Engine Pulleys — Old-School Tradition Meets New-School Innovation

Your project is progressing nicely, and you have reached the point where you need a way to propel your hot rod. You can either pull the trigger and plunk down a sizable amount of cash on a new crate engine, or you drop a similar amount of dough to rebuild that used mill you’ve had sitting under the workbench since the ’80s. Either way, you’ll have a fully assembled engine that is missing most, if not all, of the accessories (either required or desired) and accessory pulleys.

Pulleys

The addition of computer-aided design (CAD) has advanced aftermarket prototyping exponentially. Randy prefers to handle his portion of design via a computer.

With the engine fitted between the frame rails, arranging the accessories, pulleys, and belts for clearance within the tight confines of your engine bay can develop into a never-ending headache. With the tight sides and the closeness of the engine to the radiator, it would be nice to have a complete, compact, and slick looking pulley system that fits – without breaking the bank. Look no farther. Concept One Pulley Systems has developed a series of affordable pulley kits that keep the accessories tight to the engine, allowing for fitment between the front of the engine and the radiator support, in even the snuggest of engine bays.

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Having access to OE CAD designs can really help during the prototyping stage.

Co-owners and brothers, Randy and Kevin Redd, founded Concept One in Cumming, Georgia, in 2001. They have been providing quality pulleys, brackets, and reservoirs for all the popular Chevrolet (and a few select Ford) engines. Why did the Redd brothers originally focus on Chevrolet engines? “Chevys were what we were most exposed to, and the most popular, so it was a no-brainer,” Kevin avowed.

The brothers grew up at their father’s Amoco gas station. While there, they learned basic auto repair and even some restoration techniques. Once grown, the duo put their acquired knowledge to use. First, they worked at their father’s Goodyear Tire and Service Center, which was followed by a stint at dad’s classic car restoration business. The brothers took note of the vehicles upon which they worked and modified. They noticed the backyard-engineered accessory and pulley arrangements performed by certain customers. They thought there could be a better setup.

When speaking with Kevin about how they got into manufacturing pulleys, he stated, “We saw a need for a complete pulley system, instead of separate pulleys and brackets that had to be forced to work together.” Sounds logical, but we also got inquisitive about what goes into developing a Concept One system.

Designing products on a computer can not only save time, but it costs less than trial and error fitment.

The product development plan Concept One employs is very similar to many businesses. First, Kevin and Randy observe and research the market, monitor changes in technology, find limitations in the factory or aftermarket development of a component, and listen to customer demand for select parts and pieces. Once they have completed the first step, the duo synthesizes the information they’ve collected, and determine if they should move forward, reevaluate, or end the project before a large amount of time and money are expended. If the project has legs, it advances to the third step, where the brothers envision their customers using the new pulley system.

While pondering a particular project, Kevin and Randy ask themselves, “Will the new product meet the needs of our customers, and will it be cost-effective to continue onward to the fourth step in the product development?” That step includes prototyping, evaluating, and improving the initial concept.

The fifth step is the implementation of design changes developed in step four, and more advanced testing procedures. This might even include “live” testing on actual vehicles outside of the research and development (R&D) area. The final step occurs when the developed product is made available to the public.

Pulleys

Kevin prefers a more “mechanical approach,” and employs the task of physically machining and measuring fitment.

When it comes to the Redd brothers, it is step four that is the most intriguing, as they approach prototyping, evaluating, and concept improvement in vastly different ways. With every new engine offered by Chevrolet and Ford, Randy and Kevin have an opportunity to research the feasibility of the product, create a prototype serpentine-belt layout, and develop new products that will bolt up to the engine, while still fitting properly within the engine bay.

Randy tends to have a new-school approach to the early stages of product development. He has a solid background in engineering from Southern PolyTechnic State University (now called Kennesaw State University). Furthermore, he is very comfortable and proficient with a computer and Computer Aided Design (CAD)-related software. He will develop a pulley design and belt layout for an engine from start-to-end while seated in front of a computer.

Pulleys

All Concept One systems are designed with maintenance in mind. Belts don’t last forever, and replacements can be had at any auto parts store.

To get the engine dimensions (height, width, depth), along with the location and hardware installation points to the cylinder heads, water pump, and timing cover, Randy utilizes various sources for the technical information that he can download to his computer. If he cannot acquire the information, he has to leave his desk to measure everything by hand and manually input the data. Once Randy has the data loaded, it is just a matter of incessantly clicking the mouse to manipulate the location of each accessory and the size of each pulley until a complete system is developed.

Kevin on the other hand, is more old school. He pursued a machining degree from Lanier Technical College. During the time between working with his father at the restoration business and the inception of Concept One, Kevin developed his machining skills designing and making parts for other businesses. Kevin prefers to limit his use of a computer. He prefers to mock-up an idea on an actual engine block and then make prototype pulleys based on his mock-up layout. Kevin’s approach does require a little CAD-work to assist in the development of the product, but he prefers to “measure and fit” parts.

Both brothers are bound to the same outcome for their pulley designs. First, the belt routing must attain maximum belt wrap around each pulley for ultimate belt grip. To ensure this, a 6- or 8-rib serpentine belt is employed (a 10-rib belt is being considered for supercharged applications). The factory pulley ratios (crankshaft to water pump, alternator, power steering, air-conditioning compressor) must be maintained. This is true even if the Concept One-designed crankshaft-pulley diameter is reduced from the factory dimensions to eliminate interference. It is imperative that the design is tight to the engine and does not introduce any noise, vibration, or harshness (NVH) harmonics. A serpentine belt used on a Concept One system must be an off-the-shelf belt, usually a Continental belt (formerly Goodyear). This means the customer can find a readily available belt when a replacement is necessary. Lastly, the product must meet the need of the customer, and must be an attractive and durable product that will last a lifetime.

Between the two approaches, the prototypes are developed, tested and analyzed. There is usually a compromise that eventually determines how the completed system’s pulleys are laid out, finished, and ultimately operate. Throughout the development process, the motto at Concept One is to design components that are clean and simple. A customer can get either a little “pop” for their engine bay with a polished kit, or they can have an OE look with an anodized kit.

To produce precision components on a large-scale (or even a small-scale when prototyping), the brothers rely on CNC equipment to manufacture the pulleys, brackets, and reservoirs. Concept One has CNC turning centers (lathes) and machining centers (mills) that handle the pulley processing demand. Additionally, Computer Aided Design (CAD) system and Computer Aided Machining (CAM) are employed to help with the design and machining of the products.

When a pulley system is purchased from Concept One, what actually comes in the kit? Although each Chevrolet kit may vary slightly, you can expect either an OE water pump in a cast finish, or an Edelbrock water pump with the Endura Shine finish. Additional accessories include a new power steering pump (with either a mounted or external reservoir), a one-wire alternator, and a GM belt-tensioner. To mount the accessories, a complete bracket set and chrome hardware will guarantee the components stay in place. Pulleys for the crankshaft, water pump, alternator (with fan and pulley cover), power steering, and A/C compressor will accompany each component. If you have a Ford engine, Concept One provides kits that include every component previously mentioned, with the exception of the water pump.

If your engine produces low-vacuum at idle, Kevin and Randy have a great working relationship with a company that can provide a hydro-boost braking system to use in place of a traditional vacuum-assisted brake arrangement. The hydro-boost system works with Concept One’s power steering pumps and reservoirs to provide power-brake assist.

Which brother has the best approach to developing the best pulley system for a Chevrolet engine? It truly doesn’t matter. Kevin and Randy have approaches to development that fall within their comfort zone, and the results are spectacular. Ultimately, it is the customer that benefits from the quality R&D work. If you like the workmanship of Kevin, Randy, and their employees, check out their website Concept One Pulley Systems to view their latest offerings for your Chevrolet or Ford engine.

Article Sources

About the author

Christopher Holley

Chris Holley has been a freelance writer since 2014. Chris has been a college professor since 1998; he currently instructs the second-year automotive electrical/electronics and HVAC classes at Pennsylvania College of Technology. In addition, he also teaches the chassis dyno classes where he and the students perform dozens of modifications and hundreds of runs per semester on various vehicles. Chris’ passions run deep for the Mopar products. When Chris is not working, he has several Dodges that he either races at the drag strip, cruises to car shows, or tests on a chassis dyno. Chris is a multi-time track champion at the local drag strips in the central Pennsylvania area.
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