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Tips for Hotter Street and Strip Performance - Part II

Tips for Hotter Street and Strip Performance - Part II


Part 2: Tips From an Engine Tuner

(Go HERE if you missed Part I)

Done-Rite Automotive ( in Mosinee, WI started way back in the ‘80s, but the company’s fully-equipped eat-off-the-floor facility is set up to use 2013 technology to make street performance machines run more efficiently and go faster. A control room that looks like mission control at Cape Canaveral allows customers to see their car Super-Flo dyno tuned. A 150-mph wind tunnel fan helps create a “real world” testing environment.

Done-Rite tuned the prototype 2011 Nickey Camaro engine for Stefano Bimbi of Nickey Chicago (, as well as the 301-cid Hillborn injected small-block Chevy race engine in Paul Zieldorf’s fiberglass-bodied A-Altered ’38 Fiat nostalgia dragster with its Isky roller cam, Isky aluminum rods, 327 heads, Vertex magneto and needle bearing rocker arms.

Done-Rite owner Ed Casar showed us a 7-page estimate that a big-time engine builder had written up for a hot rodder. “This young enthusiast wanted a 700-hp motor and they wanted to sell him the works,” Ed pointed out. “I told him that I could do one of two tricks and give him the power he wants for a lot less.”

Done-Rite started out as a pretty small shop at Ed’s father’s home, doing car maintenance and general rebuilds. “The more we did, the word got out and the business came,” he stressed. “We really got into the fuel injection stuff and state of the art stuff. We would give people recipes for performance builds and they would put the engines together themselves. But now, customers don’t want to go to an engine builder and then to a tuner. Many aren’t wrench turners; they just want to drop the whole thing and be confident it will all get done.

Casar says 80 percent of engine power comes from the cylinder heads. If he’s going to do stock heads, he finds that pocket porting (blending the seat) is a significant way to increase performance and economy. “That’s the first thing,” says Casar. “And, on vintage engines, we usually put in stainless valves.”

Another tip Casar has for builders of vintage motors is to use three-quarter-groove instead of full-groove bearings. “They work well,” he explained. “If the car sits for a long time and you start it up, those full groove bearings will take and chew out the crank, so three-quarter bearings work better for the street.”

Ed likes the Chrysler 400 V-8. “You can use a 400 with a 440 crank and wind up with 444-456 cubes. “It’s a nice combination because the 400 blocks aren’t really that sought after, but they have a bigger bore than the 440 and work really well.” Casar feels that any Ford V-8 is good for a stroker and the 383-406 cube Chevy stuff works out well for the street. “We always try to do more cubes for the street and keep the rpms low so a cam doesn’t have to be too aggressive.

Done-Rite uses F.A.S.T. fuel injection, Accel ignition and Tech 3. Ed also redoes Delphi computers. “We buy them and retro-fit them with different things,” he explained. “They have catalyst monitors in them and can still do coil-on-plug, so you can use them in big engines with lots of power or tiny four-cylinders.”

Ed stresses little things like port matching. “Hot rodders should take time to lay out gaskets to make sure they have a real good port match,” he said. “Put some WD-40 on the gaskets, bolt things down, mark where the gaskets are, then transfer the gasket surface to the intake manifold and head to see what you’ve got for port alignment. That’s real good benefit for not a lot of money.”

Casar focuses on simple, affordable performance upgrades. “We can bolt RHS heads on an older 5.0 Mustang, and with a tune up, we see a 70-hp increase at the tires,” he noted. “After bolting headers on and tuning a 2011 Mustang, we have seen 65-hp increases. Any head and cam combo with headers and a tune on GM LS engines will net a 100+ rear-wheel increase.”

Stroker kits, blowers and turbos add crazy power according to Casar, but if you have a computerized engine control system, you have to be careful. The hardware is durable, gives excellent drivability and gets super gas mileage, but the more things you bolt on, the further the calibrations can go off. When you change parts on the car and increase horsepower potential, the computer (black box) will also need to be changed. “Seek out a proper Air/Fuel meter to tune the engine for the customer or find a professional dyno center to help out. Getting a motor properly calibrated is just as important as the parts you put in!”

According to Casar, putting any exhaust headers on an engine is a benefit just so long as you get something that’s got a thick enough flange, so you know the customer won’t be having continual gasket problems later. “It’s also important to give the customer an exhaust system that’s supports itself,” says Casar. “When it’s all bolted together with the headers unbolted, the system should hang up there by itself, rather than drop down,” he says. “If it drops down it’s going to eat gaskets on the cylinder heads and you won’t see that customer again.”

Ed presents his customers with a recipe for what they want and helps them get there. “We’ll tell them what cam, heads, compression and fuel injection system will give them the requirements for the power they want. I find that everyone is eager to have a hot car and likes a road map to get there. Even if a customer has his own engine builder, Ed will still provide a recipe for the build.

The “control room” alongside Ed’s chassis dyno, with its bank of computers and big picture window is a business builder. Customers can watch in fascination as their car gets tuned and they can see an impressive array of data and fuel maps on the computer screen right in front of them.

Ed says hot rodders’ wants have changed from a do-it-yourself approach to a desire to hire a one-shop-does-it-all facility. This called for changes in the way he operates. “We are getting things out faster,” he says. “We realize that these days you have to work lean and still keep everything moving and going.”

Ed Casar's Done-Rite Automotive started as a tuning shop, but he finds his newer customer wanting him to handle mechanical rebuilds too.

Ed Casar helped his friend Paul Zielsdorf fine tune the 301 Chevy V-8 in Paul's fiberglass '38 Fiat nostalgia drag car.

Ed Casar uses Done-Rite's Super Flo dyno, two Y-bender fuel ratio tools and EGTs per cylinder to get engine dyno control on a chassis dyno.

To get real-world test conditions and enhanced cooling, Casar had a 150 mph fan installed in front of the dyno in his purpose-built tuning lab.

"Mission Control" type office with picture window allows customers to watch their cars being tuned while fuel maps flash on the computer screen.

Casar thinks the 383-406 cube Chevy stuff works out well on street performance cars like this '55 Two-Ten Coupe.