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Was it David vs. Goliath?

When the powers to be at Mopar Performance were trying to come up with a good way to introduce their new high performance small-block parts to the world they came up with a unique idea: Look for engine builders from different parts of the country, have them send in applications as to why they would like to be part of the contest and then call the builders they felt would represent Mopar well in the contest.

One of the unique things Mopar did was to make the final decisions on engine builders and THEN they sent out the rules of the contest. The actual contest was more than a horsepower and torque contest. As a matter of fact that part of the dyno results was only 1/3 of the score. The other factors that made up the overall score were idle speed and vacuum and the third factor was retail cost of the parts used to build the engine.

The premise of the competition was to reward the builder who could make the most power and at the same time maintain a “streetable” tune-up. To say these engine builders were up for task would be an understatement. The selected engine builders ranged from huge engine and component developing companies like Indy Cylinder Head to the other end of the scale, a family owned one-man engine building operation like Tom and Lynn Hestness’s R&S Racing in Albert Lea, MN.

The contest took place just before the Mopar Nationals in Denver, CO. If you are familiar with racing or even driving at an altitude over 5,000 feet you know the tune-ups would need a lot of work. Well, they each had 30 minutes to adjust for the altitude and that was it. After that they each got a set number of “pulls” to see how their engines did. There was a two-minute break between pulls and some builders let their engines idle to keep the heat consistent but the Hestness team relied on a little Stock Eliminator experience and used the two minutes to run as much cool water through the engine that they could. Did it help?

When all the teams were done and the “smoke” had cleared it was not one of the big powerful (Goliath) teams that won. Tom, Lynn and Joel Hestness grabbed the $10,000 first place money and in the end it wasn’t even close. They made the most power, the most torque and the most vacuum. Tom’s 440” small-block made 716 H.P. and a very impressive 643 foot-pounds of torque.

Just how or why did a Minnesota engine builder get involved in this sort of a contest in the first place? Here is the interview with the winner of the “MoPowered Engine Builder Challenge.”

MoparMax: What made you decide to throw your hat into the ring and go up against the “big boys” in an engine-building contest?

TH: Mainly it was a personal challenge, a familyproject and it never hurts to see how you “stack up” against other engine builders. We had to apply through Mopar and their selection committee decided who would compete. I think one of the surprises was that nobody new the exact rules until they had been selected. That could create a real scheduling problem, and to some extent it did.

MoparMax: Scheduling problem? Exactly how much time was involved?

TH: We had five to six weeks to build the 440 c.i. small-block Mopar literally from scratch. Nobody had used this new block or even really seen the different heads we had to choose from before the contest. There were delays getting the blocks delivered so it came down to about three and a half weeks to get it all done. We spent over 250 hours on the project and without Joel and Lynn helping it wouldn’t have been possible to complete it.

MoparMax: Without an in-house dyno did you feel it would be a disadvantage or not?

TH: I didn’t feel it would a determining factor. We have every machine we needed to do the work and dyno is just a tool to see if our plan was going to work. There wasn’t really enough time to “start over” so we had to use the dyno to see if there was “tweaking” that had to be done.

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