tuning procedures delivers superior performance, but what is often overlooked in books of this nature is contemplation of how various mechanical components and invisible dynamic forces interact to build torque and horsepower. This book differs from most engine building books in that it concentrates more on fundamentals instead of the trick of the week. Professional engine builders tend to stick to what they know works and that is usually something that has been developed over time with careful regard to the application and what the engine is expected to accomplish. Many engine builders are surprisingly successful with less peak power than their competitors because they have become adept at positioning an engine’s powerband to suit its final application.

Everyone pretty much grasps the physical processes of the four-cycle engine and we are all familiar with the common paths to power, i.e., more airflow, higher compression ratios, bigger camshafts, and so on—all tied together in a tidy blueprinted package. Millions of dyno tests have confirmed the validity of commonly accepted practices and component relationships. Why some work better than others is not always readily apparent, but the fact that some do suggests a more formidable mechanical and thermodynamic blend that begs closer examination so we might determine why they excel and how we might build on their success in the pursuit of even greater performance.

Many books have been written about various parts combinations and tuning practices, but they generally fail to investigate why some combinations perform better than others. Magazine dyno tests frequently compare manifolds, cylinder heads, and other components, and as soon as one prevails over the others it is pronounced superior with little explanation as to why. There is also rarely much effort to retune for individual component preferences that may favor a different spark curve, a larger carburetor, or smaller headers, any one of which or a combination of which might harvest unexpected torque and horsepower gains from an optimized blend of component relationships. The same manifold that came in second in a hasty dyno comparison may actually be superior when properly tuned to accommodate the overall component mix as it applies to the final application and track conditions. The right carburetor spacer, stagger jetting, and/or other individual cylinder tuning strategies may unleash power that might never be recognized without a more thorough investigation than the cut-and-dried A/B comparison.

By necessity a book about competition engine building covers a lot of ground, most of it related to engine component selection, blueprinting, and final assembly techniques. Fundamentals are the basis for good power, but it’s important to also review some core principles governing the physical dynamics involved. Some are extraordinarily complicated at the race engine level, but thoughtful manipulation of these complex relationships often leads to greater engine efficiency and a path to more useable power than commonly thought possible. This is not to suggest that I am some black ops guru of engine performance, but rather to share some 40-odd years of observation, dyno testing, and learning experience punctuated by carefully polled comments from top engine builders and designers who routinely probe the expanding frontiers of competition engine performance. Not quantum mechanics per se, but at the very least, the automotive equivalent of rocket science.

Competition engines are built to meet the specific requirements of various racing venues.

Competition engines are built to meet the specific requirements of various racing venues. The most successful ones are carefully tailored to match their final application. (Courtesy Don Cooper, Reher-Morrison)

In an age where pretty much anyone can throw good parts and a ton of boost at an engine and make obscene power, the science of naturally aspirated engine performance continues to evolve and those who contemplate the minutia frequently reap appropriate rewards.

Much of the information offered herein also applies to supercharged and nitrous applications with appropriate regard to the specifics involved. I hope that some of this information encourages hardcore enthusiasts and engine builders to frontload the normal blueprint and assembly process with a more critical focus on the largely invisible forces at work inside a high-speed competition engine—forces that when properly harnessed and manipulated, can lead to a whole new level of engine performance and more importantly, victories in your chosen racing venue.

No single book can possibly touch on all the aspects of competition engine building as it relates to all the various applications that racers require. In this book I hope to illuminate important factors that will prompt further thought and investigation on the part of engine builders seeking to elevate and expand their efforts to a higher level that applies to any racing environment they choose.



Purpose-built competition engines vary in content according to the particular requirements of their intended application. Some are built for very high RPM with a narrow powerband; others are designed for a lower, broader power range with greater emphasis on drivability and endurance qualities. All of them target operational requirements specific to their racing application and are often functionally unsuitable outside their intended performance environment. A drag racing engine wouldn’t last five laps on a challenging road course like Road Atlanta or Laguna Seca, and a sports car engine couldn’t hope to match the high specific output of a 10,000-rpm small-displacement Competition Eliminator engine.

Bonneville engines require some qualities of both engine types, effectively supporting what amounts to a 5-mile drag race demanding big horsepower to overcome aerodynamic drag and stout internals to endure the long, hard pull. Unlimited sprint car engines run extreme engine speeds with frequent throttling that places severe shock loads on internal parts while supercharged and turbocharged engines each have their own unique requirements that are completely different from a naturally aspirated superspeedway Cup engine or sportsman class Saturday night specials.

Highly optimized Sprint Cup engines approach 900 hp with efficiency that rivals a Formula 1 engine.

Highly optimized Sprint Cup engines approach 900 hp with efficiency that rivals a Formula 1 engine. (Courtesy General Motors)

The focus of this book is primarily directed at naturally aspirated (all motor) engines, but it will be evident along the way that many of the principles also apply to boosted and nitrous applications. In every case, fundamental engine building practices are mandatory, but build content and assembly practices are very much application specific or, in many cases, rules specific depending on the type and level of competition.

Despite broad differences, all competition engines seek optimum manipulation of the properties of fuel and air to create maximum volumetric efficiency (VE) and cylinder pressure to drive the pistons and thus the car. Mechanical components are chosen according to established engineering principles and then carefully matched to achieve this goal with the specific requirements of a given application in mind. In many cases these efforts are limited by class rules or operational parameters that dictate pre-defined engine content. Hence it is prudent to list and examine all of the applicable requirements when planning a competition engine build.

Unlimited applications are free to apply any and all power strategies available including massive displacement, sophisticated internal components, and highly tuned inlet and exhaust systems designed to optimize powerband positioning.

Unlimited applications are free to apply any and all power strategies available including massive displacement, sophisticated internal components, and highly tuned inlet and exhaust systems designed to optimize powerband positioning. (Courtesy Don Cooper, Reher-Morrison)

Preliminary planning steps help identify potential problem areas and ensure the best possible blend of performance parts to suit the intended application. Operational requirements and sanctioning body limitations require careful deliberation prior to finalizing the parts manifest. This includes critical examination of every potential component and the assistance of home PC computer simulation programs that can help you estimate potentially ideal combinations based on prevailing rules and requirements.

Consider the Limitations

Unlimited engine combinations enjoy the best possible repertoire of race engine theory and high-performance parts. Designer/builders are free to tailor the package to perfectly match known operational requirements without regard to strict boundaries enacted to limit power and speed or to control the expense of a particular racing series.

Unfortunately, many racing venues enforce some level of restriction that suits their particular goals or racing philosophy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it clearly defines fixed goals for you to target. Some builders relish the challenge of wringing every last bit of power from an engine that has been administratively handicapped. Others abhor it. Accordingly, it may be useful to preface a discussion of engine building strategies with an examination of common handicapping methods to review how they might affect a particular build. Some or much of the following may apply to a specific program.

Competition Engine Building Goals

1.Configure Component Mix for Application Specifics

2.Optimize Engine Airflow Paths to Suit Application

3.Optimize Cylinder Sealing

4.Optimize Fuel Mixture Quality

5.Optimize Combustion Efficiency

6.Minimize Pumping Losses

7.Minimize Friction Losses

8.Position the Powerband


Racing associations often enforce displacement limits to control engine output. These rules are implemented to limit speeds in certain series or to differentiate classes for elapsed time or top speed, as found in drag racing or at Bonneville. Displacement limits are rigorously enforced, but sactioning bodies still present opportunities to optimize specific packages under the prevailing rules in some cases. When displacement is specified, but the bore and stroke combination is left open, builders often gravitate toward the largest possible bore dimension to achieve maximum breathing capability with larger valves and more effective piston area for combustion pressure to apply force against the piston top. This shortens stroke length and generally tends to raise the operational powerband (RPM).

This trend is favored because it aids breathing and reduces piston speed for greater durability. Sometimes builders prefer a longer stroke and a broader powerband more suitable to certain track layouts. This reduces bore size, but the final bore/stroke combination ultimately seeks the best possible compromise that accommodates the displacement limit while biased as much as possible for breathing efficiency and equivalent piston area. Drag racers lean toward big bore/short stroke combinations, while short circuit, road race, and oval track racers favor more stroke length and a lower powerband to reinforce endurance qualities and torque production for tight corners and shorter straightaways.

Once the desired powerband has been defined, PC engine simulation software (such as Performance Trends Engine Analyzer Pro or Motion Software’s Dynomation 5) can often provide valuable direction in choosing the optimum bore/stroke ratio and corresponding connecting rod l