Last August, as usual, I made my way to the DSM Shootout in Norwalk, Ohio. I participated in the Quick 16, and I think I even qualified, although, even with a 9.0-something pass, I was still like 11th or 12th or something. Why don’t I remember any of these details?
Here’s Where it Gets Fun
It’s because I popped the motor. When something like that happens, you tend to hold on, clench up and hope for the best. It happened on the top end of the track; I was going somewhere north of 140MPH, but this is a guess because I have no speedometer and I don’t think I have a log fro that pass, either. A lot of other things were going through my mind. At one point I thought to myself “I should really pick up that time slip”, but that never actually happened, either. More important stuff going on, you know?
A Breakdown of What Happened
The motor that was in the Talon from 2003 through 2012 was doing great, but there were a few things that were causing issues for me.
- The main thrust cap had actually walked around (from all the power!) and as soon as I pulled it to check bearings after three seasons of running it, it would no longer seat squarely back in the block because metal from the block fused to the cap and vice-versa, causing pitting on both. This was causing abnormal thrust wear, and that caused me to have to replace the thrust main quite often. I knew it wasn’t right, but ended up going to two DSM Shootouts like this and ran okay at both of them.
- The JE pistons in the motor were the cat’s ass back in 2003, when I originally assembled the motor. Unfortunately, they also had really bad valve reliefs in them, which actually netted this motor *less* piston to valve clearance than a stock block. Thanks, 2003 JE :-\ This meant that I wasn’t able to really make many cam changes, because all the hot cams nowadays would have smashed my valves right into those pistons. This also needed to be fixed.
Because of these things, I got to work. About 8 weeks before the Shootout, I ordered up a set of Wiseco stroker pistons from ExtremePSI. The plan was to use those, a new block, my existing factory G64B stroker crank and my existing Pauter rods. Machine work done, crank polished, clearances checked. everything put together. All good. Right.
Well, mostly good anyway. This new motor didn’t go together well. It was setback after setback from the beginning.
- The machine shop sat on it for a while because one of them had questions about how to align hone the block and didn’t bother to ask the guy I dropped it off to; I’m lucky enough that the machine shop I use is local and generally does very nice work, but they had to send the block out to one of their sister shops for the line hone, which caused this delay.
- I decided to partially fill this block; this meant I had to make a few round trips to the machine shop to get the block hot tanked and then bring it back home, fill it with Hard Blok, and then bring it back out to the machine shop. This caused a delay, but not a big deal
- I had a bit of rewiring to do. I did some while waiting for the machine work. It’s amazing how colors of wire pop back into your head years after you’ve put a harness together (for example, light green is the color of +12V to my gauges. I’m sure you wanted to know that!)
- I needed random parts and supplies. Nothing huge here, but delays nonetheless. I was able to teach the old guy behind the counter at the local parts store what plastigage was used for. That was interesting…
I pushed through it with the help from a list of amazing friends who helped me out so much. Jeremy, Warren, Matt, Jay and Mark – thank you all for getting my shit together with me.I wouldn’t have made it to the shootout without all of your help.
Some More Wrenches
The plan was to leave Friday after work-ish to make the trek down to Norwalk, Ohio. Around 3:30pm, though, Mark, Matt, Jay and myself were all wrenching on the car, trying to get it buttoned up. While putting the timing belt on, I broke the timing belt tensioner. Now, this was completely my own fault, but Matt jumped in and we started calling all local and only-merely-somewhat local parts stores to see if anyone had a replacement in stock. A dealer in Kalamazoo (about 2 hours away) had one on the shelf, but that was a little outside the realm of possibility. I had kind of given up, but Matt pressed on and found a parts store Waterford, about 45 minutes away, that had one on the shelf. Jay took one for the team and hopped in his car to go pick it up. Before 6:00PM, the timing belt was on the car. At that point, everything else was wrapped up, fluids were in and it was ready to fire.
A few turns of the crank and the beast awoke! We got it up to temp, checked for major leaks and looked to make sure everything was good. For the most part, it was. For the most part. One thing that cropped up was an intense ticking from the top end of the motor, which made no sense. It sounded like a bad lifter, or worse, a wrist pin. At the time, it was late at night; around 9:00pm, so we just threw the car in the trailer and called it a night. After that, we hung out and played Cards Against Humanity, which is just about the best card ever made, ever.
Saturday rolled around and I spent the morning getting the trailer loaded. Matt had driven his extremely clean and fast 1998 street GSX up from Tennessee and tuned it on the way up. Unfortunately, he was having what ended up being a coil issue that he was trying to diagnose. So, while he did that, I decided to see what was up with that top end tick. I fired the car up inside the trailer, and then started poking around. At first I wasn’t hopeful, but it ended up being a very large exhaust leak. Between the header and the head. It took me five hours to fix! I replaced the gasket once to still have the issue happen. So, I took it back apart thinking something major was up with the head. It was a simple oversight – upon putting the exhaust gasket back on the car, I ended up missing that a washer was still sitting on one of the studs in the head. So, it was tweaking the header enough to cause a large leak. I ended up pulling the header something like 5 or 6 times. Two of them were due to my fatigue – I couldn’t help but drop bolts down the header while trying to re-install the turbo. And no, you can’t snake a magnet around my header enough to get bolts out of it. I know; I’ve tried. Fatigue like that sucks. Finally together, we closed up the trailer and headed down to Norwalk on Saturday afternoon. It was a quiet trip down; I think everyone was beat by then.
Sunday we showed up at the track somewhere around 8:30AM. It was a good feeling to see Summit Motorsports Park. Unpacked the trailer, checked everything on the car, fueled up and were ready to go right about the time the first qualifying pass of the day came. It came time to make the first pass. I did a massive burnout, but it was actually to try to break the motor in more than anything. And yeah, it’s fun, too :-)
I ticked off a 9.0-something, around 147-148MPH? Or something like that; I can’t remember. Back to the pits for a cool down.
In the pits, I wanted to check compression. After all, this was a brand new motor, and the first thing I did to it was a burnout and a pass. I also talked with Kevin Kwiatkowski about my car breaking up in high RPM; Kevin gave me a few things to check, ignition related, and offered up his coil on plug ignition for me to use off his car (he was done for the day; his transmission broke.) which was great to try out. So, back to the car to get things swapped around and check things out.
I pulled plugs, pulled out the compression tester, and went to town. Cylinder 1 was not yet up on compression – it was somewhere in the 160 range. Cylinders 2,3 and 4 were all in the 175-185 range, which is better, but they should actually be a little higher than that. During doing all this, I ended up having to put the motor at TDC for some reason. While spinning the motor over to TDC, I felt more resistance than is ever normal while rotating the crank. At the time, I didn’t think that much of it. In hindsight, I should have packed it in and gone home with a slightly messed up, but fixable motor. Nope, another pass!
This time, the burnout was fine. At the line, the car was sluggish to get onto the converter. I left without being on the 2-step because it was taking forever. Then, about 1000′ out, the car started breaking up. This was similar to what was happening the previous pass. About 100 feet after that, though, at 100% throttle, I lost all power. It was my rod making it’s way out the side of my block. White smoke rolling out from under the car and behind me. Now it was time to focus on slowing down. When I initially hit the brakes, the car started to slow, then wanted to wander due to having oil sprayed all over… everything under the car. I remembered I had a parachute and pulled it; I didn’t feel it at all. I’m thinking I was already braking hard enough that it didn’t really provide much. I rolled around to the turnaround where the car coasted to a stop.
After taking off my helmet and unbuckling myself from the car, I hopped out and popped the hood. This was my first foray into making large pieces of metal into smaller, useless pieces of metal, but I had a feeling I already knew what happened. Sure enough, I had a pool of oil in the catch pan and chunks of both cast iron and aluminum floating around in it, too. Then began the walk of shame… back to my pit area, 3/4 of a mile away. I held my head high; kept my fire suit on, and was thankful that Mark had commandeered John’s quad to help tow the Talon back. I hopped on the back, we found Christyn, and the three of us made our way back to the Talon, and towed it back to the trailer.
It was an experience.