As a big-time, famous magazine editor, most of my summer months are spent traveling the country in one way or another, shooting trucks and shaking hands. Flying between one exotic destination and the next, at times I feel like a modern-day Marco Polo in shorts and a trucker cap. It’s quite luxurious as you could imagine. Rental cars, coach seats, and cheap motels, it’s as if I’m living out every lyric in Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” in real life, without all the fun rock ’n’ roll excess mind you.
But what makes it all worthwhile are the people that I get to meet along the way and the little adventures I get to be a part of. Last year, it was a road trip to Bonneville to help Kev Elliott get his 1929 roadster pickup going on the salt. This year, neither of us will make it to Speed Week as we’re both too busy and will be saving for a return in 2014, but that’s not to say we’re without any kind of summer adventure, however small it may be.
This last June, Kev and I were approached by the guys at Comp Cams to compete in their Builder Duel at the Goodguys PPG Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. If you’ve never heard of the Comp Cams Builder Duel, it’s basically a competition where teams of two compete head-to-head building a Chevy small-block. The guys at Comp have the crankshaft and four of the eight rotating assemblies installed in the block and the rest of the parts are laid out on a table, ready to rock. When the ball drops, both teams scurry about trying to drop in the rest of the rod and piston assemblies, followed by the oil pump and pan, camshaft, lifters, pushrods, rocker assemblies, timing gears, chain and cover, intake, carb and air cleaner, headers, and valve covers. Sounds pretty simple, eh? Oh, did I mention one guy’s blindfolded? Just kidding, but that would be pretty funny.
What wasn’t funny was Kev and I representing Team Comp Cams, as we were all business. With a concentration level that nearly eclipsed Olympian status, we were like a well-oiled machine as we began the thrash on our very own well-oiled machine. It was like we were literally building a model of our figurative team. If YouTube existed when Michelangelo sculpted David, it would have looked very similar to the work of art that Kev and I were creating, except Michelangelo was only one dude and we were two. But otherwise it would have made for a very similar scene.
With only 37 minutes and 40 seconds on the official race clock (we hear it was more accurate than that atomic thing they have in Switzerland), Kev gave the throttle a whack as I pushed the “start” button and almost immediately our engine fired to life with the exuberance of a recently awoken puppy dog. A few more cranks and it finally sputtered to life, with a growl reflective of the ground-pounding, Earth shattering, bone-crushing, powerhouse that we’d created.
When it was all said and done, we were proud to have built it without so much as a hint, tip, or helping hand from the good guys at Comp, aside from having helped with the final valve adjustment, timing, dropping the distributor, firing order, and timing chain installation. But other than that, we didn’t really need any help whatsoever.
But the best part about it? We beat the snot out of the other team, who had challenged us, and continues to make excuses about their poor performance to this day. I won’t name any names, but with a time of 50 minutes and four seconds, Team FAST, which consisted of Steven Rupp of Camaro Performers Magazine and Jake Amatisto of Chevy High Performance Magazine, finally got their engine to fire. Did you notice that the guys from the “performance” books got spanked in an engine building competition by a couple of hot rodders? Hehehe…
While Kev and I were slightly hesitant to go up against other, assumingly more experienced guys building an engine neither of us had ever seen before, we figured if nothing else, it would be a fun way to support the guys at Comp and would be a good source of ribbing for one of the teams for the remainder of the weekend. Turns out we were right on both accords, it was a blast and “Team Performer” is making excuses and declaring that a rematch is in order. Sorry guys, but a retired winner is never a loser!