[After working on the water brake], I got the first cell, 7A, and we ran the 440-3, the truck motor. The ’78 was one of the big Bs… the RBs were not normal back then, they were truck motors, primarily.
That was the last 440-3 truck motor certified. Once I certified that engine for production, all the engine stuff got trashed. That was it. Once that was certified, there was no longer a need for any kind of development or testing for the B engine.
I can remember walking by the dumpster by the parts dock one day, and I could see cylinder heads in there and cam shaft and pistons, all being trashed … I asked the guy, “What’s going on?” And he said, “Well, there’s no longer any need for these parts. They told me to trash them all.” So he tossed everything in the garbage. It drove me nuts, to see all those parts in the garbage.
All your valve cover gaskets, all the intake gaskets, any kind of gasket related to a B engine, it was all pulled off the shelf and thrown away. That’s how they do it in Engineering. It’s not sold or sent anywhere else, at all. They just write it off.
Some of the parts were experimental, they may not be a production part, per se. You can’t use them outside, because it may be a unique part, and lawsuits started getting big back then. So, to cover yourself, it was cheaper and easier to throw it away, and write that off as an engineering development part. Otherwise, if somebody buys it and uses it, and it breaks and kills them, and then you’ve got a lawsuit. So, no harm just to toss it away, so I can understand that. But that was the last 440 there. That was kind of cool.
The guys next door in 6A, that was a higher RPM dyno, also. When I ran my 440, a guy we called Fast Eddy [Poplawski], part of the race group, who ran a 355 racing motor [for drag racing; never used in a production car], tunnel ram, dual quads. He had a Chevy manifold on a Mopar, he made up little wedges that make a manifold fit the angle on the heads on the small block Chrysler. Back then, Ted Flack and Howard Comstock where the guys driving those cars. Ted Flack was a dyno operator at one time, and he made the grade and became an engineer later on. Sharp guys.
They were still running the [NHRA] Pro Stocks, and if you look in the records you can see the Flack and Comstock cars. They were doing development work on that motor still … it’s kind of funny, because Cell 6A had their operation console outside, where you could stand there with the glass between you and the engine, whereas I was in the test cell where I was in the cell, with the engine; with the 440 it’s not that big of a deal. Doing certification work, it’s not a high RPM deal. We had to put head muffs on, and run the stuff.
But then my buddy, Fast Eddy, would get a bug to run the engine. He’d fired up that bad boy, and the headers out the exhaust, and the exhaust all tied into the same trunk line for the exhaust. He fired up that 355 Pro Stock motor... and me, doing my little government certification work, kind of important... but, he’d fire his up and, oh man, it looks like a 747 coming in for a landing, because the exhaust pipes were all tied together. He’s go, rev up to seven or eight grand.
I’d abort my test, walk out, because I couldn’t stay in there, it was too loud, even with the headphones on. I’d go up and say, “Ed, at least can you ask me if I’m doing my test, at all? I mean, this is kind of important stuff… certification work, you know. At least ask me if I’m doing a test before you fire up and do your thing which can wait.”
Mopar was highly successful in Pro Stock in 1979 with the 355 in Plymouth Arrows.
Ramchargers in the engine lab with a 1,350-horsepower Hemi, 1962
But he’d laugh and and the whole bit and he’d say, “Ah, you know…”
And I’d go talk to him and I’d help him read the fuel, because his higher RPM is a big motor. You have to be careful, and the fuel readout was behind you, so I’d just read the fuel for him, and kind of spot looking out the window, and make sure nothing’s leaking or coming apart at all.
So, we’d do that for awhile, and he’d get done with his test, and I’d go and I test again. I would get my important testing done, so I would get that engine certified, so we can sell some products. I thought that was kind of nice to do.
[Years later] we had the first 3.5 motor, we had a new engineer, new engine, new program. That was when large car [platform team] came on board, and they were looking for people to go into the so-called large car platform group. So, I volunteered, “I’m working on the program, so I may as well technically be in that group.”
I got paid through the large group platform at Featherstone versus Highland Park. They had me in a whole different group for platform and for pay scale. It was strange, I wasn’t sure if that would be a good move or not.
We worked on the 3.5 for about a year and a half, probably, two years, getting the bugs out of it, getting all the calibration work done. The engineer I had was a new engineer out of the cooling lab lab, of all places, to work on engines. An engineer’s an engineer, whatever, right. Sharp guy, we became friends, and he’s a senior engineer now. A good guy, but going from cool lab to a new engine program was a big jump for him. It was a learning curve for him, but he did well. We did a lot of cool stuff at the end.
A lot of problems, initially: tensioner problems and some cooling problems, too, and valvetrain problems, but that’s the whole process. No matter how much you engineer it to be ready to go, they happen, the unforeseen things.
Tension seems so trivial, you know, “belt tensioner, whoopee,” but the tension becomes pretty important with a rubber belt timing chain. You got to have tension on that belt to keep everything happy. You start breaking tensioners, and then you start skipping teeth on the belt and cam, and that doesn’t sit well.
But it does happen. We had a vendor for the tensioner, and that wasn’t working well, at all. We had a second vendor, also, so it was a battle between the two vendors for tensioner, and who was going to be the supplier, who can make the tensioner work. Two different design concepts and we ended up doing more tensioner testing than we needed to, really. That can ruin a project too, as far as schedule. We were behind schedule, because of that.
We had some water issues too, some valvetrain problems, some adjusters, and we had some problems with the intake manifold leaking on us. It had poor porosity in the intake manifold.
We had a couple of times where the water leaked into the chamber overnight, and go to start up in the morning… We started the engine up on in dyno area, on an electric dyno, you’re actually using the dyno as your starter. It’s a big, black, huge starter, but it works pretty well. Even if you have water in your chamber, it will turn over, but it won’t be pretty, but it will turn.
Water doesn’t compress like air does. You get hydrostatic lock, and you can tell it’s happening when you turn the motor over with the dyno, and you see the engine do a big jerk, and you know darn well, that wasn’t good. That wasn’t supposed to happen like that, so you pull the spark plugs out and you get geysers going off. You got to pull the engine off again, tear it down, put the new rod in… the rod bent, but hopefully you could save the block. You had a new rod, put in it and bring it back and try again. But that happened three times.
We had to bar the engine over first by hand, before we could start the dyno. If you couldn’t bar it over, you had to pop the plugs out, and squirt the water out. But we finally got manifolds that wouldn’t leak on us. It took a while, but you learn fast that you don’t make the same mistake twice if you can avoid it.
Eventually, it progressed pretty good; we got it running good.
It’s cool running the first engine like that, giving it birth, I guess you call it. You know, you give it life, and see the whole process, and the people involved in it.
That platform thing worked out pretty good. It was a good group, but the hardest thing back then was getting gaskets. You know, everybody had their cost restraints and you know, everybody’s controlling their parts, and due to a lot of things we were doing, there were unforeseen problems.
The guys said, “Okay, we need five gaskets. That’s all we’re going to need, right?” Well, now you have problems in a certain area, and you’re pulling heads off, and you pull it off, and check whatever… but you only bought so many head gaskets. Now you have a problem going on, you’re pulling heads off more than you had planned, so now you need more head gaskets.
Well, you only bought five and I need ten. Now you got to get more gaskets, and order it now, and now we’ll have them a week from now, and in the meantime it’s like, well, we can’t do any work without them. So, what do you do?
So, there were times when we were waiting for parts. Especially the prototype parts. Parts that are brand new like that, they’re not production parts, they’re not cheap. You buy a production gasket, and it may be a buck off the shelf; somewhere else it’s a hundred bucks, because it’s all low volume, and it’s specially made. So, it’s costly. And, you now, they went through revisions too.
I always enjoyed learning and working with different people, and every so often you may get new people involved, and work with them. You always have the good fortune of working with a lot of good engineers.
Most of the guys I worked with, they’re all pretty good guys. If you work with people properly, and if you do the job they want you to do… because you’re basically the engineer’s hands, and the engineer has a certain task he needs to do, and he may write your work order or communicate to you what needs to be done, and if you’re doing his job, and if he’s got himself organized and he knows what he needs to do, you work together, and you can get the task done. Just get it done, and if there’s problems, you just tackle them.
I learned that was part of the process, and that you worked together, and it’s all for a common goal. You want that product to be good and durable, and run well, and be a good production vehicle. It’s fun to be involved in a new engine like that, a new group, new platform, new people.
Programs have gotten faster. As time went on, computers were better and technology is better, and we knew more about parts and pieces and what… we knew more about straining and how to get parts built, and know where you need to be for stress levels and such.
The engines later on were probably better, initially, because the technology was better, the computers were better. Less problems, initially, later on. So that’s good. It shows you that things have progressed, not only for design work… computer work, but people’s knowledge of how things should be built.
We had fewer problems later on. But they still happen, though, and there’s always the things that you don’t anticipate. There’s always that thing where, you can do all the testing you want and the computer work, but you start getting to that hard real life running, and all of a sudden something comes up, and it’s like, “We didn’t figure on this,” but that’s where you really have to watch what you’re doing and hopefully catch it… catch it and correct it, and make it good and move on. That’s what you’ve got to do.
No matter where you go, whether it be a doctor or mechanic or an engineer, it’s just the right people, if they know what they’re doing, the right things get done.
People get in their cars these days, and they get in the car and they turn the key and they have no idea of what all went into that car, whether it be the engine or transmission or the brakes or the suspension. Everything has got somebody who was involved in that part, to make that part function properly, and work together with the rest of the components to operate as it should. It should start, stop, go, and you rely on that.
You take it for granted, but once you’re in that engine room environment where you see what’s done, whether it be a switch test or whatever, things are tested properly, and things still happen.
I don’t care who makes it, Toyota or Chrysler or Ford, if it’s a mechanical device, it could fail. I don’t care who builds it, how much you put into it, if it’s mechanical or electrical, it could fail any time, any place, anywhere. Whether it be a brand new piece or product, I see it too many times, you have a brand new piece you put on there, you think it’s good to go, and hour later it’s broken.
So, whether it be a new car or a new comb, things can happen. It’s like you just hope that it’s less when it’s your product. Let someone else’s product break, right?
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