HomeVideosHootersHalloweenChristmasPhotosThe StoryContact Us

Alternate Fuels Racing
The Propane Burner
PropaneRacing.com Logo

History of The ProPane Burner

Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster

ProPane Makes A Clean Blue Flame As It Burns

The Tribute from the State of Michigan Below Signed By Governor Engler
and 14 State Senators Speaks For Itself 
Presented To Richard Rowe
At The Capital Building in Lansing, MI in 1999

Partial Quote Within The Document:

"LET IT BE KNOWN: That it's a genuine pleasure to commend The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and The Michigan Propane Gas Association (MPGA) on the re-emergence of the drag racing industry while promoting the use of environmentally friendly fuels such as propane.
The Essence of IHRA Championship Drag Racing today is its 'leading edge' approach. One such innovation has been the embracing of new technologies such as propane fueled competitors. Propane, a by-product of natural gas and crude oil processing, is a fuel that burns clean, making it environmentally sound. Richard Rowe and his sponsor, Pennington Gas Service, deserve special recognition for their contributions in the IHRA Hot Rod Class, racing with a propane-burning 1970 Chevelle."

 

Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster


Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster

 

"Cover Story " January 1998

Written By: HotRod Richard 'The ProPaneMan' Rowe of Pennington Gas Service

Published By: The Michigan Propane Gas Association 
Titled: "Yes, It Really Does Burn ProPane"

"Does this thing really burn propane?"

That's the most commonly asked question in the pit area at the drag strip or in the lineup at the car show, as passersby look under the hood to satisfy their curiosity. Even after they hear the announcer in the tower at the track say, "This 1970 Chevelle SS has a propane-powered 454 under the hood," they want to see it for themselves.

I can understand why. I went to my first drag race at the age of 14 in Onondaga, Michigan. I made my first run down the quarter mile strip in 1971 when I was 16, in a 1965 Chevelle with Brad Marquart as Pit Crew. That's when the Rowe - Marquart Racing Team of today got started. We've been around drag racing a lot over the years, but we've never run across anyone burning propane as a racing fuel.

After a 3 1/2 year restoration project of the Chevelle, that was a pile of nuts and bolts and rusted body parts, a real basket case, we were preparing to head for the car shows and drag strips in the summer of 1994. Terry Pennington of Pennington Gas Service (my employer and sponsor) asked if I'd be interested in adding propane to the car with the idea of burning propane at the car shows and gasoline at the racetrack. We decided to give it a try.

We added the Impco 425 propane carburetor on top of the 780 Holley carburetor using a 90-degree angle adapter. Then we mounted a 33# lift truck cylinder in the trunk alongside of the racing fuel cell and nitrous oxide bottle. I was quite surprised the first time I fired her up on propane. The 454 sounded and acted as if she really liked the fuel and anyone who has seen and heard the car, knows what I'm talking about.

I put the car on display at a couple of car shows, and the response by the public to this propane-burning Chevelle was unbelievable! Racing enthusiasts in the crowds wanted to know what this car would run in the quarter-mile burning propane. Seeking the answer for ourselves as well, we immediately began work on the second conversion, this time dedicated to straight propane, removing all the gasoline and nitrous oxide equipment. Using the recommendation of Tad Thurling of J.P. Propane, Huntsburg, OH, we installed the Tunnel Ram intake with two Century 2430 carburetors bolted on top and headed for the racetrack.

The direct drag link hookup from the throttle plates to the fuel barrel valves delivered all the fuel and air needed for the instantaneous and respectful launch off the starting line. I crossed the finish line in the low to mid 12 second bracket at 103 to 105 MPH. The stock 454 has been holding us back a little. But look out in 1998! We're coming back with a bigger, better, and faster engine being built by Wirth Racing Engines of Bryan, Ohio.

The 5800 RPM camshaft has been thrown in the trash barrel. It was causing the car to lay down at the long end of the track. I was running out of cam long before I ran out of track. We'll be using a nice roller cam setup this year along with a steel crankshaft and aluminum rods.

We're changing the compression ratio from 8.5:1 to 13.5:1 and going to a bigger bore in the cylinders to add cubic inches. These changes, along with the bigger valves in  the heads, will add a lot of horsepower under the hood, and make a big difference in this year's times and top speeds. And besides, propane has other advantages. When we are done racing for the day, the propane fuel tank in the car is connected to a  propane grill to serve up steaks for the pit crew... hahaha

The most commonly asked question the last six months has been, "After you add all that, are you still going to burn propane?" The answer is a resounding, "Yes, and lots of it!" My question is, "How do you make a 3,400 pound Chevelle SS go from 0 to 125 miles per hour in the 10 second bracket while burning propane?" The answer to that question will be available later in this year's racing season. (1998)

If all goes right, the car will be back together in April. After a couple of shows and lots of idling in the garage for break-in, we'll head for "test and tune" in June.

We'll be racing at several drag strips in the area, including:

bulletMid-Michigan Motorplex, Stanton, Michigan

bulletUS 131 Martin Dragway, Martin, Michigan

bullet Milan Dragway, Milan, Michigan

bullet Norwalk Raceway Park, Norwalk, Ohio

More detailed schedules are available later this spring from Pennington Gas Service, The Basic Car Club (Hillsdale, Michigan, John Snow, president) or myself, Richard Rowe, at Pennington Gas Service.

We thank all of you for your questions, comments and special show of interest. That's what keeps us pressing forward  with this project.

The story above was requested by the Michigan Propane Gas Association in December 1997 and written and published in January 1998. I will be writing an updated story on this page. The best time of the 3400 pound ProPane Powered Chevelle is 0 to 127.10 MPH in 10.34 seconds. And is the only ProPane Powered Race Car to Race IHRA National Events. It was this Race Car that got Propane added to the IHRA Rule Book as a Legal Racing Fuel.

To be continued...

Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster

nothin' but attitude


 

Things From the Past 

The International Hot Rod Associations Drag Review
Issue 14 - August 20, 1999
World Nationals Souvenir Issue
1999 Northern Nationals Race Coverage
Hot Rod Class - Page 45

Quote at the left of photo below:

"Richard Rowe of Hudson, Mich, in his
ProPane Powered '70 Chevelle,
showed the crowd that ProPane is for more than just grillin'. "
( Thank You IHRA Drag Review for that Statement )

Beyond The Guardrail - Page 74

The Michigan ProPane Journal Feb. 1998
( Photo from Super Chevy 1994 )

The Lansing State Journal May 24, 1995
Annual Display On The Sidewalk At The Capital

The Daily Reporter 30 Day Add Prior To Event 1998

1999 Calendars
By Photo Sports USA

2000 Calendars
By Kruger Photo Cleveland, Ohio

2001 Calendars
By Kruger Photo Cleveland, Ohio

Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster
s/ Pro Pane Burner part I

Past TV Spots That Were Aired That I'm Aware Of:

Ch 3 News - MPGA Capital Building Lansing, MI

Ch 6 News - MPGA Capital Building Lansing, MI

Ch 8 News - MPGA Capital Building Lansing, MI

Ch 10 News - MPGA Capital Building Lansing, MI

Ch 13 News - Maple City Festival

Ch 9 News - Interview @ Race Track - Rochester, NY

Ch 24 1999 Car Wars III Special
I Took A Set Of Good Year Racing Tires
Down To The Cords Doing ProPane Smokey Burn Outs
For That Crowd... and Ch 24 TV Cameras

TNN Motorsports
Taped by Detroit Ch 7 And Aired On TNN Motorsports

Other Publications That I'm Aware Of:

The National ProPane Gas Association
( NPGA ) News Letter 2002

The International Hot Rod Association
( IHRA ) Drag Review
1999 World Nationals Souvenir Issue

The Michigan ProPane Gas Association
( MPGA ) Journal 1995 thru 2000

The Daily Reporter, Annually Since 1998

The Lansing State Journal 1995

Continued Story From Top of This Page...

Spring 1998

In May 1998, I went to Osceola Dragway in Osceola, Indiana for Test and Tune running 11.60 in the quarter mile. That's a long way from the 10 second bracket, but I did go home with the money from winning the semi finals. Then it was off to Super Chevy at US 131 Martin Dragway, Martin, Michigan running 11.60's as well, no matter what changes I made in the timing setting, valve adjustments, or air fuel mixture. The 10 second bracket seemed to be impossible for me to reach at the time.

I had contacted Tad Thurling mid summer concerning his experiment with his home made 4 bbls and told him I thought they had a great idea but I had a few ideas of my own to add to the project and wanted to use his ideas along with mine. Tad delivered an old pair of 4 bbls he had thrown in a box as junk 11 years prior to delivering them to me at Super Chevy at Norwalk Raceway Park on August 1st 1998. I took the junk carburetors over to show the members of my car club and said "This is what's going to put that ProPane Powered Chevelle in the 10 second bracket!" They laughed so hard that tears came out of their eyes because they just didn't believe it could happen on propane. The members of my car club used to get a big chuckle around the campfire at the track at night picking on the slow propane car stating "That Chevelle would run 10.60 or 10.70 and you could race the Hot Rod Class in the IHRA National Events, if you'd take the propane off and install Holley Carbs and use gasoline for racing fuel!" (remember, the car now runs 10.30's)

Tad had told me that his carbs would make the car run 11.40's. So I replaced all the broken links and rebuilt the system and installed carbs on the car running 11.38 to 11.42 at Milan Dragway mid August 1998. I then went back to the garage and made my changes to make the fuel system. The linkage system I use was recommended by Enderle Fuel Injection Systems in California and Williams Carburetion Systems. The linkage system is quite a headache to put together and tune. But the results were well worth the headache.

I then went to Mid Michigan Motorplex the first weekend in September 1998. The ProPane fuel system put the car in the 10 second bracket with a 10.96. Now, I knew what direction I needed to go, and with making other simple modifications in that area, Racers Secrets, the car came around to a 10.79 at the closing of the season. I then applied for my IHRA Competition License so I could enter an IHRA National Event in the 1999 racing season.

Spring 1999

After continuing to make changes and modifications to the Fuel System, along with some minor changes in the Car, we opened the 1999 Season running Test and Tune at Milan Dragway with a 0 to 127.10 MPH in 10.44 seconds... Bingo... we finally got it. Now to install the throttle stop system to slow the car to the Hot Rod Index of 10.90. The IHRA Hot Rod Eliminator Class for the National Events is a Heads Up Race off a 5 tenths pro tree. Meaning that there's no handicap. Both cars run side by side from start to finish. The Race Car that runs closest to 10.90 without breaking out is the winner (breaking out is going quicker than 10.90)

The trick is in the throttle stop settings along with weather change conditions and track conditions. This can become a real strain on the brain without the proper weather station system. I found this out the hard way, of course, using a cheaper less dependable weather station in 1999 finding it impossible to hit the 10.90 dead on or even impossible to hit 10.90's at all. I was either to quick with 10.80's or to slow with 11.00's.

We changed this in the 2000 Racing Season by adding the ______ System (the ______'s are my racers secret). It constantly checks the weather conditions and will make the throttle stop setting predictions accordingly.

I put the ______ System to the test at the 2000 Northern Nationals in Stanton, Michigan. I was amazed at how much the system helped, we ran 10.90's all weekend winning the quarter finals. We then turned around and qualified 8th with our run on Thursday at the 2000 World Nationals. The ______ System had learned enough about the car to make a throttle stop setting prediction to bring us to a 10.908 in qualifying rounds on Thursday. That's .008 or 8 thousandths of a second from being dead on 10.90. We then turned around and followed that up in Fridays qualifying rounds with a 10.904, that's .004 or 4 thousandths of a second from being dead on 10.90... Wow... what a difference... it's all starting to come together now...

To be continued...

A Late Start For The 2000 Racing Season

I was supposed to start my 2000 Racing Season in April at Rockingham Racing with Jason, a National Events Hot Rod Rookie. Jason had asked if I could Race at Rockingham showing him the ropes of the Hot Rod Class. But in April the ProPane Burner was still torn apart and up on blocks in the garage from a few modifications I was making for this season.

It wasn't until July that I had the car back together and down on the ground. Jason and Rachel had talked  me into Racing in New York without even making any Test and Tune runs for the season, but they had broken a Transfer Case the week before we were to leave, so I headed off to New York International Raceway by myself to make my first run for the season. It was so late that I didn't expect to do well in the 2000 Season. My other concern was getting some sort of TV coverage for the Car in this year because I had started so late. Low and behold, on Thursday I spotted a Man walking around the Pit Area with a TV Camera on his shoulder. Being the shy type that I am, I walked up to him and asked if he had ever seen a Race Car that Burned ProPane for Racing Fuel. I simply said, follow me, and had gotten the Car a TV Spot for the Season right off the bat, Channel 9 in Rochester New York. Now, the ProPane Burner has had a TV Spot every year from 1995 thru 2000...

It was while in New York I picked up some advice on Weather Stations from someone I never met before nor have I ran into him since to "thank him for the advice". It sounded too expensive, but if you want to win, you better have the right equipment to do it with. The system is called the ______ System. Remember, the ProPane Burner runs 10.30's in the quarter mile and the Hot Rod Class is a 5 tenths Pro Tree Heads Up Race with no handicaps and a 10.90 Index. Meaning that you need to slow the car down to run 10.90's. Any faster and you're out of the game. Any slower and the Car next to you will win. The object is to run as close to 10.90 seconds with out going any quicker. It's tougher to do than you might think.

I put the ______ System to the test at the 2000 Northern Nationals in Stanton, Michigan. I was amazed at how much the system helped. We ran 10.90's all weekend winning the quarter finals. We then turned around and headed straight for the World Nationals at Norwalk Raceway Park in Norwalk Ohio.

The more information or runs that you make with the ______ System the more accurate the program becomes at making predictions. I found this out when I picked my time slip up at the timing booth after running qualifying round on Thursday. The time slip said 10.908 and of course my first thought was that they had given me the wrong time slip, but nope, it was my time slip for sure as I saw the 7775 number at the top of the slip...

Then came my Qualifying Run for Friday morning and I picked up a time slip that said 10.904... The system had dialed the car in to running 4 to 8 thousandths of a second off of a 10.90 dead on... that's something that is not that easy to do. I would say the system was well worth every penny it cost...

Remember, The ______ System had learned enough about the car to make a throttle stop setting prediction to bring us to a 10.908 in qualifying rounds on Thursday. That's .008 or 8 thousandths of a second from being dead on 10.90. We then turned around and followed that up in Fridays qualifying rounds with a 10.904, that's .004 or 4 thousandths of a second from being dead on 10.90... Wow... what a difference... it's all starting to come together now...

After Winning the Quarter Finals, and Racing into the Semi Finals at the IHRA Northern Nationals 2000, we qualified 8th out of 125 Racers in the Hot Rod Class for the IHRA World Nationals 2000. We made a mistake, we didn't change the transmission fluid after racing in temperatures of 120 heat index. After qualifying 8th in our class for the World Nationals with a 10.904, and winning 1st round of eliminations, the trans brake didn't hold the car at the light and allowed it to lunge forward about 6 inches or so, which caused us to Red Light and be eliminated at that time, even though I ran a 10.91 to my opponents 10.92.... All for the price of 7 quarts of transmission fluid. Man, did I learn a lesson.

Big Time Bummer... All over 7 quarts of transmission fluid.

"Tune in Later for the Rest of the Story"

Your comments and feedback, keep me going on with this project. So email me...

"Attention"

"The above section was written in 2000... 
It's now August 2002 and I see I've neglected my story but I have much to add and will do so very soon!!!"

2001 IHRA Nationals Racing Season

In 2001 Jeff Born an Automotive Technician from Coldwater Michigan joined our Racing Team as a Crew Chef. He can spin a wrench with the "Speed of Lightening" ;-)

Well Jeff, what's your opinion, Propane or Hydrogen?
More to come soon...

2002 IHRA Nationals Racing Season

The little joke above about Lightening, wasn't so funny  back in 2002, when our pit area was struck by lightening during a major tornado weather storm at the IHRA Northern Nationals 2002 at US 131 Dragway Martin MI... I'll be adding more to this story and the History of the ProPane Burner soon... in the mean time ask Jeff or Jim, they'll tell ya what happened... that was 1 big boom boom and fireworks or sparks flying all over and above the Motor Home next to us which caught on fire, and there was little lightening things crawling all over the ground... what a rush

World Nationals 2002, I found a rolling chassis Dragster and decided that was the way to make Propane go faster, so the Chevelle went out the door and the Dragster came in. We're just about finished... a sponsor would be helpful...

 

The International Hot Rod Association Norwalk, OH
IHRA Hooters Racing Series
Hooters IHRA Racing Series

The Special Tribute From The State of Michigan Below
Signed By Governor Engler and 14 State Senators
Speaks For Itself 
Presented To Richard Rowe
At The Capital Building in Lansing, MI in 1999

 

Partial Quote Within The Document:

"LET IT BE KNOWN: That it's a genuine pleasure to commend The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and The Michigan Propane Gas Association (MPGA) on the re-emergence of the drag racing industry while promoting the use of environmentally friendly fuels such as propane.
The Essence of IHRA Championship Drag Racing today is its 'leading edge' approach. One such innovation has been the embracing of new technologies such as propane fueled competitors. Propane, a by-product of natural gas and crude oil processing, is a fuel that burns clean, making it environmentally sound. Richard Rowe and his sponsor, Pennington Gas Service, deserve special recognition for their contributions in the IHRA Hot Rod Class, racing with a propane-burning 1970 Chevelle."

In Memory of Charles L. Rowe (Dad)
April 26, 1935 - November 20, 2002
Our ProPane Powered Dragster Project Continues...

 

  Driver Builder Owner : Richard C. Rowe - ProPane Carburetion Specialist

  Crew Chief : Jeff Born - Automotive Technician

  Crew : Brian Rowe - Engineer & Son

  Crew : James 007 Jarrell - Gofer This Gofer That Specialist

 


Created By: HotRod Richard Rowe The ProPaneMan
Propane Exceptional Energy
Alternate Fuels Racing Propane Powered Dragster

ProPane Powered Race Cars In Memory of Charles L. Rowe (Dad) & Rachel A. Rowe (Mom)