THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business - Mar. '15

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March 2015 n Performance & Hotrod Business n 51 "Within the next few years, all top and second rings in OE engines will be steel. Our AP (for Advanced Profiling) steel rings are much flatter, and can be made to tighter tolerances. They accept coat- ings that iron rings don't like. Manufacturing rings with steel is cleaner and quicker, with less scrap, and it's more environmentally friendly. It isn't cheaper yet, although that will come in time." Race engines have used steel rings for several years now, and the OEMs, says Jones, are "making little race engines for the street. I'm looking at a factory stock piston on my desk right now, and it has a 1mm top ring, a 1.2mm second, and a 1.5mm oil ring. That's NASCAR oil ring technology in a street car." What's made this technology practical at the OE level, according to Jones, are the automakers' signifi- cant advances in quality control. But ultra-thin, steel ring technology has been slow to arrive in the street performance market. "The street is the toughest environment for a per- formance engine," Jones explains, "because we want it to go wide-open like a bear on fire, and we want it to cruise like it's stock. Race engines don't have to do what even serious street perfor- mance engines have to do—and that's cruise at part throttle and idle. Remember, vacuum is the enemy. So if the customer is building a bracket-race engine that might be street-driven once in a while—where, say, 95 percent of the time it's going to run with the throttle wide open—then that customer can get away with a really light, low-drag ring package and low-tension oil ring, because there's little or no engine intake vacuum. "But if I put that same ring package in a '33 coupe that's cruising to the drive-in, I'm going to have problems," he contin- ues. "On the freeway that engine is pull- ing 10-14 inches of vacuum, and up to 16 inches at idle. That vacuum is looking for oil. And if I have a 7- or 10-pound oil ring in an engine that was designed for a 20-pound ring, that vacuum is going to find oil real fast, and the cus- tomer is not going to be happy—because the engine is smoking, burning oil and coating the back of the (Photo courtesy JE Pistons)

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