Wally and the dyno…

ust prior to the NHRA’s first season for its new Pro Stock category, I was able to assemble a test session on Edelbrock’s renowned Heenan-Froude engine dynamometer among a group of otherwise-successful Modified Production and SS class racers and engine builders.  But to sense the gravity of such a venture, you need to understand the landscape on which this little party rocked.

The list included Bill Jenkins, Wally Booth, Dick Arons, Dave Strickler, Mike Fons, Bill Blanding, and a couple of other aspiring new Pro Stock teams.  Each of these guys brought three or four engines, none of which had been evaluated on a dynamometer because few drag racers at the time had reached that stage in their respective shop equipment.  An opportunity to have a free run at testing their race pieces on a dyno in an environment like Edelbrock was clearly a plus.  This juggling act, on the part of us at Edelbrock, was to maintain some level of separation and confidentiality among these competitors.  Stated another way, envision an intensely competitive group of racers each allowing the other to see how much power they were taking to the Winternationals track.  You cannot imagine the blend of curiosity and tension.

When all the smoke had cleared, literally, each team departed with considerably more information about their motors than upon arrival, Jenkins and Booth in particular.  In fact, Wally was sufficiently impressed that when Dick Maskin (then communicating with AMC’s Bob Swaim) landed his American Motors deal in ’72 and suggested that Wally and Arons as part of a new team, another opportunity to test at Edelbrock’s facility was on Wally’s agenda.   It was because of his prominence in running a C/MP Camaro and strength of engines he and Dick Arons had been building, running, and selling that Maskin felt the Booth-Arons package was the place AMC should launch its Pro Stock efforts.

As the next NHRA Winternationals loomed, Booth and Arons loaded up their initial stash of AMC Pro Stock motors and again arrived at Edelbrock roughly two weeks before Pomona.  These same engines were fitted with a version of hand-fabricated Tunnel Ram manifolds that I’d crafted from versions for small-block Chevrolet V8s, given the similarities in port spacing and near-match between flange-to-flange bolt surface dimensions.  Cobbled together as these prototype pieces were, the intention was to use them for sorting out the details of a final version that would then be tooled and cast as production items.  Such parts were, by their very nature, simply starting points for customizing the internals of manifold tailored for specific racers and their engines. 

Along with Wally and Dick, Jenkins had convinced Vic to give him additional dyno time in order to verify his explorations, either before or after the AMC session.  Turns out it was afterward, so Bill was around when the American Motors pieces were run.