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Back To School Ongoing Performance Education
By Jim Walbolt
In my last "Fast Lane" I talked about schools which may provide performance oriented employees. This month we’ll talk about availability of performance training for your current employees.
For those shops looking to get into high performance work or to maybe increase their involvement and capabilities in high performance, training current employees may be preferable to hiring new employees. Finding someplace to get them that training, however, can be a tough job. One of the best places is Joe Mondello’s Technical School in Paso Robles, CA. You have probably read some of Joe’s articles right here in Engine Builder magazine.
Mondello has more than 45 years involvement in racing and high performance, a career that started at age 14 porting and relieving flat-head engines. He worked for Carol Shelby in the 1960s, building the heads and engines for the Shelby Cobras that placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 1964 Grand Prix at LeMans. He created the Chevrolet open chamber big block head and piston combo, and also the small block combustion chamber that was known as the "Posi-Flow" chamber, a design that is still used today by Chevrolet and Dart.
By the late ’60s Mondello began to get involved in R&D work for Oldsmobile and to this day he has the largest and most complete line of high performance Olds parts available. Along the way, Mondello or Mondello designed engines and heads have set records in many motorsport venues. The first 7-6-and-5-second Top Fuel runs, along with the first 200 mph runs in Top Gas, Top Fuel, Injected Fuel and Fuel Altered were all set with Mondello cylinder heads, many of these records set by "Big Daddy" Don Garlits.
All this knowledge and experience can be invaluable to anyone looking for a career in high performance, or to enhance their training. Recognizing this need, Mondello started the Mondello Technical School. The school teaches just two courses: Performance Cylinder Head Porting and Racing Engine Blueprinting. There is also an Advanced Head Porting class but it is only available to students who have graduated from Mondello’s Performance Cylinder Head Porting course. Each course runs for 5 days, 9 hours each day, except for the Advanced Porting class, which runs from 2-4 days.
The Engine Blueprinting course will take the student through the known and lesser-known areas of racing engine design and building. According to Joe Mondello, "There are many engine assemblers, but very few really good engine builders." The Mondello course is designed to change that. In more than 40 years of motorsports experience, I can vouch for that statement. To design and build a good high performance engine takes a lot of time, patience and experience.
Much of this expertise is in the details, and Mondello covers all those in depth, plus many of the lesser-known tricks. All training is hands on with some of the latest tools and equipment available. The engine building course would be good even for experienced engine builders, but is a must for inexperienced shops. Just think what it could mean to your shop if your best employee could become a high performance specialist.
If you read our Performance Engine Block prep story last year (June 2001), you know how much emphasis we placed on block preparation. Things like cylinder spacing, proper cylinder and lifter bore alignment, and squareness of the block. Mondello teaches all these things along with dozens of other procedures needed to produce a great engine.
Of course, as everyone knows, the head is one of the most important ingredients to a great high performance engine. Even these days, where CNC’d heads are the rule rather than the exception, some hand porting must still be done. Even manufacturers like Dart have head-porting stations where heads fresh out of a CNC machine are finished.
The Mondello Performance Head Porting course teaches the proper hand porting techniques. According to Mondello, "This is not a school for a highly trained and experienced cylinder head expert, but some hand grinding and cylinder head porting experience is required." The class is highly technical and Joe doesn’t have the time to teach beginners with no experience.
Mondello will teach students how to form and control the radius and shapes of intake and exhaust ports. How to shape valve guides, valve bowels, and how to grind and polish the proper finish on port runners. You will learn how to flow test heads and how to finish the chambers for proper swirling and flow of air in and out.
In this course you will also learn about cam selection, including learning the proper lifts, lobe centers, and lobe separation. You will also learn how to reshape runners and ports using welding and epoxying techniques. And, fuel systems will also be discussed, such as proper size carburetors, jet size, and air cleaners. Proper selection of all the parts and pieces installed on a head will also be discussed, including proper valve selection, spring selection, and rocker arm selection in addition to all other related pieces.
The above paragraphs may sound a little like an advertisement for Mondello Technical School, but it’s because I want to impress on you just how much is involved in building a great high performance motor. Every part and piece that goes into a high performance engine, along with each part and piece’s relationship with every other part of that engine is extremely important. There are no short cuts. Mondello teaches you the proper procedures and techniques and I have touched on just a few of the things they teach you.
You may wonder why you need to learn about component selection and design, or lobe centers and separation. It is not uncommon for the best high performance shops in the country to have pistons or cams designed for a particular application. You would be amazed at what some of the NASCAR teams are doing with engine development. Some of the piston designs in use would blow your mind.
Engine shops that build just one type of engine such as a 410 cid Sprint Car motor for instance may have a cam ground with each lobe different to maximize each cylinder’s contribution to the total power output. The cam may be tailored to take advantage of each cylinder’s "cylinder pressure" or the fuel flow to a particular cylinder. Many shops spend hundreds of hours on the dyno looking for the best combinations.
The more knowledge you have of how each and every part of that engine interacts, the better an engine builder you will be. There are only two ways to gain this knowledge, You either learn from someone who has already learned it, or you learn through trial and error. Keep in mind however, that there will always be R&D in high performance, i.e., trial and error, but it will always be less time consuming to learn as much as you can from someone who was there before you.
Mondello has "been there and done that," but I guarantee you that he is also still learning. There are other places to get training and information, but not many have the length of experience as Joe Mondello and you should take advantage of his experience. In the next Fast Lane, I’ll continue to explore the educational possibilities of high performance machining, including checking out some of the parts and equipment manufacturers that can be a wealth of information.
Mondello Technical School can be contacted at (830) 237-9185 or you can check the school out on the Web at www.mondellotwister.com.
Jim Walbolt, a professional writer and photographer covering motorsports activities, is from Luckey, OH. email@example.com