New Wrinkles Are Seldom Smooth…

Isn’t it funny how we tend to admire original thinkers but either overlook or are unaware how social responses to their creativity can impact progress?  And then there are those of us who peer through the veil of doubt or question, seeing validity in what these types offer.  The following is a case in point.

It was thirty-four years ago, almost to the current one.  Bill Howell was still operating under the radar at engine shops scattered around Warren, MI., and operating under the direction of Chevy’s Vince Piggins.  The smell of A.J. Foyt’s cigar smoke could be sniffed out in the garages of Gasoline Alley at Indy and Smokey Yunick was laboring to convince the suits at GM and Ford that his “hot vapor” engine concept was on the cutting edge of new OEM powertrain technology.  Butch Elkins was herding cats at Diamond Elkins and a guy named C.J. Batten was emerging onto the motorsports scene.  Hopefully, you get the historical drift.  I mention this because concurrent in time was a young mechanical engineering student at Ohio State University concluding his Master Thesis on some concepts that would get the attention of a few industry notables but ultimately fall short of gaining widespread acceptance.  After all, he came from the academic community and fuel didn’t mix well with ivory.

Also at the time, I was still trying to move from the hammer and chisels then available to conceive intake manifolds at Edelbrock and making efforts to plow some of my own academia into the process…to the chagrin of certain company residents.  While I contended “just keep going to the bank and let me do the developing,” the little skunkworks we’d been able to collect was making late-night and weekend advances in the art of inductions systems.  Based on techniques I was researching on my own that included pressure transducer mapping of intake manifolds on a running engine, not just air flow bench, I began speaking in terms of air flow quality, not quantity, considering that air/fuel charges are not homogeneous and vary throughout the combustion process.  Where,according to aftermarket tradition, bigger wasn’t always better and sometimes less became more.  Say what? 

My academic background was pushing me to step outside the ranks of gunslingers draped with bandoliers of cut-and-try bullets and into a small box of specialty aftermarket parts designers seeking scientific bases for their “discoveries” and gains, as well as failures.  In my surroundings, nobody seemed to care about this.  About that time, rather fortuitously, I got a phone call from the Ohio State student.

The guy was (and still is) a bit long-winded.  In me, it seemed he’d also discovered somebody tuned to his frequency so we’d have late evening phone discussions about his work and mine.  The more we talked, the more I realized I had already been on this path but hadn’t yet developed the mathematical tools to turn ideas into predictions.  After all, somebody had to help pay the bills with new-parts ideas.  With the passage of time, I began to recognize his frustrations in not having access to hands-on people in motorsports, including that facet of the OEM community; those doing the cutting and trying, building engines, designing parts, clandestine racer support and going racing.  I told him I could help with that and I did.