Offerings to the Gods of Speed

Every so often, sacrifices must be offered up to the Gods of Speed. It seems every few years, they demand it. It was so at Famoso on June 24th 2006 for us. But we were lucky.

That day, we found out just how lucky we are. The crank broke in our Ghia's motor in the friday night TnT on the 2nd run, destroying everything between the heads and most likely damaging the valves as well. The run seemed lazy from the start, and just wasn't pulling in high gear like it should. Just about the time I'm thinking to myself, "Self, maybe you better get out of the throttle..." there's a crunch, a lurch and it nose dives, and by reflex, I clutch it and pull over to the side. I looked under the car and it was bone dry. The Safety Crew rolls up and pulls us off and then my wife Cindy took over once off the Track and got us back to our pit space.

I hesitated for a few moments to open the decklid because I had a feeling.... Sure enough, there's a hole as big as your fist in the top of the case between #s 3 and 1. Damn! I said to Cindy. "Well, there goes the rest of the season." I decided to pack it up and do the "hang out" thing as a spectator/cheerleader for the event.

"How is this being lucky?" you say? This is where the lucky part comes in. Cindy says to me that we should take the chunk from the top of the case that had broken out over to show our buddy Pat Downs of CB Performance who was pitted a couple rows over. Pat says "Dang Mike, that really sucks! I'm really sorry." He thinks for a moment, and says that Rick Tomlinson, the owner of CB, has a complete running EFI test motor sitting on a bench at the shop that dynoed at 205 hp. (Ours made just under 270) It is to be Rick's street car motor for his 64 Beetle featured on the "Farmersville Look" T-Shirt. "You want me to call Rick and ask if you can use it? He can bring it down Saturday morning." My pride caused me to hestitate, but Cindy said "Call him" Two strokes of luck right there. My wife and my good friend Pat not ready for us to quit just yet.

Then we show the chunk to Race Buddies and class rivals John Schuerger and Doug Berg, pitted next to us. Cindy mentions that maybe CB has this motor.... Those two pretty much spring into action saying "let's get the motor out!" We pushed the car over into their pit space to use their lights, jacks and other equipment they bring. Now, I am not prepared for major damage like this. If it involves yanking motors, I pretty much figure we're done. Not those guys! Another stroke of luck. Two friends that won't let me quit so easily.

As we're pulling the motor (and this is in anticipation of Rick at CB saying yes, because at this point, he hasn't been asked yet), John Hashim of M&H Tires walks up and looks at the damage in slack-jawed disbelief. "Mike, you don't blow motors up! What's up with that? Are you guys camping? Let me ask Blake (Track operator) to let you guys stay inside to pull an all-nighter." Stroke of luck number three. Good friend John Hashim going to bat for us to allow us to have the time to do the job.

Above, this is what we found when we opened the decklid. This photo is somewhat after the fact. Below, a closeup.

Rick Tomlinson of CB Performance lent us his street car motor, which was complete and ready to go, and available! Here it is installed in the Blue Car below with our external accessories

The motor is out in an hour (still a full bodied car that requires a partial disassembly just to remove the motor) and at 11pm we're surveying the damages. We can see the crank sitting cockeyed in the case, and the two Pauter rods still connected, but badly bent. The cam is gone and lifters are jutting out of their holes. Jason Lauffer of VW Paradise in San Marcos and part owner of the worlds fastest VW, comes by and says "Yeah, the crank broke at the center main and there was a magnesium fire within the tranny bellhousing where the flywheel teeth rubbed and shaved off a little material and it then ignited it from the friction." (Not an exact quote) The diagnosis was a broken crank as the root cause. It was ugly.

Pat calls Rick the next morning and Rick graciously agrees. Stroke of luck number 4. We strip off the external accessories we'll need for the other motor, which is a fully dressed pump gas street motor. It arrives a little after noon, and Doug, John, Cindy and I set to work on it. The motor was complete, right down to the EFI and exhaust, including muffer! A 2275 pump gas motor with CBs special CNC ported "Wedge Port" heads and built TOTALLY with off the shelf parts that dynoed at 205hp. A plug and play deal with a little minor prep work. Not quite up to the power levels of our race motor, but it gives us a chance. The class index is 11.90 and is a qualified field, and with hot conditions, it's a slim chance that the motor will go quick enough.

The sheet metal shrouding for cooling is stripped off, along with the intakes and alternator. The powder coated pieces are laid carefully aside. The external pieces off my motor were installed. Once all that was done, we were ready to stab the motor. By this time they were calling out for tech inspection. I tell John and Doug to go, and within minutes they were back and jumped right back in to work. At this point, I think we got a little aggressive trying to get the motor pushed in, as we started to push the car off the jack-stands and John got his finger pinched open between the header and body when the car moved. (Sorry John!). Quick action by Doug saved it from going completely off and we got the car re-supported and the motor stabbed and bolted in. Pat Downs changed the oil and ran the valves and after the external stuff was back on, the connections double checked, I started 'er up! No leaks! Even with a slightly different intake manifold arrangement, my EFI wiring harness plugged right in, right down the fuel hoses. (Remember, this is a 044 wedge port head motor while mine was a comp eliminator head motor. Completely different heads. We had to use the intakes originally on the donor motor.)

Off the jacks she comes and off to tech we go with lots of time to spare!

All this was done just for the CHANCE of even qualifying. All we had was hope that this little pump gas motor would be up to it. The Blue Car ain't exactly light, at least by VW standards!
Run # 1 - 12.85 at 109 HUGE bog on the starting line ( I had backed off the two-step to 6000 rpm)
Run # 2 - 12.60 at 109 Little bog with the 7200 rpm chip I normally run plugged back in.

She's running too lean and misfiring in the middle of the run, so I fatten up the fuel and go up a couple steps more on the two-step.
Run #3 - 12.24 at 111. Not bad! And, it puts us in the show in the #16 position in a 16 car field. Mission accomplished! Stroke of luck #5, we are in the show!

I fattened up the fuel a bit more for 1st round and with a bit of a delay with the SG ladder down to the lanes for pairing, things are looking more promising for running the number as the cool(er) night air starts coming in. I draw #1 qualifier Cory Sacchetti. Cory gives me a .08 second advantage on the tree (Thanks Cory!), but thats all he was giving up. The little motor pushes the Blue Car to a 12.17, while Cory drives around to an 11.99 and the win. Rick was really really happy with the performance of this little street car motor and I gave him the final timeslip of 12.17 (even tho it shows a loss). The really cool thing about this motor is that it can be duplicated with OFF-THE-SHELF PARTS from CB and with carefull assembly, can power a slightly lighter weight car than mine (1900 lbs) into the 11s ON PUMP GAS! In fact, had conditions been better with cooler temps we might have run 11s in our car although we had C-12 in the tank.

Running a successful race operation takes work, committtment, some money, lots of planning and a bunch of luck. It's even a community effort. Without my wife Cindy who wouldn't throw in the towel and friends like Rick Tomlinson, John Schuerger, Doug Berg, Pat Downs, Dee Berg, John Hashim who are CAN-DO poeple, and the many other who pitched in, this whole thing wouldn't have happened. Cindy and I consider the weekend a HUGE success even tho we lost in the first round. In our minds, we are BIG WINNERS because of the friends we have have made being involved in the VW scene. Thanks guys! I am the luckiest guy on earth!

The Damage

What we found upon disassembly was that our crank had broken between rod throw #3 and the front (flywheel end) main.

I've said it myself hundreds of times, when it comes to racing, you pay your money and you take your chances.Sometimes, that just the cost of doing the business of racing. Pretty much all the internals between the center main bearing and flywheel is junk along with the case.


Recovery

The boys at CB have REALLY pulled through for us. Between Rick Tomlinson and Pat Downs, they made sure a new CB raised roof case, another CB2298 cam and lite weight racing lifters were made available to get us back into the game before Denver. With five weeks between Famoso where the blow-up occured, and the Denver race, there was plenty of time....IF I simply wanted to make it to Denver. However, not wanting to take a new motor all the way there with no time on it, my plan was to have it ready in time for the Famoso Summit Series race on July 22nd.

So, here's the way it went down. I obtained a Scat 84mm all type 4 main crank from Shawn Geers, (new flywheel to match the flange pattern), CB sent a new raised roof case to Rimco for boring to all type 4 mains and flange seal, Anthony at CB cleaned up the heads, while the cam, lifters, bearings and head studs all came form CB. Pat brought in a set of Pauter rods for me as well as a Competition Engineering oil pump. I had a couple spare pistons and barrels.

Once all the parts were in hand, I mocked up the rotating assembly to deal with any clearance issues and get the deck height determined. The inside of the case was deburred, some oil passage ports tapped, plugged, and rerouted. After all these tasks were complete, the rotating assembly was sent back down to CB for balancing and final case decking.

With the parts back in our hands just a few days later, final assembly began with a final cleaning of the case, crank, rods and pistons. After that, it was pretty much by the numbers.

Above, final assembly starts with installing the rods onto the crank along the the timing gears, then laying the assembly into the case. Timing marks on cam are lined up, then the cam is dropped in too. The cam was degreed in earlier and is installed "Straight Up."

A closeup of the new oil pump from Competition Engineering and the completed shortblock.

The completed longblock

And then back into the car!