Titanium Connecting Rods Get a Bad Rap!
The same is true in Titanium connecting rods as other applications for Titanium in racing, there are always horror stories from the past. As mentioned previously the road to success with Titanium was paved with speed bumps as fabricators and designers learned what Titanium to use where and how to best make race cars go fast or at least faster than the other guy and still not fly like an airplane.
Many years ago, aircraft builders, our forefathers in the Titanium for racing, experimented with Titanium since it is incredibly light and seems to have the same strength as steel. It was the perfect replacement for steel parts and making things that go fast. It was dangerous trial by error, but the times did come around and the knowledge that was built began the Titanium craze. Today Titanium not only makes race cars fast but also plays a role in the safety of the driver and the audience.
Titanium connecting rods are one of the items that are made from this wonder metal that are the best bang for your buck. Speaking with Louis at Crower you can order a set of Titanium connecting rods for your small-block Chevrolet stroker for $4,500.00 with eight-week delivery. As crazy as that price sounds, the benefits of reciprocating weight, engine acceleration and deceleration, consistency of set up, and longevity far outweigh the steel and aluminum counterparts. Titanium rods like steel are repairable, can be resized, re-coated, and live to fight another day.
Aluminum rods play a significant role in high horsepower applications and because of the cost of the material you can throw pallet loads of aluminum into your race car without breaking the bank. Surprisingly, the weight of aluminum is half that of Titanium but a finished part in Titanium is still similar in weight because the aluminum must be so much bulkier to hold up to the stress of the environment- weight savings over Titanium- negligible. Titanium is an incredibly stable material to work with and another benefit found is that the set-up with Titanium rod is one and done. Unlike aluminum, Titanium will not grow so there is never a difference from the first bang to the last. Titanium for the win!
Steel rods are the go-to for many grassroots because the $4,500 price tag is too much to stomach - some racers do not spend that on the whole engine. For the guys that want to go fast, the steel will not last. Titanium because of the weight savings over steel has several benefits, the first being the acceleration, deceleration, and lower weight crankshafts that are possible with less rotating weight.
Weight savings is something everyone understands and hopefully, we are beyond the thinking of, “my car is already at minimum weight" the weight saving in reciprocating weight is exponential- remember the demo you saw as with the static weight vs rotating weight using a string and bobber- if you don't just grab your kids yo-yo and feel the weight hanging at the end of the string still then swing it around over your head like you're going steer roping and you'll see the difference. That same principle plays two-fold in connecting rods- the rpm increases quicker and at the same time, it decreases quicker- not as much needed to get it moving or slow it down. With all that said the next item in the line is the crankshaft, with Titanium rods you can have less weight on the crankshaft and further less weight to balance – Win! Win! Win!
Lastly, there is the life cycle. There is no documented life cycle on Titanium connecting rods making it extremely hard for the bean counters to understand the cost savings over any other option. I spoke to Corry Weller, Lucas Oil Short course racer, several years ago at PRI, she mentioned that she runs the Crower machined rods in her short course truck. I asked her the question on life cycle: she was puzzled, had no idea, said that she sends them back to Crower annually and a dozen years without fail. That is the story that I hear most often from anyone with recent experience. Titanium connecting rods are not created equal and cannot just be a copy of steel rods- Titanium needs different geometry and material in different areas not to mention a special bolt and lube - no Loctite here.
The TMS TiChero was a beast of a small block with a set of Crower machined Titanium connecting rods and there was nothing else like it when it came to how fast that little engine would accelerate, I can remember increasing the Rev limiter several times closing in on 9000 RPM just because it could- it was a little powerhouse! The Titanium connecting rods live on and will someday be terrorizing the streets in another TMS rid!