Update: Actually, it is a lack of an update!
Just in case some of you Mopar guys think Project Cars and magazine editors get “special treatment” all the time, fugetaboudit!
The entire month of March was basically a nightmare in getting anywhere on the Project 540/E85 Engine. It was not really any one person’s fault by any stretch. It was an accumulation of shipping times, problems encountered and decisions that had to be made. The funny thing, if you can call it that, is some of the comments I get about building magazine project cars. Jeff, my Editor Supreme-o, has told me several times I should just come out and tell the readers how these projects work out.
Well, there is no better time than the present since writing a tech story about assembling the Project 540/E85 Engine isn’t going to happen until next month. Here goes.
We were talking about doing something “different” for MoparMax.com readers to follow every month. We thought about a low-buck bracket car to run in Foot-Brake, Bracket 2 or Sportsman. We may still do that, but it will be over the winter when there is time to get things in order. Then the conversation switched to selling our 12-year-old dragster and building a new one so readers could follow what exactly is involved in building a new rear engine dragster. To go with the new chassis, we have to have an engine. It had to be a Mopar, of course, since I am not sure how a Chevy runs with the distributor on the wrong end (wink).
We talked about using Ethanol and maybe E85. That would add a unique feature to it. The planning started; we made calls to every manufacturer that I thought might be interested in helping out and in getting their products some additional exposure. This is NOT a NEW IDEA. Ever since car magazines hit the newsstands there have been articles written about products that manufacturers wanted to show readers. In the old days many tech editors “leaned” on manufacturers for tons of FREE STUFF for the articles and the articles tended to show a favorable slant towards the stuff they got for free. Everyone knew that and lived with it. It stayed that way for decades because no tech writer wanted to make an Editor mad or piss off an advertiser by having a bad review of a new product.
Not at this publishing company, though. We do tech articles and parts features a little different than that. When I contact companies about products we are looking for, my proposals ALWAYS have a line in them that says, “We are not looking for FREE PARTS.” The reason I want to pay for parts is it keeps me objective and takes the “I.O.U.” out of the tech article. Some companies don’t respond, so I can’t review their products. Some companies want to send anything I need for free. The inherent problem with FREE is that it not only could taint the article but it also is confusing when it comes to who owns what parts if a project car is sold or a part replaced for another tech article. It can easily become a mess.
You readers that think it would be “gravy” doing a project car are slightly misled. It is nice to get great parts at a WD prices and end up with a good race car, but the time and effort isn’t for the uncommitted. You have to meet deadlines (like the one I just missed due to problems I will discuss at the end of this article), make sure the manufacturer has input for the tech article and that you represent the products fairly – good points and bad. I will never complain about the project cars, engines and transmissions I have done. It has been an excellent adventure and the results have been fantastic. We receive a lot emails about the tech articles. The manufacturers are happier we are honest as it gives them a better image with customers.
Sometimes new things don’t work. Take the first MSD Digital 7 Programmable Ignition we helped introduce. It would start and run great then about every 5 to 6 minutes it would just shut off. It did this right after we installed it and we called MSD tech. Joe, at MSD, had me overnight it to him. They found a flaw in the circuit board or component and he recalled dozens of units that had just been shipped out. It saved them a lot of trouble and prevented them from having upset customers. It was a win-win deal. Honesty prevailed and I have done my best to continue my tech articles in that same light.
Here is where we stand on the “Project 540/E85 Engine” the new “Back-2-Basics III” S&W Dragster and the freshening of the “Project 4-Link” 572” Mopar: