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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


The hot rodders and racers of today have a pretty easy time building 1 HP per cube or more. Just buy some CNC ported, aftermarket heads and get gobs of flow. Add a turbo or supercharger kit from out of the box. Order a high lift (yet streetable if you want it) cam kit with all the bugs worked out. Put it all together with aftermarket bottom end parts and your 302 Ford will be making from 350 to 800 HP. Just throw some money at it, and you can have pretty much anything you want.

Well, back in the 40s-60s racers and engineers were just starting to understand how engines made big power. Heads were really choked up, materials and technology required very mild ramp rates on the cams, and intake and exhaust tuning (runner lengths and diameters) were barely understood. That was when real hot rodders took stock cast iron heads, welded them up and started porting. There was lots of cut and try on headers and intake systems. There were lots of thrown rods, burnt pistons, busted cranks. They would look at what happened, come up with a theory and a fix and run it again. These were the real pioneers in racing.

A good friend of Performance Trends is French Grimes, who is one of these pioneers. In the industry, if you need to understand or tune mechanical fuel injection or magnetos, French is the go to guy (frenchgrimes). I love listening to French talk about the fairly small community of early hot rodders and the work they did and fun they had. They all knew each other, had lots of dealings with each other, and had unique personalities. You've heard of their companies, but maybe not the individuals, like Harvey Crane (harveycrane founder of Crane Cams), Jere Stahl (stahlheaders founder of Stahl Headers), and Earl Gaerte (gaerteenginesfounder of Gaerte Engines).

Still to this day, French is doing advanced research on combustion analysis and engine performance. It is such fun to call French. He'll talk to you about some advanced engine theory from his dyno test cells, and you'll hear roosters crowing in the background. He's someone who knows his capabilities and is very comfortable in his own skin.

The hot rodders, engine builders and racers of today are standing on the shoulders of these giants, these early pioneers that came before us. Thanks.


Kevin Gertgen graduated with a BS Mech Engr from Univ of MN, specializing in internal combustion engines. 12 years at Ford in the Engineering Center Dyno Lab and Transmission Dyno Lab. Started performancetrendsPerformance Trends in 1986, doing software for engine and vehicle simulations. Kevin currently holds dozens of copyrights on engine, vehicle and testing programs.

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