Ingersoll's Pinto: 1 Turbo, 4 Cylinders and 132 MPH
Article as written in January 1979 issue of Car Craft
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
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.
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.
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.