The Buddy Turbo Story

Ingersoll's Pinto: 1 Turbo, 4 Cylinders and 132 MPH

Article as written in January 1979 issue of Car Craft Magazine

The Ford Pinto has recently fallen upon hard times. A basically sound, economical transportation car, the Pinto has endured the abuse of second-rate comedians, zealous consumer advocates and, more recently, the nation's courts. But there is at least one satisfied Pinto owner who'll never collect a dime as a result of a rear end collision. It would take a nine-second piece to rap on Buddy Ingersoll's back bumper. Even that's an unlikely proposition, since the car gets quicker with time, and few drag racers are ever cited for following too closely. But Pinto owners interested in going faster may wish to follow closely as we dissect the inner workings of Ingersoll's low-10-second AA/MC 1974 Pinto -- a car that leaves like a Pro Stocker and pulls away from V-8's on the big end.

Zeigler, Illinois, seems an unlikely location from which to assault the ranks of any racing organization, yet local garage owner Buddy Ingersoll has done just that. When NHRA's Modified Compact class was introduced, the AA/MC standard was closer to 12 seconds than the current 10.40/125.69 set by Buddy way back in mid-1977. Running against a 10.45 index, the car has gone as quick as 10.13 and holds the record for what Buddy calls, "the most factored car in NHRA history." A nine second Pinto without V-8 power seems a virtual impossibility, but Ingersoll's ears are closed to that kind of talk. He knows what it feels like to follow a screaming four-thumper through the lights at upwards of 132 mph, and he knows the admission requirements for joining the stable of the fastest accelerating vehicles this side of NASA's space fleet.

Part of what it takes is hard work and lots of practice. With no major cash sponsors, Buddy has to rely on his experience and know-how to remain in the contest. Practice means racing as much as possible and testing the rest of the time. Buddy has more runs on his car than most bracket racers, and, like fine wine, it gets better with age. Besides the regular championship points trail, he tries to make every national event no matter where it's held. His philosophy is, "You can't earn points or win money if you aren't there, and if you're going to be there, you might as well win." During much of the year, the car's second home is the back room at Racing Head Service in Memphis, Tennessee. The Pinto's power modules are regularly R&R'd at Racing Head's facilities, and Buddy is quick to credit what he feels is the single greatest contribution to the car's success: the enthusiastic involvment of Racing Head's bossman, Scooter Brothers. When Buddy and Scooter screw their heads together, you can bet the result will be a horsepower gain, no matter how small. Scooter performs the cylinder head work, and he often handles many other engine building tasks when Buddy is strapped for time. Watching the two together is enlightening. Ocassional light-hearted banter punctuates serious discussion directed at a thorough examination of each and every piece going into and coming out of each motor. The conversation is often choppy, but not difficult to follow. "Look at this ...." "Feel that ...." "Wonder why it did that ...?" "What if we tried ...?" Buddy's joking but intent manner is a perfect foil for Scooter's personable, intelligent approach, and the business of gettin' down to business goes on into the night. He who stands still quickly falls by the wayside, and the pair constantly strives to keep ahead, to keep that all-important racer's edge.

According to page 66 of NHRA's Official Guidelines for Drag Racing, Buddy's Pinto must carry 18.5 pounds for each cubic inch of displacement, use only one of the officially listed turbochargers and fun without the aid of fluid injection to combat detonation. Therein lies the crux of the problem. At a minimum weight of 2294 pounds, 124ci motors sees a lot of weight to be moved, even if it is turbocharged. Detonation negates the effects of nearly everything you do, so its suppression becomes a prime consideration. Turbo boost makes the horsepower, but it gets more complicated than that. By limiting the racers to selected turbochargers, NHRA has effectively blocked the true path to top performance with these engines. In theory, the engine's output will be greater at a lower boost pressure if a larger compressor housing is used. It still provides boost pressure, but it doesn't heat the charge as much as a smaller compressor, thereby providing a cooler, denser mixture for the engine to burn. Water or alcohol injection provides the cure to super heated intake charges with smaller compressors, but it occupies the forbidden list, so a racer's choices are limited. Ingersoll currently uses and AiResearch turbocharger with an A/R (aspect ratio-the ration of turbine inlet or outlet sizr to the diameter of the turbine wheel) of 1.32 and a compression ratio of 7:1. Learning to get the most from this allowable combination has been an expensive and exacting task for Buddy. With his present equipment, the limits are sharply, defined. At 26 pounds of boost, the engines make good power and can live long enough to finish a race. At 27 pounds, the grenade.

Even within the rules there are options available. The rulebook says nothing about intercooling the intake mixture after it is compressed, a procedure proven to provide significant gains. Camshaft, compression and ignition changes accompanying intercooling may reveal even more power. Different ring combinations are another option. With gas ported pistons, boost pressure can really hold the rings against the walls even under slight detonation. This is surely a power producing procedure, but often at the expense of wiped cylinder walls after only a few runs. The number four cylinder has been seen to suffer excessive wall damage with gas ports. The problem is often remedied by using fewer or no gas ports in the number four hole. These and other remedies are essentially crutches that permit maximum performance under the rules, a necessary evil. Perhaps future gains will come from a closer inspection of techniques used in turbocharged USAC cars, a racing fraternity where turbocharging expertise is abundant.

Anyone who has even seen this car leave the starting line knows that it make plenty of power, but hooking it to the pavement is what makes the car e.t. A full 28 inches of Goodyear rubber is planted by torque funneled through a 20-pound Hays flywheel to a Doug Nash 5-speed. Torque multiplication in the trans is further amplified in the nine-inch Ford rearend by a 6.50:1 Schiefer gearset. These driveline pieces form a virtually unbreakable driveline. Ring gear life with the light car is good, leaving plenty of time to concentrate on components that require more attention.

What we learn from all of this is much more than the basics of making a Pinto fly. A greater part of making it all happen stems from one's desire to make it happen. Countless hours of tedious, often repetitive work are rewarded by more of the same. In the face of all this, one must continually strive to better each piece on the car. Winning races is as much a thought process as anything else, and the ability to closely examine and analyze each facet of a car's performance with an eye toward improvement is a unique but learnable trait. Buddy Ingersoll has learned the process and follows it religiously. Judging from his performance to date, it's only a matter of time until this car runs in the nines.

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