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Hemi Hunter's Top Fuel Tales

Blowers, Huffers, or 6-71s,
They'll All Do in a Pinch

By Gary Peters

Was just at the test center and a guy stopped me who has a blown street rod. He needed some advice on rebuilding it. It gave me the idea for this week's story. Gary.

Like most of us, we started out dragging and racing with multiple carburetors for a means to get the fuel and air into our engines. There was nothing cooler back in the '50s than to have a 3-2 intake with three carbs on our hot rods. A little set of chrome pots for the air cleaners, and the sides of our hoods left off to display the ultimate system. Or you could arrange with a friend to ask you to show him your trips. You could then pop the hood open at the hang out. After that, it was off to tooling around on the city streets. You would pick the route through an underground tunnel and dump the two end carbs to create that low WHAAAAA sound, which impressed the guys cruising with you.

Next thing you know, Detroit comes out with the same setups on their factory hot rods. So being creative, we move unto two 4-barrel carbs and intakes. What do the big three do? They follow suit again. So now, the really swoopy guys installed fuel injection. Yes I know; Chevy had it back in '57. I mean the real fuel injection like the Hilborn stuff. When you pulled into the burger hangout, that would mystify the best of the factory hot rod crowd. Never mind that the car was hard to start even on cool days; you were making a statement to everyone. This here baby is a big time honker. Don't mess with me and my piece.

I remember about three or four guys had a setup like that. I even knew a fellow who had a setup for a flathead. We in the know would stand around, fire up the car, and adjust the idle and fuel mixtures just to look cool. Anyone of those Hemi Cudas from the factories could have blown our doors off with ease. But because of the injection, no one challenged. Of course, the supreme system was the 6-71 supercharger. Back then, no one had that on a street driven car like the street rods have today. Even at the races, when someone had a blown car, the rest of us would stand and stare in amazement. We would think, "My goodness. How do you graduate to running a blower? What knowledge that must take."

The heroes for this type of endeavor were legends in their time. Stone, Woods and Cook. George Montgomery. KS Pittman. And of course the Dragster folks. I would stand and watch the guys put that breaker bar into the front pulley to turn the engine over to adjust the valves. What knowledge and expertise they have acquired. Little did I know that in later years that would be me. At the time, I never noticed the bandages on some of their fingers. When we built our first blown car, we bought our first blower. After we lifted that baby into the air, we knew we needed to look for another means to acquire blowers. We just couldn't afford to keep buying new ones. We found a supply at the Navy yard. We would buy a 6-71 from the Navy surplus stock. Seems someone in the Navy knew what we knew and had 6-71s on some of the old PT boats. We paid fifty bucks for the first one through a bidding process.

Now the blower housings were a kind of greenish color. If you could find a colored picture of our car back then, you would recognize that rather ugly colored blower mounted on the engine from time to time. It also came with a large ninety degree shoulder on the one side. I would take it apart, machine off that one edge, rotate the rotors end for end in the case, and adjust the rotor to case clearance. You would do this by leaving out the dowel pins locating the front and rear bearing plates. You would tap the end plates until you had equal distance from the top to bottom of the case. You could then ream the dowel pins to the next larger size and reassemble the whole thing. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the gears. If you were lucky, you would find a 6-71 with the steel gears on the rotor shafts instead of the cast gears. If you had cast gears, you would remove them and install the steel gears. These blowers were never meant to be twisted to 10,000 RPM. So you needed the steel gears to maintain the timing between the rotors.

You would need a gear puller for each gear. You would install them on the front of the gears to remove them. But before that, you would need to break loose the bolt holding the gears onto the shafts of the rotor. The trick was to stuff a rag between the rotors to keep them from spinning when you removed the bolts. You would stick the rag in the top or the bottom depending on which way you were turning the gears. After you re-assembled everything, you would spin the rotors to see if everything was correct. If you spun the rotors inside the top opening of the blower, the results were usually black blood blisters under one or two finger nails. This was because you would pinch your fingers in the rotors. If you spun the rotors from the front gears, you had the chance of running the tips of your fingers through the center of the two gears. This sounds like a pretty dumb and stupid thing to do, but let me tell you that when you do it, it really hurts. Somewhere from deep inside of you comes this terrifying scream.

I showed a couple of locals how to re-build blowers over the years. One of them was a friend who owned one of the local Speed Shops. His name was Bud Friend. He is still in business today with the Speed Shop, now a NAPA store. The week after I showed him how to re-build a blower, I went back to see how he did. He had the bandages on his fingers. He did the running through the gear bit. He said he never experienced anything so painful. I showed the Lewis Brothers how it was done. I saw them with their fingers bandaged at the next drag race. I saw another of my so-called pupils one time with the black fingernails on his left hand and the bandages on his right hand fingers. He accomplished the impossible; he did both at the same time. I asked him which one hurt more. He just looked at me as his friend held the beer bottle to his lips, as he took a long swallow from the bottle. Jeez, if looks could kill, I wouldn't be passing this little bit of wisdom onto you. I always told everyone to watch out for this phenomenon that I called "blower screaming." It seems that anyone who's rebuilt a blower has the pinching and screaming down pat.

So, my friends, if you go to a drag race or to a street rod meet, look for the cars with the huffers on their engines. Casually look at their fingers. If you see bandages, you'll know he has just rebuilt that blower. Or, he just might have the scars on his finger tips if he rebuilt it years ago. And those blackened nails take a long time to grow out, so you can look for them. The trick to spinning the blower is to use a wrench on one of the bolts on the front of the gears. Just don't bend the tab over on the lock washer until you're done spinning. A speed wrench and a socket works fine also. Always put your opposite hand in your pocket. I know this looks dumb and not too cool, but trust me, it's the best thing to do.

There is something about a blower sitting on a work bench all rebuilt and ready to go. The things are like a magnet to the guys at the garage. All you need to do is spin the thing over while some guys are hanging around. Remember, you know the secret to that spin. Next just walk away and do something else. Don't look at anybody hanging around the blower. Just stand aside and whistle a little tune, you know, like the theme from the show ER or something like that. Before you know what's happening, you'll hear that blower scream. Keep some bandages handy and some ice for those finger nails. You know, now that I think about it, 3-2s are still pretty cool, and they went and built those long tunnels through the mountains years ago.

Gary Peters


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