When you talk about hard-to-get jobs, astronaut or NFL head coach are probably two of the first to come to mind. We also figure there aren't too many dolphin trainers out there (but didn't care enough to do any research to verify).
One really cool job that definitely has a lot more applicants than openings is engine builder—or assembler—for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation. Cup operations have over a hundred people working in the engine shop, but only a select few are chosen to oversee final assembly.
Forster Fry was a member of that select group for several years. Fry joined Richard Childress Racing as a cylinder head specialist in 1995 and moved up to engine assembler shortly after that. During that time Fry worked with famous engine builder Eddie Lanier and assembled engines for 2000 and the one and only Dale Earnhardt Sr. It's a pretty impressive resume, if you ask us.
Fry left RCR to work for himself building houses, but he never quit building engines. In fact, he went back to his roots—and our backyard—and helped out short track Saturday night race teams, particularly NASCAR Late Model Stock racers.
Fry says he continued to build engines mostly as a hobby because he wanted to stay connected to the sport he loved, but also noticed how many people racing at the Saturday night level could benefit with some of the knowledge he'd gained from years building engines at NASCAR's Cup Level.
"When I first got started in racing, I was always looking for ways to learn more and build better engines," Fry says. "Heck, I even took classes myself. So when I looked around and realized that there really wasn't anything geared toward the guy who wants to build his own race engines, I thought I might be able to help out a bit with that."
The result is Fry's latest venture, the Race City Engine School (RCES). Fry's new school is geared toward anyone looking to learn how to build Saturday night-level race engines or even just wants to advance their skills as an engine tuner. Fry uses a very hands-on style of teaching, accepting only two to four students at a time for a two-day class. Stations are set up around the RCES facility so that students can gain hands-on experience for everything from measuring and installing bearings to blueprinting a carburetor. That's a lot to squeeze into two days (that can last up to 12 hours each depending on the student's stamina) but Fry says that by concentrating on race engines only, he can pack in a lot in a little bit of time.
"By the time you get done with this school," he says with a laugh, "you will either be an engine builder or you can't wait to pay someone to build one for you."
Fry says that students typically travel in on Friday, or even earlier if they want to visit race shops or nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway. Saturday is the first day of class and focuses on the short block. Topics include the different types of blocks (stock vs. Bow Tie vs. aftermarket such as Dart), cleaning file-fitting rings, fitting bearings, how to degree in a cam, and checking endplay for the crank and cam among other things. Students return for day two on Sunday when Fry covers cylinder heads, valvetrain, and carburetors. This time around students get a primer on cylinder head porting and testing results on a flow bench. Fry also covers in detail how to blueprint a carburetor, installing valves and springs, cc'ing a combustion chamber and other critical areas of knowledge for a race-winning engine builder. Of course, because he maintains the extremely small class sizes, Fry says he is able to tailor each class to the needs of the students.
While talking with Fry he agreed to show us a few tips he teaches his students. Obviously, there are books that could be filled with what Fry is able to teach in the span of two days, but we did want to offer up a few highlights. For more information on the Race City Engine School, check out the resource box below.
The Simplest Way to Degree a Cam, Ever
The standard method for degreeing in a cam is what's commonly called the "Intake Centerline Method." Just like it says, this route requires you to determine the intake centerline of the intake lobe and then map out the opening and closing points from there. After you've done that you can calculate the duration.
Fry begins by installing a degree wheel and finding top dead center of the number one pist
By checking the cam card, Fry determines that the intake valve should be open 0.050-inch w
Now, Fry uses the degree wheel to position the crank at 22 degrees BTDC. Valve lift at thi
If you are using a timing set like the popular Cloyes Hex-A-Just this step isn’t necessary
Offset keys are a common method for advancing or retarding camshaft timing and available f
Once he’s found the correct key, Fry installs it and locks down the timing set.
But Fry teaches a super simple method for quickly degreeing in a cam. It's practically a single step. Fry's method sets the intake opening at the correct point and relies on the cam grinder to do his job correctly. Since this method won't tell you the duration, it works best when reinstalling a cam on a rebuild and you already know that cam has been ground correctly. Here's the down-and-dirty on the process:
Measure Oil Rail Drag
Some engine builders will try to crimp the ends of the separator rail, but that can lead t
Building competitive Late Model Stock engines is all about reducing parasitic losses (drag) anywhere you can find it. The smart engine builders are even going so far as to choose oil rail separators that create the minimum amount of drag against the cylinder walls while still providing adequate oil control. But before you can do that you have to have a way to quantify just how much drag an oil rail separator creates. Here's the method Fry teaches his students.
Fry begins by assembling just the oil rail on the piston, he also lubricates the cylinder
Fry installs the piston upside down and pushes it to the bottom of the cylinder bore. He t
It can be hard to monitor the scale while you are concentrating on making a steady, even p
Cylinder Head Porting is starting to become a bit of a lost art now that advancing technology is making CNC-ported heads so affordable. But there is still some value in understanding what's going on. For example, Fry teaches his students that just a little bit of port work in the chamber can be just as worthwhile as in the ports—especially with a Chevrolet 23-degree head. Plus, porting the chambers is a lot easier than trying to work inside the ports.
One of the biggest problems with a stock Chevrolet small-block port is shrouding around th
Now here’s a chamber that’s had a bit of work done to it. Notice how the chamber wall has
In this area, Fry teaches students how to assemble heads, perform basic port work, and eve
Trying to squeeze everything into two days of classes mean efficiency is a must. To help k