Possible Link Between Thefts at Buck, Eagle Race Engine Shops

Surveillance image of hooded thief near row of engines taken the night eight motors were stolen from Buck Racing Engines.

Authorities say they have leads in the theft of eight engines and other high-performance parts from Buck Racing Engines (BRE) in King, North Carolina, where a reward pool has surpassed $17,000.

“We do have leads which we are following up on,” said King police chief Paula May in an email to EngineLabs. “We cannot release any investigative information at this point.”

Only one engine, a small-block Ford, was brand new. The other engines taken that night were customer motors in for freshening before returning to the track.

According to the police report, the theft occurred in the early morning hours of June 19. In addition to the eight engines, the report says three intake manifolds and a set of Chevy SB2 cylinder heads are also missing, all with total value of $314,500. Another $10,000 in damage to the building and security system was also reported.

“It’s hard to say what they stole right now,” says shop owner Charlie Buck, Jr. “That’s what we know of now. More stuff is going to come up missing.”

Since the report was filed and EngineLabs talked with Buck, BRE has indicated on its Facebook page that five “fully dressed” nitrous intake manifolds were stolen along with three sets of cylinder heads–so the total value of the heist is likely to escalate as additional inventory is checked.

In a closely related theft, $25,000 to $50,000 worth of engine parts were reported stolen on June 18 from Eagle Racing Engines (ERE) in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is some 260 miles driving distance to the west of King. The Knox County Sheriff’s report says officers were dispatched to the shop at 21 minutes past midnight in regards to a business alarm sounding. Officers then noted an unknown suspect had made entry into the business from the front door and damaged the alarm system.

“We’re still compiling the list of parts,” says ERE owner Michael Hedgecock. “There were no complete engines taken, just components.”

While all the engine thefts were tragic, a particularly heart-breaking loss was this numbers-matching LS6 from a '70 Chevelle.

One of the thieves crawls on the floor, possibly to avoid the motion detectors, and shines a flashlight on the back wall.

Suspects visited both shops 

Besides the engine parts, the sheriff’s report says $1,400 in damage was observed on the ERE building and alarm system.

Connecting the two cases is surveillance video from BRE that shows persons of interest posing as customers the day before the break-in. Buck says they were inquiring about a new long-block build. Speculation suggests the suspects were surveying the security systems during that visit. BRE posted stills of the suspects on its Facebook page, and then ERE shared those same images on its Facebook page.

It’s possible the thieves used this truck to make the getaway. It was spotted in the BRE parking lot with no tags the afternoon before the theft.

“These are the exact guys that were in our shop on Wednesday that we believe to have had part in our deal,” said Eagle on its Facebook page.

After the photos were posted on Facebook and picked up by other Internet racing and performance forums, with considerable interest generated by YellowBullet, tips started coming into the race shops as well as the authorities. Numerous sources suggested that one of the suspects resembled an individual from Tulsa, Oklahoma, featured on the popular but controversial reality show, “Street Outlaws,” which is seen on the Discovery Channel.

“I feel positive that the two are tied together,” says Hedgecock. “Those same guys were here asking about two Dominator gaskets.”

Video of one of the thieves in the Buck Racing Shop

Here is another video of 1 guy coming down the wall and crawling across the floor #BuckPower

Posted by Buck Racing Engines on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chief May would not comment on specific leads, nor would she answer questions about other state and federal law enforcement agencies working on the theft.

“We appreciate all leads we get, and some do turn out to be more helpful than others,” May said in her email. “It is just part of it, the nature of the beast so to speak.  There is no such thing as ‘unwanted’ information.”

Buck did indicate other agencies are connected to the investigation.

“I feel they’re working very hard on it,” says Buck. “The Oklahoma police, the King police and now the Knoxville police are all involved.”

Stills captured from the surveillance video during the robbery inside Buck Racing Engines.

Buck says the thieves cut through the building high up on the back wall where the motion detector’s range was not focused.

“They stood up on a ledge for two hours, shining flashlights to chase down all the wires on the alarm system,” says Buck, adding that the thieves were then able to disarm the system. “I don’t have a cellular backup, so when they killed the landline, it couldn’t do anything.”

Buck says a bread-delivery driver noticed a truck and trailer parked in the street nearby during the same time that the thieves were likely gathering the engines and other items near the garage doors.

“We got it on video: the truck backing up and them loading it up,” says Buck. “Fourteen minutes and they were gone.”

Eagle Racing Engines supplies power to both dirt tracks and the dragstrip. No assembled engines were stolen during the brief heist at its shop following quick response by Sheriff’s deputies responding to the alarm. But $50,000 or more worth of high-end engine components were taken.

Breakdown of stolen engines

The theft certainly poses problems for not only Buck Racing Engines but also its customers. Only one of the eight engines was brand new. The others were customer engines—most of them originally built by BRE—in for freshening before returning to competition. Here’s a list of the engines, as noted on the King police report and also updated by BRE on its Facebook page:

  • 632ci Chevrolet nitrous with conventional heads
  • 632ci Chevrolet nitrous with Big Chief heads
  • 865ci 5.300-inch bore spacing motor
  • 765ci race engine with Big Chief heads
  • Ford small-block engine
  • 454ci iron-head BBC
  • 765ci race engine with conventional heads
  • Chevrolet BBC short-block

The 454 big-block Chevy was a numbers-matching LS6 that powered an NMCA-raced ’70 Chevelle.

“It had been in that car for 45 years,” says owner Drew Amitrano, who works for Pro Fabrication headers and occasionally helps Buck at the BRE shop.

Here is the 865ci Pro Mod engine raced by Dave Roemer that was stolen from BRE.

The 632 nitrous engines are valued at $50,000 each on the police report. The most expensive engine, listed at $100,000 on the report, is the 865 Pro Mod motor.

“It was one of my usual 5.3 Pro Mod engines with billet block and billet heads,” says Buck. “Four-stage Speedtech nitrous system, split CFM carbs, billet intake, Dailey pump.”

Buck says he can’t proceed with ordering parts to build replacement engines until an insurance settlement is finalized.

“I have no indication of how much will be available,” he says, adding that he hopes suppliers will be flexible as he plans the build schedules.

Another victim of the theft. Here are two views of a 632i nitrous engine owned by Jim Wheatley.

As of June 23, a reward of $17,200 has been posted by Buck Racing Engines, some of the money coming from customers hoping to get their engines returned promptly. According to BRE Facebook page, the reward money will be paid for the information that leads to the return of all the stolen items and the arrest/conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft.

The King police department is asking that any information regarding the crime be forwarded to the Crime Stoppers (800-222-8506) or to the police directly (336-983-0886). The phone number for the Knox County Sheriff is 865-215-2243.

About the author

Mike Magda

Mike Magda is a veteran automotive writer with credits in publications such as Racecar Engineering, Hot Rod, Engine Technology International, Motor Trend, Automobile, Automotive Testing Technology and Professional Motorsport World.
Read My Articles

Horsepower delivered to your inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from EngineLabs, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.



We'll send you raw engine tech articles, news, features, and videos every week from EngineLabs.



We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.



Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

Late Model LS Vehicles
Drag Racing
Muscle Car & Hot Rods


Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • LSX Mag Late Model LS Vehicles
  • Dragzine Drag Racing
  • Street Muscle Mag Muscle Car & Hot Rods



Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.


Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.