Beneath that stern, intimidating glare and impressive stature is a man with few equals in the realm of cylinder head expertise. There are probably a few people who know more about cylinder heads than Judson Massingill, but since none of them are willing to talk, their existence is inconsequential. That's not exactly PC, but maybe it's just Judson's 100-percent B.S.-free demeanor rubbing off on us.
If you want answers, this straight-shooting Texan will give 'em to you in pure, unadulterated, and unfiltered form. Best of all, he's usually right. If you aren't familiar with the name Judson Massingill, there's no need to question his credentials. He and his wife Linda run the School of Automotive Machinists in Houston. The school's unique curriculum is strictly dedicated to the art of building high-end race engines. So successful is the program that some of the top race teams in the country, like Hendrick Motorsports, John Force Racing, Cosworth Engineering, Warren Johnson Enterprises, and DEI, all rely on Judson's graduates to put them in the winner's circle, and Nextel Cup teams enlist him to do development work on their heads.
Judson got his start like most hot-rodders, building engines in his garage and testing them on the street and at the track. Always pushing the envelope, he combined his street savvy with a university education in the quest to build more potent motors. In the heyday of the musclecar era, Judson prevailed in enough street skirmishes to pay for school with his illicit earnings. He was soon building engines professionally, but got sick of spending years training employees only to watch them quit and start their own shops. Realizing he was essentially training people for free who later became his competition, he turned that concept into a business by starting up a hard-core vocational school. Here are his words on cylinders heads, ranging from the most basic of principles to the most advanced of theories.
One of the more controversial areas of cylinder head theory is swirl, but it's a concept that packs more hype than substance. Swirl proponents say it contributes to a more homogenized air/fuel mixture, which eliminates lean pockets and reduces the potential of detonation. However, Judson isn't too convinced of its merits. "Experts can't even agree on how to accurately measure swirl, and every device that measures swirl affects it somehow," he says. "Promoting swirl adversely affects inertia and flow. While it may help with gas mileage, emissions, and to some degree power, optimizing quench is a much more effective method of homogenizing the air/fuel mixture without the adverse effects in airflow associated with swirl." In other words, quench trumps swirl every day of the week.