Tuning: the old-school
Ken Brittain, who together with Dave Brodie set up Brodie Brittain Racing, has spent a lifetime coaxing power out of engines. His career started at Willment, the tuning company and race team that ran Cobras and GT40s during the 1960s.
‘You aimed to increase the volumetric efficiency of the engine,’ explains Brittain, ‘by increasing the revs by allowing the engine to breathe.’ This involved hours of painstaking work on the bench, balancing combustion chambers and intake ports, gas-flowing the ports and developing a new camshaft to extend the valve-opening times.
‘Depending on the fuel available or allowed, you’d also raise the compression ratio. Lastly, you’d spend ages on the dynamometer, constantly making changes, using different camshafts and exhaust manifolds. It was time-consuming and often boring – particularly blueprinting an engine, which was a good way of extracting more money from a customer.
‘The quality of the components you were working with was varied and often really poor. When you worked on the Ford Essex V6’s cylinder heads you’d often break into the water passages. We had tons of them that were only good for scrap. I went to Ford’s foundry to find out what was going wrong. Ford weren’t removing the flashing on the casting so the heads didn’t sit correctly in the jigs when they were being machined.
‘The quality of modern engines is unbelievable, with accuracy beyond F1 engine standards of only decades ago. The first time I opened up a Suzuki Hayabusa engine I was astonished. The cylinder head looked like a full race head from Cosworth. All I had to do was give the chambers and ports a quick polish.’