Written by Jason Reiss
Photography courtesy of the manufacturer
For as long as hot-rodding existed, racers and enthusiasts have been pushing their engines for more horsepower. Whether those powerplants are factory-built or a full-on race pieces doesn’t matter, as improving performance is the goal. And since an engine is simply an air pump, enhancing its ability to move air into and out of the cylinders is the key to the equation. That’s where the induction system experts at Frankenstein Engine Dynamics (FED) enter the picture.
Helmed by Chris Frank, whose induction development techniques stretch back to the earliest LS engines, is the main guy at FED. He was porting cylinder heads in his garage—under the Frankenstein Racing Heads name — while attending Florida State University, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, before attending the School of Automotive Machinists and working through their curriculum. Finally, he was in the first graduating class at Ben Strader’s EFI University.
Needless to say that Frank’s educational resume leaves nothing to the imagination, but that’s nothing without practical experience. As such, he parlayed his contacts into several positions throughout the racing world, developing induction systems for several companies working in professional racing categories including Pro Stock and NASCAR programs. All of those experiences led him to open Frankenstein Engine Dynamics in 2013. Today, FED manufactures cylinder heads which are used in the upper echelons of racing — including Pro Mod and even Top Fuel porting — although the company hasn’t forgotten those customers who have helped it to achieve such breathtaking heights in the racing industry.
In fact, FED performs an astounding amount of port work on factory cylinder head castings, designed for the Average Joe like you and me to maximize horsepower with a reasonable cost. Racers using factory cylinder heads are constrained by many limitations that can affect the engine’s ultimate performance. These can include port layout, compromises made at the factory in the name of emissions legality, and even fuel economy concerns. The induction system is the most important element to a strong-performing engine, and breaking it down further, the cylinder head is potentially the most critical piece of the pie. If the heads don’t perform, the engine will be a slug.
When you consider the expertise which is required to develop induction packages which perform at the top of the heap in those demanding professional racing conditions, understanding airflow capability and theory about what is required to make cylinder heads perform well on engines like the LS/LT twins, Coyote/Voodoo, and late-model Hemi platforms comes as second nature. With the expertise Frank and his team gained over the years, by competing in all of these racing classes, they are able to design cylinder heads and induction components that win races and set records — but most of all, perform as advertised.
How are they able to do this? Simply. Well, it’s not really simple, but the machinery and methods available today can certainly make it appear so. You see, as those partnerships with the world’s standout race teams have progressed, FED was able to invest in very advanced machinery, tooling, and computerized engineering capabilities to maximize its products. In fact, they are engaged in a partnership with Mazak, one of the world’s leading CNC machinery manufacturers, which allows FED to be on the leading edge with respect to machining capabilities.
“We enjoy the hell of doing all of these late-model cylinder heads,” says Mike Shabareck of FED.
“Because we do so much of the professional stuff, we have to have the latest machinery. We have a Spintron and a 3,500-horsepower Superflow engine dyno in house for a reason. The whole idea of doing these is to introduce our level of quality to our customers. When customers send their castings in for us to port, they’re getting the same amount of attention to detail, and the head goes through the same exact steps, as something we’d design for Top Fuel, Pro Stock, or anything of that nature. While we are not the most expensive, we understand that we are not the cheapest, and we never will be. We suck at being cheap because we don’t have any experience doing so.”
The company focuses on two main points when it comes its customers, whether it’s a Top Fuel customer, a late-model Corvette customer or the guy LS-swapping a Fox Mustang and sticking a turbo in front of the engine.
“Service, and quality are our primary goals. We have a $125,000 Newen CNC valve job machine that guarantees reduced run-out and better-sealing valves. While there are a lot of other companies doing great work, not a lot of people who are doing GM heads have the same equipment. Jesse Meagher is our head engineer over all of the final CAD tweaks, and he was the head of training and engineering for Centroid until we hired him,” says Shabareck.
When they are designing cylinder head ports, a pair of heads is purchased, and the company’s top two cylinder head gurus go head-to head, each designing four specific ports to see which ones work the best in practice. Once the final designs are locked down as best performers, those are subsequently digitized for replication by the CNC equipment.
Heads are placed in the field, tested on the dyno on a variety of engines, and then sent down the racetrack to determine the validity of the designs. If changes are necessary — which isn’t often the case, given the company’s pedigree — then adjustments are made and the head poring programs are ready for sale.
As mentioned above, the company has programs for all of the late-model domestic performance vehicles. It’s important to note that the popularity of the LS and LT engine programs from General Motors means that those are the most common designs the company sells. Programs for the LS1’s 241/843/243/799 and 317 castings come in two different stages, along with an LS3 program for 821/823 and LSA castings. The LS7, LT1, LT4, and even the L83 are also offered, with specific port programs designed to maximize the performance of each casting.
He tells us that the L83 head is popular of late. FED has a customer with a truck with these heads, a throttle body, cam, and headers, who picked up 150 horsepower to the tire as compared to the stock unported castings. It was so successful he plans to duplicate it for his own engine combination.
As Frankenstein came to notoriety with the LS platform at its inception, the company has continued its focus in this area, and for good reason.
“It’s been interesting to see the market for LS parts grow in the bracket racing area. You can go buy a 5.3 right now for about $250, and if you want to get fancy with it you can throw a set of $400 pistons in it to bump the compression up. You can surface 243s about 50-thou, and I think the compression ends up sitting right above 11.0:1 or so. Put that on E85 or alcohol with a carburetor and a cam from Cam Motion that comes right out of the box and works fantastic with it. LS7 lifters, shift the thing about 7,200, and it goes faster than a lot of $12,000 small-block Chevys,” says Shabareck.
But it’s not just the LS/LT family in the Frankenstein portfolio, as the company offers programs for the Coyote platform along with Hemi 5.7, 6.1, 6.2 Hellcat, and 6.4 Apache heads as well.
“We have a program for every single GenIII Hemi head that’s out there, and we have a program for the Thitek heads too. When it comes to the Ford stuff, we have the 5.0 and a 5.2 program for both generations,” he says. “We currently have quite a few Cobra Jets running in the sevens in the Factory Showdown and similar classes.”
Follow along with the spec boxes for the full rundown on several of the products available; more information is available regarding heads not mentioned here on the detailed Frankenstein website.
All heads ported at Frankenstein receive the following: teardown, wash, CNC Port, CNC valve job, FED Logo, end-mill, hand blend, surface 0.010-inch, final wash and assembly, and pressure testing, as the company seeks to deliver on its promise superior service. On LS7, LS9, and LTF cylinder heads, FED replaces the valve guides and exhaust valves to ensure durability.
These heads can be used in any class where ported factory heads are permitted: for example, Coyote heads could be used in NMRA Limited Street and quicker classes. The company’s LS heads would fit well into the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series classes along with the Factory Super Cars class and others — just check out the series rulebook for classes where these are applicable. And the Hemi heads would work well for anyone competing in the Mopar Hemi Shootout.
Ultimately, Frankenstein Engine Dynamics’ main focus is to turn out some of the best cylinder heads on the market, whether they are CNC-ported factory castings as seen here, or the company’s full-boogie P-48 Evolution Hemi heads destined for Pro Mod and beyond. Part of the company’s mission statement reads “excellence through engineering,” and from our conversation with Mike and the information he shared with us, it’s clear that FED takes that mission seriously.
Frankenstein Engine Dynamics