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Back in the days of front engine dragsters, what was the common between-round maintenance for nitro motors?
 

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Good question

I don't know much about the cars that ran nitro back then but I do recall seeing pictures of these cars with their engines pulled part way down with pit areas no different than what the current local weekend warrior has today. No big pit crews, no big fancy trailers and the 2 or 3 people associated with the car usually were wearing greasy white T-shirts and Levis.
 

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DamCoonass
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Front engines covered a lot of time.


In the early days on gas, a guy would own a junkyard or have access to one. They'd pull every late model engine like whatever they were running & fill it full of cement, take the intake & cam out & stuff it in the trailer.

They had a good cam/lifters & blower setup. They'd make a pass & if it blew up they'd swap longblocks. Guys would have 2 or 3 in the trailer.


Later on as it got more "professional", they would look at the plugs & pull the pan to ck the bearings... If everything looked good they'd button it up.... If not they'd replace the engine if they had one.

LOTSA guys didn't & I saw some crazy repairs on wounded shit get run. Some of it hauled ass too.:smt082
 

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No first hand experience, but this is what I have heard as well.

Front engines covered a lot of time.


In the early days on gas, a guy would own a junkyard or have access to one. They'd pull every late model engine like whatever they were running & fill it full of cement, take the intake & cam out & stuff it in the trailer.

They had a good cam/lifters & blower setup. They'd make a pass & if it blew up they'd swap longblocks. Guys would have 2 or 3 in the trailer.


Later on as it got more "professional", they would look at the plugs & pull the pan to ck the bearings... If everything looked good they'd button it up.... If not they'd replace the engine if they had one.

LOTSA guys didn't & I saw some crazy repairs on wounded shit get run. Some of it hauled ass too.:smt082
 

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Not a FED but
In 68, I crewed on JJ’s funny car. Oil change every round & run the valves if nothing hurt. Tire pressure, wipe down body. that’s all I remember happening. We were using a ramp truck, no room for too many extras. Had tires on a rack in front of the car. More than once I saw guys pull a plug wire on a damaged cylinder, remove the rockers, stuff the hole with a can or whatever was available & run it. Sometimes they got lucky & won too! We had spare pistons, rods, bearings, blower, I can’t remember if we had heads, probably did. If that didn’t do it, the guys who didn’t go rounds would jump in to help us go rounds with every part they had- even a complete engine from their own car. I don’t see much of that anymore. Those days were fun.
 

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1959-1969 circa I would say pulling valve covers, adjusting-checking the valves, changing-inspecting spark plugs, changing the oil.. sometimes at the track.. These were the days of iron blocks and heads, 6-71 blowers, single vertex mags, and smaller pumps. even though the pumps were ahead of there time back then, the single vertex could'nt burn enough fuel to take advantage of the volume at the time. Again these were the days when a 354-392 Chrysler may have had stock block, maybe some 4-bolt caps or a girdle. stock cranks, heads, rocker arms and shafts, a set of Forged True pistons, some Dons "boxed" rods or early Ansen alumn. rods, and a Howard-Engle or Isky flat tappet cam, wet-sump with modified stock or totally stock oil pans, a pete jackson gear drive and a Hilborn 4-port with maybe 4 #47 nozzeles, later 8 in hat. Circa early 1970s Donovan block in 72, KB billet cranks came first and then late hemi blocks by mid 70's with bigger pumps more fuel volume, and Super-Mags, pulling the heads was starting to get mandatory, burnt pistons, etc. some between round rings and bearings. by the mid to late 1970's KB'a JP-1's, Milodons. etc. TF/FC pulling down the bottom end was getting common if it was a bad run, lots of teams only if real bad dropped cylinders or lean outs, backfires. 1980's up full on tear down between rounds.
 

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Big Daddy said it would go to hell when they let them start tearing into everything between rounds. Sure enough, he was right.
 

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Good question

I don't know much about the cars that ran nitro back then but I do recall seeing pictures of these cars with their engines pulled part way down with pit areas no different than what the current local weekend warrior has today. No big pit crews, no big fancy trailers and the 2 or 3 people associated with the car usually were wearing greasy white T-shirts and Levis.
Yep. Or some sort of racing or team Tees. Every pic I saw of my uncle with his 77? Corvette nitro funny car or fuel dragster had him and 1 or 2 other guys always working on the car. I don't remember ever asking him specifically who went or what all they did. Haven't spoken to him in a few years and back then, I wasn't as into racing as I am now. So I've got all kinds of stuff I'd like to talk with him about. These days, he travels the world by sailboat and doesn't have Internet access very often, so I'm still waiting to hear back from him.
 

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Watch the 29 part video that Bill Pitts did on the Surfers, EXCELLENT!

It will take awhile but it is riveting! Especially if you are old school like me and used to read about these happenings in the magazines.

What you can take away from this is unless they broke an exhaust rocker, hydrauliced the motor, and put the blower in orbit they did hardly nothing between rounds! Then they would leave that race win, lose, or draw and sometimes drive to another one that night or the very next day and this was before there were the network of freeways that there are on in Cali!

One of the episodes tells of them kicking a rod out and windowing a block, they were still in the show, it was at night, and whole teams came to their pit (including Jim Brisitte and Ed Donovan) put the car on it's side and did some trickery to get to the next round!!

Bill did an excellent job of putting this together and it is a "must see"!


Dave
 

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The Surfers series was excellent. It ended kind of abruptly though, thought I read somewhere about an illness. There has been a ton of controversy about the Pat Foster recreation of the Surfers car. Anyone have the whole story?
 

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We ran straight nitro on the Pulsator dual-Chevy dragster. Assuming we did not break anything after a run, we pulled all the plugs for a look see. The spark plugs are the only eye-witness as to what was going on in the combustion chamber. If all the plugs looked pretty much the same (and okay), we did not pull the valve covers. While this was going on we drained the oil out of both engines. Nitromethane creates a lot of cylinder pressure, and it will typically blow raw nitro past the piston rings into the oil pan (the oil in the pan looks like it was mixed with milk). So, we changed the oil and oil filter (after every run), and installed 16 new spark plugs (If the engine made a good run, there was usually no electrodes left on any of the plugs).

 

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Nitro is a different kettle of fish. It's not just some "super high octane" fuel. For one thing, it is a very slow burning fuel. Getting it to fire off takes some getting used to, it needs ALOT of advance (I think we were running about 45-degrees of initial timing). You have to start the process WAY before TDC. You can usually make the ignition less of an issue if you mix in methanol, but the explosion will be a little less. The higher percentage of methanol, the easier nitro is to use (but at the cost of less power). The majority of the supercharged Chrysler 392's in the 1960's were running about 85% nitro (15% methanol). On our Chevy's, we ran straight shit, as we were naturally aspirated with a very high compression ratio (+13:1 if I remember). Nitro NEEDS a lot of compression to really work. I guess that everyone knows that you can drop a lighted match into a 1-gallon bucket of 100% nitromethane and the only thing that happens is that the match goes out. But take a thimble full of nitro and spill it on the floor of your garage and hit the puddle with a hammer, and your garage will go into orbit. It's the compression of the hammer hit that will kick it off (do not try this, please, guys have lost important body parts trying it). If the engine has very little compression, it would probably never start. Nitro needs to be compressed to fire.

If you ever have a chance to lift a 5-gallon can of nitromethane, you won't believe how fucking heavy it is, compared to 5-gallons of alky or gasoline. It's really unbelievable, something to do with the specific gravity of nitro over gasoline or alky.
 
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