Lock the welder

1972 Dodge Charger

Things are in a state of flux at Efab these days. I am relocating to Los Angeles CA, first seasonally, perhaps permanently. The fate of the Branford, CT shop is uncertain at this time. Without boring everyone with my reasons for moving, let me show you what I will be driving out there: my dream car! Every once in a while I do a car project, and I have a very progressive plan for this one! Ever since I was a kid I looked at the Dodge Charger as the quintessential muscle car. Not based on any particular feature, just the overall design. In particular, the 1971-1974 years. Of course everyone wants the 1968-1970, due mostly to the fact that it has been made famous in so many great movies (bullet, fast and furious, blade, dukes of hazard, etc). I like to be different, and I like the fact that in the later years, the design got a little sleazier.

Of course, I am not going to simply buy a car and drive it stock, its just not me. Also, it doesn't really make sense, environmentally or financially, to drive a car that gets 10 miles per gallon on a regular basis. How can I have my cake and eat it too?

What engine can I put in here that will solve all my problems? I need lots of horsepower and torque, ease of maintenance, decent fuel economy, and low emissions. How about a turbo-diesel?

Modern diesel engines are not what they used to be. They are smooth running, reliable, quiet, have the ability to run a wide variety of fuels (bio-diesels), and make freakish amounts of power.

I am in the process of educating myself on the wide world of diesels now. I have never owned a diesel, or even seen one taken apart. I have a lot to learn before I can make an educated decision on where to begin, but for now I have another task: prep the charger for its cross country drive.

Here she is the day I bought her, coming home from Long Island on the ferry.

charger on ferry


As soon as it got to the shop I dove in. Anyone who has ever tried to restore an old car knows the pain I am talking about. Is it safe? what parts are about to fail? Is it going to catch on fire? how is the motor and trans? So many questions, and only one way to find out- start exploring.

One thing that was immediately obvious- the suspension was not up to par. I knew it would have to be upgraded, not only for the trip out west, but also for the heavier engine that will eventually be installed. A phone call to Firmfeel Inc (a mopar suspension specialist) got me several new key components. New heavy duty leaf springs and torsion bars, heavy duty tie rods, rebuilt heavy duty steering box,  giant sway bars,  a full poly bushing kit, and new stiff shocks. Once these components were installed, it completely changed the way the car drove. Thanks Firmfeel!

Next was the engine, and luckily I have a good friend (Ralph at Kehl Tech), who builds race engines for a living, and is dam good at it. He said the motor sounded good (its a small block 360), but suggested we rebuild the carb, which was a good guess because there was a lot of old gas residue gumming it up, as well as many mismatched parts.

Accessory belts were badly misaligned, so some new brackets had to be made as well. The coil was mounted sideways, so that was relocated too.

charger engine without carb

Next step was the wiring. As you can imagine, a lot of morons had been inside this car since it left the factory, and it seemed as if every one of them added their own special touches to the electrical system! My god, butt connectors, wires that had melted, electrical tape, stereo components that didnt work, old fuses, new fuses, wires with no fuse at all, and breakers that randomly pop. With my trusty test light I went at it, and after a week I had removed about 40ft of wire that didnt do anything, repaired several melted wires, got 3 non-functioning gauges to work, installed brighter headlights, and got all the critical running lights working. Of course all of this will get redone again when the new motor transplant happens, but it should survive the trip out now.

I cant be seen driving an orange car, and it isnt the original paint anyway, so a quicky repaint was in order. Spay bomb time!

charger being painted


I ripped off the old rotten vinyl roof covering, and molded the pitted metal underneath. I never liked those vinyl roofs anyway. The chromed trim and bumpers were in decent shape, but a scotch brightening session gave them a nice matte finish, similar to stainless steel.

charger in shop

I am leaving next month, so I am driving the car daily to (hopefully) bring any other problems to light before the big push west. Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, not all choppers have 2 wheels!


Iron Triangle Progress

Bike so far complete bike 1

Gas tank is mounted on three points, here are the front two mounts

tank mounts

The exhaust pipes are 1 3/4" OD, the common header pipe size. The problem with that is the actual exhaust port size on twin cam heads is 1 5/8". Usually there is an abrupt step where the heads meets the flange. I machined the flanges with the inside tapered to perfectly blend the two sizes. Also, they have a flat, perfectly matching taper on the outside of the flange, so there is no way the gasket material can squeeze into the exhaust flow. This happens often with aftermarket exhausts! These are machined from solid stainless steel on my manual lathe.

exhaust flanges 1

exhaust flanges 2

Here is the underside of the gas tank, with two giant mounts welded in. They are 1.5" OD flange, milled down where it goes through the tank. This distributes the load over a larger area of the floor of the tank (which is made from 1/8 chrome-moly flat stock).

underside of tank

New Bike Update

Since returning form California I have been focusing entirely on the new bike, the "Iron Triangle". It will be powered by a new engine I am building, which I have nicknamed the "Mini Stroker". I will attempt to explain why I named it that: It is a hybrid of a Harley Evolution motor (built from 1984-1999) and a Harley Twin Cam motor (built 1999-present). In a nutshell, what I am taking from the Evo are the case mounting system, the bore and stroke, and the wrist pin. The Twin Cam parts are the cams, oiling system, heads, and crank assembly. The reason for this is because I feel that the Evo bore and stroke combo is superior, in many ways, to the twin cam. However, the Twin Cam is a far stronger motor (due mostly to the robust flywheel design) , and has a far more reliable oiling system. So, since a first generation Twin Cam was 88 cubic inches (3.75" bore by 4" stroke), and an stock Evo is 80 inches (3.5" bore by 4.25" stroke), that means that in a Twin Cam crankcase I have increased the stroke from stock, making it a "stroker" motor. however, due to the reduced bore it has less displacement than a stock Twin Cam- hence "Mini Stroker".

In addition to all this, I also changed the cylinders from stock cast aluminum with an iron liner to billet ductile iron. This is heavier, but also far stronger and more dimensionally stable under heat. In other words, as it gets hot it doesn't change shape as much. This means tighter tolerances all around. I also used a head/ base stud pattern for attachment to the case and heads, instead of the thru-studs an Evo or Twin cam would have had. Again, stronger. In order to make the Twin Cam heads work with my new bore and stroke combo, (as well as a copper o-ring head gasket) modifications had to be made. I wanted to reatain the stock Twin Cam combustion chamber, but it needed to be reduced to 72 cc's of volume to achieve my 10.5-1 static compression ratio. This meant decking (milling down) the heads significantly. In addition, the new flange system was milled into it to accept the o-ring gasket.

Ok, enough about all that, here are some pics:

I was lucky to have two trusted advisers here to help, my main man Alex Lerner from SL NYC in Queens, and Satya Kraus from Kraus Motor Co in northern Cali.

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This is the "cam-plate", the component that supports the cam shafts, routes oiling, and holds the oil pump.

photo (26)

Installing the bearings on the flywheel

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Checking the endplay on the left case half

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Completed short block

image (8)

Here is completed frame. All chromoly, all made here at Efab

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closeup of front motor mount

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More to come!

Mini Stroker Progress

In between various customer projects, I have slowly been making progress on my engine. The Heads are twin cam 88 originally, but have been modified. I reshaped the majority of the fins, rounding them around many of the sharp edges. Here is an overall view of the cylinder, head, and rocker box mocked up. cylinder and head

A typical twin cam has aluminum cylinders with an iron sleeve pressed into it. I had Randy at Hyperformance make me billet iron cylinders. The advantage being that there is no way for the iron sleeve to become loose in the aluminum cylinder, because it is all iron! These are secured by a "head and base" stud setup, much like a knuckle, pan, or shovelhead would have been. Here a set of 4 studs hold the cylinder to the crankcase, and another set of 4 hold the head to the cylinder.

An evo or twin cam, traditionally, used a set of 4 studs that ran all the way through the head, cylinder, and into the case. This  is a simpler way to attach all the parts, but not as strong.

In addition to the stud conversion, I have adapted the heads to use a superior head gasket method, the metal o-ring. On a stock twin cam (or any other harley) a composite flat gasket was used, sandwiched between the head and cylinder. They work fine, but can blow out if extreme cylinder pressures are achieved. The metal o-ring setup eliminates the flat gasket, instead using a series of steps machined into both the head and cylinder, with a copper ring integrated into it. All of the mating surfaces make contact with each other at the exact same time. This requires extremely precise machining, but results in a nearly indestructible union. I can only assume, too, that heat transfer between the head and cylinder will be improved, due to the metal to metal contact.

Here is the top of the cylinder. The surface rust inside the bore will be gone when the final honing happens.

cylinder top

You may have noticed that there are no oil drain passages in the cylinder. This is because I have re-routed them to the outside of the head and cylinder. This is good for 2 reasons. One is it keeps the oil cooler, since it is not touching the approx 300 degree cylinder walls. The second is that there is no chance of oil weeping between the head and cylinder surfaces, since it bypasses that area completely.

I had to machine a passage through the fins of each cylinder, through the wall, and into the oil drain passage inside the head. This was then tapped for a custom made fitting. Obviously, the original hole underneath has to be plugged as well.

Here is the stainless drain fitting coming out of the head. It has a 6 AN fitting on the end for hose attachment...

oil drain

I have also added compression releases to the heads. Compression releases are simply tiny valves that allow the cylinder pressure to be bled off as the starter motor rotates the engine. This takes a huge strain off the starter motor and battery, and they simply pop shut when the first combustion occurs, allowing the engine to start. It is unusual to see them on motors with small displacement,  but there is no downside to using them. Also, my compression ratio and the resulting cylinder pressures are far higher than either a stock evo or twin cam, so despite the small displacement, the starter will still need all the help it can get.

compression releases

Installing compression releases is easy with the right tools. It requires a precise hole to be drilled and tapped, which enters the combustion chamber between the exhaust valve and the spark plug hole. More to come...

New Motor Mock Up

Here is a basic mockup- no internals. Bore is 3.5, stroke will be 4.25". That is just 80 inches, but inside a bombproof shell- billet ductile iron cylinders from Hyperformance that actually reduce the bore of the twincam style cases. This means that an already strong cylinder is now even stronger. The motor will have worked over twin cam heads, S and S flywheels, magneto, super B and custom cams. Compression: unknown at this time

Icarus After Dyno

So after my 2 hour dyno session with Mark, I made some headway and learned some valuable info on Icarus. The bike limped along at about 25 hp and 40 ft pounds when I got it there, but keep in mind I had just made a new exhaust and had new carb needles in. After a baseline run we determined that it was way rich from about 3000 up. A few adjustments in the carbs and we were doing better. We also advanced the timing about 5 degrees and it really woke up. By the end it was making 42 hp and over 60 ft pounds! I know a lot of bench racers will give me shit for not making more power, but the reality of v twins is often quite different from what is written in the catalogs. I challenge anyone to build their own motor from scratch and make more power than that (at the rear wheel) with 7 to 1 compression! I already have plans for phase 3. I am shooting for around 65 hp and 80 ft pounds without raising compression or cam lift. I also spent an entire day riding around new haven on her and she took it like a champ... good little bike.



The other day my friend Kully asked me what the biggest ships were. We had been watching a documentary called  "Carrier", about life on board an aircraft carrier. I mentioned that the largest ships afloat are actually oil tankers, the largest ever being built in 1979 in Japan. Originally named the "Seawise Giant", she was 1504 ft long and could carry over 500,000 tons! To put that in perspective the empire state building is 1454 ft tall. By comparison the US carrier Nimitz is only 1092 feet. Anyway, They are powered by diesel engines, unlike the carriers which are nuclear powered. Here is a pic of the bottom end of one of these massive engines. Bore and stroke can be as large as 3 feet by 9 feet. That is big enough for a couple of people to ride up and down inside!

Knucklegame re-oil

So my new dual carb knuck had some oil return issues from the rocker boxes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with knucklehead engines, they have a top end oil return system unlike any of the other big twins. On most big twins, oil is pumped to the rocker boxes and then allowed to gravity feed back to the flywheel or cam compartment. With the knuckle there are steel hoses that actually suck the oil out of the cups, through the "knuckles", down the pushrod tubes, around the tappets, down tappet block passages, into the cam deck, and over into the breather gear pocket. When the pistons are on their way up a secondary breather gear window opens allowing the negative pressure to suck. Oil then gets pulled down into the breather gear, where it waits for a second until the main window opens, at which point it gets blasted into the cam compartment along with the rest of the bottom end oil. From there it is scavenged by the oil pump. However, on my knuck the oil was getting trapped in the top end! I took the entire engine apart and checked all the routing for an obstruction that would have clogged it- nothing. I swapped out the breather gear for an original knuckle one ( I had an aftermarket knuckle breather)- still no dif. Then I compared my aftermarket cases to an original knuckle set- and found a slight difference. In the breather pocket the return hole that enters the breather gear pocket was approx 1/16" to the left of there the stock one was. That means that the "window" for the top end sucker was essentially opening a few degrees too soon. I tried advancing the breather gear 1 tooth (1 tooth equaled the amount the case hole was "advanced"). No luck! shit!

This is my latest effort. I put the breather gear back to stock setting. I figured perhaps there is simply not enough suction being created by the pistons to pull the oil. I have no idea why but it is worth a shot. If there wasnt as much suction perhaps the oil could not overcome gravity as it is being "lifted" out of the cups on its way to the knuckles. What if I allowed it to gravity feed back? I removed the steel tubes from the cups and instead installed hoses. I plugged the tapped return holes in the knuckles. The 4 hoses from each cup collect at a junction block. From the block a large AN hose goes back to the breather gear through a tapped hole above it. In effect i have re-routed the oil return, but it still goes to the same final location, but eliminates the part where it goes uphill. So far it seems to be working! I know you might be saying "are the tappets running dry now?". They are definitely recieving less but they are still exposed to the oil mist in the cam compartment- which should be fine. Here are some pics. You can see the new AN fitting above and left of the top end feed hose.

Here is the junction block for the 4 cup lines. I kinda love this thing.

I'll report on how it works in the long run but it seems good so far! Knuckles are tricky little fuckers....

Turbo Compound

I know I have been all over the map with blog postings recently. Mostly it is because I don't want to give away what I am working on untill Sturgis! In the mean time, here is a good one. In my obsession with aircraft engines and all their various configurations, I came across this. It is called a Turbo Compound. This was yet another WWII era concept for boosting piston engine performance, similar to a supercharger or turbocharger. In this case, spent exhaust gasses are routed around the crankshaft of the engine. The idea is that the fast-moving gasses actually help turn the crank itself, rather than an air compressor to re-feed the intake. A main reason why this was explored as an option was because, unlike conventional forced induction, it does not increase fuel consumption, but still increases power. These systems are also known as "blowdown turbines", because they take specific advantage of the fast-moving exhaust gasses created by the piston moving down on its power stroke. This is possible by having the exhaust valve open before bottom dead center on that stroke, allowing explosive combustion gas to escape early. Get it? Give a little here and gain a little there. Amazing. Obviously I am wondering if this would be a viable way to increase power on a motorcycle. Apparently these engines  (at least in aircraft form) were not vary popular, as the advent of turboprops and jet engines took over. However, detroit diesel apparently made an engine with one in 2001. ok, here are some pics: This one is in a radial aircraft engine.

Apparently a few found their way into the later versions of the Lockheed constellation. Howard Hughes was partially responsible for this aircrafts development. (as seen in the movie "The Aviator")

Apparently, turbo compounds were hated by mechanics because the exhaust valves got the shit beat out of them and needed frequent replacement. It does make sense, if the valve is opening early on the power stroke to increase exhaust manifold pressure, it is going to get a lot hotter. Maybe it isn't such a good idea to try to adapt this one to bike. It is hard enough to keep a regular Harley running right!

Awsome Carb

My friend Bill found this bike parked at a swapmeet recently. Check out the carb setup! Two linkert M 74's welded together to make a dual throat! looks like he welded the bodies together and then siamesed the bowls... so sweet. Dude if you are out there email me!

Duas Caras Dual Carb

I saw this bike a few years ago and found it interesting. I love dual carbs. There are so many different ways to make them work on a harley. There is the common "plenum" manifold, like what indian larry did, and I did on "speed fetus" and "scotts bike". There is also a ton of different ways to do 1 carb per head. You can make independent little manifolds that pass by each other (on a normal head configuration), and then each have a carb. Check the Mad Jap link- his knuckle has that setup. Or you can modify your heads with new intake ports aiming wherever you like (my new knuckle is having that). Or you can do two front heads, or two rear heads, probably the hardest way because it requires cam/lifter block/cylinder stud/ modifications. Or you can do it THIS way, by just switching duties of the ports on one of the heads, in this case the rear. In other words, just make the exhaust the intake and vice versa... so cool. Wonder how else to do it?


Clean Room

I tend to have multiple projects in the works at any given time. Over the last 2 weeks I have been working with my friend Scott to build a "clean room" in my shop. This is a sealed off area to assemble engines in, allowing me to use my saws, grinders, sanders, etc outside and not contaminate engines that are in various states of completion. Over the years almost all the failures I have seen in engines have either been from simple negligence in assembly or foreign materials getting inside the motor. (I know another local shop where you can get both!). Anyway, I am still trying to perfect my engine assembly skills, but at least I will have the clean part taken care of. The room is air tight, literally. I have a filtered air line coming into the room from my outside compressor, keeping a steady 1 PSI air pressure inside the room, keeping me from passing out and making it impossible for dust to enter when I open the door to the rest of the shop.

In the bottom pic you can see a knucklehead I have bagged and tagged for re-assembly. This one is getting dual carb heads and a fresh rebuild. Every single part has been cleaned, inspected, bagged and labelled before it enters the room. Remember, when you go looking for a shop to rebuild you engine, look at the work area. Does it look dirty? Are their random people walking around unfinished engines? Is the shop open to the outside? Engine building is like open heart surgery -any foreign material gets in there and its all over. Believe me, I know from experience "cleanliness is next to godliness".

Cam Update

I was doing some research on material for the camshaft. I first emailed Andrews cams to ask them what they used, but expected no reply. In the meantime I searched the internet and got varied results. Various types of hard cast iron were mentioned, as well as a few tool steels. Then the other day I heard back from Andrews, and they said they use "8620". That was cool of them to reply. So now I am looking into whatever that is (I assume a tool steel). If that is unattainable, I will go for 01 tool steel, my favorite for knife making. I have also made progress on the heat treatment front. About a year ago I acquired a used pottery kiln. It was always my intention to use it for heat treatment and casting, but I had not wired it until now (it is electric, like a giant toaster). I figured this is a good excuse to get it going, so I wired it and turned it on. It gets hot, but there is no way to tell how hot! I guess pottery is really forgiving in the heat department, as there are no gauges or even accommodations for one. I went back online and began to research thermometers for these things. I found a company that supplies equipment like this through a knife making forum. The company sold me a "probe" that goes through a tiny hole into the kiln, and a digital thermometer that is supposed to be very accurate. The probe is made of a special metal, tungsten i believe, that won't melt along with everything else inside the kiln. When this arrives, I can (hopefully) get a max temp for this kiln. That temp needs to be in the 1600 degree F range in order to heat treat the majority of tool steels, including o1. I have used a oxy acetylene torch for years but there is a problem with that method uneven heat soak. In other words, the metal isnt evenly hot, because the torch has to be waved back and forth over the metal object to heat it. That can lead to an uneven hardness, or a warped part, when finished. The kiln should do a perfectly even heat soak if it gets hot enough.... I'll report back. Oh, and if anyone out there is a cam or heat treatment expert, comment with your contact info so I can pick your brain.

Yesterday sucked, today is good

You may have noticed that I have not posted anything about my hybrid motor bike "icarus" lately. The reason is, for the last 5 months I have been patiently waiting for the custom camshaft to arrive. Out of respect (for now) I will not mention the company's name, but suffice to say it arrived yesterday and it is incorrect. Mind you this is the second cam designer I have dealt with. The first one just stopped returning my emails. Man I must be more of a jerk than I give myself credit for! Fuck it- I have finally decided to do what I should have done in the first place- make it myself. Now I have embarked on many ambitious projects, but a camshaft? This should be good. Lets see... has to open valves...has to do so at precise times....has to be made of hardened tool steel...has to be perfectly true...has to be degree'd with a drive gear... spins at blazing speed in a tumultuous, hot, vibrating environment under extreme load... should be easy. Oh yeah, I will make it with hand tools. Anyway, here is a pic of what I got after 5 months compared to a regular evo cam ("custom" cam on left). Notice anything different? me either. How this would operate a v twin with two Continental heads (similar to two rear harley heads, port wise) is beyond me.

My wrist is healing up, sun is out, shop is clean- today will be a good day! Stay tuned!

More pics from Fantasy of Flight

I still have a few more cool pics from the museum I visited in FL a while back. These are a few antique aircraft engines. I don't recall the exact years or makes, but they are WWI era.

Check out the pushrod /rocker arrangement on the second pic. Looks like the outside of the tube acts as a "puller" rod for the intake, while the inner rod is a "pusher" for the exhaust strange but cool. Id like to see the cam compartment on this thing. Liquid cooled too- done in a very logical way. Too bad it wasnt running- I bet it's quite a sight!


Here we go, yet another way to turn a propeller. I covered "turboprop" and conventional piston engines, so now on to this. A turboshaft is very similar to a turboprop, just rearranged a bit to make it more versatile. It still uses jet fuel and still uses its power to turn a propeller instead of making direct drive thrust, but there are a few main differences. On a turboprop, the propeller is attached directly to the engine itself. This creates a lot of load on the engine and means that it must be constructed stronger, and theirfore heavier. It also means that (obviously) the engine must be located where you want the prop to be. On a turboshaft, a driveshaft is used to turn gears and/or a transmission to re-direct the power to the prop, wherever it may be. Thus the engine itself does not directly take the load of the prop, and can be located anywhere in the vehicle. A good example of this principle is the lift fan in the f35 lightning 2 (I posted a few days ago-check it out). The lift fan is mounted horizontally in the aircrafts hull and need to pull air straight through it, so the rotors had to be free of any engine obstructions, so the shaft drives the rotors remotely. Heres a general turboshaft diagram...

Heres a funny fact, the first war vehicle to use this engine was a German "Panther" tank in 1944!

that's it for now, stay tuned.

F-35 engine tech continued

"thrust vectoring"- part of the reason the f-35 is so maneuverable. basically the tailpipe of the jet engine can be aimed to aid maneuverability. For example, in a conventional aircraft all maneuvering is the result of wing flaps (rudder, elevator and ailerons), with the jet or propellor only providing forward power. In the f-35, wing flaps as well as the engine thrust itself are used to maneuver. In fact, the "vectoring" is so extremely versatile and powerfull that it is used to lift the aircraft stright off the ground! Check these videos out... [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=iRgcC9eqEJg]

That one shows how complex that nozzle is! holy shit amazing... here she is under power...


Now, that is the main thrust for taking off in vertical mode as well as  conventional flight. However there are a few more components necessary to make a 51 foot long,  50,000 pound war machine lift straight off the ground. Those components are the "lift fan" and the "roll posts". The lift fan is somewhat like a vertically mounted turbofan driven off of the main engine via a driveshaft and gearbox. Doors open up above and below the fuselage just behind the cockpit, allowing air to pass through. Its purpose is to balance the thrust created by the main engine at the rear of the plane. The two roll posts are about halfway out the underside of each wing, and redirects a small amount of the lift fans air in order to controll rolling motion. Turning motion and forward/reverse motion are controlled by the main engines thrust vectoring. Ok, kind techy sounding but here is the reality of it..


Of course it can also slow down from mach 1.8 to a dead standstill in the middle of the air, using the same principles. This is really going to freak the taliban out!