After sitting out all of last season, the HemiFord Thunderbird is now back together. Over the winter from 2010 to 2011 I spent a fair amount of time (and money of course!) updating the engine combination in the TBird hoping to find more horsepower. After a fairly successful couple of days on the dyno at Larson & King, I felt pretty good about my prospects. 

Unfortunately my enthusiasm was short lived. At Woodburn dragstrip for the first race of the season, the engine broke a lifter while Tony and I were warming it up in the pits. I was standing over the engine as it was idling when I heard a load clattering. I looked under the valve cover and found that the intake valve on #4 cylinder was just barely opening. This was on Friday morning about 2 hours before our first qualifying run. As bad as it was, it could have been worse… it could have happened under full power during a run. Count your blessings, right!

So my weekend was done. Nothing left to do but take the car back to the shop and get it ready for the next divisional race at Pacific Raceway. The damage to the engine wasn’t too bad. No real damage to the block… just a few minor nicks. One rod cap was damaged when it traped a hunk of lifter wheel between it and the block so I replaced it. The cam needed to be reground and obviously it needed a set of lifters. So I cleaned it all up and put it back together.

The weekend before the race at Pacific, Tony and I were running the engine here in the shop. Everything seemed to be working perfectly. Then while the engine was just idling again it broke three lifters and tore the timing belt in half. At that point I decided that I wasn’t going racing until I figured out why the engine was breaking lifters. I think I have it all sorted out now. I’ve fixed or replaced everything. I’ve changed some of my assembly methods, and I’ve double and triple checked every clearance. I think my lifter problems are behind me now and it’s going to stay together now.

Our first race will probably be at Woodburn in July. In the meantime I’ve still got a couple of upgrades to make in the driveline. I should be ready with plenty of time to spare. Stay tuned… ~Cliff

Steve Denbo

Well after 50 years of drag racing and 37 years with the NHRA, Steve Denbo decided it was time to retire. 2011 was a pretty rough year for Steve and for health reasons he has decided it is time to slow down. I met Steve about nine years ago when I moved from Southern California to Vancouver WA. I needed to renew the certification on my A/A Thunderbird’s chassis, so I called NHRA to find out who the tech was in my area. They gave me Steve’s name and number. He came to my shop, tagged my car,  and we’ve been friends ever since. Continue reading