Henry "Smokey" YUNICK
Grainews ( July 1983 ) -- p. 27
Smokey’s New Hot Vapourizing Engine Creates Heat in Detroit
By Brad Dennis
What engine is smother than an electric motor, meets all emission standards without electronic equipment, produces 2 horsepower per cubic inch of engine, can deliver 60 miles per gallon and weighs only 170 pounds?
Well, it’s the development by a researcher I’ve written about in previous articles – Smokey Yunick.
This article updates the status of Smokey’s Hot Vapor Fuel System. That right: hot vapor fuel. I’ve hammered at this theory in a number of articles for over two years.
This little motor really is a GM V-6 engine block cut down to a V-2 cylinder. It’s turbocharged and feeds hot air and vaporized fuel to its cylinders. One of the most unique aspects of this design, as well as having GM engineers talking to themselves, is that this hot vapor system operates so there’s no detonation.
The first thing that strikes you about this engine is its size. “Seventy-eight cubic inches and 170 pounds”, says Smokey. Another surprising thing: There’s no cooling fan. In fact, there are only two quarts of water in the entire system, including the tiny radiator.
Smokey calls it his “Phase I adiabatic engine”. Adiabatic is an engineering term that refers to any process in which there’s no gain nor loss of heat.
A completely adiabatic engine isn’t possible, but the closer you get, the higher the engine’s efficiency and the better the fuel mileage. In other words, the less heat energy generated by the burning fuel that you throw away through the exhaust and cooling systems (much like the vehicles we all drive today), the more energy there’s available to move the car.
The Secret is in the Plumbing
Despite its obviously sophisticated makeup, the engine is surprisingly simple. Don’t look for exotic materials, novel mechanical linkages or unique structures. You won’t find them.
Although the experimental engine is hand-welded from aluminum, that isn’t the way a production unit would be made.
The accessories, including the carburetor, are mostly pickups from around his shop. There are no electronic devices. Smokey prefers to avoid them. So, his engines run with simple carburetor and breaker points. Yet, the system fully meets all emission standards. Consequently, manufacturers could eliminate all those expensive, ridiculous converters and air pumps.
The secret of the engine’s remarkable performance is its unique three-stage heat recovery system, which accounts for the strange-looking plumbing.
In essence, Smokey uses part of what would be waste heat in a conventional engine to preheat the air-fuel mixture before it reaches the cylinders for combustion.
To understand how this system works, follow Figure 1 through the cooling jacket lines to a boxlike structure under the carburetor (this device is just a heat exchanger). Smokey calls this the first-stage vapor generator. All the air-fuel mix from the carburetor passes through it and is heated to over 200 degrees F. This increases fuel vaporization for much smoother systems.
At this point, Smokey begins to cut across the grain of accepted induction and combustion theory, or at least now he’s writing a new chapter: Remember, normally, intake charge temperatures rarely exceed 130 F.
Smokey’s innovation has a slightly different twist than most vapor carburetion designs. He incorporates a small turbocharger which he calls a homogenizer. The compressor side of this unit is jacketed with a metal envelope. A pipe from the exhaust system vents hot gases into the envelope. This heats the intake charge even further.
Smokey’s engine introduces a hot charge into the chamber, so there’s less chance for the mixture in contact with the walls to cool below its burn temperature.
The third and final preheating takes place in the intake manifold. Smokey describes it as “a shell over a shell, a heat exchanger or a superheater”.
By the time the mi passes through the heated manifold, its temperature has reached 440 F.
Smokey explains the second function of the homogenizer this way: “When the intake mix confronts this high temperature, it begins to expand. The tendency without the homogenizer would be to back out of the carburateor. It’s the homogenizer’s job to hold about half a pound of pressure on the manifold. It acts as a one-way valve”.
Smokey describes his tests with fuel vaporization: “On the flow bench and on the dynamometer, we’d pull out a sample of air-fuel mixture mixed by the standard carburetor, and you couldn’t punch a stopwatch fast enough before the mixture started to separate into a liquid and air again. But, when the mixture goes through the entire heated process and then through the homogenizer, it’s 20 minutes before it starts to settle out”.
This is the reason why heated vaporizing systems produce a drastic reduction in unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, which are the two major emission problems in autos. They are caused primarily by two things: charge stratification and surface quenching.
Stratification occurs when the fuel mixture separates into two distinct lean and rich combinations or layers. The homogenizer prevents this by creating a uniform concentration of fuel in the charge.
Surface quenching occurs because the temperature of the combustion chamber wall is lower than that required for combustion. This cools the mixture in contact with the surface below its burn temperature. Thus, combustion remains incomplete and the unburned hydrocarbons are expelled with the spent gases.
What everyone, including the major car engineers, would like to know is why Smokey’s engine doesn’t destroy itself with abnormal combustion or detonation.
Detonation occurs when either the temperature or the pressure in a combustion chamber is too high. Inside the hot chamber reactions become so rapid that uncontrolled, often destructive, combustion begins to occur in parts of the chamber rather than smooth, progressive burning. These rapid reactions produce high-frequency pressure waves that beat against the combustion chamber walls, causing the vibrations we know as knock or ping.
The high-temperature mixture in Smokey’s engine should cause severe and damaging detonation. The only way to reduce this condition would be to reduce the temperature and/or pressure, or at least use a higher octane fuel.
At least this is the only way we’ve ever been trained to think. That’s right! We’ve been led down a narrow path of engineering expertise, without being allowed to design other methods simply because the engineering manuals say, “That’s not possible”. Smokey defies commonly accepted thermodynamic theory by adding heat, pressurizing and running on regular unleaded gasoline, and his engine won’t detonate. The engineers from Detroit are confused about why this motor won’t detonate. It’s quite simple: If the air and fuel are both heated and thoroughly vaporized into a homogeneously heated mixture, there can be no dissociated liquid fuel particles; hence no detonation.
In its simplest form, if the fuel is in a true vapor state and can be held that way before combustion, there can be no detonation. The fuel in a true vapor state has a much higher resistance to ping, while still using a low grade of fuel.
Smokey’s contradiction of all conventional theories on detonation and fuel behavior have stirred enough excitement to bring top executives and engineers from Ford, GM and Chrysler, as well as from several foreign builders. Most of the top-level executives from the big three have driven the car with Smokey’s hot vapor engine and, since some of the test drives, there have been checks for as much as $200,00 for short-term options on the design.
Smokey’s problem with these contracts was the unwillingness of interested companies to… [ page 31 missing ]
Hot Vapor Cycle Engine - HVCE
The Adiabatic Engine
This page is a translation from the Swedish "Hot Rod Magazine". It was published 1984. The article was in two parts. The first described the story about Smokey Yunick and what he had done in the past. The second article described the Hot Vapor Cycle Engine. The author of the article was Anders "Bostic" Envall and the photographer was Anders Albinsson. The translation from sweedish to english was made by Hans Schou in april 2002.
Henry (Harry, Gregory) "Smokey" Yunick was born on May 25, 1923 in the Maryville area, Tennessee. Died in May 2001.
"I worked on my motorcycle and I was racing on a half-mile track. I didn't do a very good job as it was smoking like a SOB. The guy had forgotten my name, so when I got to doing pretty good he started calling me 'Smokey'. One of the guys I worked with was there when he called me Smokey. When I got to work the next day, he kept calling me Smokey. Before you knew it everybody was calling me that. The nickname stuck." -- Smokey Yunick
From: Tad Barteau
Mr. Unick built a small v-twin four cycle engine that was conventional except for the addition ot three devices that were known, understood and unpatentable. At the time he was trying to patent the new techinque of using these three devices together and only described two of them in the article for the sake of security.
I asked Smokey about the adiabatic engine that we all know about and he replied, "The adiabatic engine is parked, 'cept the U S Army looked at it in April '98. I doubt much will come out of those meetings."
Adiabatic Of, relating to, or denoting a reversible thermodynamic process executed at constant entropy and occurring without gain or loss of heat. Reference: Yunick Adiabatic Engine. Smokey Yunick has invented an adiabatic engine. It was mentioned in the 2000-11 issue of Popular Science ("FYI", page 89). We have heard about, but not yet confirmed a mention in the 1983-04 issue of Popular Science as well.
Did you happen to hear about "Smokey" Henry Yunick's adiabatic engine? He holds several patents related to the article I saw in the April 1983 issue of Popular Science. He managed to get 150 Hp and 60 MPG out of a 78 ci. 2 cyl motor. The article even goes on to say that one of the "detroit boys" were donating a car (chassis) to him for testing. Of course you've never heard about this since. Check out patent #4,862,859 and his related patents.
...discovered that one of the main components was Smokey's "homogenizer." Actually, it is a low-pressure turbocharger installed in the intake manifold just after the carburetor. In essence, the "homogenizer" is one of the components in his design of an adiabatic engine. Although it may have been able to pass the emissions tests in its day (1983), it probably could not do so today.
From: [email protected]
I met Smokey Yunick at a seminar at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 88 or so and asked him about this project; the engine he used was a Mopar 2.2, and the engine had one fundamental problem- he said that there was no oil that would last for a satisfactory length of time in operation except for mil-spec jet engine oil, which he said was $98 a quart at the time. I haven't heard anything about this project since then.
Half as big, Double as good -- Smokey's impossible engine.
Img1: Ah, Bostic and Benson, Welcome! After three decennier(?) Smokey Yunick opens his secret door. He is ready with his livsverk(?) and world patent at the same time. Behind this door the automotive industry will see a change of the future...
The legendaric Smokey Yunick is not just a world champ in fusktrim(?) He is also genious. The best prove so far is called the "Hot Vapor". A new engine which will revolutionize the hole automotive industry. Smokey's self constructed 2 cylinder engine gives the double horsepower as a standard 4 cylinder engine of the same size. Further more is uses much less fuel and exhaust much less polution. Hot Vapor is almost too good to be true. But an enthusiastic Bostic is convinsed. It is true!
Img2: ...here is all the cooling water guided through to heat up the fuel mixture at the same time as the water looses its heat... Smokey Yunick is in a bestående(?) adiabetic period. Some levels above all other people as usual.
Img3: The fine thing about the Hot Vapor engine is that is a conventional construction. We find normal components even that the most of them has been fitted extreme påfretsningarna(?). The idea is that one should be able to convert a standard engine to Hot Vapor! But Smokey mostly like the 2 cylindred, which is a modified Buick V6.
Think about this: Your friend has a frän(?) Golf GTI. Ou-ou. 110 horses 4 cylinder. 0-100 km/t in 10 seconds and a fuel usage in about 0.70 l/milon the high way. Your friend is happy.
You have also a Golf. A 2 cylinder with 150 horses! 0-100 in 9 seconds. Fuel consumption? Yes, unbeliveable 0.39 l/mil. Mixed driving!! You are more happy than your friend.
Fantasy? Misspelled? Ciffor-fitting?
No, no, no! Welcome to the future. Today!
Welcome in the back of Smokey Yunicks "Best damn garage in town", Daytona beach, Florida. Things happened here...
After 32 years of work the project is ready. Smokeys livsverk(?). World premier. World patent.
Hot Vapor Cycle Engine. A new engine... Prototypes has been running in 18 months in different cars including "your" Golf. The result is amazing.
Compared with well known engine types the Hot Vapor has an almost impossible combination of properties:
* Less number of cylinders
* More horsepower
* More torque
* More clean combustion
* Less fuel consumption
What to say about this equation?
As Smokey is the father of the Hot Vapor engine, we have to make one thing clear: The engine is not constructed with racing in mind.
Not yet as Smokey says which implies that we should not be chocked the day the hat and boots shows up at Indy 500 with a tuned Hot Vapor.... V2? V4? V6?
No, this can result in more significant changes than the result list at Indy. This can result in a change in the hole automotive industry in the world. Will we go to move around in cars, trucks, MCs, boats etc. powered by Smokey Yunicks patent in the future? This is the idea behind it all.
If we should start on a soft track and try to describe how this new engine works. Not easy, kept in mind that only two persons knows about it. Smokey and his right hand svenskättade(?) Ralph Johnson is reserved for the important details until they really got the world patent. Such things take time.
The theory have actually been known for long by engineers all over the world and we should keep in mind that thousands of engineers have tried to build this engine. All have failed. Besides Smokey.
He actually calls the project "Phase 1 adiabatic engine".
"Adiabatic" is a technical term which describes the process where there is neither a gain or loss of heat.
A full adiabatic engine is not possible but the more heat which can be used during the process the more effective the engine becomes. In all aspects.
Most of todays engines uses only 25% of the potential heat energy in fuel. The other 75% is just lost in exhaust, cooling etc. This is just what have retat(?) Smokey and all other engineers. To be able to use more heat energy have been the target. Heat is the keyword.
The engine construction is traditional. We find a engine block, crankshaft, stakar(?), pistons, top block, camshaft, inlet, exhaust, etc. The good old components are here, despite fitted for the Hot Vapor. The fact is that one should be able to convert a normal engine to this Hot Vapor version.
Besides building a 1-, 2- and 3-cylinder himself, Smokey has successfully converted existing 4-cylinder engines. See table.
Car/engine Fuel consumption 0-100 km/t
Plymouth Horizon, 4-cyl& 1.00 l/mil 14.5 sec.
Plymouth Horizon, Hot Vapor. 0.43 l/mil 6.5 sec.
Pontiac Fiero, 4-cyl 1.07 l/mil 14.2 sec.
Pontiac Fiero, Hot Vapor 0.46 l/mil 5.9 sec.
The thing which makes the difference between a Hot Vapor and a normal engine is by first view an advanced pipe system. It is just in this pipe system everything happens. Here happens what have given the project its name: "Hot Vapor". Here happens the heat förångningen(?) of the fuel and air mixture. The trick! To heat up the fuel. It happens in three steps.
In hot air
On the wall in Smokeys office is an exploded drawing of the 2 cylinder engine which is placed in the Golf. We take that engine as example. Smokey takes his glasses from his hat and put them on his nose and starts pointing and talking...
It should not work with any fuel injection it is very important with a caburator to hinna(?) prepare the mixture properly. he explains. Here happens the first heating says Smokey and points at a box below the caburator which omslutar(?) first part of the inlet pipe.
All water in the cooling system is forced through this box. All water is just 2 liter inclusive the radiator(?). There is no fan at all. Adiabatic... When the mixture has passed the box and is heated up to 90° Cit comes to the second step.
The homogenizer says Smokey and points at an exhaust turbin wheel which is connected to an inlet turbin wheel. Aha, like a turbo, yes? I nod to the cowboy hat so he will think that I can follow him. Smart guy and so on. No! Not turbo! he says a little offended. A homogenizer it should be. The purpose of the homogenizer is to fully atomized the fuel air mixture to an extreme fine vapor. Otherwise it would be impossible to futher heat up the mixture. When the mixture has passed the turbin wheel it is more heated. Partly because of the friction and partly because the homogenizer is incapsulated in the exhaust system. The mixture is now 140° C.
Next step is the inlet system which is totally incapsulated in the exhaust system. Here the mixture gets heated up to 230° C! Now things starts to happend.
Here it expands like hell Smokey explains and thinks that the fuel vapor expands a lot at this temperature. Exactly as we want to. Ofcourse. Here the homogenizer has a futher role: to be a back valve, to hold back the pressure which comes from the expanded fuel mixture. Without this back valve the top will be thrown to Orlando... well.. Besides the homogenizer presses with 0.45 kg. When the mixture reaches the combustion chamber more than 25% of the energy "is ready to go" (230° C). And with full compression, before ignition, the mixture has reached the extreme 820° C. After this comes the spark.
You see says Smokey, what forces the piston down is not the heat, it is the pressure... Because of the heat I hopefully reply (to win back some valuable points). Thats right says Smokey and put the glasses on his hat and go sit in his chair. The boots is naturly on the table. Thats about the story he says and light his pibe.
There is something missing in Smokeys Hot Vapor engine. Actually the engine should destroy it self. Most people knows that too high temperature in the combustion chamber will let to spikes(?) (uncontrolled self ignition in the combustion chamber) if not the fuel has the highest octane class. But with those figures Smokey forces up in the combustion chamber, no fuel in the world would be able to save the engine. At all.
Even though it runs good on unleaded regular gas. Not a single spike! Be welcome, you are free to guess. Because here is Smokey like mummie. The solution to this problem is the keyword to the patent. Real secret.
It is really quite simple, and I am carefull not saying too much. This is the only way I can be sure nobody knows how the system exactly works says Smokey who not just get visitors from sneaking news papers.
GM, Ford, Chrysler and many foreign car manufactors comes around in "Best damn garage in town". To stress test Smokeys test cars with the new engine. It is the best engineers from the manufators who show up andd they come several times. Smokey is laughin. They come back because they can not get the engine to spike. Some of them does everything to get the engine spiking. No one has succeseeded.
A technician drove about 30 km/t in highest gear and suddently pressed the throttle. The only thing which happend was that he drove from everything that day.
Some of them turn of the engine and starst again and gives full throttle. Wheel spin. Others just get speed champs at the high way in hunt for spikes.
Apparatus and Operating Method for an Internal Combustion Engine
Classification: - international: F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18; F02B1/04; F02M15/00; F02M25/07; F02M29/00; F02M31/02; F02B1/00; (IPC1-7): F02M31/08 ; - European: F02M25/07J4L; F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18
Abstract -- A method and apparatus for operating an electric ignition, internal combustion engine that substantially improves the fuel efficiency by utilizing heat normally discharged to the ambient to condition and prepare the fuel mixture prior to entry into the combustion chambers. The apparatus comprises a fuel vaporizer that transfers heat from the engine coolant system to the fuel mixture as it leaves a fuel introducing device such as a carburetor; a fuel mixture heater for heating the mixture above the vaporization temperature of the liquid fuel; and, a mixture homogenizer for thoroughly stirring the fuel mixture that is located in the fuel mixture flow path intermediate the vaporizer and heater. The homogenizer is operative to compress the fuel mixture under certain engine operating conditions and the heater forms the intake manifold for the engine and includes branch flow paths and associated conduits that communicate directly with each combustion chamber through a valve controlled port. The fuel mixture flow path from the homogenizer is constructed to minimize energy losses to the ambient.
Fuel Conditioning Apparatus and Method
Classification: - international: F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/08; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18; F02B1/04; F02M15/00; F02M25/07; F02M29/00; F02M31/02; F02B1/00; (IPC1-7): F02M31/00 ; - European: F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/08L; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/10B; F02M31/18
Abstract -- A method and apparatus for operating an internal combustion engine that substantially improves the fuel efficiency by utilizing heat normally discharged to the ambient to condition and prepare the fuel mixture prior to entry into the combustion chambers. The apparatus comprises a fuel vaporizer, a fuel mixture heater and a mixture homogenizer located in a fuel mixture flow path intermediate the vaporizer and the heater. The fuel vaporizer includes structure defining an inner heat exchange chamber which receives air and entrained fuel discharged by a fuel introducing device such as a carburetor. The fuel mixture is heated and at least partially vaporized by engine waste heat derived from the engine cooling system or alternately the engine exhaust system. To facilitate the transfer of heat to the fuel mixture, a pair of heat exchange members are disposed in the chamber and include a supply tube defining a flow path for fluid carrying engine waste heat and a plurality of bristle-like heat exchange surfaces radiating outwardly from the supply tube. The bristle-like surfaces are located in heat exchange relation with the fuel mixture in the vaporizing chamber and transfer heat from the heat exchange fluid to the fuel mixture as the fuel mixture passes through the vaporizer.
Apparatus and Operating Method for an Internal Combustion Engine
Classification: - international: F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18; F02B1/04; F02M15/00; F02M25/07; F02M29/00; F02M31/02; F02B1/00; (IPC1-7): F02M31/00 ; - European: F02M25/07J4L; F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18
Abstract --- A method and apparatus for operating an electric ignition, internal combustion engine that substantially improves the fuel efficiency by utilizing heat normally discharged to the ambient to condition and prepare the fuel mixture prior to entry into the combustion chambers. The apparatus comprises a fuel vaporizer that transfers heat from the engine coolant system to the fuel mixture as it leaves a fuel introducing device such as a carburetor; a fuel mixture heater for heating the mixture above the vaporization temperature of the liquid fuel; and, a mixture homogenizer for thoroughly stirring the fuel mixture that is located in the fuel mixture flow path intermediate the vaporizer and heater. The homogenizer is operative to compress the fuel mixture under certain engine operating conditions and the heater forms the intake manifold for the engine and includes branch flow paths and associated conduits that communicate directly with each combustion chamber through a valve controlled port. The fuel mixture flow path from the homogenizer is constructed to minimize energy losses to the ambient.
Apparatus and Operating Method for an Internal Combustion Engine
Classification: - international: F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10; F02M31/18; F02B1/04; F02M15/00; F02M25/07; F02M29/00; F02M31/02; F02B1/00; (IPC1-7): F02M31/00 ; - European: F02M31/18; F02M15/00; F02M15/06; F02M25/07J4L; F02M29/02; F02M31/087; F02M31/10
Abstract -- A method and apparatus for operating an electric ignition, internal combustion engine that substantially improves the fuel efficiency by utilizing heat normally discharged to the ambient to condition and prepare the fuel mixture prior to entry into the combustion chambers. The apparatus comprises a fuel vaporizer (50) that transfers heat from the engine coolant system to the fuel mixture as it leaves a fuel introducing device such as a carburetor (38); a fuel mixture heater (52) for heating the mixture above the vaporization temperature of the liquid fuel; and, a mixture homogenizer (54) for thoroughly stirring the fuel mixture that is located in the fuel mixture flow path intermediate the vaporizer and heater. The homogenizer is operative to compress the fuel mixture under certain engine operating conditions and the heater forms the intake manifold for the engine and includes branch flow paths (152a) and associated conduits (164) that communicate directly with each combustion chamber (32) through a valve controlled port (34a). The fuel mixture flow path from the homogenizer is constructed to minimize energy losses to the ambient.
Henry "Smokey" Yunick (born May 25, 1923, Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, died May 9, 2001 of leukemia) was a mechanic and car designer associated with motorsports in the United States.
Yunick was deeply involved in the early years of the NASCAR, and he is probably most associated with that racing genre. He participated as a racer, designer, and other jobs relating to the sport but was best-known as a mechanic, builder, and crew chief. He was renowned as a crotchety, crusty, opinionated character who "was about as good as there ever was on engines," according to Marvin Panch, who drove stock cars for Yunick and won the 1961 Daytona 500. His trademark white uniform and battered cowboy hat, together with a cigar or corncob pipe, were a familiar sight in the pits of almost every NASCAR or Indianapolis 500 race for over twenty years. In 1990 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Yunick grew up on a farm in Neshaminy, Pennsylvania and had to drop out of school to run the farm at age 16, upon the death of his father. This, however, gave him an opportunity to exercise his talents for improvising and optimizing mechanical solutions; for instance, constructing a tractor from the remains of a junked car. In his spare time, he built and raced motorcycles; this is where he got his nickname, "Smokey", derived from the behavior of one of his motorcycles.
When World War II broke out in 1941, Yunick joined the Army Air Corps, piloting a B-17 Flying Fortress named "Smokey and his Firemen" on more than 50 missions over Europe. He was with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 15th Air Force, at Amendola Airfield, Italy, before being transferred to the war's Pacific theater following VE Day. In 1946, Yunick married and moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, because it was warm and looked good when he had flown over it on training missions.
Yunick ran "Smokey's Best Damn Garage in Town" on Beach Street in Daytona Beach, Florida from 1947, when he opened the garage repairing trucks, until 1987 when he closed it, claiming that there were no more good mechanics.
When Yunick's reputation as a good mechanic spread through the town, Marshall Teague, a local stock car race team owner, invited him to join the team and Yunick accepted, despite being completely unfamiliar with stock car racing. He prepared a Hudson Hornet for driver Herb Thomas for the second running of the Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, which won the race. By the end of his racing career, Yunick's teams would have included 50 of the most famous drivers in the sport, winning 57 races, two Grand National championships, and twice NASCAR mechanic of the year.
Between 1958 and 1973, Yunick also participated in Indianapolis 500 racing, his car winning the 1960 race. His innovations here included the "Reverse Torque Special" of 1959, with the engine running in opposite rotation than normal, and a car with the drivers capsule mounted "sidesaddle" in 1964. In 1962, Yunick changed open wheel racing forever when he mounted a wing on Jim Rathmann's Simoniz Vista Special Watson Roadster. The wing, designed to increase downforce, allowed Rathmann to reach cornering speeds never before seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but created so much drag that it actually caused the car to record slower lap times. The United States Automobile Club (USAC) immediately banned the use of wings but they soon began to appear on cars competing in Formula One and by the early 1970s USAC once again allowed their use. He also participated in drag racing.
Yunick's racing career brought him into contact with representatives of the automotive industry, and he became Chevrolet's unofficial factory race team, as well as heading NASCAR efforts for Ford and Pontiac. Much of the high-performance development of the Chevrolet Small-Block engine involved Yunick in design, testing, or both. Yunick raced Chevrolets in 1955 and 1956, Fords in 1957 and 1958, and Pontiacs from 1959 through 1963. It was with Pontiac that Yunick became the first team owner to win the Daytona 500 twice (1961 and 1962), and first to put a driver, his close friend Fireball Roberts, on the pole three times (1960–1962); this also made Pontiac the first manufacturer to do so.
Following Fireball Roberts' 1964 crash at Charlotte — where after 40 days in pain from burns, he died — Yunick began a campaign for safety modifications to prevent a repeat of such disasters. After being overruled repeatedly by NASCAR's owner, Bill France Sr., Yunick left NASCAR in 1970.
As with most successful racers, Yunick was a master of the gray area straddling the rules. Perhaps his most famous exploit was his #13 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle, driven by Curtis Turner. The car was so much faster than the competition during testing that they were certain that cheating was involved; some sort of aerodynamic enhancement was strongly suspected, but the car's profile seemed to be entirely stock, as the rules required. It was eventually discovered that what Yunick had built was an exact 7/8 scale replica of the production car. Since then, NASCAR required each race car's roof, hood, and trunk to fit templates representing the production car's exact profile. More recently, these templates represent an agreed upon "specification body" that has minimal connection to a production car's profile. The shape has been developed with extensive wind tunnel testing to "level the playing field" across several manufacturer's products.
Another Yunick improvisation was getting around the regulations specifying a maximum size for the fuel tank, by using eleven foot (three meter) coils of 2-inch (5-centimeter) diameter tubing for the fuel line to add about 5 gallons (19 liters) to the car's fuel capacity. Once, NASCAR officials came up with a list of nine items for Yunick to fix before the car would be allowed on the track. The suspicious NASCAR officials had removed the tank for inspection. Yunick started the car with no gas tank and said "Better make it ten," and drove it back to the pits. He used a basketball in the fuel tank which could be inflated when the car's fuel capacity was checked and deflated for the race.
Yunick also used such innovations as offset chassis, raised floors, roof spoilers, nitrous oxide injection, and other modifications often within the letter of the rule-book, if not the spirit. "All those other guys were cheatin' 10 times worse than us," Yunick wrote in his autobiography, "so it was just self-defense." Yunick's success was also due to his expertise in the aerodynamics of racing cars.
Yunick also built a 1968 Camaro for Trans-Am racing. Although Yunick set several speed and endurance records with the car at Bonneville Speedway, with both a 302 cubic inch (~5000 cubic centimeter) and a 396 cubic inch (~6500 cubic centimeter) engine, it never won a race while Yunick owned it. It was later sold to Don Yenko, who did win several races. In typical Yunick fashion, the car, although superficially a stock Camaro, had acid-dipped body panels and thinner window glass to reduce weight, the front end of the body tilted downwards and the windshield laid back for aerodynamics, all four fenders widened, the front subframe Z'ed and the floorpan moved up to lower the car, and many other detailed modifications. The drip rails were even brought closer to the body for a tiny aerodynamic improvement. A connector to the engine oil system was extended into the car's interior, to allow the driver to add oil from a pressurized hose during pit stops. In order to allow the driver enough freedom of movement, the shoulder harness was modified to include a cable-ratchet mechanism from a military helicopter. In 1993, Vic Edelbrock, Jr. purchased and restored the car. Contrary to popular opinion, Yunick designed the first "safer barrier" in the early 1960's using old tires between sheets of plywood but NASCAR did not adopt his idea and it took the death of Dale Earnhardt to finally install safer barriers at NASCAR tracks. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first track to install them. Also Yunick developed air jacks for stock cars in 1961 but NASCAR thought and still thinks it is safer to have a jackman running around a car during a pitstop rather than using air jacks.
He was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 (inaugural year) and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000. Smokey is a member of over 30 Halls of Fame across the United State and the rest of the world. Some of his personal items, including hats, pipes, boots, engines, etc. are on display (loan from family most of them) at museums from race tracks to the Smithsonian (history of racing).
Smokey was the NASCAR Mechanic of the Year twice.
Yunick is the inventor of at least nine US patents.
Patent Number Filed Title
4,068,635 January 17, 1978 Pressure vent
4,467,752 August 28, 1984 Internal combustion engine
4,503,833 March 12, 1985 Apparatus and operating method for an internal combustion engine
4,592,329 June 21, 1984 Apparatus and operating method for an internal combustion engine
4,637,365 October 22, 1984 Fuel conditioning apparatus and method
4,862,859 March 2, 1988 Apparatus and operating method for an internal combustion engine
5,246,086 March 15, 1991 Oil change system and method
5,515,712 June 17, 1994 Apparatus and method for testing combustion engines
5,645,368 May 29, 1996 Race track with novel crash barrier and method
Aside from racing, Yunick's innovations include variable ratio power steering, the extended tip spark plug, reverse flow cooling systems, a high efficiency vapor carburetor, a high-efficiency adiabatic engine, various engine testing devices, and a safety wall for racetracks, made of discarded tires, which NASCAR's France had refused to consider. He was granted twelve patents. He also experimented with synthetic oil and alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, natural gas, windmills, solar panels, as well as involving himself in developing the gold mining and petroleum industries in Ecuador.
His column "Say, Smokey" was a staple of Popular Science magazine in the 1960s and 1970s; it consisted of his responses to letters sent to him by readers regarding mechanical conditions affecting their cars and technical questions about how automotive performance could be improved. He also wrote for Circle Track magazine, and published his autobiography Best Damn Garage in Town in January 2001. The audiobook version was narrated by longtime friend John DeLorean.
In 1984, Yunick published Smokey's Power Secrets (ISBN 0931472067).
After Yunick's death, his shop's contents were auctioned off, according to his wishes. He had witnessed his friend Don Garlits' difficulties developing and maintaining a museum and did not want either his family to be saddled with such a burden, or a "high roller" to gain control of his reputation. Instead, he preferred that his tools, equipment, cars, engines, and parts go to people who would use them, and before his death he undertook to restore as much of it as possible to working condition. The proceeds of the auction went to a foundation to fund innovations in motorsports.
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