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K9 Update: That Dog Won’t Hunt

It’s been some time since we last updated the K9 Sport Mod project car but don’t let that fool you.  There’s been plenty of action on the beast.  We’ve been keeping it under wraps for a grand unveiling at the track until Murphy’s Law came into play.  For those unfamiliar with Murphy’s Law let us refresh your memory; Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.  More on that later, but for now let’s talk about the most serious upgrade, and biggest heartbreak, that we have experienced with our project car.  Camshaft problems.  Three cams from different manufacturers in three different blocks, all wiped.  Obviously, I’m doing something wrong in break in to wipe the lobes on the cams but help is on the way.  The guys at COMP Cams took pity on the old dog and have volunteered to help us solve the problem.  Here’s the details on my ongoing problem:

Our premium engine for the Sport Mod project car.

Our plans were to build a state of the art, balanced and blueprinted engine, using top shelf parts and the latest technology available.  The goal for this build was to build a $15K to $20K motor at half the price and show our readers how to do it.  The actual article and build sheet for this engine build will be coming soon, and it is a real kick-ass project.  We know what you’re thinking; “If this is so kick-ass, why the heartbreak?”  Let me respond to that question with: wait for it…wait for it….

Valve train #2 ended up getting destroyed.

The genesis for build actually began two years ago when we had a pretty stout small block 400 GM block, bored to 406, with mostly stock or stock replacement parts in it.  It was running on methanol and had a pretty tame cam in it.  I wanted a little more umph out of the motor so I purchased a balanced rotating assembly from JR Motorsports and put a Speedway Motors Cam in it.  Pretty much a mild upgrade that was on the budget build side of things.  First time out at the track, the motor wiped the lobes off the cam.

Grinding the cam on engine #2.

At the time I wrote it off as being an inferior camshaft, which was probably a wrong conclusion, and I started talking to several experts in the field to find a good camshaft that would work in my next engine build.  The Sport Mod class had started up at the local track and it was decided that would be a good class for our budget chassis to race in.  I picked up a used SBC 350 with four bolt mains that was a standard bore.  The plan was to bore it out, get a semi-decent rotating assembly and a better camshaft in the block and go racing.  First race out…you guessed it, wiped the lobes off the cam again.

Oh-for-two on the cams.  This is when I got the brilliant idea of building a premium SBC 355 engine, balanced and blueprinted, assembled by a professional, using only premium parts.  Quietly doing research and collecting all the parts we needed to get this build rolling, and finding a machine shop in the area that was experienced in building the quality of engine we were looking for, the day finally came to start.  We rolled the engine out of the machine shop a month later and we were installing it in our chassis that weekend.

We even upgraded the suspension with Bilstein Shocks to capitalize on the bad ass engine we built.

When the weekend was over, it was time to fire it up and break in the motor.  22 minutes of run time and the oil pressure dropped from 80 to 60.  Then from 60 to 40.  Then from 40 to 20.  Finally, the oil pressure would not go above 20 on start up.  Reluctantly, we pulled the valve covers off and discovered that every rocker arm was loose.  Alarms began sounded.  Then we saw that the number two cylinder’s intake rocker arm had broken a poly lock.  Not just broke it, split it in half.  The pushrod was canted at a funny angle so we pulled it out and tried to put it back into the lifter.  No dice.  The pushrod fell all the way through the lifter valley.

The broken Poly Lock.

Pulling the intake off verified our worse fears.  The lifter had been thrown out of the lifter bore.  Why?  Sadly, the cam had wiped the lobes again.

#2 cylinder intake lifter kicked out of the bore.

Three different blocks, three different cams by three different cam manufacturers, three different attempts, all with the same results.  The only constant was that I was involved in all three cam failures.  This prompted the entire staff at our facility to begin referring to me as “The Cam Grinder”.  My friends at COMP Cams wanted to ease the pain a little so they came up with another nick-name and even produced a logo for me.

Where to from here?  With my engine break in privileges being revoked by the boss, we have ordered new parts and will reassemble the engine.  In addition to the replacement parts, we have ordered break in valve springs and Redline engine break in oil additive.  Never underestimate the value of zinc in racing oil.  My friends at COMP Cams are monitoring the rebuild situation very closely.  Stay tuned for more.

Never underestimate the value of Zinc in racing oil.


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