If I had $1 for every person that ever told me that they wanted to write a book I’d be able to finance my race car(s) a lot more easily!
For the most part people just don’t understand what it takes to produce a top selling book within the subject category concerned. Of course it’s entirely possible to write a mediocre book and get away with it if the editor/publisher lacks sufficient knowledge of the subject to be sufficiently critical. But I like to think that is not me. I am ultra competitive by nature. I don’t go racing with the intention of being second and I apply that same philosophy throughout my work ethic. When I write a book (or article) I start it with the full intention of producing the best work on the subject matter concerned to date. I am sure even if you were to ask my most vocal critics they would agree with that statement even if they did not always agree with some of my conclusions. That now said I have a connected topic I would like to address.
Although it certainly does not apply across the board most people in the performance writing business have some sort of journalistic qualifications. For the most part the norm for such writers is to start a book armed with a basic knowledge of the subject in hand. At this point the writer then enlists the help a person or persons they perceive as expert in the subject.
So, with note book (or recorder) in hand, our intrepid writer starts to collect information. Some material can be verified by other industry experts while some remains opinion. Now this sounds like a legitimate way to go about writing a book – but is it really that effective? Here’s the problem. If the writer’s source has some really up-to-the-minute speed tech you have to ask yourself just how likely they are to give it away so that all their competition now also has that same speed tech. I don’t have to tell you the answer to that one – you should be able to easily figure it out for yourself. If you now add to this that most engine builders spend most of their dyno time checking to see if the engine they have built is up to scratch rather than having made any progress in the quest for more power.
Charging out R&D dyno time is hard work and only big time teams with equally big time sponsors can actually justify extensive research dyno time. As a result the typical engine builder – even the more expert ones, give our hypothetical tech writer a combination of facts and opinion. Granted it is expert opinion but that does not make it concrete fact. All the forgoing means that you, as a reader, get tech stuff that is no more than what a number of reticent-to-share engine builders are prepared to give plus a set of opinions. All this is then put down on paper by a writer whose main qualification to produce a supposedly functional performance book is that he or she is just that – a writer.
I have to make it clear right now – I am no writer. All my journalist life I have been surrounded by gifted editors. I failed more English exams than most people have hot dinners in a month. On the other hand my engineering capabilities were at the other end of the scale. I tell people that if they want prosaic English then read Shakespeare. If you want cutting edge race tech from a writer who is not only recognized as a very innovative engineer (a whole bunch of patents uphold that claim) but also somebody who spends the majority of his time building and testing engines as well as racing them competitively then you should be reading my stuff. And that brings me to the subject of opinions.
If I hold a house brick at arm’s length and announce that upon releasing my grip it will hit the ground would you say I am quoting an opinion or a fact. If I had never done this experiment before then it’s an opinion as yet unproven. If I had done it before and it does hit the ground then it’s no longer an opinion. Well I have news for a whole load of critics who say ‘that’s just his opinion’. I don’t have an opinion – I have a dyno – a flow bench and a bunch of other expensive test equipment just so that I don’t have to dish out opinions or, for that matter, ask a third party what it take to make HP from any given engine. I once totalled up the amount of money I had tied up in equipment just so I could write truly informative books and articles. It was scary! Typically a writer has a couple of grand invested in a computer, printer etc. In 1985 dollars I had over a third of a million tied up in test equipment just so I would not have to rely on an opinion – mine or a third party’s. I spend zero time building the same spec of engine twice. All my stuff is R&D engine work and in many respects it’s cutting edge stuff at that.
The way I have structured my business is such I can actually justify serious research as I make my money selling tech that cannot be readily obtained elsewhere. Everyone who buys a book or magazine article of mine in effect pays for a minor part of my work. The fact that I am read by what is, for the automotive world, such a huge audience, covers projects that would otherwise financially sink most performance shops. In one cam test session I put in no less than 80 hours a week and for the most part nearer 100 for just over 6 months testing camshaft combinations. Figure with normal race shop expenses and cost of engines, fuel and cams to amount to about $80 an hour and you can see that a monthly bill for such a project runs out at almost $29,000. I have to say it did not cost me quite that much but only because I did not have to pay for the three test engines or the variety of heads, pistons, manifolds and the vast number of cams used. However I did not turn out that much in the way of editorial during that period so there was an intrinsic cost to me to do such a major project. But it paid off. It produced some of the technology that has allowed me to design some of the best selling cams for certain popular engines. Any book that I write is the result of literally hundreds of hours of time spent on the dyno and other test equipment establishing new or improved ways to produce better results for the end user.
Unlike most tech writers I have a stack of race and series championship wins and, in my time, have repeatedly shown factory backed race teams with large seven figure budgets how it was done right out of the comparatively small (1700 square ft) shop attached to my house. I am about 100% certain that I am the only automotive tech writer that has written books that, on substantially numerous occasions, have allowed rank beginners to build race engines that seriously outperformed the top engine builders who specialized in the particular engine concerned. I have actually told people over the phone how to build their engines by specifying in great detail what they need to do and these little guys’ have then gone out and, in no uncertain terms, shut down the big guy’s with factory support. That’s putting power on the page by virtue of countless hours of time on the dyno, at the track, on the flow bench, making experimental parts on my mill or lathe etc. If you want to learn how to write a novel then don’t use my writing skills as an example of how it should be done. On the other hand if you want to get hi-tech info guiding you toward building race winning engines then reading what I have to say will be a great help – that’s why I teach this subject at various universities.
And while I am at it let me dispel another myth. Often when people find I am a writer they think it’s a life of getting up at 10.00 am in the morning and working till lunch time at which point you take a 2 hour lunch break then start back to work and put in another 2 or maybe 3 hours and, at that, the day is over. This you do for three or four days a week and take the rest of the time off. Well that may be for some writers but it certainly is not so in my case. I am usually at my desk before 5 am in the morning and I rarely finish much before 8.30 to 9.00 pm. On a Sunday I take it easy and rarely put in more than ten hours of work. I have worked these sort of hours ever since I became self employed in 1967. It is also the reason why I have very little serious competition in my chosen field.
Few people are prepared to commit themselves to such an intense work regime. Of course there is a price to be paid for burning the candle both ends. As I approach my 70th year I find I am slowing somewhat and even a much shortened 55 – 60 hour week is becoming a challenge. Still I am looking forward to completing some exciting projects and this brings me to my big block Chevy stuff.
I have wanted to write a big block Chevy book for years but felt because the engine was somewhat more expensive to buy and modify than a small block Chevy a suitable large book buying audience was just not there to justify the costs involved. But as I explain in the opening chapter of my book ‘Budget Street Performance and Practical Race Big Block Chevy Engines’ (and that is just a working title but it sums up the content very well) became possible through the mass production of hard core after market small block Chevy parts. Some prominent companies, having geared up for such were left with enough capacity to produce sufficient big block Chevy parts to bring costs done significantly. As a result the heyday of modified big block Chevy engines is now and not in the years past. Only in the last few years have I been able to entertain the daunting task of a truly ground breaking big block performance book. By ground breaking I don’t mean one that simply re-iterates what is already commonly accepted (but not necessarily correct) wisdom. No – this is a book that tells you not only what works but also why and it is the ‘why’ that is so often left out performance literature. I spent much of the time from 2007 till delivery to the publisher in mid 2010 dyno testing heads, cams and induction systems. What I found out in some areas, especially camshaft events, is that what you are likely to buy without guidance from this book, is more than likely to be wrong. Even the factory crate motors are well off the pace here. I gave John Kasse, 4 time Engine Masters winner, a copy of the manuscript to critic. I got a two thumbs up from John and better yet he commented that info I had given him (as per the book) allowed him to build 40 hp more into one of his Engine Masters entries. Let me say here that if you are a better and more innovative than John Kasse, one of the world’s most highly acclaimed engine builders, then maybe you don’t need a copy of my big block book. However if you are not ——-
So when will this book be out. Projected on the bookshelf date is around the 20th of May 2011. I will be ordering the first hundred off the printing press and sequentially numbering and autographing each of these first hundred. I can’t say for certain they will become collector’s items but I will say that my middle daughter Danielle, has the #1 copy of my ‘How to Build Horsepower’ book and has been offered $500 for it so far. If you want to reserve a copy of my new BB Chevy book then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your request. Note – no tech questions please. I will respond by email with purchasing details. Cost will be $30 for an autographed book plus $6 P&P to any USA/Canada address. Overseas orders are usually a little more but not that much. You will be advised when your shipping address is known.
What Does this Book Contain that Others Don’t?
Unlike other publications you will find my new BB Chevy book to be very specific. None of this vague tech which sort of suggests if you do such and such it might be of some benefit. In the block section it tells precisely what you need to look for and how and why certain mods improve output. In the Rotating Assembly chapter, it is explained exactly why you should build a stroker if there are no constraints on cubes. It also tells how to do this on a budget. The head section explains why certain valve and port combinations are preferable and shows the differences you can expect in output. Also the head selection chapter covers what aftermarket heads you should put on your preferred list and why (because I dyno tested them that’s why). The head chapter also shows and easy porting procedure that will allow a rank beginner to produce pro results just about right off the bat. Also if you are an a tight budget and can only afford a flat tappet cam what I have to tell you concerning their use could extend the valve train life from as little as 200 miles to 200,000 miles.
As for the selection of cams that really pump out the torque and hp the relevant chapters here don’t leave you guessing what you should use.
Cam selection charts cover just about 98% of all big block specs that one would expect to build out of a book like this and does so in a unique manner found only in my books that will take you less than 15 seconds to make an absolutely top notch pro cam choice.
Carburetion, intake manifolds and exhaust are equally well catered for leaving you in no doubt as to what is needed to build anything from a relatively low cost reconditioned (under a couple of grand) 468 (0.060 over 454) making some 480 hp and 550 lbs-ft of torque through a very cost effective 496 pumping out 736 hp and 661 lbs-ft to a practical race engine of 555 cubes putting out over 850 hp. With the cheapest build costing under $2000 and the most expensive about $11500 this book covers a pretty good range.
Where from Here?
I must admit I had a wail of a time doing this book. In fact I got so embroiled in the R&D that I severely outpaced the number of pages I had available for the book. Making the book bigger than 144 pages was not practical so I have started on Volume two which will carry on from Volume one in that it will deal with builds from about $5000 up depending on how much work you want to do yourself. The most expensive Volume 2 will deal with is probably in the $16,000 range. Although I have started compiling material for Volume 2 it won’t be out for a while yet as I have a book on cylinder heads to finish and one on Holley Carbs. When those are done it’s back on to the big block stuff full time.
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