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Messages - Pigpen

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Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: April 11, 2016, 02:03:42 AM »
Very sorry hear he passed. He had a good long life, something not all of us will get to enjoy. He was doing what he enjoyed all his life, can't ask much more than that.

Rest in Peace Crabby, you're missed!

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: March 16, 2015, 03:03:50 PM »
I have even more respect for Jim after reading that article.

90+ years old, still doing his thing.

* He smoked 1-2 packs a day his whole life.
* When the dyno was running, almost everyday, the shop was full of exhaust fumes, to the point where it was difficult to breath.
* Everyday for lunch he had his "Jim Special" at the cafe next door, a double cheeseburger, fries and apple pie with melted cheese.
* Whenever he wasn't working, you could find him at his favorite local bar and I never saw him there without a "drinky" (whiskey).

Some of us may live to our 90's no matter how we treat our body.


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: March 15, 2015, 07:53:54 PM »
A little older - a little wiser!


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: July 04, 2013, 03:58:01 PM »
I found this old photo of Davy Crockett on the TRA-CO website under "Friends". I'm not sure when it was taken, it's marked 1984. He looks exactly as I remember him back in the late 60's.

Walter Howell III aka "Davy Crockett" 
Jim Jones 1984

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: July 04, 2013, 02:44:54 PM »
That dampener modification make a lot of sense, although I never saw any dampener problems on the small block or 427 chevys during the time I spent at TRACO, and we did not make that modification then (on any of the engines I remember).

The only engine I remember having a dampener problem, as I mentioned previously, was a 454 block Chevy, where the dampener and crankshaft had to be balanced together, the dampener had additional material added in one area. That 454 was 1 of 2 used in a cigarette boat for offshore racing, and subjected to extreme over rev conditions, when the boat left the water and the throttles could not be pulled back fast enough. The pilot said it failed during one of the over revs.

I mentioned the 2 Bill Howells I knew in a previous post, Bill Howell (Davy Crockett) at TRACO was actually Walter Howell, but everyone called him "Bill", I'm not sure why Bill and not Walt.


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: June 28, 2013, 02:50:17 PM »
"did you ever meet bill howell your days at traco ?? i went to the TA races thru GM and bill and i would spy on the ford camp by hanging around in their pits."

Hi motorman,

I knew 2 people named Bill Howell; One was "Davy Crocket" at TRACO who left about a year after I started work there, he's the one who tagged me with "Pigpen". Last I saw him he was riding off on his Harley, never heard any more about him.

The other Bill Howell was the "go-to" person (engineer) for Chevy racing components at GM, he frequently stopped in at TRACO and many of the races, I met him numerous times but only had a conversation with him when I needed Aluminum 427 Heads and oversize valve seats while I was working for Roy Woods.

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: June 13, 2013, 11:52:07 PM »
Off topic....

So life taught me another valuable lesson last week, never too old to learn (the hard way)!

One of our family cars blew a head gasket at 62,000 miles and naturally out of warranty (12 years old with a 10 year warranty). An embarrassing thing to happen to an old mechanic.

So I checked around to find out if this particular engine was prone to head gasket failure or if it was just a fluke.

Turns out that the "Green" (Tree Hugger) coolant being used in most of the newer engines, cars, trucks and larger diesel engines, becomes roughly 100 times more acidic than the older types of coolant used (if left unchanged or untreated) and tends to eat through the head gaskets (and other gaskets) in a fairly short period of time. The mechanic showed me the head gasket and how badly it was acid eaten, the one spot where it ate through was just the first of many places needing only a little more time.

This problem is not advertised as the "Tree Huggers" are lobbying hard to keep it quiet, because they previously lobbied so hard to get the government to force the new coolant onto the engine producers.

Ford has a couple of lawsuits pending against the government to stop using it, as Ford has had a lot of eaten through head gaskets over the past couple of years and it's very expensive for them to replace those under warranty. This is not just a Ford problem, all the manufactures are in the same boat, both domestic and foreign.

Most of the larger diesel engine manufactures now have a stipulation in their warranties, where if the coolant is not tested and certified for Ph level annually, the engine warranty will be void.

The coolant can be tested yearly and if necessary, a "Buffering Agent" can be used to control the Ph. Many of the dealerships are now performing this service, but most private shops are not. Preventative maintenance is not in the best economical interests of most non-dealership mechanics.

So beware and have your vehicles coolant Ph tested, it can be costly.

After a little more research, I found that the new "Green" coolant is no better for the environment than the previous coolants, it still contains Ethylene Glycol at dangerous to animals levels, plus some other (new) ingredients which cause environmental problems, but the "Tree Huggers" are not about to admit they made a mistake, one which is costing the vehicle producers and consumers millions of $$.

Sad, sad times we live in!


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: March 11, 2013, 11:41:25 PM »
I have no idea what that cap screw is doing there, but I agree with Jon that it would render the dampening action null.

I've never seen that before, it was not a TRACO practice to do that.


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: January 24, 2013, 04:52:50 PM »
This is the TRACO emblem I remember....

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: January 21, 2013, 09:15:40 PM »
DR L-88,

"On another note, Mr. Pigpen, do you remember when TRACO changed the color of their decals from yellow to white?"

Tells you how bad my memory is, I don't even remember those decals at all, either Yellow or White, they may have been used after I left TRACO.

I do remember an oval shaped Yellow TRACO thin metal emblem with a stylized T over E design, but I can't remember if it was ever actually attached to an engine component.

Most people recognized a TRACO engine from the color and the fully indexed Vibration Dampener (Balancer). Some of the intake manifolds had "TRACO" molded in.


"This is an original Reynolds aluminum big block that was designed to be run without liners.  I have another one that came from Smokey Yunick in the 80s that he had installed iron liners in along with bronze lifter bushings. He worked it over pretty good."

That's what TRACO should have done to all the early Aluminum blocks (sleeves), but I think GM had an interest in experimenting with the sleeveless design, and it was probably part of the deal Penske made to get them, to use them without sleeves.


Your use of "Mr. Pigpen" brought back some memories of Travers. One of his pet peeves was not to call him "Sir" or "Mr", he'd reply that from past military experience, both were synonymous with "As_hole" or "F_cking Idiot". - LoL


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: January 19, 2013, 04:52:04 PM »
I remember the first design 427 Aluminum blocks, the ones which were all Aluminum without cylinder sleeves. They required a special honing process for which Sunnen produced honing pads to accommodate. The process honed back the Aluminum but left the Silicon in place (trick and back then a secretive alloy), so the cylinders would not wear as rapidly. They also required special rings and coated pistons (Iron coatings).

TRACO had a small number of Aluminum 327 blocks as well, which required the same process (actually they were procurred by Penske)

The one "weight" item which I remember as having the largest effect for engine life, was Carbon Fiber push rods, with your hand out and eyes closed, a person could carefully place one in your hand and you would not notice it. Back in those days, before overhead cams and without roller bearing lifters, the weight of the push rods was a large factor in cam lobe life. TRACO tried to get the manufacturer interested in producing Push Rods and or Wrist Pins, but at that time, the cost was prohibitive as the process required a large and very expensive Autoclave, high pressure, high temperature, controlled atmosphere mold press / oven. Today I'm sure the process would be (is) a fairly common process.

The Aluminum Cyl Heads were another PITA, requiring a special coating in the water jackets to keep the heat in, heating the heads and freezing the valve seats to replace them, then a special orbital valve seat grinder. Lots of time and work getting those ready.

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: January 17, 2013, 04:26:55 PM »
If my memory still serves (questionable), the 327 block with 4 bolt mains was the main reason for setting up with 4" bore x 3" stroke for the 5 liter engines. TRACO had a lot of problems with cracking around the main webs using the 2 bolt blocks, even some of the 4 bolt blocks cracked. As I mentioned before, if the 300 Below process had been available back then, a lot of blocks and heads might not have adorned the scrap pile.

I think the earlier stamped metal rocker covers were used a lot because of the oil bafflels welded into them. Chevy came up with hollow push rods where the oil was pumped through, then just about any rocker covers would suffice and style became more of an issue.

I don't remember the exact Grey paint used, but it was chosen by Jim & Frank and mixed to their spec. The cans were marked TRACO GREY by the supplier. One of the reasons for using it was the ability to easily see any sort of "Leak" on the engine.


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: December 21, 2012, 11:47:07 PM »
Jon; That Chevy on the stand must be an earlier one (or not finished yet) as the Choke Horns are not machined off the carbs.

Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: September 13, 2012, 02:59:58 PM »
While I was working in Japan some time back, I got a look at one possible automotive future, I signed an agreement so I can't say which company or specific details.

Picture a car with 4 electric motors, one mounted on each wheel roughly where the brake rotor is. A small battery which they're hoping to replace with the new Carbon Nano-Tube Capacitor (when it's ready). A small turbine geared directly to a generator or alternator, small like bread box size. The turbine is used only to run the generator. The generator puts out sufficient power to run the car, even if the battery is not charged. The turbine runs on any fuel over about 70 octane and automatically adjusts to the fuel. Emissions output is extremely low.
When you coast or use the brakes, the motors reverse current to help you stop and simultaneously recharge the battery.

4 wheel independent drive with smart traction control. No gears, direct drive.

They claimed it got 200+ MPG under normal conditions.

They had to put a governor (Smart traction control) system on to keep from burning the tires off the vehicle, as motors develop maximum torque just off zero RPM.

No discussion about price or when available, but I'm personally going to miss the sound of a well tuned engine.


Trans-Am Camaros / Re: TRACO Fans
« on: June 30, 2012, 02:37:46 AM »
Interesting, Jim wearing a "Crabby" labeled jacket. I wonder who set that up, Gordon was the usual instigator for that, but I don't think he was around then, perhaps Mark had a hand in it. I never heard Penske call him that, so I doubt it was him. Jim never would have used that label himself, it had to be a setup. Great photo!

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