I’m sure many of you have become aware of an issue that occurred during joint testing of our aluminum Hemi connecting rods for Steve Morris Engines (SME), which at the same time, has a strong presence on social media platforms. Here are my thoughts on this matter.
Without going into all of the thought processes that led up to these conclusions, I have three theories on what made these rods let go. Follow...
THEORY #1: We don’t think this is a material defect, a bad batch of alloy, a design flaw, or even user error…but rather the particular alloy used in Steve’s build was simply subjected to its limits. Steve’s wagon makes an incredible amount of steam…and NO ONE has pushed our rods THAT hard in all the 10 years of me making them…ever.
THEORY #2: It very well could have been one rod let go by a stress-induced fracture…then took out all the other good rods with it. I seriously doubt all 8 rods let go on their own. Folks, at the speed those parts are swinging around inside there (not to mention the pressures), a BB dropped into the mix will take out parts just as easily. You have to bear in mind, that motors at this level are practically grenade-pin-pulled suicide machines, to begin with.
THEORY #3: The rod ratio in the Wagon’s engine was so severe (at 1.5) that the rods just couldn’t take that sort of angle in his application. Plain and simple. FWIW, I never liked stroked motors in drag racing...but that’s me. It might also be you. This theory alone encompasses both theories one and two.
Racing is learning, full of experimentation, frustration, wins, and losses…and this experience was no exception. At first, I kicked, screamed, and cried upon hearing the news, but soon realized that dwelling on the negative and/or whining about the incident does nothing to fix the problem. Working the problem is more palatable.
No part is infallible, and the stresses put to our rods by an engine making over 3800 horses with 2350 ft/pnds of torque is NOT the same as a motor that makes 1400 horses. This is a grossly simplified analogy but accurate. It’s silly to pigeonhole all applications into one. It’s just not a smart thing to do.
This is not a regrettable mistake, but a happy accident to improve our product even more for all of you guys. How do you think a HP rating gets created on the parts you buy today? Shit has to break.
We dust ourselves off, reevaluate, and try again. You keep going and hopefully not face the same issue again. If something else comes up? You fix that too… and so forth. Race…repair…repeat. Manufacturing is no different.
Are we making alloy and design tweaks to tailor to those meth-fed, boosted-brute, mean, and nasty applications? You bet we are…as this is a very challenging sector we are wanting to explore further and dominate. But rest assured, we’ll be back at it again with not only a stronger rod but increased wisdom to go along with it.
However, I do have one regret. We might not talk about Bruno…but we will talk about my disappointment with the excessive and unnecessary attention spotlighting this incident.
Steve Morris Engines (SME) has a popular YouTube channel to better stay connected with his fans/customers. That’s all well and good, but 100k + folks didn't need to know every nook and cranny of our business together. We were BOTH trying something NEW. We were BOTH experimenting. This was a TEST. A test of the Kaiser alloy for his particular application...a test of our design. I never did come to him touting a flashy, cheap sales pitch to use my rods saying that they will make him realize his dreams. Honestly, I wasn't even aware of anything SME was doing (much less having an active YouTube channel) before this engagement. HE came to me and wanted to “try” them. So, he gave me the specs he wanted, I cut them, and he “tried” them…with ill results.
Let me say this again, THIS WAS A TEST.
DESIRED SCENARIO: We go back to the lab to make the necessary tweaks for that application to try it again. This is how ALL manufactured parts are improved upon. Normal protocol.
REALITY SCENARIO: Knowing immediately that a video would be made giving the play-by-play (because that’s what he does), I told Steve I didn’t think that was necessary at this juncture. Steve had said he understood that posting a follow-up video puts me in the “hot seat” but just the same, *had* to make the video. I told him I still didn’t like the idea. No one *has* to do anything.
He made the video. A very granular one at that. Not only one, but two videos...maybe three or more are in the works using that failed set of rods as the nucleus for more viewing entertainment. Who knows? I guess “subs” and “likes” are powerful motives.
To make matters worse, SME made it abundantly clear that he would not give us a second chance to fix the errors and improve upon the design for further testing. Huh? Seriously?
This is not what I thought I had signed up for…and this absolutely does nothing good for the merit of my products, reputation, and livelihood.
The takeaway from all of this very costly lesson? Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with any Beta Tester from here on out.
THE SAD FALLOUT
Now, I’m faced with new and present customers injected with NEEDLESS fear and doubt regarding the use of my rods. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the same application or not as Steve's Wagon. It doesn’t matter what the real reason is for their failure in that Wagon. It doesn’t even matter how eloquent Steve was in presenting the failure…it’s still all “BAD” as most people don’t understand the testing process. Most won’t care to understand the entire picture. Most won’t care to put themselves in my position. And trust me, from a human-being aspect of it all, it’s not a good place to be. "Blacklisted" is *almost* an applicable word to insert here. Many thanks. Appreciate that.
And for those that are thinking, "But Steve never mentioned your company name nor brand in his videos". That is very true. He never did, and I'm sure in his eyes he was being professional and diplomatic.
But have you ever heard of product identification? How many rods out there in the world look like ours? People aren't stupid. They know where those rods came from...as our overall design is extremely unique.
For those that are not familiar with our VADERs, they can always use Google as "FFWD" was NOT made hidden in those videos. Just because he didn't "say it" does not make us immune to this over-inflated, ill exposure.
Folks, if everyone really knew the "beta" testing details of the products they run in their own cars...every fail...every product tweak, those same people would be too scared to buy anything. That's absurd...but the way the majority is. This is the main reason why manufacturers wish to have this process happen "behind the scenes" and away from the public eye. This is also another reason why the term "beta testing" exists. However, we, unfortunately, fell outside the scope of "normalcy" in those testing procedures.
So be that as it may, what’s done is done…and I can’t take any of it back. Unfortunately, the internet is forever…and I’m sure I’ll be feeling the repercussions of this for a very long time. Did I mention it is also embarrassing to my family, friends, and colleagues? Well, it is.
Did I also mention THIS WAS A TEST?
First and foremost, this rant is NOT at all to smear Steve's person, ability, or the rep of Steve Morris Engines. I genuinely think he had great intentions, and I will always wish them the best in their endeavors. But as with anything, there are always two sides to every story...and this was mine. All of you deserve to know.
So, with all that said, I hope this post will not only clear up a lot of confusion and put all concerned folk at ease but give a sharper perspective on the manufacturing side of things. If so, then mission accomplished. But respectfully, I will not address this situation any further. No bickering…no pointing fingers…no drama. Time is better spent continuing to manufacture the best aluminum racing connecting rods we possibly can.
Plowing ahead…not looking back.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”
– Philippians 2:3-4
End of story.