For one, the Arnott had been replaced with a modified Italmeccanica supercharger, the positive-displacement Italian-made blower my father was then importing. Its 2-lobe, straight cut steel rotors turned through pulleys at 12,000 rpm to make 12 lbs boost, but at the same time shooting fuel-air mixture to way-too-hot 350 degrees. This urged Ernie to engineer a pair of aircraft heat exchangers for intercooler-outercooler roles in temperature reduction. Further, a new camshaft was machined from billet so the IT blower could better scavenge exhaust gases. Compression was dropped to 6:1, with solid copper head gasket and alloy head studs aimed to keep the engine from blowing its top—literally. To slow the car quicker, surplus Bendix aircraft brakes were adapted.
Ernie also re-did the steering, had special steel axles made, went to a 4.875 rear end and used larger valves with double springs, but kept the stock MG pistons. Minus only fuse and plunger, this virtual bomb, running Firestone racing rubber and expelling ear-splitting exhaust, scored 148 horses on the Clayton dyno. Said one magazine write-up, “With a power-to-weight ratio of 1:10 this car goes like nothing other than an Offy midget.” We would see about that.
Pollack, again: “Race day at Pebble arrived and when the flag went, I came up along the outside and was really hauling butt going by everybody.” Bill’s voice lowered to almost a whisper, “All of a sudden everything died,” he said. “The car just quit.” He tried to re-fire it, pulling repeatedly on the starter knob, then finally saw what was happening every time the engine cranked over. “Each one of the stacks” he said with animated hands, “shot out a squirt of water!” Ernie’s intercooler maze had self-destructed, in turn blowing the radiator, with the electric pump filling the engine with engine coolant. “So that was the end of ‘88,'” lamented Pollack, “and, I think, of my tenure in the car.”
Bill didn’t need to beat up on himself; it wasn’t his fault. The MG’s engine simply had been tweaked too far. And before it could be re-thought, re-done, Pollack was up, out, and away driving Tom Carsten’s Cad-Allard, a big change soon to earn Bill fame as one of American sports car racing’s most successful drivers. That’s the subject of his book, “Red Wheels and White Sidewalls: Confessions of an Allard Racer.” If you haven’t read it, you haven’t been there.
Back from Pebble, Ernie McAfee took our MG to the drawing board once more looking for solutions. The intercooling was revamped to utilize a more efficient Crosley radiator placed on the cockpit’s left side. Following decent finishes again at Carrell Speedway, Palm Springs and on Sandberg’s hill, the car was once more ready for Pebble Beach in May 1951. Together, the McAfees loaded “88” onto a rental rig and headed north, a trip Jack would never forget.
“We blew a trailer tire up on the Ridge Route,” he recalled, “and the clamping ring came off and went down into the canyon.” At that, Ernie suggested they unload the race car and Jack get in and drive it. Remembering the din of the MG’s straight stacks, Jack laughed out loud retelling the tale. “I drove that damn thing all the way from the Ridge Route to Pebble Beach,” he told me. “Maybe that’s why I don’t hear very well today.”
On Pebble’s improved course, Jack McAfee drove “88” to ninth overall in both the Del Monte Handicap and Pebble Beach Cup races, winning his class in the latter. “The car ran super, and it handled,” said Jack. Pollack, now the man to beat in the big Cad-Allard, won the main in Carsten’s 6.0-liter monster, while Phil Hill took the Del Monte Cup driving his open 2.9 Alfa Romeo before a career switch to Jaguar then Ferrari, early steps toward his world championship ten years later. What my father got from this second Pebble Beach experience was a clear call he’d better catch up with changing times. The MG begged for more than just horsepower. Critical for its survival was less weight and vastly improved aerodynamics. Edgar mused that he should dump it, and in a rash moment he placed a “For Sale” advert in June 1951’s issue of Road and Track. But nobody wanted to pay the $4,500.