Quest for Perfection - We Chronicle One Man’s Mission To Build the Ultimate Dyno Cell - Engine Builder Magazine

Quest for Perfection – We Chronicle One Man’s Mission To Build the Ultimate Dyno Cell

As a young land and marine drag racer in the 1970s, Don London always looked for the best way he could to build extreme race engines for himself and his friends. As a 30-year veteran of the contracting business, he’s still doing everything he can to ensure that the engines he builds are the best they can be. And extreme extends right down to his dyno cell.

London’s business, Summer Systems, is a commercial general and climate control contractor that works with some of the West Coast’s largest businesses. The skill and expertise he has used building air, water and electrical handling systems for clients such as Bank of America and Northrup Grumman has, naturally, carried into his own projects. He admits that his dyno cell has become an exercise in creativity.

“I do mostly airflow and water and piping,” London explains. “But I’ve built hundreds of engines over the years for myself and for friends and actually built a couple dyno cells for some machine shops that do my machine work. About 15 years ago I built a really nice cell for one of my machine guys. But having my own shop right here, I always wanted a dyno too. You know, I could only spend so much time on somebody else’s dyno, and that would cost a fortune.”

Turning to the modern classified ads, London found a Craigslist listing for an unused Stuska dyno in Millston, WI. The owner, drag racer John Pierce had bought the manual system 15 years previously but, due to a bout with cancer, had never installed it.

“He was kind of excited it was going to somewhere that someone with the same interests could use it,” London recalls. “And I was excited that everything was still in the package! It was a brand new unit that was 15 years old.”

London says his purchase soon took on a life of its own.

“Because I have a complete fab shop here, I decided to start building my own frame around the top of it, and it kind of just took birth at that point. And, honestly, I didn’t have enough room. So I decided to put it on the second floor, which sounds kind of goofy, but it actually worked out very well,” he says.

London admits that his construction expertise has allowed him more than a little bit of design freedom.

“I made this a fun project at a low cost. As a mechanical contractor, I have access to air conditioning systems and pumps and other things around here, so it was kind of challenging to utilize material that I have around my business here,” he says. “I have a whole structural steel system in the building here and I ended up putting a lightweight concrete floor and pitching it in the room and, obviously, doing all the fancy flooring in there. I used all 2 by 10 plates with staggered 2 x 4s, so there’s about 9 inches of wall width with an inch of quilt soundproofing in them, faced by double 5/8˝ drywall. With weather strip seals around the door, the room is soundproof.”

London says his sheet metal manager has built a nice hood system that comes over to the engine – but “nice” may be the understatement of the year. Custom made diamond plate, the unit slides on tracks and moves out of the way to get the engine on the absorption unit. With as much substance as style, London says he has installed a 15,000 CFM make-up air system Variable-speed Frequency Drives on the exhaust.  “It maintains just under a tenth of an inch of static pressure in the room all the time. So it actually chases the CFM in the room as the motor sucks it out and exhausts it outside. It’s always balancing itself to keep it right under a tenth of an inch of static in the room.”

In addition, the cell has a 10 ton direct expansion make-up air system typically used in high-end industrial cooling systems. Made to take 100% outside air with a 4-inch pleated filter system, London says he can recirculate the air to change the room’s environment. “If we have a hot day outside I can recirculate the room and get it cool and dry or I can warm it up if needed. And I could add humidity to the room if I need to as well.”

London says the addition of the Power Pro Total Automation system to his manual dyno has really brought the unit to life. The system gives the operator the ability to fully automate their tests or take a hands-on approach and control everything manually. With automated break-in and warm-up cycle, live trace mapping on sweep test and precision control of load and throttle, London can ensure his dyno customers get the best results.

“It has all the bells and whistles we need to really check everything,” London says, which helpful for a growing number of diverse clients. “It’s only been up for running for about six months, so the word’s getting out there that we have it. We currently work with one of the top marine engine builders in the country, building 1,200, 1,300, even 1,500 hp motors. Plus we have other onesie-twosie guys.”

“I’ve got GoPro cameras set up inside the room as well as inside the panel room, so we can do video of the run on the screen as well as see the engine outside running,” London says. “And then we download that for the customer and send that file along with them, so he was able to give that to his customers.

For London, what started as an exercise in “what can we do,” has turned into a more realistic “how far can we go? scenario.

“Really, this was just a hobby,” says London. “It’s definitely turning into more of a small business for sure.” n

You May Also Like

CPR Engines

CPR Engines and Coast High Performance are two shops that do high-quality engine work in a shared 12,000 sq.-ft. space in Gardena, CA. The facility features a machine shop, an engine shop, an engine dyno and chassis dyno, overflow storage, a metal working area, and three installation bays.

CPR Engines

For the past few years now, we’ve had a good rapport with the guys at Custom Performance Racing Engines (CPR) and Coast High Performance in Gardena, CA. Shop owner Martin Marinov has been a resource for us on a number of occasions and has shared a few of his engine builds as well. We keep our eye on CPR because they’re always doing high-quality engine work and are a great example of a shop that shares what they have going on through social media. That’s how we’ve come to know CPR’s sales and operations manager Nathan Bush.

Choosing Between the LS and the LT: The King and the Heir to the Throne

There are times when the “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” approach works well for decision making, and other times when you really need to stop, look at all of the variables and then make your choice. For today we’re going to focus on deciding between two GM V8 engines, the LS and the LT.

LS vs. LT
Vintage Engines: Rebuilt to Drive

Classic and vintage car culture in is a diverse one. It’s more than just muscle cars. In addition to the unmistakable rumble of American V8 power, vintage European and Asian marques are part of the regular scenery too, and there are premium events around the world that bring out some of the most sought-after models

Vintage Engines
Off-Road Race Engines

As the off-road racing community and technology grew, so did the vehicle speeds and related suspension components. Today, these are without a doubt one of the most highly strained engines in motorsports – bar none.

Off-Road Engines
Motorcycle Drag Race Engines

Back when we started to get serious about competing in the V-Twin drag racing scene, there were four or five manufactures making engine cases, heads, crank/flywheel assemblies, and connecting rods, along with other parts for large cubic inch competition V-twin engines. At the time, the largest factory engines from Harley-Davidson were 80 cubic inch big

Motorcycle Engine

Other Posts

Reviewing Holley’s Terminator X EFI System

As part of our small block Ford build, we decided to use Holley’s Terminator X EFI system for plug and play Ford V8 engine control. Chris Wright of Pro Car Associates and Greg Jones of Engine Builder review all that the Terminator X offers and why Holley has been a leader in this product category.

Mustang Dynamometer Introduces New Power Motorsport Chassis Dynamometer

Mustang Dynamometer has recently announced the addition of the MD-SXS/UTV chassis dynamometer to its product offering. This new dyno is the ultimate chassis dynamometer for the power motorsport market for servicing side-by-sides, UTV, motorcycles, quad-runners and so much more. This new versatile tuning equipment tool is vital for the growing market of power motorsport products

Understanding Spark Plugs & Ignition Components

Simple parts such as spark plugs are much more involved than you might realize. Samantha Moore of Vector Motorsports breaks down the crucial things you need to know about spark plugs and other ignition components as they relate to your car or application. Related Articles – Michael Westberg’s Twin-Turbo 400 cid LS Engine – Reviewing

Moore Throttle Ep. 1: Engine Tear Down Analysis

In this episode of Moore Throttle, Samantha Moore of Vector Motorsports in Brighton, MI tears down her race engine to show you how you can analyze what you find and how it applies to your tune up, and ways to make it better for the next season. Related Articles – Compound Turbo 6.7L Enforcer Cummins