Mose Howland - Ford interview 2009-12-09

This Week in Ford Racing December 9, 2009 Noted Ford Motor Company engine engineer Mose Nowland says initial results from the first developmental version of the new Ford Pro Stock engine following its debut in Pomona, Calif., last month have...

This Week in Ford Racing
December 9, 2009

Noted Ford Motor Company engine engineer Mose Nowland says initial results from the first developmental version of the new Ford Pro Stock engine following its debut in Pomona, Calif., last month have more than met expectations. Nowland, who has been with Ford since 1955 and has been involved in many high-profile projects both in and out of racing, led the development of the new engine, and says that this is an important project for the company. The engine, which competed in the two Cunningham Motorsports Ford Mustangs in the NHRA season finale', are slated for on- track testing on December 14th and 15th.

A MONTH AGO WHEN YOU WERE DISCUSSING THIS PROJECT, YOU HAD A GLINT IN YOUR EYE. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY ABOUT ALL OF YOUR PROJECTS, OR DOES THIS ONE HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOU? "Well, this project had a little special place for me because it's something I thought was good for the company, and we hadn't been doing it. We hadn't been involved since the Gliddens retired, and that was my last involvement. But, I run across a lot of people in my trade that say, 'Hey, how come we're not in Pro Stock racing?' Well, it's never been for me to decide, and I've often wondered if we ever would. Under our new management, our venues of racing have changed, and, by golly, Pro Stock has come up again. So, with my desire that I thought it was important to be there, and given the chance to get us there, that's what [made this special]."

THERE IS A NEW ENGINE, THE FR9, IN NASCAR, AND THE FORD 500 WON THE FUNNY CAR FINALE' AT POMONA. YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS PRO STOCK ENGINE; IS IT BECAUSE THIS ENGINE BETTER CONNECTS DIRECTLY TO THE PUBLIC? "Exactly. First of all, we've got the new 2010 Mustang, which we're sure it's going to be a big hit with our customers, and secondly, it's a good flagship for this particular series of racing - and all it takes is an engine. So, that's why last December we set about designing a new engine for it. And the engine design was kept simple, a lot of experience and past features went into the engine because we were pretty sure they worked and were reliable. And that's, I believe, the most important approach that got us there in the shortest time that we've spent."

SO, LAST DECEMBER WHEN IT WAS PRESENTED TO YOU THAT FORD WAS GOING TO GET BACK INTO PRO STOCK, DID THAT COME AS A SURPRISE, OR WERE YOU KIND OF EXPECTING NEWS LIKE THAT? "We can't say that we were totally surprised because management coming in also identified the importance of NHRA and how it connects to the working man, the man in the street, and our products are there. So, it was ready and we just followed through with it. The fun- loving challenges of getting there as quick as we can, as cheap as we can and as successful as we could."

LAST DECEMBER, WAS THE PLAN TO HAVE THIS ON TRACK BEFORE THE END OF 2009? "At the outset of the program, there were no parameters. Brian Wolfe came to me and said, 'What do you think? How long will it take?' And I gave him the estimates, very conservative estimates that extended it a little bit longer, but then indentifying shortcuts and so on and the desire to be there as quick as we could, hopefully for the full 2010 NHRA season, which it looks like we're going to make very well. That's what got us there."

THE FR9 NASCAR ENGINE HAS BEEN REFERRED TO AS A CLEAN-SHEET ENGINE. IS THIS PRO STOCK MOTOR BUILT FROM A CLEAN SHEET, OR WAS THERE A BOX PROVIDED BY THE NHRA IN WHICH IT NEEDED TO BE? "Actually, it was a clean-sheet design challenge. The thing of it is, NHRA really doesn't have a box that constrains you in the design of the engine. There's a limit - 500 cubic inch, two valves per cylinder, two four-barrel carburetors, and a 4.900- inch bore spacing - and that's about what you follow. So, given the experiences of yesteryear of strength, of durability, RPM required for that quarter-mile run, it was just put it together - and with the advantages of compacted graphite iron, we were pretty well assured that we were going to have the strength."

WAS IT EASIER OR HARDER TO CREATE A CLEAN-SHEET ENGINE, AS OPPOSED TO TWEAKING ONE THAT IS IN A BOX? "In most cases it would be a more difficult task because there are a lot more things that you would have to go validate to make sure that you were safe in putting the features in there, but in our particular case, because it was an NHRA Pro Stock engine, we looked around at what our competitors had and made contacts with potential future teams, found teams that were very willing to work with us that had not worked with Ford before, so we had a lot of suggestions from them. I can't say that the ideas in the complete engine were all mine - I had a lot of good, trustworthy recommendations, and when I researched them, the folks were being very straight with me that they were good features. So, rather than re-invent the wheel and wondering if it will work or not, those are the parameters that we sort of followed."

THE ENGINE DEBUTED IN NOVEMBER AT POMONA. HAVE THOSE ENGINES COME BACK HERE? HAVE YOU TORN THEM DOWN? WHAT DID YOU FIND? "The engines came back, and in both cases - we had two cars out there with the Jim Cunningham Motorsports team, one driven by Jim himself and the other by Erica Enders - and both engines came back stronger then when they left, and that's typical of a race engine. If the engine lives it will generally be stronger by a few horsepower when it gets back. The engines have been torn down, and so far, to date, even through Magnaflux and crack detection, the engines are sound. They are going back together, and, in fact, they're going out testing with just a fresh set of gaskets in them."

WHEN THE ENGINES RETURN, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? "The first thing you want to do, in the initial launch of the design in true application, you want to make sure that all the parts and components are in harmony with each other - no fretting material, no metal transfer, fits and finishes are remaining as manufactured, there's no conflict in the engine that would drain you of horsepower, in other words, high-friction areas and things like that. You look at the performance of the engine on a dynamometer, you look at the performance on the track, and then you disassemble the engine and examine every piece, every moving part, carefully, to see that it is as you designed it and it retained its integrity after that treatment."

WHAT ARE THE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF THE ENGINEERS AT THAT POINT? I'M SURE YOU HOPE TO SEE 100 PERCENT PERFECT. "The realistic expectation is that when you look at a used part that has been used within reason and not run short of coolant or oil or anything that, you would like to think that you could put the engine back together with a fresh set of gaskets and that you would have a reasonable number of competition life in that engine."

SO, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS ENGINE MET - AND MAYBE EXCEEDED - YOUR EXPECTATIONS WHEN IT CAME BACK FROM POMONA. "So far. So far it has. The engine, as I can recall, has had in the number of 50 to 60 dyno pulls on it and then in the weekend at Pomona it saw probably 14 launches from the start line, and for usage and then a look-see that's a pretty good workload."

WHAT IS THE TEST SCHEDULE FOR THAT ENGINE THIS WINTER, BEFORE IT COMPETES AGAIN IN 2010? "Both teams of our active teams that have engines assembled are doing test trips in the southern, warmer states. I believe one of our teams is testing this December 14th and 15th in the south where the tracks are free of inclement weather; they will test for two days. And we have to remember that we're still trying to get acquainted with a brand-new car, because the teams had new chassis built from the ground up to take the installation of the carbon fiber Mustang body. So, they're brand new from bumper to bumper. Once we get off the test trips, again the engines will get looked at and the chassis will be gone over, every weld will be inspected, every fastener for tightness, and will be under scrutiny and things of that nature."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Cunningham