auto racing · friday feature

The Tools Of The Trade

lee-pannel3By David G. Firestone

Last week, I discussed one of the most important tools in auto racing, the steering wheel. This week, we are going to look at minor tools that help one of the other major tools in auto racing. We are going to look at parts of the engine. The engine of a race car is like the mechanism of a Rolex watch, in that all of these intricately designed pieces, each with a very specific function come together, and interact with each other to propel a car from 0 to 300 MPH in a matter of seconds.

Let’s focus on NHRA nitromethane engines. These are some of the most powerful engines in auto racing. These 10,000 horsepower engines require $5,000 worth of parts for one single run. Some parts can be used for more than one run, but for the most part, moving parts are used for only one run. The most well-known moving part is the piston. Each piston, generates 1,250 horsepower, and is in a sleeve, which is placed in the engine, and attached to the crank shaft. Often, the piston head, and the piston shaft have been removed from each other before being sold to collectors. This head is from and signed by Brandon Bernstein, bernstein-piston1 bernstein-piston3 - Copy (2) bernstein-piston4 - Copy (2) bernstein-piston5 - Copy (2) bernstein-piston6 - Copy (2) bernstein-piston2 - Copy (2)and this shaft was used and autographed by Bob Vandergriff.vandergriff2 vandergriff1

Pistons in an engine need things to function. An example are valves, and valve springs. The valves move in conjunction with the movement of the pistons. One set introduces fuel and air into the engine, and the other set removes exhaust from the engine. These examples are from Bob Tasca’s funny car.tascavalve1-1 tascavalve1-2 tascavalve1-3 tascavalve1-4 tascavalve1-5 tascavalve1-6 tascavalve2-1 tascavalve2-2 tascavalve2-3 tascavalve2-4 tascavalve2-5 tascavalve2-6

Valve springs help the opening and closing of the valves at the speed the engine requires. These are three examples, one from Cruz Pedregon, and two from Paul Lee.pedregonspring-2 pedregonspring-1

lee-spring1 lee-spring2 lee-spring3 lee-spring4On the subject of Paul Lee, these are what are known as manifold burst panels. These are specifically design to burst when the pressure in the manifold gets too high. They are meant to sacrifice themselves to save the engine.lee-pannel1 lee-pannel4 lee-pannel3 lee-pannel2

I also have this head gasket from Paul Lee. NHRA engines are sealed systems, under a lot of pressure and heat. Expansion of engine parts will occur, and copper head gaskets are used to keep the seal intact. They will expand with the rest of the engine. This is an example Paul Lee’s funny car. It is bent, and shows staining from race wear.leegasket-1 leegasket-2

I’ve discussed the importance of spark plugs, and their prevelance in the auto racing memorabilia market before, so I won’t go into that again. I will show one of TJ Zizzo’s race-used spark plugs, which he managed to autograph. Given the size of the plug, that isn’t easy to sign.zizzosparkplug

In keeping with the tool theme, next week, we will look at a helmet worn by the driver’s closest group…the pit crew. Stay tuned!

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