A friend asked me to check out a shop called Westech Performance Group in Mira Loma, California. It’s always interesting to visit shops and garages and see what treasures one can find. I had never heard of Westech, and wasn’t sure whether it was worth the drive out there to find out. That’s exactly the attitude that will lead to a humbling experience, as I found it to be much more than a performance shop.
John Baechtel and Rick Stoner are the owners. John was an editor at Hot Rod and Car Craft Magazines. He was always looking for a place to do engine testing for the magazines. Detesting the long commutes from his home, John retired from the magazines and with his partner, Rick Stoner, opened Westech in 1993. They are an independent engine-testing lab for various clients, including automotive companies, magazines and engine builders. Companies from all over the country send their engines to Westech to be tested on state of the art dynamometers, with the results published in Hot Rod, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding, Super Chevy and
many other magazines. They use the SuperFlow 901 engine dyno with Windyn software and can handle small block, big block and engines from all the car companies with the correct adapters.
Data is retrieved on air flow, air fuel ratio, exhaust gas temperatures, fuel flow, BSFC, spark curves with adjustable individual cylinder timing, air and fluid temperatures, and weather and density altitude readings. The large room size where the dyno is located allows them to do complete exhaust system testing on cars, trucks, race car or boat (marine) engines. Individuals bring in their engines as well as the big companies, in order to test them out before heading to the dragstrip, oval tracks, Bonneville or lakes to race.
The 11,000 square foot facility is stuffed with engines, most of them left there by the owners who continue to test on a monthly basis, looking for more power and better performance. Westech is a Beta test site for SuperFlow, which means that Westech gets the testing equipment to use prior to SuperFlow marketing their equipment to other shops and garages. With all of its state of the art equipment, Westech does not build engines for the general public, in order to maintain a reputation for fairness, and to avoid
rumors of partiality. Magazines rely on this independent testing firm to provide them with accurate and respected data. It is very difficult for most magazines to stay independent of their advertisers demands if they do their
own testing. This is why they like to do their testing here at a 3rd party. Westech has built up a solid reputation for integrity, honesty and accuracy. Other equipment includes a flow bench to flow test cylinder heads and a chassis dyno, only one of three in California. The chassis dyno can simulate hill climbs by adding weight to the car.
A second building contains the “works in progress” projects. Rick has his Cobra and Nomad Station Wagon with the specialty built Corvette four-wheel independent suspension system by CarCreations. John has two of his Bonneville Salt Flat cars, including a Honda S-2000 2 litre engine. Two top fuel rail Drag cars await their turns for restoration. They have developed a steel frame kit, which holds a chassis intact while a mechanic assembles the parts to the chassis. This chassis support frame has proved very popular in garages and shops throughout the area. Steve Brule’ is the dyno technician and is a former national champion Jet Boat racer. He recently repurchased his boat and it is currently in the shop, next to the Cobra, awaiting its turn for repairs. A fourth member of the team is Tamara Baechtel, and she designs the company’s website, graphics and covers for such magazines as SA Design, a subsidiary of CarTech, Inc. Tamara also does the 8x10 photos, which John gives to the engine owners on completion of their testing.
John has an extensive background in the automotive field. Not only was he an editor and writer for car magazines, but he also was a drag car and Bonneville land speed racer. He went 217 mph at Bonneville to set a record and join the 200 MPH Club, a very prestigious honor for landspeed racers. He recalls the occasion in 1990 when he was approached by Wally Parks, founder of NHRA, who told him he had set the record and achieved the famed “Red Hat.” John is expecting to set another record this August at Speed Week when he campaigns his 2 litre Honda S-2000 in the G Sports
Finally, the fun thing about Westech is the people that you will meet there. Dave Freiburger, editor of Hot Rod Magazine was there testing his “Anvil.” He said he was “working” but we writers know that the perks of the trade allow us to escape the office and play with the engines, cars and tools that we love so dearly. The wall calendar lists a “who’s who” of engine builders and magazine editors. Popular Hot Rodding will soon conclude their national engine building contest at Westech. Over 70 engine builders have entered the contest to see who has built the best engine. The eight best engines will be tested at Westech with the winner taking the entry
fees of the other contestants. John, Rick, Tamara and Steve have truly found a venture that seems as much fun as it is a professional and respected business.
Gone Racin’ can be reached at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM
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