The Real Story of the McGee Quad-Cam Engine
By Henry Walther
|John Kilburg photo, Indy 1984|
I have told this story before, but it appears that it is time to repeat myself.
Contrary to the popular sport of blaming everything on those dastardly villains in Glendora with the devious minds, the real reason the McGee Quad-Cam engine fell off the NHRA circuit was because Chris and Phil McGee just flat ran out of funds to continue their project. At the time that this happened the engine was somewhat protected by being 'grandfathered' into the NHRA game. They (NHRA) had allowed it to compete at national events for seven years, as I recall, so if the McGee Brothers had wanted to continue on there would have been potential legal implications if the NHRA had suddenly banned it.
In truth, the pressure to banish the engine came more from the racers. Fuel car racers circulated a petition among themselves at Columbus the year before the ban, calling for it to be ruled illegal based on a number of untrue speculations (too expensive, too hard to service, etc., etc.). Fear of the unknown was the real culprit. That petition was signed by all in attendance except Kenny Bernstein and Jim Head. We (the McGee team) held a show-and-tell session for representatives from NHRA where we disproved all of the unjust claims. The petition died, but the seed of fear among the masses had been planted. When the McGees dropped off the circuit the following year and stopped running the car, the quad-cam engine was quietly legislated out of competition with the printing of the next rulebook. With it went the projects from others like Sainty, Benjamin, and Schubeck.
Interestingly enough, the cost for a complete McGee quad-cam engine was within a couple of hundred dollars of a then state-of-the-art Keith Black late model Hemi. When the supposed "twice as much" cost claim arose, the brothers had yet to put a price on their engine. They had to sit down and figure out the price of building one for sale. What many people failed to realize was that the McGee engine at that time used many of the same internal components as the KB 426 engine. Because of that, there was also none of the rumored complaints from the manufacturers.
The history of our sport is fascinating. It is even better when it is accurate.