Tom’s Corner – Smokey Yunick’s Hot Vapor Fiero

Every year, someone asks about the fate of a potential break through engine technology developed by legendary racing engine builder and high performance tuner, Henry ‘Smokey’ Yunick, with his long time partner, Ralph Johnson. In the June 1984 issue of Hot Rod magazine, there was a report on a ‘hot vapor’ motor that Smokey developed using a 2.5 litre ‘Iron Duke’ 4 cylinder Fiero engine that met all the ‘80’s emission standards, made 250 horsepower and 250 Lbs/foot of torque and went from 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds and got as high as 51 MPG using premium gas!

The ‘hot vapor’ engine did all of this running unheard of high temperatures at an extremely lean air/fuel fixture ratio, which was seemingly in violation of accepted internal combustion engine physics. Traditional theory was to get rid of or manage heat. Smokey was channeling heat for improved performance, the exact opposite of conventional engineering science. Here is how Smokey did this : A standard four cycle internal combustion engine utilizes only about 25% of its potential energy to make power. The remaining 75% is lost out the exhaust or transferred as heat into the cooling system and radiator. Heat vapor technology attempts to recapture this heat energy using it to super heat the incoming air/fuel mixture to more than 400 degrees F going into the cylinder, thereby achieving a perfectly vaporized condition that it said to prevent denotation while ensuring complete combustion. Smokey was channeling heat from the water in the engine’s cooling system plus exhaust heat to progressively warm the system’s induction flow to the required temperature. He and Ralph Johnson were actually fooling around with this concept for more than 3 decades. Smokey did take out patents on the basic ‘hot vapor’ technology but took much of the knowledge with him to the grave.

As for the fate of the original ‘hot vapor’ engines, his daughter Trish still retains 4 different prototypes in long term storage, one is also in the Smithsonian Institute. A friend of Smokey’s, (Tony Allers) has the only good running engine. He built a Fiero that is identical to the original car, using the original drive train salvaged from the original Hot Rod Fiero by Smokey before Smokey returned it ti Pontiac for crushing. Allers drove his car for 2 and ½ years before donating it to the Don Garlits Museum where it is currently on display. This Fiero can smoke the tires at 60 MPH and passes all Tennesee emission tests. ‘Hot Vapor’ technology will not die. The time will come when engines will be fully adapted as a heat pump.

(editors note: This is the first of a 2 part series on Smokey Yunick’s Hot Vapor Fiero. The next Tom’s Corner will look more into the Hot Vapor technology and some of the debate about the effectiveness)

Tom’s Corner – Cruising

tomscornerA few years ago, our Fiero club (The Fiero Fanatics ) did a car show in Manitowoc Wisconsin and we stayed at a motel on the Saturday before the show. It was a lovely evening so we decided to take a cruise into town to a local drive-in for something to eat. This place turned out to be a local hang-out for the local car clubs to congregate every week-end and we were very surprised to find a huge selection of hot rods, custom cars and sports cars in attendance. I enjoyed this experience very much and it got me to think…why not do this more often ?

As you probably know, there are a myriad of drive-ins around our area in which to do this all summer long. Usually when we do a car show, we get flyers from other car clubs for up-coming events, but lately cruise-in flyers are becoming more prevalent as well. You can go on line to check out an event you may want to do if your time permits and the weather cooperates. All summer, there are cruises planned for other cities and towns in our area. Sometimes, it’s just a spur of the moment decision to hop in your Fiero and go out to eat and see the other cars at these cruise-ins. This can be a wonderful way to break up a week night.

Our Fiero club combined with the GTO club to cruise out to a car show in Madison recently and take the back roads. You should have seen the people look at all our cars as we traveled through the small towns to get to the show. This is another facet of our car that is overlooked and perhaps we can cruise together this summer if time permits to a drive-in near-by and enjoy each other’s company and check out all the other cars that assemble for a night of fun !

Check with your local club and see when their next cruise is, or organize one!

Below: Fieros stop by Sonic during NIFE’s Fierorama weekend.