Once a cell became opened up, because someone retired or moved onto a different job, they would look at who’s available on water brake, and usually the highest seniority guy, who’s been there the longest, gets to move on to the next open cell. You didn’t have a lot of control over which one.
So, I got out of there and worked at Building 135; I got cell 7A, which used to run the old Hemi stuff. That was a cell where you had to go into, and the operator’s console was actually in the test cell. You had a wall behind you and around you, but you were actually in the test cell with the engine.
They used to run the Hemis in there, and the cell next to me, cell 7B, ran the NASCAR Hemi testing. I never saw the operation, at all. We never used it; it was like a dead cell, and the things that were there were kind of odd and different, it made the cell kind of unique, they weren’t using it all.
Later on in life, talking to some of the Ramcharger guys… one guy, Mike Buckel, was one of the actual engineers in the dyno area. We got talking one day and he said, yeah, that was his favorite test cell, 7B, running the engine with NASCAR simulation on the Hemi in that cell. They actually had it set up where they’d actually run the RPM on that cycle, with the little punch cards and what have you, and a tape, and you record the NASCAR tracks, and the actual RPM and load and what-have-you. They load a program, like a tape, as you run the engine, and that was pretty high tech for back then.
But once they got done with that, because the cell was modified so much, they didn’t use it for normal testing, so it sat abandoned. But I ran a cell next to it; ran a 440 in there.
Downstairs is the museum is what they call the famous Cell 13. Cell 13 was in the center of that building I was in, we had around 16 cells. Cells one through five were down in the advanced testing area, where they had turbine lab, down there. It was a separate lab, one through five cells, and those ran the turbines, primarily. Later on, once the turbines were gone, they ran normal engine stuff.
The Patriot motor downstairs, for the Patriot car, the electric one, they ran in cell five. The operator was here for the show. Rich Samul was the operator of that cell.
Building 135 had 16 cells. I worked at some point in almost every room, whether subbing for someone on vacation or on a long term engine program.
Cells one through five were in the advanced area/turbine/diesel depending on the time. Cells 6 and 7 were single cylinder; Cell 9 was a transmission lab dyno. 10, 14, and 15 were amplidyne; 11 was the dyno power panels.
Cells six through sixteen were either normal cells or single cylinder cells. Cell 6A and 6B had their operator consoles outside the engine room; they were by 7A and 7B, which had consoles inside the engine room. We did a lot of the roller cam development in Cell 6B and 7A.
Cell 13 was in the middle of that building, and that’s where he ran a lot of the Hemi stuff, because it was a 10,000 RPM dyno. Cells 12, 13, 6A, and 7B were all higher RPM dynos; it cost a little more. Because they were higher RPM dynos, they were used for the Hemi. Back in the early 1960s, Bill Weertman and Al Adams came up with the idea of testing engines by matching the demands made on the engine during an actual race.
Ed Poplawski ran the 355 Pro Stock engine (for drag racing) in Cell 16-6A [a similar engine, also at 355 cid, was later used in NASCAR and even later in the IROC series. The 355 was used by Ted Flack and Howard Comstock in their Dart Sport dragster]. Cell 16 had four test cells contained wtihin it, not unlike the water brake durability area.
Cell 12 was a Hemi cell, also. Forest Petcock ran that; once he moved on to supervision, there was a need for a cell to do catalytic converter testing. So, they converted cell 12 into a cat room to do cat testing. Cell 13 was kept to run whatever Hemis he had going on, still.
Then, they ran the last Hemi in ’78 or ’79… it must have been probably ’78 some point in time, maybe you know, middle or late ’78. Ken Heatlie was the operator. He was around for a long time, a sharp guy. He loved model airplanes, that was his hobby.
Why were they running Hemis in ’78?
There might have been some other Hemi things going on, as far as racing goes, but they weren’t using them in NASCAR any more. So, he went to a smaller block then, but there was something still going on Hemi wise, and there was a need for them to run it still.
There was some point when he ran the engine for the last time. I was there when they ran that engine. Me and four other guys were in the test cell. Thirteen was in the center of the building, that became our little hang out room, our coffee and doughnut room. You know, in the morning you get together, and a lot of guys who were involved in racing, you would meet there in the morning and talk about it… especially on Monday morning, you would talk about what happened at the race, the weekend, like it was either NASCAR race or drag racing.
A lot of guys were involved in racing, so they kept up with it, and so they would hash over what happened on the weekend. But there again things were toning down with the Hemi stuff, so less talk went on there. But that was our hang out room, and we’d harass Ken quite a bit on things, and a lot of shenanigans going on.
Ken retired not too long after that. And they brought in a new operator and a new project came up over there. I’m trying to recall what happened then.
They were getting more involved in the turbo stuff, turbo 2.2s coming on board, early on, testing wise. At one point in time, they went to doing that, because it was a higher RPM dyno, any project that had an engine that needed a higher RPM, that’s where it went.
Eventually, it became the test cell for the GT racing. You know, it was a series that came out, the GT stuff, small car, turbo four cylinders. That was a hot and heavy program. That came on board, and so did IMSA. IMSA was big too. IMSA was more a naturally aspirated four cylinder, with levers. It might have been before the turbos, the IMSA stuff.
I remember they had manifolds and Webers and the new operator was another guy that was a pretty sharp guy with… doing a lot of fabrication work. He was doing testing quite a while. Bob Zeimis was the guy’s name. We called him Mouse, but the good guy, learned a lot from him.
He was a good fabricator, and he had more knowledge than a lot of engineers did about what to with doing things. Especially when it came to manifolds, he knew how to get the power out of the motor; if you needed cam work, at all, or… he was a real good operator, a sharp guy, and we were fortunate enough to get some good engineers in there, also. And I worked well with those guys, and IMSA did really well. Dodge won a lot of races with that.
GT was a step higher, as far as level power and operation. The GT guys did pretty good, too with the turbos, and big turbos, and all hand built manifolds, needed a lot of air flow, high boost. They did really well in the cars, and the motors. That became the race cell for a long time, not only for Hemis, but for that four cylinder program, and then later on it did all that stuff, too. Cell 13 became the test bed for the first Viper engine, too.
When the first Viper engine came along, the V10, iron block, that was the first test cell that that cell, because, again, it was a higher RPM dyno. You have a good operator in there. The engineer that was involved in the GT stuff, the turbo work, they put him on the project for a V10, and a great guy. And he’s still involved. He’s a senior engineer, now for that Viper Engine Program, still today.
He’s a very, very sharp guy, and very well respected. But that cell just being what it was… what it did there, and the people that were involved in the cell and the program that ran that cell, just made it the famous cell 13, and there’s a lot of history in that cell, and I just feel kind of privileged for the fact that I ran it at times, when the guys were on vacation who usually ran the test cell. It looked pretty cool to see it downstairs [at the museum]. So, it means a lot to me.
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