Another reader recalled a story Smokey provided CT back in 1984, dealing with his "hot vapor" engine. Although signed "anonymous," the writer posed the question about "why all these great ideas to improve engine performance rarely make it into production." Rather than take issue with this statement, we prefer to reference some material previously provided in this little monthly column. But first a couple of thoughts.
There isn't necessarily a disconnect between the OEM and landscape of "inventors" that populate the automotive community. In fact, including those provided by Smokey, there are numerous concepts either pioneered or largely developed in the motorsports arena that found a home in OEM-produced vehicles. That's a matter of record. While his "hot vapor" engine produced an array of combustion efficiency benefits, it would've been (or was believed to have been by the OEM who reviewed his findings at the time) a significant economic step and commitment from then-conventional powerplant technologies. There's no doubt the concept worked. I was present during some of the dyno tests and drove the car. In fact, I recently learned it's still around and functional.
The point is that as the convergence of fuel prices, environmental regulations, on-board electronics, and a host of related technologies evolved into their present and collective state, the essence of efficient combustion is undergoing significant study at levels ranging from the academia to the OEM. Fundamental postulations advanced from Sir Harry Ricardo (in the 1940s) to today deal with air/fuel charge conditioning, both before and during combustion, are still the basis for how we currently view this process.
Over time and on the pages of this magazine, we've touched upon the need for and simplified ways racing engine builders can both understand and address optimizing combustion efficiency in their engines . . . and we plan to continue doing that. The fact of the matter is that once combustion is initiated and moves past the ignition delay period, a so-called "chain reaction" continues for the duration of a given combustion cycle. If liquid fuel droplets aren't both reduced in size and caused to be more uniform in size, both the rate of this reaction we tend to loosely call "burning," and its completeness can be penalized. Unwanted pressure spikes and otherwise "uncontrolled combustion" can lead to numerous problems, including damaged parts and lost power. So, by whatever means at our disposal to break down fuel droplet size, it's critically important to do so. Since we're dealing with very small time increments to complete a given combustion cycle (made less so as engine speed increases), the goal of finely-atomized fuel is acute to optimizing brake power.
As racers, we tend to look for quick and easy ways to address the fuel atomization issue, knowing that the smaller the droplets, the better the chance of achieving efficient homogenization of air/fuel charges and improved combustion. While the heated air in Smokey's "hot vapor" experiment introduced air with less oxygen content (by volume), this was amply offset by significant improvements in fuel atomization that resulted in reduced emissions and measureable power increases, each of which occurred at lower rpm.