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Inside Jon Kaase’s Wild, Vintage-Class-Winning Engine Masters Creation

November 3, 2017 / by Bradley Iger

HOT ROD Engine Masters is all about innovation. Jon Kaase's vintage-class-winning MEL engine is that and more. 

When the Engine Masters Challenge was conceived more than a decade and a half ago, the concept was to encourage talented builders to push the envelope of engine design through an open rulebook. That naturally encourages builders to take the road less traveled when it comes to building big power. This wild, Mercury/Edsel/Lincoln (MEL) build by Jon Kaase and Royce Brechler is a perfect example of that approach.

Already boasting a number of class wins in previous Engine Masters Challenge events, Kaase’s team has proven that they know how to build engines with serious power.

“I teamed up with Royce Brechler,” says Kaase, the man at the helm of the Jon Kaase Racing Engines in Winder, GA. “He ran this engine here last year  and was nice enough to let me use it this year. We’ve done a bunch of modifications to it for this year’s competition. It’s kind of an odd, old engine called the MEL Series.” Kaase explains that these engines were normally reserved for FoMoCo’s luxury brands and didn’t see use within the Ford marque itself, making the MEL a rather unusual motor simply by virtue of its rarity.

Originally designed for a presentation at the AETC conference, Kaase says this acrylic plenum provides more volume than a cast one would, allowing the motor to build more power.

But if the oddball block wasn’t enough to catch folks’ attention, we’d imagine that some of the parts in the combination will do the trick. “We built this a couple of years ago for a project that we did for a presentation at AETC [Advanced Engineering Technology Conference] in Indianapolis,” Kaase says while pointing to the large clear plastic chamber that’s installed between the intake manifold and the  pair of carburetors. “There’s no advantage to this plastic, but because it’s a little different and provides a little more area inside, it actually makes a little more power than the original top that would have.”

“It’s a neat project, and surprisingly good on the power,” says Kaase of this MEL build. 

Outfitted with a steel, Lunati crank, this MEL motor now displaces 473 cubic inches and features no shortage of original hardware. “The distributor is 1958, the oil pan is 1958, so we’ve got a little mixture of good and old,” he jokes. “It’s a neat project – and it’s surprisingly good on the power.”

Diamond Pistons played a crucial role in Kaase’s build as well. “We made a model of what we wanted and sent it to Diamond,” he explains. “Diamond is really good about taking your model and making exactly what you want. When they’re all done they get inside and CNC-mill around so there’s not a lot of dead weight in it. So that’s our choice for just about everything we build.”

Part of the secret sauce of Kaase's MEL is this "head gasket" and "valve seat" that pushed the letter of the rules. The bronze, puck-style valve seat dropped the combustion chamber down into the extra-thick headgasket and allowed the ports to be substantially reworked.

For more photos of this wild creation, check out the gallery on HOT ROD.com

Topics: featured, FEATURES, ENGINE TECH, ENGINE BUILDS, INTERVIEWS

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Written by Bradley Iger

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