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Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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Iteration is an important concept in design and engineering — so important that it can make or break the success of a car for an automotive manufacturer, or a race team.

The question I'm going to pose here, is what importance does it have for an auto enthusiast?

Let me start by briefly exploring engine building from the perspective of the average car nut:

  1. We often start by scraping our pennies together to afford a new engine. Then, once we give up on that we use a credit card to buy it.
  2. Often times, we are not satisfied with "stock," we want something "special." By special, I mean an engine with increased performance. So we go about deciding what we want — which is usually a hodgepodge of parts we read about in the ultimate automotive authority: the car magazine. The value of these parts for the hot rodder is equivalent to part Gucci handbag, part jet fighter, part mad scientist.
  3. You fight with the engine builder to do it as cheaply as possible. This is important because we all know that spending more money doesn't result in a better outcome.
  4. You receive your allotment of one, untested engine, and stuff it in your car.
  5. Now the moment of truth is upon you and you find that the result of being able to list a bunch of name brand parts that went into your cheap engine — that you think you spent too much of your credit on — is that it runs like shit.
  6. You blame everything and everyone, but the pinhead that instigated it in the first place.

Now, let me define for you, what iteration is:

"Iteration is the act of repeating a process...with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration," and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration." – Paraphrased from Wikipedia

So, what is it that iteration does?

To explain that, let me explore a crude example:

  1. You think of an engine concept.
  2. You define target criteria to be both met and measured against.
  3. You build an engine concept.
  4. You test the engine concept.
  5. Shit doesn't work.
  6. You change one thing.
  7. You re-test the new combination.
  8. It still doesn't work.
  9. You make another — single — change.
  10. You re-test.
  11. You continue this process until success — as measured against the criteria you set earlier — is achieved.
  12. You build a final engine to the specs of the final engine combination that worked.
  13. You test the engine to make sure it works properly, as per your criteria.
  14. You install it in the car.
  15. You fine tune it for the application.
  16. You test to make sure it functions properly in the application.
  17. Again, you repeat until it functions properly — if necessary.
  18. You are done.

I know, I know: It sounds time consuming, expensive, and the biggest one of all, you aren't going to do it, because, by golly, the first method is what every other pinhead has done since the dawn of hot rodding and if it worked that badly for them, it's going to work just fine for you.

Cuz, you are better than they were.


So, the answer to the question I posed earlier, "what importance does iteration have for an auto enthusiast?"

It means that, ultimately, when you are finished with your custom, one-off, wonder-motor, it works. It works well. It does what you want it to do. You don't waste money on an engine that doesn't work.

If it still sounds like too much — too much time, too much effort, too much money — then maybe you should consider that building that wonder-motor is simply too much and do something else which is more rewarding for you. After all, a hobby is supposed to be rewarding, not wasteful, and ultimately disappointing and dejecting.

Just some food for thought.


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