.….On the occasion of driving Jim W’s GMC Motorhome from Orlando overnight to Colonial Beach Virginia, for those that have been there know there’s no “beach” the way I know one so someone may ask why I would spend all night driving up there when I could just take an hour and go to Daytona? It wasn’t a vacation I was on, it was a mission to the “Larrys” who were, at the time, the place to go to have a hi end Electromotive direct sequential injected, 4 bbl. Progressive throttle body, crank fired trigger, coil pack, Windows 98 powered fuel injection system Dyno tuned. Which hardware costs of over $6500, this was the first and still most expensive fi system I have ever had the nightmare to be involved with.
In the early days of fuel injection it was held that the conventional throttle body fuel injection was a stopgap for all the direct injected systems that showed promise. Since then, advancements in active, learning real time throttle body systems overall have shown to be much more adaptable and so much less complicated…. that after the copyrights came due on the OEM active computer based systems that new cars use, has brought fuel injection to us mere mortals…… I never looked back after the experience of making those early systems work…..boy we thought we were cutting edge!
The coach was an awesome ride, the interior was mahogany finished to a law firms conference room look by a master carpenter. I put a sound system in complete with Sub woofer, amplifiers and an Alpine radio…i think a cassette. Anyway you could irritate mother nature with the sound emitted…….just the right amount of overkill as they say.
But this all night run was to have the Electromotolive fuel injection system jump up on a chassis Dyno at the premium tuning location Electromotive recommended me take the coach. At the time, those fancy fi systems did not learn themselves, they were “dumb” and had to be properly tuned by wizards that had the special knowledge…. I was in fuel injection wizard central as I pulled in that morning were a blown 41 Willys was coming off the Dyno for us to be the next pull. Yes, we had hit the big time. Hey, if I was going into fuel injection I want to stick my head all the way in!
The Larrys, junior and senior, were cigarette smoking hot rod loving, go fast people who didn’t play around. They were amused to see what a built up 455 would pull the plug nuts off a motorhome and were keen on making the machine all it could be, I was very excited to learn and that I did!
And the motor under that fancy go system was pretty special in its own right. At that time, camps were open on how to build up a motor to put into a motorhome like ours. Conventional wisdom was to use high octane gas, bored out, hi compression and loud mufflers…….everyone was doing it, even swapping to a larger CID Cadillac motor that seemed to have even more secrets to performance than our Olds motors.
Joe Mondello was on the front of Olds performance world and his $12,000 cryogenic frozen blocks and his secret cam were what everyone was all over. I wanted something more concrete than throwing money against the wall so we set out to build a better, cheaper more tailored Olds motor. The motor in this coach was our second attempt at that goal.
The first motor was specified by Richard Archer who at the time was the crowned Commodore of the college craze “Cardboard Boat Regatta”. His motor blew up headed to a rally and being one to stand out wanted the baddest GMC motor he could get.
Think of a motor as a computer and the cam profile as the program you are running. A wimpy computer will not run a powerful program so we had to design not only a stout motor but a special big ol cam to make it do what we wanted.
I needed someone who knew cams, My motor builder, Drew K., had his buddy in crime, Scott P. who was not only a computer guru but was a wiz on PC Dyno and had connections with some cam companies. He set out to design, for us, a cam that would grunt out 12,000 pounds worth of torque BUT do it on 87 octane go juice. At that time, there were no cams profiled down that exact. The best known utility cam, Mellings MT-01, was the go to cam but the more octane you fed it the more it pulled, we wanted performance that would be there on regular gas. 12 hours of computer time, Richard named it the “Kryptonite” cam. I thought it was a bit presumptuous to give it a name which later though I found the name to be accurate.
So THAT was the concept, the motor and the cam that was inside Jim W. 455 Olds motor……or as we thought. So Sr. was also most interested in how this motor would harness up to the Electromotive direct port systems he was so familiar with….hopes ran high.
After pulling the front of the motorhome up into the shack where the chassis Dyno was kept, strapping down the motorhome Jr. said if that motorhome shifts weight and gets sideways on the dyno, we would have some fun so they used every tiedown they had and put an old truck in front of the shed in case there was a breakout………and then we started the pulls.
I wasn’t quite sure what was all going on but I could tell the Larry’s were all over the project.
“Damn thing won’t go”, I heard, Sr. in a pissed off voice…..the son of a butch is like it just has no balls. Not spoken in mixed company, I took that as there was a problem. Sr. Looked like The Wizard of Oz behind the curtain throwing levers and turning knobs while mumbling “something isn’t right”.
As if just falling off the cabbage truck I ask what could it be? With a stare you would get from your high school English teacher when she told you to confiscate a verb…… “It needs more octane”. I came back, but we want this motor to run on regular gas. Sr. Said, “OK, let’s see. Pulling out a plastic fuel container from his last job, of aviation fuel, he put the coals to the motor feeding it some pretty hot stuff he had just used in that 41 Willys blown Hemi.
He proved his point, he about threw the coach out the front of the shack! It’s alive and you could easily tell this rocket Olds motor needed beans! Hey that’s nice but that wasn’t what we wanted, Richards carberated build sure didn’t act that way….that first motor with the Kryptonite” can seemed to be a real stump puller which is why we had such great hopes with the Electromotive go system. Reality seems stranger than fiction….what is going on?
I got on the phone with the builder to spread the distressing news and to figure out what to do next. Now remember to that date, a proper Blechfire motor process was for a big bore, fat cam and compression. Our search was for something more.
He meant well and every builder in America would have made the same decision based on past performance norms but he said the KB 8.9 hypereutec pistons were on hopeless backorder so he found a smoking deal on a set of 10.5 SpeedPros that he had felt would be the conventional match….. After jumping up and down for a bit the realization hit me of my situation…..here i was in Colonial Beach Viginia….where there NO beach and I was custodian of a 26′ rocket that would not pass a gas station…..and I had to drive it to Florida, pull out the motor, replace the pistons….put the motor back in and drive it back to the beachless place on a run safe program again to again set up the Electromotive to system without having to use neucular fusion to propel it!
CRAP…….. but it’s part of the discovery process. The builder confirmed we were on the right track and we still might exceed our expectations because we were still looking at an enigma.
It was a long, frustration filled day that would be followed by another all night, white knuckle run with this unholy rocket back down I-95 for the night run to get back and fix this thing! But, and this is where the story got interesting, Sr. Had set me up with enough avgas to get me home on the tune he did. He said I could not drive it on pump fuel with that program… you’ll fry the motor! It’s set up way off to get it to run safe. Jr. Added, “never seen a cam like that” so there was SOME good in the drive, it confirmed to me we were knocking on something new! This meant not only did I have to take the shuttle back to port but I would have to feed it what it needed to get there.
Hey youall….watch this! Just like getting to stay up late to watch Johnny Carson, I was getting ready to do something most would dream of. While not what we want, still I was about to pilot a vehicle that shouldn’t be with fuel I shouldn’t have sitting around on an “autobaun ” that just doesn’t care! Giddyup there my little pony, let’s take a run…..
And the drive it was, as the sun set over my right shoulder i was southbound and down! The dark of the night with light scattered like stars, sitting up hi with those wraparound windshields blowing down the left lane, tractors flashing their lights as if encouraging that motorhome south ……..I know faster than anyone should have driven….
Sound system blowing tunes, mile markers unreadable and that motor taunting me. Just south of Savannah GA., on that particular flat stretch of road where nothing to either side of you taller than the marsh grass not reflecting anything other than the blackness…… We were hitting warp factor 2 when it came through those sub woofers….Da as….da da..da……..da da as d’s da as d’s da da…da…da….I….AM….IRONMAN!!!!!!!
The rush ran up the back of my neck and I pumped a little more blood to my right foot. How can this end? All the way to the Florida State line. there’s no way I could keep this adrenalin rush that long and seemingly as fast as the feeling hit me thank someone it fleeted enough for me to regain proper driving posture. I would have to be happy with moving with left lane traffic being a collective road warrior with the ready of the crazy people in a hurry.
But the name stuck, I confessed to Jim what i had done and with a big smile he said with his chest stuck out…..”Ironman, I like it”…..and that was the story of how we learned much about building a low RPM, torque monster, we swapped the pistons, another run safe program to the beachless Colonial Beach for test and tune then to prove the worthiness of the build I drove the coach from there in Virginia to Wisconsin where I then experienced hot fuel vapor lock from pressurized fuel but that’s another story. The cam worked, the motor design is now a full roller, balanced, active real time computer controlled throttle body power plant we hoped to find and we still build them today.
Jim W. has since passed but recently his son called telling me he has picked up the baton and want his dad’s coach to rock again. Let’s talk…….!
Thank you for the time to experience this journey with me. I hope to put out more of these if they are of interest to you, let us know over on “Motorhome Rehab Ranch”. I also hope it spurs you to make you own memories with your GMC.