Hutter Racing Engines, Chassis and other parts and pieces.
|Your engine builder can make or break your operation. If you only have one motor, and can only afford one motor, you are really at the mercy of the engine shop. The machining required to put the motor together is a specialized process that uses specialized tools. The race motor shop is always busy just before and during racing season and when you are out of motors, you don't race.
The motor shop is also a place where a lot of your money ends up. Motor parts are expensive and the machining adds up. If you call the shops and buy the best standard engine, it's gonna be in the $25,000 to $35,000 range today. Independent racers seldom have that kind of money. But even today you can put a pretty good motor together with new and used parts for $7,000 to $10,000 and it will last and be competitive.
Lots of low dollar motors are upgrades. Each time a part is replaced, it's replaced with a better, stronger, lighter, more trick part. Little by little the motors get to a level very near what the best are using but at very much reduced, or spread out cost. The question is where to put the money. To have a spare motor or put all the money toward a better motor.
I had arrived at the point in '79. I had a decent motor, a Gary Myles Engineering motor. It was a 355 that Gary had used in his rear engine supermodified. I had seen it run at Oswego. Now, a 355 wasn't a big motor by any means and the wags at the track said that a "9/16" was the way to go cheap or a "3/4" was necessary if you were to have a chance to win.
It was Jim Nace's sponsor and Uncle, Bussie Nace, telling about the motors. "Central Pa tracks are motor tracks with long straights and sweeping turns. You need that horsepower to get out of the turns and keep from getting beat at the end of the straight." The 9/16 referred to taking a 3 1/2" stroke Chevy crank from a 350 and re-grinding it, off center, so that the stroke was now 3 9/16". This offset grind makes the crank journal a smaller diameter and you have to use a different rod with a smaller crank-end bore. This process had its drawbacks like weakening the standard, inexpensive Chevy cranks and providing less bearing surface area but it was common practice, cheap and the engines did make more power at 366 CID.
The motor to have at the time, was the 3/4. To do this required a custom made crank and the price ranged from $800 to $2500 depending on how it was built and what alloy it was made of. This, along with the associated parts, in a 350 block, made a 383 CID motor with very good low end torque, good reliability and power.
There were the occassional 400 CID small blocks built to 406 but the 4 1/8" bore cylinders were so close together that blowing head gaskets and cooling were big problems with these junk yard blocks.
I had used lots of motor shops by now. They got the work done and I assembled the parts. The motors ran good but they were nothing special. The Myles engine was good but I had burned the bearings in it and messed it up. One day I was with a friend and we went to visit Richie Evan's shop. I didn't know Richie very well but he was friendly and we talked a bit. I asked him about motors and what he thought would be a good combination for me. He looked at me with his smirkish smile and said "I don't have any idea but there's the guy you should ask, he's the expert."
Standing quietly at the side was a tall man, just watching what was going on as Richie was measuring and cutting parts for a frame. I walked over and introduced myself and he told me his name, Ron Hutter. I knew of him by having heard his name as Richie's engine builder but I didn't know much more than that.
He was very quiet, thoughtful and slow to answer, making me uncomfortable with the stop and go pace of the conversation. I told him what I knew and after some questions, thought and discussion he said it sounded like the 383 was the way for me to go. He told me to call him when he got back to his shop. We stood there watching the goings on in the garage.
As I learned more about Ron Hutter I realized that his engines were dominating the northeast ashpalt modified division and he had many championships under his belt. I latched on to Ron's suggestions as gospel. Our short conversation and Richie's recommendation and championships, convinced me that he was the right choice.
A few weeks later, that fall, I drove the 6 hours to Chardon, Ohio and visited Hutter's shop. Chardon is south of Cleveland, Ohio, an old traditional small town with a central park in the town square, with trees and a monument surrounded by the encircling street and rows of store fronts on either side. One of the roads that led off the loop and down hill was where I found the driveway to Hutter's shop. His house was out front and a five car wide dirt drive led to an old concrete building about 200 yards from the road. The driveway opened up into a large dirt parking area.
The building had been a small meat packing plant that had been in the family, as I understood it. It was broken up into about 6 rooms, one with a large garage door. Overhead was a steel track and wheeled dolly's that had been used to move meat hanging on hooks, around the building. It was now set up with electric chain lifts for raising and moving engines and parts around.
The flourescent lights were hung over work benches and illuminated the work areas but with the high ceilings, it gave the rooms a dimly lit appearance. There was a gray dust on things that hadn't moved for years, black oiled benches surrounded the room, concrete floors, engine parts in process accumulated near the machines. In the back was the dyno room.
One room had a dozen engines on transporting stands with the names of the top pavement modified teams in the east written on them with marker or tagged. It wasn't spotless or even clean. It was a shop where there was a lot of work being done and it was clean were it needed to be clean and organized in a way that only made sense to the people working there.
I talked with Ron about the motor I wanted to build and what the cost would be. It was in the $20,000 range depending on what I decided to use. I told him that I had or would be getting many of the parts through companies that I had connections with and asked if it would be OK if I got some of the parts. He said he usually didn't do it that way but that he would work with me. I gave him a check for a couple thousand and headed home to make the deals.
By spring I had gotten the crank, rods, bare heads, injection, gear drive, front drive pumps and other miscellaneous parts Ron had specified, shipped to him. I called to see when the motor would be done. He told me he was pretty loaded with the Nascar modified stuff but would get to it.
By May the motor was finally ready. I had blown the 355 a few weeks before and had every cent tied up in this new motor. On top of the deposit, I had spent another $3000 for the new parts I had horse-traded with the help of Corky Stockham at the National Parts Peddler, a racing cars and parts classified ads type newspaper. I had been helping promote the paper in Pa or where ever I traveled and was trying to get teams to place more sprint car classified ads. Corky was helping me save money on the parts that I needed.
I towed the car to Ohio to pick up the motor. He had run the motor on the Dyno and it tested at 630 hp and was good for 7800 RPM, very good numbers in those days. I paid him another four or five thousand and fitted the motor in the car, there in the open bay. He hadn't done many sprint motors although he was doing some for Lou Blaney's kid Dave. Blaney was from the general area and Ron had been doing motors for their modified and sprint cars for a while.
With the motor in place I headed out that Saturday morning back to Central Pa to run at my favorite track, Port Royal. Altogether I had less then $10,000 in this engine. I don't know where all the money came from except that I worked a couple of jobs through the winter, sold what used parts I could, and kept personal expenses to the bare minimum. The bonus was that I had a pro-built motor from a reputable builder at about half price.
I arrived at Port Royal and met the crew there. We unloaded the car and got everything set for the night. People I knew had heard that I had gotten a really good motor and were standing around our pit, just curious about what we had. We were all proud and excited about what this new power plant would do for us tonite.
Before warmups I started the car and drove around and back to my pit, keeping the rpms up a bit to keep the engine clear of excess fuel while it warmed up. As I sat in the car someone came over waving their arms and motioning for me to shut off the engine and pointing. I shut it off, got out and looked to see a stream of oil pouring out of a hole the size of a quarter, in the side of the oil pan. All the metal was pointing out. Something on the inside got out. this was not good.
I was sick. I dejectedly loaded up and headed back for Ohio. I didn't even wash the car because I didn't want to disturb the evidence. Sunday morning I woke up parked in the parking area in front of Hutter's shop. He came out about 11am and stopped to see why I was there. I showed him the motor and he said "I don't know. We'll pull it apart Monday."
Monday morning Ron starts work at 9am with coffee and his employees leaning on the benches in the front room, discussing the weekend's races, local gossip and plan for the day. He tells me to wash the car and bring it in and pull the motor. After it's out he tells me to put it on a stand and pull the pan. We look and find that one of the slugs of balance weight came out of the crank. The crank had needed so much added weight to balance it that one of the 1 inch diameter by inch long pieces of heavy tungsten balancing metal had broken out of the crank counterweight, been tossed around the bottom end and then exited the pan.
I told Ron that I didn't have an engine so if he could use the help, I would stay and do what I could. He told me to tear down the motor and wash the parts.The crank was OK and the balance weight could be re-attached (more securely) but 3 rods were bent, two pistons waacked, the cam gouged, block damaged and the pan ripped up. Ron looked the stuff over and ordered new parts. I though we could salvage a couple of the parts but he said he wasn't going to put anything in the motor that didn't look right.
I hung around for the two weeks while the parts came in and other stuff was being done. In the parking lot, I went through the car, mounted some tires and did some repairs to the van. At night, I would leave the parking lot for the motel (they thought). Actually, I would park at the shopping center behind the motel and sleep in the van. Showers were a done at a truck stop about 25 miles away and those nights I would stay in the truck stop lot.
I was in the shop every day at 9am and would do what ever would be of help on the motor until closing at 11pm. Cleaning parts, torqueing rod bolts so that the rods could be machined. Ron worked from 9am to 11pm six days a week (and some on Sundays) and only took 1 hr for supper. At the end of the two weeks I had spent a lot of time in the shop working with everyone there, being very careful to put every tool back exactly where I found it.
Friday afternoon the motor was done, we had run it on the Dyno and I was putting it in the car. By late in the day Ron was helping ME bolt things on the car and the engine. Ron never talks much and I hadn't brought up anything about what this was going to cost. Rule of thumb with racing stuff is that in this extreme environment, stuff breaks, cars crash, motors blow... "That's Racin". I was ready for the big one. I was hoping that the bill would be under three grand and that I could write him a check that he would hold for a few days, race and make some money, cash out a credit card, sell some stuff and get the money to the bank before the check. I didn't have any money, but I needed the motor.
"Ron, how much do I owe you for this", I asked, cringing inside. "You don't owe me anything, this wasn't your fault" he said as he bolted on a header. I couldn't believe it. NOBODY ever had an engine shop fix a blown motor at the shop's expense. The pits are overflowing with stories of how their motor blew up because the motor builder did this or that. "That the SOB blamed it on me or it was a bad part from the manufacturer or there was dirt in the whatsit or that used part he put in there... and they'll never go back to him again and he was a month late getting' it to us in the first place and they asked for this part and he used that one and a whole mouth full of bad.
Ron basically built a new bottom end from scratch. A new bow-tie block (best at the time) and other parts, resized, bored, honed, aligned, indexed, compression matched, flycut valve reliefs, balanced, new bearings, gaskets, assembly, Dyno. A typical rebuild, using most of the same parts, was usually $1500. He made good on an employee's misjudgment. That was a gesture of honesty and old fashion business ethics that I always remembered. Ron Hutter went from hero engine builder to super hero human being.
All the other customers that came to Hutter's shop would drop off the used up motors to be freshened up and pick up the one they left last month. They would pay or be billed. Outside of a few of Ron's personal friends that raced locally, I never saw anyone work on their own motors in his shop. That disaster opened up a very special relationship for me at Hutter Racing Engines that made a difference in my racing program for years to come.
Our Hutter motor went 62 races with out a component failure. When we had about 20 races on it I'd go back to Hutter's and he'd let me do as much work as I knew how, to rebuild the engine. I let them do all the critical stuff but the more time I spent in the shop the more things I learned to do. It was a great learning experience to do final assembly next to Bill who assembled motors every day. If I had a question I'd get a quick answer, if he'd see me do something wrong he'd show me how it should be done. These guys were artists at making reliable power. I was honored to be a student.
There is no school that teaches what I learned there. At the track I understood the motor and tried to solve problems like the shop would. I took good care of that motor and it didn't let me down. Its wide power band worked great at the big tracks of Central Pa as well as the dry slick tracks and bull-rings on the road. It was nice to race without having motor trouble.
The motor is the story at SPRINGFIELD...
Chasin' the Chassis
THE ALLEN CARS
I had switched from the Ben Cook chassis and had bought a new Allen chassis that we raced a couple of years. It worked good at times and not so well other times. There were a few things that I thought could be improved so we decided to build our own car with a local builder. After a third of the season had passed we decided that we could not get this design to work. We had ran the Outlaw swing through PA and NY and we were one second off fast time every night. We just couldn�t get the car to stick in the corners. We had tried everything and talked to everyone including knowledgable outlaw mechanics but we had blazed our own dead end trail and it was time to get back to basics
The Allen cars were a little different from the other cars of the time. It was a minor difference in the way the frame was built but it had an impact on how the car worked and was apparently the reason why Bobby always did well on the dry slick tracks.
When we gave up on our own design, I went to Bobby Allen�s place late on a Sunday nite and woke up in his parking lot Monday morning ready to get to work. Bobby didn�t have any frames ready, just a pile of 4130 condition N tubing. Bobby�s right-hand man "Whiskers" knew all the dimensions and angles. He had them cryptically written down in an old spiral bound notebook.
Whiskers got the tubing bent and fitted and later that day Joey Allen came in to weld it up. By Wednesday it was painted and Friday nite we ran the car at Williams Grove, four and a half days, tubing to track. (Bobby put a car together in an hour and a half once, from a bare frame to start the Syracuse race).
We finished the car and that nite at the Grove I started on the outside pole and I ran the cushion into one and coming off turn two, Frankie Kerr was way down on the bottom as we came on to the backstretch. Frankie came across the track and out to the wall and pinched my front end into the fence.
I should have lifted, he should have given me room; it�s racing and decisions are split second. The car climbed the back stretch fence, the black sky was all I could see. BAM! a hard hit�, sky, lights dirt, BAM! BAM!!� harder hits, BAM! BAM! pauses in between seemed motionless. Engine sounds racing then idling as the car pounded while backgrounds blurred by. I tucked and pulled hard on the wheel. I could envision the car cart-wheeling down the track flying high through the air between crashes to the ground, one of those never ending series of spinning flips and impacts.
The car stopped and was lying on its side, surprisingly not far from where it caught the wall. I was OK, my shoulder was sore but just bruised from the belts. I climbed from the car surprised that I hadn�t gone the whole length of the backstretch. Wing torn off, tank over there, front axle gone, wheels gone, hood gone�, it was a real mess. As I looked around I saw half a dozen cars up side down and more just tore up pointing every direction. After I hit the wall I had flipped back across the track in front of the whole starting lineup, racing hard out of turn two. The cars that didn�t hit me hit each other.
We were back at Bobby�s the next morning, for frame repair, which really wasn�t too bad considering all the times the car got hit. We ran the car the rest of the season without much trouble.
|After this story go to Springfield|
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