Groundbreaking Engine Wins 2017 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge

Jon Kaase (center) accepts a check for $11,700 as AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge winner.

The AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge presented by HOT ROD is run by the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH).

The field may be smaller, but the competition is no less intense, and the creativity no less compelling.

The 2017 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge at UNOH in Lima, Ohio, has already seen some fascinating engine concepts that are generating buzz in the halls here.

There are two categories of engines in the competition this year: Traditional Muscle and Vintage. Each team gets 35 minutes and 5 gallons of water (to help cool the engine). The team leader then selects the three best scores from their efforts. Most teams use the entire period, though we’ve occasionally seen teams finish a set of runs early and shut down with a serious level of confidence. 

On Monday we saw three teams from the Muscle class go through the paces – RM Competition, Performance Crankshaft and Creason Racing Engines. Meanwhile, a stunning Vintage engine built by Gene Adams Performance/Smithberg Racing produced some stellar numbers in dyno cell #2. 

Flex your muscle

At the peak of the muscle car wars in the late 1960s, all three of the big automakers were competing to be the big dog. The battle wasn’t just on the street, but on the racetrack as well. Chrysler’s hemi engine was blowing people away, and the hemi engine has been a longstanding passion for MOPAR enthusiasts ever since.

Ford went to work developing a concept engine that could outperform the hemi, which they called the Shotgun Boss 429. The problem wasn’t that these engines were powerful, it was that NASCAR got the impression they were too powerful, too fast and too scary. 

While still in his teens, renowned engine builder Jon Kaase got a peek at this powerplant, and more than 40 years later here at the 2017 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge, he unveiled a concept that was birthed way back when – a Vintage MEL (Mercury/Edsel/Lincoln) motor.

770 hp and dozens of amazed onlookers

Jon Kaase’s unusual configuration is so original that no one has ever seen anything quite like it, though he claims to have gotten the idea from that engine design he saw when he was 19. The teardown drew a crowd, and the live Facebook feed drew more than 200,000 views in half a day. What they saw was an engine in which the combustion chamber has been re-formed. Jon moved the combustion chamber down out of the head into the cylinder and put a dome on the piston. 

Kaase’s ingenious design put down 770 hp and won the competition.   

Onlookers were eager to see how Jon Kaase’s winning engine was designed.

To give you an inkling of the kinds of competitors we have here, check out this Gearz segment featuring Jon Kaase’s shop, which has 1.5 million dollars worth of machining equipment.

One would think that with a shop like that, Kaase Racing Engines would be the hands-down winner of the Engine Masters Challenge year in and year out. Wrong. That’s because we have a lot of serious builders of similar stature putting their magic and imaginations to work, all striving to achieve the same end: this year’s Engine Master. 

In addition to the competition itself, there are a pair of additional awards that can be earned: the AMSOIL Horsepower King and the AMSOIL Torque Monster, each of which win a $1,000 bonus. 

2017 AMSOIL Engine Masters Challenge Results

Vintage: Jon Kaase/Royce Brechler

Traditional Muscle: Creason Racing Engines (Rick Ferbert)

Horsepower King: Jon Kaase/Royce Brechler

Torque Monster: Jon Kaase/Royce Brechler

Here’s a batch of photos that give you a flavor for what has been happening here in Lima, Ohio.

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