Jim Smart
February 18, 2010

Never before have we learned more about engine building and power production than we have with Marvin McAfee and MCE Engines. That said, we're about to learn something refreshing about how to look at how power is made. When we're planning our engine projects, we don't give enough thought to how power is made. In fact, as bench racers, all we can think about is high-rpm, foot-to-the-floor horsepower. However, there's a whole lot more to performance than just horsepower. There's also torque and durability. Torque is your daddy on the street. And without durability, all the horsepower in the world won't help if you scatter engine parts all over the asphalt.

When you're planning an engine build, the first question to ask yourself is what do you want the engine to do? When MCE Engines was planning the 427 Raptor, Marvin knew exactly what he wanted the engine to do-and, when we went to the dyno at Edelbrock, it did exactly what he expected it to do. Being magazine guys with bold cover headlines in mind, we were thinking 600-650 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque because these are numbers that sell magazines. And, these are very typical numbers for street-going, weekend-racing 427ci small-blocks that go together in car magazines. However, this isn't what Marvin had in mind.

MCE Engines had torque, durability, and horsepower in mind and exactly in that order of priority. Marvin will pointedly tell you power isn't worth a damn without durability. And if given a choice between power and durability, Marvin will go for durability any day because you can build more power into durability.

We will tell you the road to the dyno wasn't an easy one. We got into intense conversation with Marvin about power because we were seeking at least 600/600 and Marvin was thinking more like 550/550. Marvin was thinking of road racing and we were thinking of awe-inspiring circulation numbers from hot cover blurbs. Bench racing logic was, if 550 was enough, then why wouldn't 600 be even better? Marvin smiled, then, invited us to patiently wait for the dyno room.

Build For The Job
Our argument with Marvin about desired horsepower numbers really wasn't our fault. Madison Avenue has been brainwashing us for a century about horsepower. Horsepower always has the spotlight whenever a new car or truck comes out or when car magazines build engines. We all promote horsepower. However, horsepower isn't always the most important dynamic, especially on the street and certainly in road racing. Horsepower is a key element in drag and stock car racing at high rpm. On the street and in road racing, we need abundant low- and mid-range torque, because that's where our engines operate most of the time. Torque is what gets us started at the traffic light and onto a freeway. Torque is also what spanks the other guy when we're flexing muscles from traffic light to traffic light. Torque is what launches. Torque is also what gets the road racer out of a turn and back up to speed in short order. Torque is fundamentally nothing more than shear grunt, the kind of power you make with your upper leg muscles. And once torque gets us going, it hands off to horsepower at high rpm where an engine takes off like a bat out of hell. In a road-racing engine, we need liberal amounts of both torque and horsepower. We need an engine that can do both without faltering or breaking.

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