Exactly one year ago, in Engine Swaps Winter 2013, we predicted that after an unorthodox victory pulled off by Justin Dermody and Shane Sherman, Holley would seriously revamp the Engine Swap Challenge. Why? Because Justin and Shane won in a record-breaking fashion that, while adhering to the letter of the competition's rules, seriously tested their limits.
In case you missed our coverage of last year's Challenge, Justin and Shane employed a plethora of innovative, timesaving tricks that allowed them to swap engines in their Trans Am in a scant 31.57 minutes. The most nefarious trick was the custom engine perches welded to the F-car's front subframe that positioned the engine and transmission at nearly 45 degrees, allowing them to easily slip the old engine out and slide the new one in place. The severe driveline angle limited them to idling the newly swapped car around Beech Bend Raceway's facility, and that's about it. Like we said, they conformed to the rules but just barely.
To change things up and place more emphasis on the mechanical aspects of the swap itself, Holley provided the two cars for this year's Engine Swap Challenge, rather than allowing the teams to bring cars they'd had an opportunity to prep ahead of time: a pair of secondgeneration Camaros, purchased from Florida and nearly identical in spec, both with a small-block Chevy and TH350 transmission. Holley engineers inspected each car, pre-wired Holley's HP EFI system and upgraded the fuel system to deliver the necessary fuel pressure. Up for grabs was a 6.0L crate engine. All you had to do was beat the other team swapping it into the Camaro. No pressure, right?
This year's competitors were chosen by Holley from applications submitted to Holley.com. Here, Holley's Sr. Product Manager Jay McFarland (far left) discusses some preliminary details with the two teams: Adam Leigh and Pete Eskew, and Keilum Griffin and Michael Edwards (left to right). Adam and Pete are both technicians at GM dealerships, so they know their way around new engines. Keilum is actually an IT guy by day but is an avid car enthusiast away from his computer, and Michael has been a mechanic at an independent shop for 25 years.
HorsePower, part of Spike TV's PowerBlock, was filming the competition to air later this year. Both teams were interviewed by veteran host Joe Elmore.
Prior to the start of the competition, both teams were allowed to inspect the engines to be swapped so they could formulate a strategy. The engines would need to be partially disassembled to fit onto the engine hoists Holley provided.
The two cars chosen by Holley were hidden under tarps; none of the competitors knew what he would be working with prior to the start of the competition. At exactly 10 a.m. on Saturday, Holley's Bill Tichenor
fired a blast from a rally horn signaling the beginning of the competition. Note the box resting on the car cover. Holley disguised both cars this way to prevent people from guessing the make and the model by the car's silhouette.
With the covers off, the teams wasted no time getting to work. As required by the rules, they had to start the cars to verify each Gen I Chevy ran properly. They cranked the engines, and then shut them off within seconds of the engines catching. No need getting the coolant or oil any hotter than necessary. Keilum must have drawn the short straw; he was dirty a few seconds later draining the coolant and loosening the bellhousing bolts.
On the other side of the fence, Adam and Pete seemed to be pulling into a slight lead, bolting the provided Mac's Pivot Plate to the small-block and hooking up the hoist. Note Adam's crunched knuckles. These guys were hustling.