I've spent many years working with and for some of the most addicted speed-freaks in the world. Some were lucky enough to afford indulging in their passion and others were dead broke. No matter what the financial circumstances, the symptoms are the same. It's a disease with no cure.
One particular case springs to mind when I think about the "There's no such thing as too much horsepower" syndrome. When I was developing twin-turbo kits for Ferraris, I had a really nice customer who loved his Testarossa, but he insisted on having as much power as possible no matter what the cost.
I created a kit that increased the horsepower to around 700 whp. It wasn't too radical, just a mellow low-boost kit that gave the Ferrari the beans to run with almost anything street legal.
A week later he was back. "I love it, but can we turn it up a little," he said. I raised the boost, remapped the Motec and on the dyno it pushed 800 hp. It was a beast to drive. It burned rubber in the first four gears and the acceleration in fifth was virtually neck-snapping. He picked up his car and left.
A few days later he was back again. "It's fantastic, but I think I want a little more," he said. I didn't want to risk terminal engine damage. We'd need to rebuild the engine using stronger parts. With 12 cylinders and rods, this wasn't a low-budget job, but he wasn't deterred. He had to have more power.
A few weeks later, I strapped the Testarossa on the dyno again. With the rebuilt engine and bigger turbochargers, we were shooting for 1,000 whp. Several hours later, after installing bigger injectors and remapping the Motec's fuel and ignition tables, the Testarossa generated 1,037 whp on high boost.
I explained that high boost was only to be used for short periods of time in the interest of engine longevity. Even with a built engine, extended high-boost running would probably result in overheating and a blown motor. My customer, with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, drove away and I thought that surely I'd seen the last of him for a while. Famous last words.
Two days later he walked into my shop with a sheepish look on his face. "It's toast," he announced. "I was giving my new girlfriend a ride home and thought I'd impress her. I was on a deserted freeway early in the morning so I got the car into fourth and nailed the gas. The car hauled ass all the way to redline. I was pinned to my seat, wrapped up in the wailing of the exhaust and the feeling of accelerating at such a rate of knots. Then there was a big bang, a clattering sound and the car just died."
I was concerned the engine let go so easily, so I asked him what rpm he was pulling when he changed to fifth gear. He got so carried away that he forgot to change gears, redlining in fourth for about 15 miles. His girlfriend was having a nervous breakdown/panic attack as she was strapped in a screaming monster of a car with a maniac behind the wheel.
So the girlfriend was suddenly the ex-girlfriend and the Ferrari needed a complete rebuild. This time though a more sensible level of boost was chosen and my customer is still driving the Ferrari daily.
Some people have such an addiction to speed that everything else takes a backseat. They can't help it. It's a disease without a cure. Be forewarned.
Banning BobA couple of years ago, I created my idea of the ultimate sport compact racecar-a four-cylinder funnycar that incorporated the latest technologies. It would run on nitromethane, so I started with a scratch-built engine that would be strong enough to handle the power.
The engine was a four-cylinder, 5-liter design with a square bore-and-stroke ratio. The block was solid billet aluminum and Top Fuel-style main caps provided maximum strength. The head was based on Batten's four-valve, big-block Chevy design with three spark plugs per cylinder and DOHC.
I overbuilt the engine because I planned to run a twin-turbocharger setup at 60 pounds of boost on nitro! A conservative estimate of the power was around 4,000 hp. To conquer the spool-up problem, I used a staged nitrous oxide system. Once the car was launched and in boost, the nitrous was deactivated.
The chassis was based on a Mark Williams funnycar kit that's narrow at the front to allow use of a custom Acura Integra one-piece body. The body was lengthened by 14 inches and narrowed at the front by 22 inches.
The car was completed and featured in Turbo. It was also featured in a Discovery Channel special on drag racing. It was well received by all and there was a buzz around the sport about "Norwood's insane funnycar."
The car appeared at a couple of events so the sport's governing bodies could see it and give me feedback. The plan was to make demonstration runs and generate enough interest in the car to develop an unlimited sport compact class. Then we'd manufacture complete chassis kits along with a choice of bodies. I even went as far as manufacturing a supply of blocks and heads.
My optimism died when the NHRA decided it wanted nothing to do with the car. It was too expensive, too radical and not street-based.
Then the NDRA announced its new Ultimate Dragster class. Rumors of an unlimited format got me excited. When the rules were announced, everything looked great until I saw the engine rules. My Max-4 engine was banned because it wasn't based on a production engine. I was disappointed to say the least.
Now the Max-4 funnycar is a large and expensive paperweight. I haven't lost hope that one day it'll compete, but for now the project is on hold. I like to think that someone will realize a "No holds barred" class will be a great attraction for the fans. A class of sub-6-second compacts would give the sport credibility and push it in a positive direction.
In the meantime, I'm banned again...
How do you know when your horsepower addiction is out of hand?Here are a few indications:1) You come home from a weekend at the races and find your clothes on the front doorstep with a "Dear John" letter pinned to them.
2) You have an overdue utility bill in one hand and a speed parts catalog in the other and you can't decide what you need to pay more-light and heating for the family or that killer set of camshafts?
3) Your "daily driver" requires a full-time pit crew to keep it on the road and you spend at least 80 percent of your time working on it.
4) Your friends decline your offers for a ride because they lack the fortitude to put up with the deafening exhaust, rock-solid suspension and lack of air conditioning.
5) The local cops stake out your street on a regular basis or address you by your first name.
6) Your traffic lawyer bill is more than your annual disposable income.
7) Your best pair of jeans is the one that had an oil change most recently.
8) You feel that no amount of power is ever enough.
9) Your idea of a hot date is the chick who works at the local Pep Boys, because maybe you can get a discount.
10) Your idea of a romantic weekend away has a connection to cars, bikes or acing. Unless you're very lucky, this just ain't gonna work with most women.