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Powerhouse Pinto Engine Makes 3.26 Ponies Per Cube

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Doug “Burton” Brown of Fremont, WI, raced stock cars for more than 30 years before he got into land speed racing at Bonneville and other venues. In 2010, he set a record with a Datsun Z-car, and about a year later he found a Bonneville Streamliner on eBay and purchased the engine-less car for somewhere under $12,000. Today, he has a lot more than that in the Streamliner, including a high-tech 122-cid Pinto engine that he thinks can make 400 hp and close to 300 mph.

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“John Stowe owns this engine,” Brown told Engine Builder. “He designed the cylinder head and has a patent on it. We call it the Twin Vector Induction engine and exhibited it at the 2014 and 2015 Performance Racing Industry Shows. The unique thing is that it’s got four valves per cylinder with dual overhead cams, but each intake valve has two intake ports. There are two intake valves per cylinder, but there are four ports per cylinder just on the intake side.”

According to Brown, if you look at an intake valve and its valve stem, one port goes on one side of the valve stem, directly down from the top and creates tumble. The other valve comes in more from the side and creates swirl in the cylinder head. This helps the breathing and makes the head extremely efficient. At the time of this interview in 2015, the John Stowe/Savannah Racing engine in the streamliner was making 342 hp from 122 cubic inches, naturally.

Brown said he met John Stowe through five or six contacts he made with Bonneville racers that led him to David Woodruff, a man best known in the racing world as Woody. His company, Aero by Woody (www.designdreams.biz), does Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) work for a lot of Bonneville competitors. “He was the person, between two or three other guys, who got me involved with John Stowe,” Brown recalled. “I didn’t even know about TVI at the time, but we just talked about doing CFD work on my Datsun for Bonneville. I just kind of told him, off the cuff, that I bought a Streamliner and then I forgot about it.”

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Six months later, Woody called him back. “Hey, these guys have this engine and they are looking for somebody with a car to run it in,” he said. “John Stowe owns the engine and the guys at Savannah Racing Engines built it and a fellow named John Goodman owns the transmission they plan to use.” So, Brown’s Streamliner became, as he described it, “A kind of a compilation of different parts and pieces that got put together by different people.”

The car itself had been built by a man named Dan Weissman who developed Alzheimer’s and couldn’t finish it. It came with an 8.75-in. Mopar rear end without axles in it, but had brakes, Mickey Thompson racing tires, wheels and a body that was 99 percent of what it is now. “We painted it and we had to add bulkheads, wiring and other things that weren’t in it yet,” Brown recalled. “We didn’t figure it was going to take a whole lot of work to finish it, because in my stock car experience, if you had a rolling chassis you could nearly go racing.”

Today, Burton guesses that the original builder had 3,000 to 3,500 hours in the car the way he got it and that he has put an equal amount of time into finishing it. “There’s an insane amount of time that has to go into these things,” he stressed. “That’s good in a way because you’ll certainly have something to keep you busy, but this kind of project is really not for everybody.”

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The gearbox was a Volkswagen unit fitted with Hewland internals, such as used in a lot of Formula Fords. Brown devised a system of pulleys and belts to carry the drive rearward. Although Brown is a machinist himself, he turned to Machine Service in Green Bay, WI, to help with anything that needed to be broached or splined. “They have broaches hanging all over the shop from paper industry work,” Brown pointed out. “Broaches run about $10,000 each and they must have 500 of them there. Plus, they’ll do one-of-a-kind stuff that other guys in other shops don’t even want to talk to you about.”

Brown designed and built many of the things he added to the car himself. “I still run stock cars, so there’s some stock car parts in there and the air throttle is off a motorhome,” he pointed out. “The headers were made by two friends named Beans and Bobby.”

An external fuel injection system feeds the gas. Brown opened one of the velocity stacks so we could see down into it. “Look down there and you’ll see the two ports on each one of those,” he prompted. “Each one of those feeds two ports and you can see the ports down there in the casting. The exhaust is easy; there’s two valves and two ports and it dumps into one of those header tubes. So, you’ve got two ports flowing exhaust gases into one tube.”

Sounding a little like a child’s farmyard song, Brown pointed at the cylinder head and said, “This cylinder has two ports here, two ports there and two valves there,” Then, he continued, ”This port is creating the swirl and this one here goes in at a bit of an angle and creates the tumble. It sounds simple, but it took a lot of work getting to this point.”

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Once Brown met John Stowe, the two consulted on parts for the engine and Ted Wentz at Savannah Racing Engines built it. “I think the block and the crank came from Ted and then, basically from the head up, it was John’s work,” said Brown. It is a BDA engine with the bores more tightly spaced than in the regular Pinto 2.0-liter four. “They’re smaller and more tightly spaced; the stroke is longer, too,” Brown explained. “I had borrowed a steel block for mock-up work; when John sent me a head, I put it on the block and it was about an inch too short. I didn’t know what was going on, so I called and talked to him. We noticed that the bore spacing was more and I got to thinking if you have ¼-in. more per cylinder, there’s more room to put bigger ports, etc. So, that got us thinking.”

Brown guessed that even at the horsepower the engine was making, some degree of compromise had crept into the engineering as far as camshafts and other parts were concerned. “They just used pieces that they had around,” Brown pointed out. “So, I told John to start from scratch, with no limits, and to buy all the parts he needed,” Brown said. “Because, the nice thing about Bonneville is that there’s very little restriction on anything; there’s a class for just about any variation.” Stowe then said that he was confident that the 342 hp they were getting out of the engine at that time could be upped to at least 380 hp.

Stowe is not really in the business of building racing car engines. He is in the aluminum casting market, but he casts a lot of cylinder heads for different racing organizations. The Pinto head was a custom job that he just got the notion to do. “He’s a super intelligent guy when it comes to designing a head and figuring out how to make it,” said Brown. “He is able to make the mold and cast it properly. He goes into great detail about the material he uses, which is special in the case of our head. But his long-range goal is really commercial applications.”

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Brown races the car in G/GS class land speed competition under his Victory Motorsports banner. According to the Utah Salt Flats Assoc., the Victory Motorsports 7770 (F/GT) car holds the record for three-liter naturally-aspirated cars at 172.949 mph. Brown has also set records at Ohio, Maxton and Loring Air Force base. El Mirage, CA, is next on the radar. He says he likes land speed racing because the rules are very safety oriented but they let you do a lot of technical playing with engines. He feels this fosters more creative thinking and makes it possible for cars with new technology to set records as long as simple requirements are met.

“I definitely have Salt Fever,” Brown admitted. “But, at the end of the day, this engine should really be used in a commercial application. We think it could be very suited to a utility vehicle or hybrid car. It is really, really efficient and that’s the point we’re trying to get across at shows like PRI. It breathes well and it’s got a really wide torque band, so you wouldn’t have to turn it at high rpm.”

Stowe told Brown most hybrid cars are gas-electrics with a little gas engine that starts up when the electric power drains. “He said they sometimes turbocharge because the cylinder head doesn’t flow efficiently,” Brown noted. “If you get the head to flow like this head does, you wouldn’t need to use exhaust gases to run a turbo and you could use the exhaust to run a generator to provide more electricity. That would be a way more efficient use of energy.”

Another idea is to use TVI technology on a diesel engine. One of Brown’s sponsors is Miller Electric of Appleton, WI. “We take their welders to the shows and we have talked to them about using a TVI system in their welder generators. They have to meet Tier 4 regulations for off-road engines that are constantly getting stiffer. A lot of companies drain horsepower off to meet the regs. If they used TVI technology, I think it would work better for them.”

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Brown said he thinks it’s great that Stowe and Savannah are letting him use the engine for development work through land speed racing, but in the final analysis, he wants to see them find a commercial application for TVI technology. “I think they’ve got something here that we’ll all be using in the future,” he said.

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