If you’ve attended a Cup race firsthand, you know the familiar sound a tuned engine running at full song lap after lap. When your ear gets attuned to hearing a good engine, you know when a motor is going sour. If you’ve been to enough races over the years, you can fairly accurately predict how many laps an engine has remaining before it meets its maker.
I began attending Cup races in 1991. When the 1995 season rolled around, my ears were keen to the standard exhaust note of a modern Cup car. The combination of approach, passing, and decay sound like a long “yeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEOOOOOOoooooonnnnnnnggggggg” at larger tracks. By the mid-90s, Winston Cup cars were still gurgling and spitting like the race cars of old, but defending race champion Sterling Marlin showed up with a new Monte Carlo that sounded different. Not exactly Indy car, but not Cup either. Rather than the typical yeeEEOOoonngg, this car had a distinct “Wheeeeoosshh.” I couldn’t tell if the thing was running lean or what, but surely, it was going to blow any minute. But Sterling kept going and going and he pulled off a repeat win. He went on to win at Talladega later in the season too.
Some said it was Sterling’s growing skill as a racer. Some said it was Morgan-McClure’s special intake manifold design. Some said it was the new, streamlined Monte Carlo body. Others said it was engine builder Runt Pittman’s secret special sauce. It was a combination of all of the above. Innovation is the name of the game in sports. The most distinct innovation for MM in ‘95 was a trick exhaust. I’ve talked to several old timers who all said the same thing “you could shut your eyes and pick out Marlin’s car when he drove by.” I did this very thing atop a Busch promo truck atop the tunnel in Daytona’s turn 4. It wasn’t until years later that I went snooping on the internet to find the answer. The secret was a new exhaust called Boom Tubes. For the full story, hit this link: http://insideracingtechnology.com/drgas.html
The other part of Morgan McClure’s plate racing success in the ‘90s is one of those NASCAR legends. Tony Glover had his own unique intake manifold design. While there’s no proof, there have been longtime murmurs in the garage that Tony Glover was drilling holes in the car’s intake manifold, melting silver Crayola crayons over the holes to fill them in, allowing the car to pass pre-race inspection. When the engine heated up after a few laps on track, the wax melted, allowing more air into the engine. The engines were oxygen starved due to restrictor plates, and a trick manifold gave an HP edge to the #4 car. The story gained steam, as Ryan Newman used the same trick to win a NASCAR modified race at New Hampshire a couple years ago (NASCAR stripped him of the win, by the way). After the ‘95 season, several teams petitioned for a uniform intake manifold design and GM rolled out a new power plant for their Cup teams. This left Morgan McClure in the dust, R&D speaking, and they were never able to bounce back.
Sterling Marlin is retired from Cup racing, Morgan McClure is long gone, but Boyd Butler is still out there making Boom Tubes and you can buy one for your daily driver!