Chapter 22 - Screwed
I had such high hopes for this race. We'd come so close to winning class C so many times that I had convinced myself this was the race. Everything was going to go perfectly. Oh how wrong I was.
We showed up to Loudon early friday morning with a car that ran, and just needed a few minor finishing tasks. First we swapped another front axle suspecting that the one we put in at Thompson was leaking from the inner joint. Then we went after the brakes, which were even worse than their terrible selves. Over the course of the day we replaced the line to the rear brakes, moved the bias valve suspecting it was trapping air by being above the master cylinder, and bled probably 3 large bottles of fluid through the system. No dice. With the booster plugged in the pedal goes straight to the floor. Without the booster the pedal feels like a normal boosted brake. We pulled the booster line.
Saturday we put in our first driver. For the first time ever, I was not opening the race. If this was to be the last race of the daytona I wanted to be the last driver. So Ben got in first. Everything seemed fine, we were running second in class, we had fast lap times, and our fuel strategy had us taking fewer stops than most teams. Everything seemed normal until the radio call.
"Uh, i'm coasting in, i have nothing."
"What do you mean nothing?"
"Car shut off, won't restart"
Popping the hood revealed a sight I hadn't seen since our first race. Oil soaking everything. Our oil cooler line failed. It was a -10AN pushlock hose, something we'd used before with great success. But for whatever reason it blew off and emptied our pan all over the inside of the engine bay. So I crawled under and dropped the oil pan. I was greeted with the sight of bearing chips. Perfect, let's start pulling the engine.
While I waited for my room mate to show up with my engine stand we started pulling caps off with the engine hanging from a crane. The first two rods and all the mains looked perfect. I had hope. Maybe we just started to eat one or two and we could be running within a couple hours. I did have extra bearings after all. We finally got the engine mounted on a stand, flipped it over, and got our first look at the two pistons sitting at the top of their stroke. My heart sank.
One of the rods looked normal, still covered in oil. The other was not. It was dry, burnt, and obviously misshapen. Any hope of salvaging the engine vanished. We got the nuts off, but couldn't get the cap off the crank. I finally accepted the crank was dead anyway and broke out the huge hammer. Some smashing with a 1/4" socket extension drove the bolts through the cap and set it free. Cap was completely misshapen, rod was bent. The remains of the bearing were friction welded to the rod. The crank journal had bearing parts welded to it.
Trying to get the piston out revealed another issue. You can't take the pistons out the bottom of the block, and the crank end of the rod was deformed enough that it couldn't pass through the cylinder. So out comes the angle grinder. Finally freeing the piston revealed the rest of the damage. The cylinder is scored with metal bits embedded in it. Either pieces of bearing, or pieces of turbo fin. The piston is scored to crap and the rings are seriously abused. So, ruined parts count: block, crank, conrod, and 4 pistons (the other three wrecked their wrist pins.) The turbo had also eaten itself. The compressor wheel nut had fallen off (into the air filter thank god), and the compressor wheel itself had been eating itself on the housing.
Thankfully I live 40 miles from Loudon, so I set off home to scour my garage for parts. 2 hours later I was back with a block, crank, a bucket of pistons (I think there were north of 10 in there), and a few other random parts. While a swarm of enthusiastic friends and family descended on the two blocks I set about trying to work out how I was going to make the new crank go into the block. Without going into a ton of detail, in 1989 chrysler made what they called a common block. Same block would be used for all 4 cylinder engines be them NA, turbo, 2.2, 2.5, whatever. These used a crank with a longer snout and a different front plate. The front plate changed where the oil pan covered, and required a different oil pan as well. I had an earlier crank made for a non-common block. So the list of things to overcome if I wanted to build an engine:
1. Find bearings for the new crank
2. Figure out how to attach the early front plate to the common block engine and seal it.
3. Find a set of pistons that would work with the block
4. Find a way to seal the old style oil pan to the common block
5. Clean the top of the block enough that maybe our MLS gasket would seal to it.
6. Adapt all the oil and water lines for a garret turbo to fit a spare Mitsubishi turbo I had (thanks judge Rich!)
We got derailed at problem 1. Back in the Loudon garages I took a set of calipers to the new crank. Rod journals were .02" undersized. That's fine, I have some used ones I can throw in. Main journals are .02" undersized. Fuck. I don't have those. But wait, I should have the bearings that were on that crank when I took it out. They're just back in Nashua. So off we went again for a 2 hour trip looking for parts. Back in my garage I ripped apart every box and shelf searching, only to slowly recall my whirlwind cleaning session in the garage a month ago where I most certainly threw away every used bearing I found. Fuck. We're done.
We drove back to the track, bought some beer, and accepted defeat. No one carries bearings for this car locally. A few beers in, as i'm happily enjoying doing nothing and finally talking to friends for the first time all day, the influencers arrive. One of the Sorry for Party guys convinced me that if we ran heavy oil and lucas the engine should last at least a few minutes. So why the hell was I not building an engine. Sigh, fine. Let's build an engine and ruin more parts.
The crank went in easy enough. 0.01" over bearings on a 0.02" ground crank. The crank spun really easy, should be a fast reving engine. Old pistons out of the block, new set from my bucket in. Correct bearings on the rods and everything buttoned up. Moved my high volume oil pump to the new block. Then the front plate. We drilled and tapped two new holes in the front of the engine, applied a lot of RTV, and bolted it on. Oil pan goes on with extra RTV on the end that doesn't have bolt holes. Flip it over, clean the top of the block and drop on the gasket, head studs, and finally head. Meanwhile the Mitsubishi turbo had been prepped to accept almost all the garret lines. We finally called it a night around 1am.
The next morning while everyone else is firing up their still running cars we were back at it. Accessory brackets on. Clutch on. Turbo mounted and final mods to the water lines to make everything clear the wastegate arm. Last step is to set the timing belt. So I line up the crank and accessory shaft gears. Then throw a breaker bar on the cam, apply force, and.... nothing. It won't move. The one god damn part we didn't check is also ruined. Can't fix the head either. There aren't bearings on the cam, it just sits in the machined bosses of the head. I have more heads, but they're at home and i'm out of energy to get one. We'd only get like 30 minutes on track anyway once it's buttoned up.
So here we are, a total replay of our first ever race. Empty oil pan and a broken engine. A weekend that was supposed to be our one perfect race has gone worse than any other. So we started cleaning up. Engine went in the car for easier transport. By the awards ceremony we had everything packed and done. Judge Rich was kind enough to give our car a send off with the runner up to I got Screwed. But the team who they planned on giving the award to went home early, and you must be present to win, so Futility Motorsport got screwed.
Going out the same way we came in, it's kind of poetic. We took this hopeless basketcase car, wrangled it into something that actually worked fairly well, and then got kicked in the ass when it had just had too much. 12 races, 4800+ race miles, 5 awards, and untold hours of labor. The daytona lived a good life. It's time to retire it though. Later this week I'll go into why in more detail.
20+ Time Loser FutilityMotorsport Turbo Dodge Powered E36 Build2008 Saab 9-5Aero Wagon
Retired - 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby
2011-2015 "Lifetime Award for Lack of Achievement" IOE, 3X I got screwed, Organizer's Choice