Project Long Travel SCU Part 2: Drive train

Getting some power for our Sandcar

Sep. 05, 2006 By Mike Lyon

      Project SCU is taking shape! While you are reading this we are starting assembly and will have an update for you next month. For now we will concentrate on the drive train. This will include the motor, transmission, power steering, and radiator.

Honda 3.5 w/ turbo!

The power plant of our project will be a Honda 3.5 liter V6 engine with a turbonetic's turbo as well as an intercooler. In 1999 Don at Sand Cars Unlimited was the first to put Honda motors in sand cars. He uses a motor from a Honda van and slightly modifies them to work in a sand car. He first closes off the stock heater core lines and adds 2 larger water lines that connect to the radiator. He also cuts and blocks off the EGR mount and does some major modifications to the wiring harness. For the turbo he adds a waist gate and blow off valve then custom makes the plumbing that connects to the intercooler. Most of the time the intercooler is mounted on top of the motor with an air scoop on top of it. In our case we have a wind shield and didn't think there would be enough air flow to the intercooler. Don decided to mount the intercooler to the chassis under the radiator. In Order to keep the air flow through the intercooler cool, he added a 12 inch fan to the back side of it. The fan will be connected to a switch that the driver will manually activate when needed. Don tops off his motors with a set of headers and has the motor ready to bolt in for the customer. Don claims about 400 horse power to the wheels at 10psi of boost on straight race gas.

Mendeola      For a transmission we went with a Mendeola MD4-2D. Mendeola was founded by Mike Mendeola in 1971.Mike rebuilt race transmissions in the beginning and in 1996 decided to start making his own transmissions. The 1st transmission offered was the MD4S (E-box) in 1996. In 1999 Mike came out with his most popular transmission, the MD4-2D. Mendeola has come a long way since 1971 and still makes transmissions that are used in hard core racing applications as well as for recreational use. They come in a wide range of sizes for the different applications beginning with their smaller ?E-box? up to their sequential and new heavy duty sequential transmissions. We contacted Ian Kirkland at Mendeola and got a tour of their brand new 28,000 square foot facility in south San Diego. They do all types of machining to transmission cases and some of the internal parts to get them ready for the customer. We picked up the case, 5.14 ring & pinion, differential, miscellaneous bearings, and the now standard Mendeola G50 input shaft and the CX11 7-ball main shaft bearing.

Inside Mendeola


Weddle 2D gear set

      For the rest of the gears and internal parts we contacted Chris at Weddle Industries. Weddle, founded in early 1970 by John Weddle, started out building VW transmissions. In 1992 John decided to make transmission gears and other parts due to the lack of quality parts available. Weddle also produces covers and super differentials for high performance VW transmissions. They supply all gear sets, main shaft's, ring & pinions and the many small parts used inside Mendeola Transmissions.

      Once we had all the parts together, we contacted Dave McDowell at McDowell Performance in El Cajon, CA to assemble our transmission. Dave has been off-roading since 1973 and started building motors for customers in 1975. A few years later he made the move to Black Ledges in San Diego to build motors and transmissions. Eventually, Dave moved on to Off-Road Warehouse where he built motors for another 10 years and in 1990 he finally opened his own small shop to build motors and transmissions. In 2003 Dave stopped building motors and now solely concentrates on VW and Mendeola transmissions for any type of application. Before we started our project, we did a lot of research on who would be the best to build our transmission and our decision to go with McDowell Performance was based on that research. McDowell Performance comes highly recommended and Dave McDowell is ?the man for off-road transmission in San Diego?.

2D and s$ reverse comparision

      Dave gave us a stern warning to not use reverse for anything other than backing down hill. He said it's so small that if it's put under any type of heavy load that it will break!



      To keep our motor cool we contacted C&R Racing for one of their 2-pass radiators and a set of fans. Chris Paulsen, former Indy Car chief mechanic, started C&R in 1988 as a small custom machine shop and metal fabrication business. Since then C&R has become one of the industry leaders in all aluminum radiators and is the preferred supplier to the NASCAR and Indy Car series. We ordered our radiator with the inlet and outlet on the same side of the radiator since this is how Don at SCU plumbs it in. We asked to have the water filler to not be installed so we could figure out exactly where we wanted it mounted. It came with a set of SPAL fans in a custom fan housing. There is no doubt that our motor will be running cool even with the throttle mashed to the floor!

Howe 2.5 Power steering rack

      For our project we went with the industry leader in power steering systems, Howe Performance and their 2.5 pre-runner ram. Howe was started in 1993 by Jeff Howe. Jeff has been in the off-road business for 20 years and started with Unique Metal products. He worked on a variety of products one of which was developing a power steering system. Once Unique was sold, Jeff got out of the business for a few years. During that time it was discovered that he had a special ability to memorize off-road race courses and was highly sought out as a navigator for major race teams. While he was riding as co-pilot he saw the racing industry grow into larger race vehicles with larger tires. Many off-road race teams nagged him to build a power steering system that would hold up to the rigors of Baja. In 1993 he opened Howe Performance and introduced the 2.5 pre-runner rack and pinion power steering system which had a larger ram cylinder than other power steering systems. The 2.5 rack was very popular and could withstand the punishment the larger race vehicles would dish out. Since then, Jeff has developed many different styles of power steering systems and introduced the first fully hydraulic steering system for rock crawlers. He now supplies all the major off-road race teams as well as sand cars with the best power steering systems in the industry.

      Stay tuned for more of Project SCU! Next month we will bring you an update on the assembly of the car and discuss how it went along with more details on the different parts we used. For now here?s a sneak peak!



McDowell Performance
Dave McDowell  
1935 N. Marshall Ave #24
El Cajon, CA 92020
619-449-0996 Newsletter
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