Har­ris Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing NZ — A new name with a lot of his­tory

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New Zealand Classic Car - - NATIONWIDE NEWS - Photos:

IPhilip Pearce Alan Har­ris, Lynn Rogers, Philip Pearce

t all be­gan in 1972, when a young bloke from Buck­lands Beach man­aged to con­vince his fi­ancée that if they bought an old Mini he could tune the mo­tor and win them a brand­new Mini — the prize for win­ning the Plasti­bond Cup, a new one­make se­ries for Mi­nis. The first round was at Levin, and the young bloke towed the Mini all the way from Buck­lands Beach on an A-frame be­hind his fu­ture fa­therin-law’s To­rana. Our man duly won one race and came sec­ond in the other to an­other young bloke called Reg Cook, who was by then al­ready a rac­ing leg­end.

Suc­cess con­tin­ued through the rest of the sea­son, and our young bloke kept his prom­ise by win­ning the se­ries — and the Plasti­bond Cup. But, un­for­tu­nately, Plasti­bond went bust just be­fore the end of the sea­son, and the brand-new Mini never hap­pened. How­ever, the or­ga­niz­ers came up with a $500 prize in­stead, which soft­ened the blow. And, to round off the fairy tale, his fi­ancée — Viv — mar­ried him, and they are still to­gether af­ter many happy years.

Leg­endary rep­u­ta­tion

The Plasti­bond Cup be­came the Mini 7 se­ries, one of the most pop­u­lar and en­dur­ing one-make race se­ries through­out the world and still pop­u­lar to­day. The young bloke from Buck­lands Beach was called Lynn Rogers, and, over the next 40 years, he be­came one of the best-known names in New Zealand mo­tor sport, with a leg­endary rep­u­ta­tion for cylin­der heads and com­plete race-en­gine build­ing. Look in the clas­si­fied ad­verts of this mag­a­zine, and you are sure to find those three lit­tle words which help to sell any per­for­mance car, ‘Lynn Rogers head’.

But rep­u­ta­tions like this don’t come with­out a great deal of hard slog. Lynn Rogers Au­to­mo­tive started out in 1976 in the shed in the back gar­den at home in Buck­lands Beach. Within a few years, the busi­ness had grown, so a mod­est work­shop was ac­quired in How­ick in 1981 and ad­di­tional staff taken on. A dy­namome­ter was pur­chased for test­ing ev­ery new idea to squeeze out those last few units of power, and many late-night test ses­sions fol­lowed, of­ten run­ning into the early hours.

Over the next 35 years, cylin­der heads and com­plete mo­tors built by Lynn Rogers Au­to­mo­tive won race af­ter race at just about ev­ery level of mo­tor sport in the country. A par­tic­u­larly close re­la­tion­ship de­vel­oped with Toy­ota, which be­came the com­pany’s big­gest sin­gle cus­tomer for many years. This started with cylin­der-head de­vel­op­ment on the 4AGE mo­tors in the For­mula Pa­cific se­ries and head prepa­ra­tion for the Corolla in Group N rac­ing. En­gines for the Corona tour­ing cars and later the cham­pi­onship-win­ning Al­tez­zas fol­lowed, and, when the TRS se­ries was first mooted some 12 years ago, Toy­ota au­to­mat­i­cally turned to Lynn Rogers to de­velop

the new con­trol en­gine. For the first seven sea­sons of TRS rac­ing, ev­ery en­gine was built, dyno-tested, and main­tained by Lynn Rogers Au­to­mo­tive.

Other high­lights of those years for Lynn are the long-term re­la­tion­ships with Dave Strong and Angus Fogg. Dave was also a Mini 7 cham­pion be­fore switch­ing to a long and suc­cess­ful ca­reer in ral­ly­ing, and Angus was an­other top con­tender in Mini 7 rac­ing be­fore grad­u­at­ing to the V8 se­ries, and, with cylin­der­head de­vel­op­ment and en­gine build­ing by Lynn and his team, Angus went on to win the NZ V8 Cham­pi­onship. Less well known is Lynn Rogers Au­to­mo­tive’s in­volve­ment in race en­gines for mo­tor­cy­cles — it pro­duced many heads for Du­cati and Suzuki race en­gines and built the Aer­ma­c­chi en­gines that won the NZ 250cc Clas­sic cham­pi­onship in 2013 and 2014.

Semi-re­tire­ment

But, af­ter 40 years at the helm, Lynn de­cided to semi-re­tire at the end of 2015. How­ever, it is very much busi­ness as usual, with right-hand-man Alan Har­ris tak­ing over and a name change to Har­ris Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing NZ. The premises in How­ick are the same, and the peo­ple and ex­per­tise are the same. Lynn con­tin­ues to be in­volved on a daily ba­sis with ad­vice and project man­age­ment, so his 40 years of ex­pe­ri­ence will still be avail­able to cus­tomers for many years to come. Alan has worked along­side Lynn for the last 10 years, spe­cial­iz­ing in all as­pects of cylin­der­head de­vel­op­ment, es­pe­cially port­ing, com­bus­tion cham­ber shape, and re­pair of dam­aged heads. The other key per­son at Har­ris Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing NZ is Peter En­derby, ex­pert in en­gine build­ing and ma­chin­ing work. Peter has also worked with Lynn Rogers for the last 10 years, and has spent his whole work­ing life build­ing en­gines, in­clud­ing a spell with Air New Zealand on air­craft en­gines.

As this ar­ti­cle was be­ing writ­ten, the team was busy with a com­plete re­build of an Of­fen­hauser Indycar en­gine and the build­ing of an Alfa Romeo boxer mo­tor with four valves per cylin­der. To in­crease the size of the Alfa’s valves and still have enough metal for good heat trans­fer, the spark-plug holes were be­ing re­duced to 10mm, re­quir­ing ex­ten­sive alu­minium weld­ing and re-ma­chin­ing. Also seen in the work­shop hav­ing a full over­haul was the en­gine from a Ford Ze­phyr MKIII, com­plete with a very rare Ray­mond Mays alu­minium cylin­der head, a com­bi­na­tion which was suc­cess­ful in both cir­cuit rac­ing and in­ter­na­tional ral­lies in the early 1960s. Turbo mo­tors are an­other spe­cial­ity, with a lot of work hav­ing been done on Mit­subishi Evo heads for both road and rally use, and the team has de­vised a so­lu­tion to the com­mon prob­lem of valve-seat leak­age af­ter th­ese mo­tors have been mod­i­fied. In ad­di­tion, a very spe­cial cylin­der head was de­vel­oped for the Heat Treat­ments Nis­san drag car to op­ti­mize turbo spool­ing and achieve in ex­cess of 745kw (1000 brake horse­power).

Other ser­vices in­clude full en­gine bal­anc­ing for bike en­gines as well as cars, line bor­ing, cam-pro­file mea­sur­ing and record­ing, a flow-test rig for mea­sur­ing and op­ti­miz­ing gas flow through ports and valves, and the re­pair of dam­aged cylin­der heads, both alu­minium and cast iron, which most peo­ple would con­sider be­yond re­pair.

There’s more

But don’t think that Har­ris Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing NZ is only in­ter­ested in race en­gines — it also has a reg­u­lar flow of cylin­der heads and com­plete en­gine re­builds from clas­sic and vin­tage own­ers who want the work done by like-minded en­thu­si­asts who un­der­stand clas­sic en­gines. This work of­ten in­cludes hard­ened valve seats to en­able clas­sics to run hap­pily on un­leaded fuel. A re­cent ex­am­ple is the com­plete over­haul of the head from a clas­sic Com­mer camper­van, which is per­haps the least likely to ever see a race track of any ve­hi­cle this work­shop has han­dled. To take the story full cir­cle, to­day’s Mini 7 race cars have to use a con­trol cylin­der head, flow tested to en­sure that they are within very strict pa­ram­e­ters. Guess who de­vel­oped the con­trol head in con­junc­tion with the Mini 7 tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer? You got it, Lynn Rogers. And ev­ery cylin­der head used in the se­ries is flow tested and logged for the Mini 7 As­so­ci­a­tion by Har­ris Per­for­mance Engi­neer­ing NZ.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit har­risper­for­man­cenz.co.nz.

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