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Time Until World of Speed
LTA Harvest Event

Betty and Gene

Bill: Okay, Betty and Gene, now tell me about the drop-dead-gorgeous streamliner.

Betty and Gene: Sure, Bill, we can give you all the outlines but Tom is the designer and there are many things he will want to tell you about it. The streamliner has 22 official runs on it at Bonneville and nine them have been timed over 400 mph.

We are extremely proud to have achieved an FIA World Record but for the sake of the safety of others would like to put a little critique of the process on the record here - about the one-hour turnaround rule. You must, of course, complete your two-way runs across the same mile or kilo within one hour to set FIA records as the present rules stand.

Way back before WWII when people started to run for FIA world records there was a thirty-minute rule. In those times the cars weren't as fast and there wasn't much to do to them besides maybe add fuel, oil and coolant to replenish them, so this was workable.

As the cars became faster and more complex and sophisticated, the FIA made a decision to increase the turnaround time to one hour to give time for a quick inspection to be sure everything was all right; for the driver's safety. It is said that Malcolm Campbell asked for the change because the tires on his car would only hold up for one pass, and he also wanted to have time for an inspection. Reportedly his Rolls-Royce V-12 aircraft engine did not require any between-runs maintenance.

Well, we are at the point now where one hour is NOT enough to rush through an inspection on a car like ours. It involves removing the engine cover with all those little screws, then pulling the valve covers off the Donovans so that we can do a quick check of the springs, rockers and pushrods to make sure no valves are stuck and that all engine factors are normal. With the design of the Donovans this means pulling all the spark plugs as well. We also have to change our tires since damage can occur on one pass, and swap out our parachute equipment..

The bottom line is that the one hour RUSHES the process way too much and increases the possibility that a mistake will be made by the crew that will end up creating a safety hazard for the driver on the return run! Oil leak or fuel leak causing a fire, engine cover coming loose, a wheel nut not fully tightened, some error about the chutes, whatever.

We note that the Federation Internationale de Motocyclism - the two-wheeled equivalent of the FIA - increased this turnaround time to two hours long ago, for the reasons we are citing. So we hope the FIA will consider following suit.

The basic concept of our car is two 450-inch blown methanol Donovan Hemi V-8s coupled together nose to nose, mounted behind the driver. The rear one drives the rear wheels through a McLeod dual-disc Long-style clutch and Liberty five-speed Pro Stock gearbox and a 1 to 1 ratio spiral bevel gearbox with the wheels mounted on its shafts directly. The wheels are as close together as possible on the 13 inch tread centers previously mentioned. The front reverse-rotation Donovan has a custom transfer case on its bellhousing containing 8" x 2" straight-cut gears to move the driveline a little to the right so that a driveshaft for the front axle can go right through the cockpit alongside the driver's right leg to another Liberty five-speed by his feet. This front transmission is mounted tipped up on its side for foot pedal clearance. Mike Sage of SCS Gearbox in Bellevue, Ohio made the transfer case.

The front axle has another of the same spiral bevel 1 to 1 gearboxes and drives the front wheels through a pair of constant velocity joints which allow the front wheels to turn five degrees each side for steering.

So the front drive axles are a short and a long since the spiral bevel gearbox is offset to the right. The cockpit is so tight around the leg area that Tom operates the throttle pedal down low on the left with his right leg and his left leg lies on a shelf over his right where he operates the clutch and brake pedals.

We went for the two blown methanol Donovans so that we would have plenty of power, but the engines would run cool on the methanol and be fairly lightly stressed so that they would last a long time and not require constant maintenance.

Methanol gives only about 10% more power than the same engine on racegas, but is much, much cheaper than racegas and/or nitro so the difference in operating cost is very meaningful when you pull the cash out of your back pocket! Methanol also runs cool which helps the longevity of the whole top half of your engine. The exhaust gas temperature, for example, is a couple hundred degrees cooler on a well-tuned methanol engine than on a gas-burning one. Your exhaust valves and pistons feel the difference!

Bill: Is any suspension provided for the wheels?

B&G: No, at these speeds no suspension could respond to the bumps. It would complicate the design for no benefit. Another thing is that you want the tires located as precisely to the car as possible for general stability and control. Any form of suspension always introduces a bit of flexibility into the location of the tires on the surface. Harmless in a road vehicle, in fact beneficial since you can use rubber mounting which increases passenger comfort. But detrimental in a 400 mph streamliner.

Bill: The Donovan started as a 417, how was 450 achieved?

B&G: With a 4.270" bore, and a 3.900" stroke which is stock 392 Chrysler. But we use only aftermarket racing cranks and we have Crowers and Velascos.

You understand that coupling the engines at their noses involved reversing the rotation of the front one and that meant not only specially made Howard roller cams, but also the crankshaft for that engine is special.

The pistons and conrods are Venolia aluminum parts and some people will tell you only forged steel racing conrods should be used for the long hard pulls at Bonneville. But we have always used the same rods from day one in 1996 to the world record and they are still in there. After the 2001 crash we took the whole car and every part of the engines and powertrain to pieces for inspection. When we inspected the aluminum Venolia conrods they passed Zyglo, and when measured had no stretch, still the original dimensions. So we put them back in there.

The blowers are 8-71s Gene Mooneyham made for us before he died, they have magnesium cases and we have four of them. The front reverse-rotation engine requires a reverse-rotation blower and Gene went to a lot of trouble to build these.

The top hat mechanical fuel injectors are old Crower eight-holers and Tom went to great pains to set them up to get driveability at all stages of throttle opening. He literally spent a whole week with Tak Shiramizu at Tak's Mile-High Machine on the flow bench to produce perhaps the most fully-realized and refined mechanical fuel injection system ever used at Bonneville! The barrel valve was reworked to get the delicate tip-in fuel metering he wanted and there are main, primary AND secondary bypasses.

30% of the methanol goes in the top hat nozzles and the rest in a set of port nozzles. You understand that each engine puts out over 2000 horsepower and the driver can apply only a very small percentage of throttle during the acceleration part of the pass, or he gets too much wheelspin. In fact at the top end Tom has NEVER been able to use more than about 60% of the power since wheelspin is still a problem there.

Bill: What are the starter arrangements?

Gene: The front engine's bellhousing has two gear-drive Chrysler 12V starters mounted to it which we hit with 24 volts from an external plug-in package. The driver controls the startup procedure in his cockpit. Doubling the voltage to the starters gives them more torque. The compression ratio in the Donovans is fairly high plus there are those two big Mooneyhams to turn but this system works pretty well for us. We have had some trouble with the starters at times and I think they are pretty highly stressed in this application.

Bill: Did you ever put your Donovan on a dyno?

Gene: We were making plans to do it years ago, but the man who owned the dyno said, "You can put it on the dyno and we'll run it, but there's really no point. You will just give it a lot of unnecessary wear. I can tell you from experience just what an engine of that type will put out." So that was good of him, saved us a lot of work and expense, and we let it go at that. We know the 450 Donovans blown on straight methanol make over 2000 horsepower each, and our four into one header setup on each side of each engine, discharging into a low-pressure site on the car, helps with exhaust scavenging at high speed.

Speaking of exhaust systems, one unexpected problem we ran into the very first time we took the car out to Bonneville was excess heat in the engine bay. Not during the run, surprisingly, but during the coastdown phase. There wasn't enough ventilation in there and tight packaging on everything, so the air temp rose and we melted our blower belts and some of the electrical wiring, and a couple of Morris cables.

To fix this we did several things. Ceramic-coated our exhaust systems inside and out and wrapped them in insulating material for one. Set up a little water-mister arrangement to spray water inside the blower belts during operation. And made some spring-loaded doors for the body which remain open to vent the engine bay, close automatically at speed, and open again when speed drops during coastdown. These measures took care of the problem.

Bill: The coupler for the engines intrigues me. There must be a lot of equipment at the crank snouts, with the coupler and blower drives. Are any harmonic dampers used?

B&G: Yes, Vibra Tech Fluidampers for the 318-360 Chrysler. We think these are important to reduce the tendency to crack your crank. The crank snouts have four keyways in them to hold the blower pulleys and other things and Lenco parts are used to make the coupler. These were sitting on the shelf gathering dust from the old days when Lenco made them to couple dual engines in dragsters. In that application the front engine drove to the snout of the rear engine, so these parts are very strong. In our case the coupler doesn't handle power, all it does is synchronize the engines, which is not a very high-stress thing. It is made with a telescoping center shaft for ease of disassembly and engine removal, and the center of it has triggers to pick up rpm for our data acquisition system.

Bill: All the same, I imagine the coupler creaks and groans a bit at times.

Gene: Yeah, I have heard it 'talking' a little bit over the rest of the noise on a cold morning startup at Bonneville when we wet a couple of plugs and the engines were not running smoothly!

Bill: What about the cooling and lubrication systems?

B&G: The nose of the car is the nosecone of an F-4 droptank of .108" aluminum which we re-fashioned into a 60 gallon water tank and water is circulated to the engines through hoses under the cockpit and two electric pumps at the tank.

The engines use dry sumps and each has its own fabricated welded aluminum four-gallon oil tank we squeezed into available spaces in the car. Each tank is mounted forward of its engine and big hoses and hard lines are used to assure that the pressure side of the oil system gets a full flow under hard acceleration forces. You understand the car reaches 300 mph in nine or ten seconds at Bonneville.

Bill: What about the fuel tanks?

B&G: 16 gauge stainless steel, one each side of the cockpit forming the body sides, holding about 78 gallons total, and they are designed to break away from the cockpit in a violent crash to minimize the fire risk for the driver. The fuel tanks have two baffles inside each one to keep the heavy fuel from sloshing around and upsetting the 'feel' of the car. We worked out the weight distribution with our various components and it has no lead ballast in it. Ready to go on the course at Bonneville with driver there is 1150 pounds on each front wheel and 1050 per rear wheel. At 400 mph each front wheel receives an additional 700 pounds of downforce but the rear wheels remain at their static load.

Another design principle for the car is that the entire engine portion of it is intended to break away from the cockpit in that same crash so that the driver can go his own way without being flailed around by the heavy engine package. This is known as "frangible" design.

Bill: What about the steering system?

B&G: An old Funny Car steering gearbox and tie rods to the hubs. The tie rods have hydraulic dampers on them for 'insurance' against wobbles. The very first time we took the car out to the Flats, the original tubular steering arm on the gearbox broke off at low speed, so we had to make a better solid one from scratch.

Bill: How is the chassis built?

Gene: I TIG welded it from various sizes of chromoly tubing: mostly 1-5/8" x .065" and the roll cage of .125" wall. There is a piece of 3" x 3" square tubing in the tail-opening mechanism, but most of it is round. The complete tubing chassis weighs 318 pounds. I'm proud that in the 2001 crash, not one of my welds broke!

Bill: That's the ultimate test! How were the body panels made, fiberglass?

B&G: NO, we made them out of 18 gauge mild steel sheet metal from scratch the old fashioned way. Cutting, notching, welding, hammer and dolly. The bottom is stainless steel and the top, regular steel. I might add that there was a lot of body damage in that 2001 crash and we had to straighten that out. There was a bit more Bondo the second time around!

Bill: Omigod, WHAT a JOB! For aerodynamic properties at that speed, the panels have to have almost perfect symmetry. How is the big engine cover secured to the body, with Dzus fasteners?

B&G: No, Tom didn't think those were suitable for this type of car so the cover is secured with about 40 10-32 phillips head countersunk screws on each side. These are touchy to remove and replace so certain designated crew members with good mechanical skills do this job, with hand-held screwdrivers. The screws are easy to cross-thread and the nutplates for them are hard to reach in some cases, and Gene gets kind of CROSS if he has to replace any of them out at the Flats on a hot day!

Bill: Did you have any powertrain breakages during the initial stages of running the car?

B&G: We did have breakage of gears in the Liberty five-speeds and Tom can tell you about the technical details of that. They were selected in the first place because they have a huge torque capacity for NHRA Pro Stock racing and we knew available traction at Bonneville would limit the amount of torque that could be put through them. We wanted a tough gearbox with parts available on the shelf at Liberty. But as it turned out, the washboard surface you sometimes get at Bonneville, combined with wheelspin, puts terrific shock loads on the gears during acceleration that proved to be too much for the gear teeth originally. Liberty supplied some wider gear sets manufactured from better materials that took care of this. Roy and Clayton Steen built two sets of main shafts for us to eliminate those failures. So only the original cases and bearing sizes remain of the boxes we used at first.

The Long-style racing clutches on the engines are set up very precisely with their centrifugal weights and lever angles so that they give a calibrated slip when changing gears with the air shifter, to reduce the shocks on the gear teeth.

We underestimated the forces working on the big u-joints for the front solid driveshaft that goes through the cockpit and in 2006 one of them broke. The shaft banged Tom's hip hard right through the stout cover we had for it, and gave him a big bruise - that he never would show us! - but didn't break any bones. So we had to beef up that setup with solid crosses and 4130 billet machined yokes that would still fit in the existing envelope.

We never had any trouble with our engines other than one time one of the mags quit sparking.

Bill: What kind of ignition is used?

B&G: Some old Mallory Super Mag IV units with external coils, driven in the original 392/417 location behind the blowers. There has been some thought that we should replace them with the high-amp MSD equipment used today, but that would mean complicated drive problems, and we never did it. What we have there proved good enough to take the world record!

Bill: I know you have disc brakes on the car that can be used at low speed. Would you describe them.

Gene: One each the same size for the front and the rear. 13" diameter by 3/4" steel, custom made and two calipers per disc. There are dual master cylinders for redundancy. The rear disc is mounted on the three-inch chromoly driveshaft and the front one on the left side axle shaft next to the final drive. These are not intended to be used over 150 mph since they would overheat. I might mention that we originally planned to use a very handsome vented rotor intended for NASCAR short course racing, but when we tested it on our spinner, it disintegrated at a fairly low speed. So we made our own and they have been spin-tested to 660 mph.

Bill: What do you use to prime the engines for cold mornings maybe in the Fall at Bonneville. I know that methanol does not vaporize very well at low temperatures and you might have trouble with it for starting.

Gene: You're right, we did. We devised a system for using gas to prime it in those conditions and Tom will tell you about that.

Bill: Okay, I think this is a good outline of the fundamentals of the streamliner and I will go over to Tom for his part of the discussion about it, and there is a LOT of that. Between the design, construction and driving parts! But, Betty, before we finish up with you and Gene, I want to cover the story of how you came to drive the Trackmasters-DRM competition coupe to a
263 mph Bonneville record in 2003 and get yourself into the 200 MPH Club!

Betty: Bill, before we leave this section we have to recognize all our friends and family members who have crewed for us over the many years, and our sponsors. We could not have run these cars without them and we will always be deeply grateful to each and every one of them.

We started on a list of crew members and it gets pretty long if we include all of them over the years... one year there were 24 of us out there! But here goes: In the 1970s and '80s there were Dan and Berta Kandilas and their sons Mark and Mike; Barney Cooper; Pat Murphy; Duane Cooper; Bob and Judy Herzog; Doug and Karen Johnson; Neil and Karen Leeper; Dennis Heppner; Jack and Janet Burkland & Ron, Chuck & Lynn Hunt; Jerry Duchek; Mike Nesbit; Jerry Parsons; Bill Spevacek; Pat Hultin; Pat Brodock; Steve Walters; Nick Mays; Bob Lippell; Paul Meier; Bernie Bishop and his son Rick; Zenon Foroszowski; Duke and Bev Standley; and Larry & Sue Cassell. Mike Beatty built our engines during those years and was Tom's engine-building mentor.

Then in the 1990s and later our crew consisted of Gary and Leah Stauffer; Herb and Jeanne Ferguson; Herb Jr. and Nickie Ferguson; Rex Svoboda and Susie Doores; Mel and Lee Sudweeks; Alan Maynard (Tom's brother-in-law); Steve Ross (friend); my Dad and brothers Keith, Bill and Steve Hunter; Bill York; Denny and Donna Perry and their son Curt; and George and Gretchen Fields.

We couldn't have gotten anywhere without our great and dedicated crews over the years. We had some mugs made for them one time that say: "THERE'S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SUPPORT, ENCOURAGEMENT AND A REAL PIT CREW and that's been our philosophy for all of our racing years! They're sort of like family to us...in fact the ones who aren't family have been 'officially adopted'! We actually did a ceremony one time and presented certificates to the ones who weren't real family!

As far as sponsors, there are not too many who actually gave us cash. Mostly we got products or a break on price. Following is a list:

Autometer Products, Inc. has supplied all of our instruments at no cost to us. And another set after the 2001 crash.

PPG, through our local CarQuest store, supplied all our paint, and again after the 2001 crash. They even supplied all the paint for our 18 wheeler!

Gary Stauffer applied all that paint to our race car and support vehicles.

Don Johansen, of Howard's cams, ground all the cams for our engines - both regular and reverse rotation - and made a cash donation the year we first tried for an FIA record.

Jeff Holm of HPC gave us a break on the price of ceramic coating our exhaust system.

Mickey Thompson Performance Tire Co. supplied high speed tires... after we did many years of tire testing for them.

Petersen, Inc., where Tom now works, supplied space for several overhaul and maintenance sessions and for turn-around practice.

Mopar Performance gave us $2000 cash way back, with the promise of more when we set the FIA record. But by the time we set it, there wasn't anyone there who remembered the promise!

Roy and Clayton Steen, of Steen and Sons built several replacement shafts for our steering and transmissions.

Joe Pisano of Venolia Pistons gave us his best price on rods and pistons.

Vibratech/Fluidamper Company donated the harmonic balancers for our cranks.

Greg Tacke and Bob Miller of Automotive Machine Shop in Great Falls did engine machine work for us.

Larry Bohnen and Dave Leavitt donated cash to our effort.

Copyright © 2009 Bill Hoddinott

Back to Part 4 ____________________ On to Part 6

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Episode 1) Overview Video

Episode 2) The Transmission

Episode 3) The Engine

Episode 4) The Drive Train

Episode 5) Body and Paint

Episode 6) Dyno Run

Wendover, UT