Racing Oil Pans - A Baffling Experience

A New Oil-Pan System Cures Pressure Drop Caused By Deceleration And Hard Braking

Sky Wallace Jun 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)
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The large Titan Speed Engineering Sportsman oil pump nestles snugly in the back of the pan.

We can attest to the fact that the difference is dramatic. We got to watch a demonstration during the Indianapolis Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show, and the closed trap doors, while slowing the fluid down, still allowed a lot of it to slip past. This seepage was substantial even with only gravity pulling on it, leading us to wonder what it would look like when the g-forces of deceleration were factored in. The new "Baffle Balls," on the other hand, stop the oil dead in its tracks, holding absolutely all of it in the sump for the pump's use. With the theory seemingly sound, an on-track test of a Baffle-Ball pan was the next thing on the schedule. It's here that the fourth company got involved.Steve Collins is the production supervisor at Chris Alston's Chassisworks, and he has a primered, high-8-second '66 Chevelle that, aside from providing Collins with loads of fun, has also occasionally served as a Chassisworks test bed. Needless to say, traction has never been much of a problem for this car, and with a nitrous-fed, 460-inch big-block from Gianoli at Reggie Jackson's Performance Engines, it has power to match.

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Collins had a great time that evening at Sacramento Raceway, making a half-dozen, nitrous-aided passes in the 8.8-second range at close to 160 mph with his primered '66 Chevelle.

However, Collins had noticed the oil-pressure drop mentioned earlier. As soon as the brakes were applied, the pressure in his existing oiling system would go from 60 psi down to around 25 psi. It always recovered once the car was almost stopped, but needless to say, the downward movement of the gauge's needle was causing him great distress. He put in a call to Gianoli to discuss the problem, and Gianoli mentioned the new developments at Billet Fabrication. (Many of the motors built at RJPE feature the products of Titan and Billet Fabrication, so Gianoli had been following the process closely.)

At this point, Collins immediately offered the use of his heavy Chevy as a test mule for the new design. The Titan pump was retained, the existing pan was scrapped, and the first purpose-built Baffle Ball pan was installed.

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Here is the test Baffle-Ball pan, bolted up and ready for its successful racetrack debut. Although the pan looks identical to the non-ball-equipped Billet Fabrication pans, it certainly sounds different!

Aside from the ignition system, this Chevelle lacks any over-the-top electronic devices, so Collins mounted a video camera on the rollcage and aimed it at the dash to keep track of the readings of the oil-pressure gauge. And the following Saturday, Gianoli and his shop rats showed up at the Chassisworks facility to warm the motor and run the valves. Then, with Chris Alston in tow, they all headed out to nearby Sacramento Raceway to proceed with the testing.

As soon as the car pulled into the water box, one of the shop helpers leaned in and activated the video camera. Keeping a close eye on the gauge, Collins then went through his usual pre-run procedure, staged, and cranked out an 8.86 at 155 mph. His grin when he got back to his pit area seemed a bit wider than usual, but it wasn't only because of the results.

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Although Collins kept a close eye on the oil-pressure gauge, he also mounted this video camera to record the gauge's readings for everyone else to see.

"The pressure stayed right at 62 pounds the whole time, and it has never done that before," he said. "But it was weird. I started hearing this clunking sound before the run, and I thought something must have broken. I was going through the possibilities in my mind, wondering if I should shut it off, when I remembered what we were doing out here. I rolled forward and hit the brakes, and sure enough, there it was again. It was the balls doing their job, and I just started cracking up. I've never heard an oil pan working before!"

Collins made a half-dozen runs, and the oil-pressure needle stayed steady the whole time the motor was running, whether on the gas or on the brakes The videotapes of the runs were reviewed, the experiment was declared a success, and Johnston was notified.

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Between runs, Collins discussed the proceedings with Reggie Jackson's Performance Engines honcho John Gianoli, center, and Chris Alston.

The enthusiasm of all those who participated in this test session prompted Johnston to file for legal protection on his new product. With a patent now pending for this application, he then brought the demonstration Baffle Ball pan to the aforementioned Indianapolis PRI Trade Show for its official introduction to the motorsports world. Representatives of other oil-pan manufacturers were among those crowding the Billet Fabrication booth throughout the course of the show. And the sound of the balls slapping back and forth, coming from the hands-on displays, probably drove the other vendors within hearing range of the booth completely nuts by the time the event was over.

The elegant simplicity of the Baffle Ball design caused many folks to mutter, "Now, why didn't I think of that?" According to Johnston, it also led many others to place orders on the spot.

Indeed, the number of Baffle Ball pans that have been ordered since November confirms the widespread nature of the pressure-drop syndrome, and the pent-up demand for a solution. And somehow it's fitting that this seemingly concrete fix for the problem was revealed through a batch of concrete!


Jeff Johnston's Billet Fabrication


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