What defines a Race Engine? - My Coy Miller Stage 2R Engine Story
In all of my wildest dreams, I would have never guessed that having a race engine built would become one of the most on-going, time intensive, and fruitless projects that I have ever embarked upon in my entire life. But after almost 2.5 years, I can honestly ask the question – “What makes a race engine, a race engine?”. To answer that question, I have to analyze the facts, and look at my current situation to determine that my race engine is NOT a race engine. Why, because it can’t be raced. In fact, 2.5 years in, it currently doesn’t even run, much less power the car at a speed most normal racers would consider a race pace. I also have to ask myself how I allowed myself to be sucked into a guy’s shop, and become his R&D department, AT MY OWN EXPENSE…
So read my story below. Many of you will look at my profile and say well, this is his one and only post, therefore he must be a troll on this message board. This is America and you have the right to believe and say that. But it still doesn’t remove the fact that my so called race engine, built by a shop that advertises their engine packages as “Race Engines” doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked, and to be honest I have no clue when it will work, or when I’ll be able to drive my car again.
In August of 2003, I spun a bearing in my original 3.8L engine in my Super Coupe. This happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway while attending a NASA event. I had wanted to upgrade the engine for more power, and figured now was the time to address that and pursue my power gains.
So, I contacted Coy Miller. A well respected member of this board, and someone who is considered to be an expert with the 3.8s. Coy and I talked on the phone and I explained to him that I was Road Racing the car, and not drag racing the car, and Coy did not see that as an issue and felt that his Stage 2R race engine would match my power goals. So, we decided to proceed.
For a little preliminary history, at the time I took my engine to Coy, my car had a full roll cage, former Winston Cup t-bird front end, large Griffin Radiator, larger fuel pump, Brembo 4 piston calipers, etc. And I had been running the car on the track for almost 2 years.
So I took the engine to Coy in September ’03. Once again, when I dropped the engine off, Coy and I had a discussion about how I use my car on the track, and that it was a Road Racing application, and not a drag racing application. In January of ’04 I received the engine back, and had it re-installed in the car. We plugged Coy’s PCM program into my PCM, put it on the dyno, and within a short period of time blew the head gaskets.
So, the heads went back to Coy, and he returned them in May ‘04 rebuilt – no charge. Head Gaskets blew again. So this time the whole car goes to Coy’s shop. This gives Coy a good opportunity to look at the whole setup - the fuel pump, radiators, intercoolers, etc. While Coy has the car, the Magnum Powers supercharger dies. So we have to contact Charles at Magnum Powers to get the supercharger rebuilt. Keep in mind here that the supercharger barely has any time on it, other than dyno time, and probably less than 10 laps on the track. It was determined that my PCM was bad, and Coy recommended going to the Electromotive TEC3 for engine management. OK, no problem. My friend had it on his Porsche 911 turbo and had good success with it, so we went forward this plan.
So in August ’04 Coy takes the car to HP Werks in Colonial Beach Va for tuning (excellent shop by the way, and Larry is VERY helpful). Larry notices car isn’t getting enough fuel, and that we need bigger injectors, and a larger fuel pump. Now, Coy selected the injectors, and when he had the car, evidently never took the time to look at the fuel pump to see if it could deliver enough fuel. In the process of diagnosing fuel delivery on the dyno, the head gaskets blew AGAIN. So we get a bigger fuel pump/injectors, and Larry makes a recommendation that I need to increase the size of the fuel return line back to the tank. So the car goes back to Coy’s…. Again….
Oct ’04, Coy takes car back to HP Werks Dyno, belts keep snapping. At this point I’ve spent about $300 on belts. Coy’s response to this – “Belts are a normal maintenance item that you’re gonna have to keep an eye on.”. Man, I’ve barely driven the car, and I’m replacing belts already… Hmmm…
November ’04 – back to the dyno with the bigger fuel pump, bigger injectors, etc. We’re still having belt issues, and then, the glorious Magnum Powers supercharger dies again…. 2nd one, and the car has barely any time on it.
Feb’05 I received the rebuilt supercharger from Charles at Magnum Powers, took it to the track. I can’t remember how many belts we put on the thing, so I’m gonna say 6 conservatively. The car never saw full boost, and I never got a complete 20 minute session in on the track because I’d make 2-3 laps, and the belts would break. These were Goodyear Racing belts by the way, not some cheap NAPA belts.
June ’05 – went back to the track to try again. Still breaking belts, and after 3 attempts on the track, I cracked a head. To be fair, my temps were a tick high. Car goes back to Coy. And Coy has the car for 16 weeks. Coy gets the car ready for another dyno session, completely tore down the engine and built it back up. I paid him in full as soon as the work was finished, and he took it back to the dyno in Sept ’05. At this point my frustration level hits an all time high when my Magnum Powers supercharger, built by Charles at Magnum Powers, locks up AGAIN. The 3rd one! And the car has seen very little more than dyno time. Coy’s response to the issue with the supercharger is as follows and is an exact quote :
“You can polish a turd, but it is still a turd.”
That is how he describes the supercharger that HE has selected for his Stage 2 engine. Coy followed that by saying that this “has been a learning experience for him” – yeah AT MY EXPENSE. To add more fire to my frustration, Charles at Magnum refuses to warranty the part, or refund my money, and yet he admits – and I quote - “I guess that supercharger isn’t going to work for your type of application.” So here I am with a busted up supercharger, that I can’t get any money for, and can’t return, but yet I am left holding the bill for a part that won’t work. Once again, I guess Charles’ R&D budget came out of my wallet.
Sure Coy helped me out a lot early on by rebuilding the blown heads, etc, but this package has costs me so much in fuel costs, towing up and down the road to/from Harrisonburg, Va, additional components, additional labor with Coy, etc, it is completely ridiculous.
So at this point (Sept ’05) I don’t know what to do, its been 2 years, and I still don’t have a running engine, but I’ve got a ton of money stashed in this engine that doesn’t run. So I ask Coy to help me get this thing resolved, and to make his Stage 2 package work as advertised (meaning last more than a few dyno runs). Coy says he can’t help me out, and doesn’t see any reason why he should be obligated to, and that I should go to a Pro-Charger or a Vortech. Coy says that the problems aren’t related to the engine, but rather to the piece of junk superchargers built by Magnum Powers.
This is where Coy and I disagree. In my view the Stage 2 engine is a package. Because a VW Jetta probably puts out more power than this engine does without the blower. The engine is useless without the blower. So these are not 2 mutually exclusive parts. The engine has to be combined with the blower to make the power.
Forward to December ’05. I sit here looking at my car, and think of all the money that I spent with both Coy and Charles, and considering what I’ve gotten for my money, I’d say I haven’t gotten much, and as of yet, can’t identify why I as a customer am at fault for this situation. I’ve paid Coy up front many times for the work, or paid him virtually immediately after being notified that work is finished. There’s no way Coy can say that I’m the source of the problem here because I’m just the customer. I brought my car to a professional that was regarded as an expert with my engine. Well, I’m an expert/professional carpenter by trade, and if I treated my customers like this, I would not be in business for long.
So this leads us back to the question – “When is a race engine actually a race engine”. Coy advertises his shop as “Coy Miller Race Engines”. I’ve got a so-called Coy Miller race engine. But will it ever race? Can it race? How can an engine builder take my money, look at the situation I have described above, and continue to claim no responsibility, and continue to advertise that his engines are race engines? Anyone?
For you guys out there. Store this story away and reflect on it when it comes time to spend your money. Spend it wisely, and consider your vendor, and whether or not he’ll stand behind his parts, his package, his work, and whether or not he has the support of his vendors. On his site he advertises that these engines are built the “CMRE Way”… I guess my expectations of “his way” were too high…
I’ve got some pics I’ll post later. I’m not an internet guru or anything, so I’m not sure when that will happen.
If you have any questions though, please feel free to call me.