Monday, December 30, 2013

Hydrazine & The Golden Age of Drag Racing

We thought this was interesting read so we posted it for your enjoyment...and to think some guys even used liquid gun powder to go faster (it didnt work). Ah... the need for speed.....
 Story of the Lethal Fuel Called Hydrazine by Tony DeFeo

This was a common scene for engines that ran on hydrazine (photo of Bob Durant's engine??)

It’s the liquid so potent, so deadly, so illegal that those in Drag Racing who have unleashed its wrath dare not speak its name in public. In the pits, even to this day, it’s known simply as H.

Hydrazine has been around, and used as an “exciter” for nitromethane for as long as we’ve had Drag Racing. Actually, its use as a racing fuel predates even the Dry Lakes. Hydrazine is rumored to have been used by the Nazi’s as an additive in the Mercedes Formula 1 cars of the pre war era. Here’s the basics of how it works. Nitromethane is a mono-propellant that carries its own oxygen supply. Hydrazine is an oxygen scavenging agent. When you combine the two…even with just a tiny percent of H in the mixture, you get an unstable fuel that is at war with itself. Insanely dangerous, yes…but internal combustion nirvana of the highest order is a guaranteed result. 

Lakes era racers who experimented with H found that a stock 90 horsepower flathead would pump out better than 300 horsepower simply by sucking this stuff through its Stromberg. These same racers also discovered Hydrazine’s major drawback for practical use. After running it through an engine, the carbs would start to cake up with a substance that resembled soap flakes. This nasty little by product was a shock sensitive explosive called the Methazodic Salt of Hydrazinium Acid, and was the result of allowing vapors from the Nitro/Hydrazine mixture to condense in a closed environment (the mixture will steam cloud out of the exhaust and become shock sensitive. If you tap the engine at this point, it will explode.)

Never mind this stuff will throw your crank on the ground after just a couple of runs, but if you happen to tap the carb with a wrench, it’ll blow your face off. Let’s go racing! Hydrazine had its big moment in the sun back in 1960, during the height of the NHRA fuel ban.

Barnstorming Top Fuel racers were all clustered together in the 180 mph range, when out of the blue, at a small track in Alton Illinois, the Greek (Chris Karamensines) shoved a big gulp of H down the throat of his Chrysler and ripped off an unheard of 204 MPH pass, boiling the hides and wheelstanding right through the lights. The Ramchargers were known for experimenting with all sorts of fuel, including hydrazine.  Several years later, during the dawn of the Funny Car era, many injected cars were known to brew up a batch in order to keep up with blown Fuelers.

Shotgun like exhaust notes, bright green header flames and crewmen frantically draining fuel tanks in the shutdown area were telltale signs that H was in the house. Even though Hydrazine has been on perma-ban by every sanctioning body that has ever existed, its use in times of extremely tight competition, or when a barrier is on the verge of being broken has continued right up to the modern era. We can remember one nighttime qualifying session back when the 300 mph barrier was about to fall in Funny Car, when one of the cars in contention for the honor made a lap with those freakish header flames dancing up over its roof. It was so obvious that a sudden buzz amongst educated onlookers erupted. Even the announcer that night took note of the unusual sight. Officially, it was played off as burning copper from a failed head gasket…but then, the very next pair of cars, there it was again. Eight bright green candles lighting up the nighttime sky, and yet another barrier crushed. Was it really hydrazine at work? Only the guys mixing the fuel that night know for sure.

Yeah, it’s dangerous stuff. Handled improperly hydrazine will kill you in ways you can’t even spell, but its a glorious part of the history and heritage of the thing we call Fuel racing.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Concept Cars-Some of these shoulda been Developed!

We love all things retro including concept cars. Despite that many designs may not have been practical they are nonetheless cool and here's a peek at some from BUICK (thanks to Hemmings Motor News for sharing these with us):

Photos courtesy Buick.
 This years Buick-provided list of their top 10 (okay, they started with 11, a nod to Buick’s 110th anniversary this year, but we lopped one off) concept cars includes some interesting selections from  Buick’s history.
Considered to be the industry’s first concept car, the Y-Job was developed by GM’s first design chief, Harley Earl. Built with the sole objective to gauge consumer response, rather than production intent, media hailed the Y-Job as the “Car of the Future.” Commencing a foreshadowing practice that continues today, this black two door sports convertible also made other everlasting marks on the industry, showcasing features that would later be found on production cars such as power windows, flush-mounted door handles, disappearing headlights, and a concealed convertible top, among others.
A radical departure from production cars of its day, the XP-300 concept placed an equally strong emphasis on performance as design, with the then Buick chief engineer, Charlie Chayne heading up the project. The white two-door convertible had a body made of aluminum and a supercharged V-8 engine under hood. This high-compression, 215-cubic-inch engine was fed with a mix of methanol and gasoline, producing some 335 horsepower. Reportedly, the XP-300 could achieve speeds of 140 MPH, making good use of its four-wheel disc brakes.
Successor to the original Wildcat concept, which was primarily built to test the use of fiberglass bodies, the Wildcat II was a distinctive new take on the fiberglass-bodied sports convertible. Designed by Harley Earl’s team, the concept debuted a unique front fender design that exposed its chrome-plated front suspension. The headlamps were mounted under the leading edge of the fender cowl. Power came from a supercharged V-8 engine.
The last of the three Wildcat concepts designed by Earl, Wildcat III was much larger than its earlier siblings and also more realistic. The four-seat convertible was powered by a 280-hp V-8 with four carburetors and debuted many styling cues that would be found on 1956 and 1957 production Buicks, including parking and directional signal lights housed in the prominent front bumper pods.
This two-door, four-seat fiberglass concept was both a design and technology pioneer of its time. The long hood with sloping nose and recessed headlamps from the bumper was a revolutionary automotive style. Its “wing-type” rear fenders would preview cues later found on the 1959 Buicks. The Centurion also featured front seats that would slide back when the doors were opened, and it even previewed a screen in the dashboard that would display images from its rear-view camera.
Its design is unmistakably inspired by 1960s futuristic aerospace influences and though it was based on the earlier Firebird IV concept, the Century Cruiser had its own significance. Aside from a refrigerator, television set, and front luggage compartment that adjusted for easier access, this concept previewed autonomous driving, something the industry is still working on today. When the driver enters an “automatic highway,” the car was said to automatically drive its occupants to their exit, using a punch card with programmed route. From there, the driver would take back control of the arm-rest-mounted control grips. The Century Cruiser also previewed a long-range two-way telephone designed for hands-free use.
Designed by Bill Mitchell, the Silver Arrow III was based on a production Riviera, but showcased many advanced features, including four-wheel anti-lock brakes and a Max Trac traction control system that paved the way for today’s traction control technology. The exterior had a lowered roofline, restyled quarter windows, and six halogen headlamps for better nighttime driving. The Silver Arrow’s plush interior eliminated the need for fore-and-aft driver seat movement with its adjustable pedals and telescoping steering wheel.
1988 Buick Wildcat
Reviving the Wildcat name used on the trio of concepts in the 1950s, this edgy prototype had a fully-functioning version that served as a Buick test and data platform. Distinctly styled with a long rear deck, the Wildcat had no traditional doors, but a canopy that raised and lowered to allow access for its two passengers. Behind the cabin and powering all four wheels sat a McLaren engine based on the Buick 3.8L V-6, with 24 valves, dual overhead cams, and port fuel injection. A head-up display cast a wealth of driver information onto the large windshield. The Wildcat’s body was constructed of lightweight carbon fiber and fiberglass.
Inspired by the Buick Y-Job, the Bengal concept is a sleek roadster displaying retro cues and beautiful proportions, with its wheels pushed to the corners. A small third door behind the driver’s door opened to reveal storage space for golf bags or seating for two additional passengers. The Bengal’s interior was freed of the usual gauges and buttons, using a reconfigurable color head-up display and relying on voice-activated commands or use of a joystick on the steering wheel. It was powered by a 250hp supercharged 3.4-liter V-6 engine paired to a six-speed transmission.

In conclusion, we will pass on the last two but wish the other ones were manufactured. Happy Motoring. The End. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays from Koolhouse Publishing

The staff at Koolhouse wishes everyone a happiest of holidays and a wonderful New year.  While some of us may not get that 1963 split window Corvette or gasser race car in the garage from Santa, we will still be content with the old iron that presently is parked in the shed.  Meanwhile, our gift to you is  this sexy Deluxe Gal screen saver by photographer Jack Criswell. More of these gals to come in 2014.  Zoom Zoom .  Happy Rodding and always drive safe! Thanks  for all your love and support !

Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP Stuart Hilborn

Our deepest regret at hearing this news rodding would never have been the same without Hilborn.
Stuart Hilborn (b. 19 October 1917, Canada, d. December 2013 California) was an automotive engineer who became interested in amateur racing on dry lake beds before World War 2. After the war, he began experimenting with ideas for mechanical fuel injection and tested them on his own race cars.  After a crash that broke two of his vertebrae, Hilborn gave up racing but only a few years later, his injectors were adopted by professional racers with notable success, including the first to break the 150-mile-per-hour mark. Starting in 1949, Hilborn-equipped cars claimed dozens of victories at the Indianapolis circuit.
Hilborn eventually started a company to sell his injection systems to the public, which became popular with hot rodders of the 1950s and 1960s. A classic mechanical Hilborn injection system is recognizable by its distinctive flared velocity stack intake pipes, rising straight up from each cylinder, flared at the open top, and usually polished or plated for a bright, shiny finish. Today, that company continues to provide performance products including mechanical and electronic fuel injection systems.
Hilborn was inducted into the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Hall of Fame, as well as the HOT ROD Magazine Speed Parts Hall of Fame. According to Hilborn Fuel Injection’s Facebook page, which announced the news of Hilborn’s passing at age 96, Hilborn is survived by his wife Ginny of 60 years, along with his daughter Edris and his son Duane, 4 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.