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Working With Smokey Yunick, Part 3

Some of the most visited pages on our site are those relating to Smokey Yunick. It seems everyone is interested in his Hot Vapor engine as well as the stories behind the man. He was a true inventor and built some controversial cars as well as some outstanding race cars. There are books and stories about Smokey but it is seldom that you get the opportunity to visit with someone who actually worked with Smokey. Today we continue with Part 3 of a short 3 part series from a guest Blogger, Andy Zabrodsky.

Part 3

He liked my 3D illustrations of his engines in exploded views that we put up on the wall as we were putting these engines together.  All of the big three USA auto companies were very interested.

Just in case I didn’t already say; at the time I was with MotorTech, the vehicles that Smokey had the Hot Vapor Cycle up and in running condition were:
-Dodge Omni 2.2L
-Pontiac Fiero 2.5L (Note: This is the Fiero in our Feature Car pages.)
-Volvo Sedan

On this Hot Vapor design, I remember the Chrysler 2.2L I-4 cylinder was perfect, the exhaust and the intake were on the same side of the block making it easier to create connecting exhaust jackets.  There was a water jacket under the carb (180′), then the compression in the turbo would create a temperature gain, plus the [turbo(check valve) unit] had an exhaust jacket, just as the intake manifold, getting the fuel mix to 440 plus temp; no liquid, no detonation.

The toughest part in making it into mass production was just changing Smokey’s hand made 3/32nd radius and making them 3/16th or larger.  See Smokey was a hell of a fabricator but in production we had to convert sheet aluminum into molds or die limitations. We were pretty much done on the 2.2L bolt on version when I left. That was the dumbest thing I ever did, but the wife wanted to move back to lovely Philadelphia.

So as of October 1984, the 2.2L package was pretty much on paper and ready for mass production.  The hardest part was getting Crane to get off a mass supply of their new rat tail cooling line stock that was located in the plenum under the carb.

The Hot Vapor Dodge Omni would dust anything on the road and stay cool. They actually installed the smallest available radiator and got 50 miles to the gallon. That’s because it was so efficient. It used the exhaust heat to heat the incoming fuel, you never had to worry about detonation because the gasoline was no longer liquid but an even blended gas at 460’F. It also used radiator fluid in its first stage, so the air being sucked into the carb was also cooling the fluid. Incredible! It’s all pluses; once you see it and understand it, it makes total sense. Why every 4 cylinder today isn’t using it, I don’t know. This was back in the Carb years and the emissions were golden to, because you didn’t have to squeeze the pedal since there was so much power, just waiting for you. It was mind blowing. I thought by now I would have seen some home built versions on the drag strips, but I haven’t.

Think about it, we are talking about the carb generation and I bet it would pass today’s emissions. That is all I can think of now, thanks for re kindling my admiration of the Crane Cams company, I never did get the chance to meet AJ, but I did see Richard Petty in his 200th race win; that’s actually, why I moved to Daytona.

What was nice about working at the Crane Cams building in 1984 was, that is was right down the street from the Daytona International Speedway on Fentress Blvd.  Back then you could walk in and sit anywhere in the main grandstands and eat your lunch.  I used to see testing done, at no charge.  If it was in between events, it was wide open, its a little different now. If nothing was going on, you could watch the airport and just gaze a the vastness of that great track, you could here echoes of history as you admire the size of the worlds most famous tri-oval.

I assume that you know that Smokey was a was Fireball Robert’s Mechanic.  When Fireball died in a NASCAR race, Smokey immediately retired from NASCAR. Fireball drove the beautiful black and gold #22 Pontiac.  I was instructed to never mention the NASCAR years. Smokey and Fireball were best of friends.

The End

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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