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Folks Of Interest GOATROPER02 / Ross Racing Engines Article

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by HEMI32, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. Tony @GOATROPER02 Lombardi got some much deserved press from goodguys logo.png / fuel curve logo.jpg :

    April 15, 2019
    Written by Damon Lee
    Photos by Julia Lombardi

    You can debate all you want about it being “rocket science” or not, but there’s no denying the precision, skill, and ingenuity that goes into the highly regarded Olds Rocket V8s and other vintage performance power plants that come from the Niles, Ohio-based shop known as Ross Racing Engines.


    The assembly room stays clean and functional, allowing Tony and Ross to focus on precise work and proper detailing.

    Shop owner Tony Lombardi is carrying on an engine-building legacy started by his father, Ross Lombardi, in the 1960s and ’70s. Ross began racing Oldsmobiles around Ohio’s drag strips in the 1960s, winning more than he lost. He soon became known for his engine building skills and quickly built a following of both drag and oval-track racers, not to mention serious street performance enthusiasts.

    Tony programs and oversees the cylinder boring process using the shop’s Millport vertical mill.

    What started out as a home business moved into a shop and the official opening of Ross Racing Engines in 1975. The elder Lombardi moved the shop to its current location – just a couple miles from the original building – in 1978.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019


    Growing up around the shop and around racing, young Tony Lombardi naturally gravitated toward a go-fast life. “I hate to say it, but I was forced,” Tony said. “I grew up in this building and was working here since I could push a broom.”

    Tony’s penchant for mechanics was demonstrated early when he rebuilt a Quadrajet carburetor in 10th grade power mechanics class, snuck out of school during lunch, went up to his buddy’s house, installed the carb on a ’76 Pontiac Bonneville, and drove that car back after lunch. He did this before having a driver’s license. He built his first complete and functioning engine – for his buddy’s ’55 Chevy – during his junior year of high school. He did it all by himself; every piece of the engine from start to finish.

    Growing up with funny cars and dragsters around the house, it was natural for Tony to get the itch for racing and performance.
    It wasn’t just engine building – Tony inherited the racing bug, too. “I can remember a time when I wasn’t old enough to be in the pits,” Tony said. “Standing outside the track, leaning against the fence, I watched the cars and I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to do that; I’m going to go racing.’

    "We didn’t play sports, we went to the races,” Tony continued, “and I hate to say it, but I remember a time when I hated going to the races. Once I had my driver’s license there were a couple years I didn’t go because I didn’t have to anymore. The reason I started going again was my dad used to send me to deliver engines and I’d meet the guy at the race track.”

    “Since we had just driven hours to the track, we would hang on the fence and watch the race, and we’d say, ‘hell, let’s go do that!’ And so, we did! Two weeks later we had a car. The first year I turned a lap in a dirt car was the same year I graduated high school. I got bit by the bug again.”

    For 25 years, Tony competed in dirt circle track racing, giving him firsthand
    experience with how Ross Racing Engines-built power plants performed in competition.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
    woodz, GordonC, Deuces and 7 others like this.

    Tony spent the next 25 years dirt track racing, finally hanging up his helmet in 2009. His on-track experience undoubtedly helped Ross Racing Engines build on its reputation for assembling performance power plants that could deliver on-track wins.

    Tony takes care of a finish hone on an engine block with the shop’s well-seasoned Sunnen

    Ask Tony about his business philosophy and he’s quick to reply that it all boils down to delivering quality, precision work. “We go over and above to supply quality,” Tony said, “because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re the best at what we do – well, one of the best. I don’t want to sound too arrogant!”

    A Super Flow dyno allows for dyno testing, which not only establishes and confirms
    power figures, but also assures proper break-in and lets Tony dial-in the tuning.


    Tony stressed that the goal is the same whether the shop is building a Saturday-night short-track engine, a NASCAR power plant, or a hard-core hot rod engine. “We treat them all with the same care and attention to detail,” he said. “We strive for the same quality. Our engines have been endurance tested on dyno’s, racetracks and highways.”


    Like so many things that require precision craftsmanship, Tony said he believes the quality of the work that comes from Ross Racing Engines is a reflection of his personality and the traits he learned from his father. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “It’s the same reason as when I was dirt racing, the car and engine had to be straight and spotless when it rolled out of the trailer, even though we knew it was just going to be thrown in the mud and bent up again that night.”

    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
    woodz, GordonC, Deuces and 10 others like this.


    Since getting out of driving a dirt track car, Tony has found his way back to the roots of Ross Racing Engines: drag racing. In 2011, he built a front-engine dragster with blown ’57 Olds V8 running on alcohol and aimed at the 7.0 Pro class. Though updated in 2015, he still campaigns the car using the same engine. He also built a nitro-burning big block Chevy for the Hilton family’s Great Expectations III dragster, which has traveled all over the country for races and Nitro Thunderfest exhibitions.

    Tony Lombardi puts his work to the test with his personal blown Oldsmobile-powered front engine dragster running on
    methanol. Tony races with the NDRL in their 7.0 class, but has pushed his dragster to a best time of 6.64 at 205mph.

    Speaking of the Hilton family, Bobby Hilton – owner of Hilton Hot Rods – had also commissioned Ross Racing Engines to build some high-profile vintage engines for a series of killer hot rods, including a blown Olds in Tony’s personal 'Model A coupe, which won the Goodguys 2014 Tanks Inc. Hot Rod of the Year title, and a blown Hemi in the 2017 Tanks Inc. Hot Rod of the Year, Ralph and Linda Miller’s panel-painted Model A sedan.

    Tony’s personal Model A coupe, built by Hilton Hot Rods, was named the Goodguys Tanks Inc. Hot Rod of
    the Year in 2014. The rowdy blown Olds V8 in that car went a long way toward helping to earn that title.

    Tony Lombardi and Bobby Hilton talk with Goodguys’ Don Irvin prior to a Nitro Thunderfest exhibition at a Goodguys event.
    In addition to the full scope of engine-building services, Ross Racing Engines performs in-house dyno testing and tuning and offers an expansive line of speed equipment for vintage engines. It’s still essentially a one-man show, with Tony working full time and father Ross coming in a few days a week to help and offer his time and expertise. Together, they carry on a legacy spanning more than five decades, one of building big-time V8 power for classic American hot rods and race cars.

    Company namesake Ross Lombardi still puts in time at the shop, lending his experience and expertise to engine projects.

    Ross Racing Engines
    1763 N. Main Street
    Niles, OH, 44446
    (330) 544-4466
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  5. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,502


    Now, I'll never be able to get my Caddy in.
  6. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 2,296


    Great write up. Love the history and the passion.
  7. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,560

    frank spittle

    It's ironic but the Ross gang were at the Congregation Show in Charlotte last weekend with some of their traditional vintage engine powered rods. They were very impressive. This feature adds more information about what they do. Thanks.
  8. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 7,229


    Great read and lots of valuable information. If I was a little closer and had the budget I'd have put a traditional Olds Rocket V8 into my 46 Olds rather than a belly button 350SBC with faux covers. Olds Rockets didn't come down here and are like trying to find a needle in a haystack, first you need to find a good core and then you need to find someone that you can trust and has the necessary technical knowledge and ability to build it and source all the good parts needed. I've a 6x2 crossram however it'd be much better if it was an Old Rocket under the intake rather than a SBC.
    It doesn't get much better than this, I'd love it in my 46. :D:cool:;)
    HEMI32, Deuces, Sporty45 and 2 others like this.
  9. Rckt98
    Joined: Jun 7, 2005
    Posts: 829


    What a great read.
    HEMI32 and loudbang like this.
  10. bchctybob
    Joined: Sep 18, 2011
    Posts: 1,538


    Thanks Hemi32. I've bought some parts and talked to Tony on the phone - nice guy. Nice to put a visual to who and what's on the other end of the telephone line.
    HEMI32, Deuces and loudbang like this.
    Joined: Dec 8, 2015
    Posts: 212


    61BECC76-7F97-486B-B905-7DED971ACBCF.jpeg 964263F9-5523-4F93-8822-5246206E5AE3.jpeg 45F02553-A417-403D-AC7F-A97DDE69DF16.jpeg Can speak from experience tony builds a hell of a good motor
    The Buick nailhead and the Olds have performed under the toughest of conditions and never failed to deliver. We’re now getting ready to send this Arden headed Flathead with a Scott’s blower to Tony to work his magic. Maybe we’ll see that roadster next year at Goodguys Nashville competing in Tank’s Hot Rod of the Year Run. Thanks to Tony and his dad
    mgtstumpy, HEMI32, Deuces and 2 others like this.
  12. loudbang
    Joined: Jul 23, 2013
    Posts: 18,975


    Good find great story.
    HEMI32, Deuces and lothiandon1940 like this.
  13. catdad49
    Joined: Sep 25, 2005
    Posts: 3,018


    Thanks for sharing the story and history. Who wouldn't want a Dyno tuned hot rod engine?!
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2019
    mgtstumpy, loudbang, HEMI32 and 2 others like this.
  14. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 7,880


    Plus he's a nice guy.
    mgtstumpy, loudbang, HEMI32 and 2 others like this.
  15. Excellent. Some beautiful engines come out of their shop.
    loudbang, Montana1, HEMI32 and 2 others like this.
  16. oldsjoe
    Joined: May 2, 2011
    Posts: 2,493


    Always good to read about Olds power! Thanks Hemi. Joe
    loudbang and HEMI32 like this.
  17. rd martin
    Joined: Nov 14, 2006
    Posts: 2,225

    rd martin
    from indiana

    there never was any doubt about father and sons ability, to build an outstanding motor, after seeing that olds powered rail run in the 7s, its amazing! I need to get the motor done in the car in my avatar, I know who I want to call!:cool:
    mgtstumpy, loudbang and HEMI32 like this.
  18. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 3,343


    Great article--impressive! I would love to have an early Olds in my next 40!!

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