“I think these guys deserve some recognition…” (Part 2)

If you managed to wade through Part I of this little epic, you’ll recall a mention of the speed with which both the small-block Chevy V8 and ’55 Chevrolet passenger car in which it was installed came to pass.  Back then, the concept of “just-in-time” engineering was not in practice.  However, one of the intents on which Ed Cole’s team was focused included the simultaneous development of both critical and necessary parts.  Recall we previously noted that only fifteen-percent of the new car’s components were transferred from prior model year vehicles.  In fact, the only parts re-used from the 1954 Chevy were the transmissions (automatic and three speed manual) and the brakes, claimed by some critics to be the ’55 Chevy’s weakest component area.  Simple calculation tells you that a full eighty-five percent of the package required fresh thinking, engineering, prototyping and reduction to practice.  No small order.

As I continued my discussions with several of the remaining small-block engineers and reviewing some of the older photos of prototype parts, I mentioned to one gentleman that the pieces appeared to be crafted from wood, fiberglass or sheetmetal.  When that observation was confirmed, I began looking more closely at the photos and discovered that prototype pieces built from non-cast or machined parts shaped like the new designs were not exclusive to the engine.  Upper control arms, engine mounts, and other such components had been built, primarily to confirm their fit (not function) in an effort to hasten final design refinements while allowing engineers to assemble sets of components without waiting for tooling and pre-production parts.  The just-in-time engineering practice was beginning to grow legs.

Also new was how major engine components would be cast, using a then-new “green sand” molding process that ensured a lighter weight cylinder block and heads.  Plus, the technique provided for fewer casting cores and easier assembly than the previous “permanent mold” process.  The new method was also less expensive.  Out of GM’s Central Engineering staff, John Dolza has piloted this process that actually enabled upside down, ensuring a greater degree of dimensional control and accuracy than the permanent mold method.  This technology had reportedly been developed by Pontiac for a V6 program.  It is said that Dolza received a patent for the cylinder block’s coring method, it was that innovative.  These same blocks not only exhibited increased structural strength, they required less machining operations as evidenced by less core shift during the casting process.  In fact, the new 265 V8 was said to be about forty pounds lighter than its predecessor, the in-line six.

Also among the seventy-five core engineering staff that Cole assembled was Mauri Rose, a former Indy 500 winner, whose tireless engineering efforts were noted by Smokey Yunick when he said, “People will never know how much Mauri contributed to turning a 0-60 ‘dog box on wheels’ of the mainstream Chevy cars into a neat little car (the ’55 Chevy) that got the performance world happy.  GM should erect a statue of Mauri beside their headquarters in Detroit.”