8/13/04 Thursday We pack and leave by noon. Ed, Bob, and Greg ride in Ed's Suburban which tows the enclosed trailer. Joe and Mark ride in Joe's Chevy pickup. Our route is alittle uncertain because 2004 Speed Week overlaps with Sturgis making it impossible to take a route through South Dakota and expect to find any motels with rooms available. Some advice at a lunch stop leads us through south-western SD, into Nebraska, and down to I-80. We pass through Columbus, NB and see Johnny Carson's boyhood home. 8/13 /04 Friday As we get ready to leave, disaster strikes. A terrible crunching noise greets Joe's turn of the key but the truck manages to start. With great presence of mind he leaves it running and decides the starter had broken off at the nose. The only course of action is clear: leave the truck running, no matter what, until we are in Wendover. Resisting the impulse to shut 'er down every time we stop for gas or food, Joe and Mark actually keep the truck running all day. We pick up a starter at a Napa along the way and after a long, hot day of driving, we arrive in Wendover that evening. We checked into the Nugget (formerly the State Line) and broke out the beers while Joe changed the starter. The nose wasn't broken off but the teeth were chewed up pretty good. The hotel deserves special mention because it is the last time we'll ever stay there. There was no air conditioning for the entire time we were there and the requested cot never materialized. The service at the restaurants sucked too.
8/14/04 Saturday Out to the flats. We put up in the pits next to Jim Lange and Pantera Kid. They kindly reserved this spot for us and even made sure our number was painted in the salt. We were near the end of pit row, on front line of long course. We spent the day preparing car for inspection. Jim Lange took a look and reported that our waste gate was upside down. We fixed this. Put speed tires on car. Changed oil to 5 quarts of Quaker State straight 30w. Added 3 washers to oil pump pressure relief valve. Seam sealed some holes in firewall. Used Amsoil 90w gear lube in steering box. Tire pressure 60#. Wondered about lug nuts/spacer situation, left alone for now per Dave Bloomberg.
8/15/04 Sunday A little more fussing and off to inspection -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. There were only a few cars in the Tech line. We were inspected by Billy Hodges and Billy Hodges Jr. They recommended SFI roll cage padding, which does not rebound; a strap to bring shoulder harness closer together; and cotter pins in harness latches. They passed first time with promise to make changes (and the assurance that Bill Taylor wouldn't let us leave the line without them). We made the changes before we were 100 feet from the inspection tent. We rolled the car over to the Diest truck, bought the roll bar padding and the strap and away we went. Talk about Personal Service! Later, we got 118 octane gas ($70 for about 9 gallons) and put ERC stickers on car. We were advised that gas would be good to 30# boost if everything else was correct. We added the roll bar padding, the harness strap, and the cotter pins then celebrated passing inspection. Too late to get sticker for car. Pulled car into pre-staging line, where it would sit all night. Digger Dave Molnar arrived we all caught up.
8/17/04 Monday Out fairly early to get car pushed into line for first run after record runs. There was a tremendous wind overnight and we had to wait quite a long time to get on the salt. Here's a beautiful sunrise just before the line got moving. Somehow, when getting back in line, we went from the front of the line to pretty far back. We'll pay more attention to that next time! The first time getting Marked belted in was kind of hard. We did a lot of fiddling with belts. Finally Bill Taylor had his talk with Mark. Bill gives sign to go and we were off in a puff of black smoke. The car accellerated crisply from the line and went smoothly through the gears. Since we were running on an open record, we qualified for XO/BGC with 112.575 mph through the measured mile. The car periodically belched blue-black smoke as Mark shifted and when he let off and applied the power. This concerned the officials but was caused by rich mixture and excessive oil to the Turbo. We were running Autolite 303s gapped to 0.030. Also had added oil additive. Air valve spring 0 turn. Oil pressure 60# hot (Is this right?). No alternator belt. Had sensing hose on vacuum side of wastegate with preload screwed all the way in. Took to impound -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Post run exam revealed blown head gasket with water in plug 4 hole at compression check. We pulled the head to find the gasket pushed out to outside on #4, leak between 3 and 4. Plugs looked even and rich. Pistons looked ok as did valves. Compressor side of turbo was not oily. Made 0.035 restrictor for turbo oil out of MIG wire feed tip. Placed new head gasket, composite, and torqued to 90 ft/lbs with a bit of fear. Started motor and noted water leaking from crack around driver's side outer head bolt near 3-4. Got Aluma-seal and put 4 tubes in warmed motor with success. Changed oil again. It looked good except for water in it. New water from Ed's cooler. New plugs gapped at 0.030 Autolite 303s. Added alternator belt again. Raised secondary rod hanger per Oz. Air flap valve spring from 0 to one turn. Didn't measure tire pressure. Dan Warner (center) amiably inspected car and complimented us on a job well done. He sealed the fuel tank after we opened it to see if we needed more fuel. We learned a lot from him.
8/18/04 Tuesday Bad weather delayed record runs by 2 hours. We monkeyed around a bit over our allowed hour in the pits, and went out to run a return of 121.606 for an MPH average world record time of 117.090 MPH! The 2-1/4 time was 119.894. Afterwards the engine looked ok. Went to impound where we whizzed through, with the head sealed on using some RTV by inspectors. Took car back to pit . Set tires at 55# cold . Lowered secondary needle hangers again to about the original spot (Oz did it for us). Changed secondary air valve linkage to give straight shot with butterflys. Set plugs at 0.024 using the same plugs from the record run. Got back in line for a 3rd run. We voted to have Mark run again in an attempt to improve our record. Take-off was very strong with good sounding motor, and much less black-blue smoke. After one mile he saw the boost gauge head up to 10-12 pounds as he felt the car really start to pull. He could hear the turbo whine. This was occurring when he shifted into 3rd gear and started to put a load on the motor. The car had shifted well at about an indicated 4000+ on the tach (which we think was probably a little higher in reality). He felt that the car was headed for 125 mph, but before he got very far into the measured mile he heard what sounded like detonation and wisely shut it down. The speed through the mile was still 110 MPH with 117 thru the quarter, at which point , he was already coasting. Our guess is that somewhere shortly before the beginning of the second mile, the car was going much faster. Post mortem on the car revealed a number of cracks in the head around 3 and 4, a crack about 3 inches long extending from the valve seat of #3 into the upper cylinder, and missing insulation on the #3 spark plug. The pistons still looked good, and it was suggested that this was not true detonation, as the pistons had survived, but was perhaps pre-ignition. There were certainly some signs of #3 getting rather hot up near the head. About that time we also noticed that an 1/8 inch nipple had been ignored in our hasty preparations. It was located at the junction where the mixture from the carb was entering the compressor. As long as the engine had been running so rich during runs 1 and 2, the air leak was compensated for, however, as we dialed in the motor, it probably contributed to a lean condition, with the biggest impact on the physically closest cylinder. It is hard to say what problem came first in causing the cylinder's demise, and may have been a combination of things including the leak and material failure.
8/19/04 Wednesday Well, the pressure was off. We cleaned and straightened up, and packed the trailer for our departure. The rest of the day, we finally had a chance to look around the pits and ask questions of the other racers. That night we had a celebratory steak dinner!
8/19/04 Thursday Bid a fond farewell to the salt and headed for home. Stayed overnight in Chadron, Nebraska.
8/20/04 Friday Finished our trip to the Cloud and unloaded the car.
Epilogue: All of us feel that the potential of this motor has not been reached. Ask Mark how it felt one and a half miles from the line on the third run! The car accelerated thru the traps on the first two runs. We feel that with some further refinement of the top end, repair of the block, and some electronic detonation management, we can continue to make more power and achieve significantly greater top speeds. We will need to spend a little time and money designing a new head, as the head and gasket problems seemed to plague every flatheaded salt-racer we encountered. We will need to spend some quality time on the dyno as well. This may certainly have saved the motor had we had time to do it, however, that was not in the stars. We have a world record holding (for now) blown gas coupe and received a number of kudos (from salt veterans) on a job well done in preparing a well built, attractive, and above all a safe race car. Next year, some, if not all of us will be back on the salt, perhaps with more helpers, to continue our quest. Thanks to everyone for their help and encouragement.