Tun­ing: the old-school

Evo India - - MAKING POWER -

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.’

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