Twenty years ago the Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC) was an unheralded meeting of engine builders held in Colorado Springs, Co. But despite humble beginnings, it was practically the only way for engine builders, manufacturers and racers to get together and share information in an unbiased environment, and the idea quickly caught on.

For more information, please check out the AETC® website at

Today, we have the internet, discussion forums, teleconferencing and all sorts of technology that wasn’t possible back in 1989, but the AETC has still grown to become the premiere gatherings of horsepower professionals anywhere. These days, the conference is held annually just before the PRI Trade Show in Orlando, FL. This year it will take place December 7-9, with the PRI Show beginning on the 10th in the very same building.

What the AETC is all about

If you’ve never been before, the AETC serves two purposes. First, the conference focuses on a particular engine-building topic and brings in many respected experts in the industry to speak on a subject involving that topic. And second, the AETC provides three days filled with opportunities to network with other engine professionals and build relationships.

“Last year we enjoyed the most successful AETC conference that we’ve ever had, even with the down economy,” explains Scooter Brothers of Comp Cams. “And it was successful in just about every way you could measure it: attendee feedback, the number of sponsors at the conference and the feedback they gave us, the number of door prizes we were able to give away to the attendees, media exposure, even the feedback we got from the people at the PRI show. It was just tremendous, and we’re aiming to set the bar even higher this year.

“Now we’re looking for another great event for 2009,” he continues. “Even though the economy still isn’t as healthy as most of us would like, I believe people understand how important this conference is in terms of learning and sharing information, and the benefit that can have. Besides that, the sponsor support is at least equal to what we saw last year, and when you realize that you can practically get back your money in door prizes and parts discounts, it looks like a really good deal.”

Over its history, the high level of discussion held at the AETC has led to quite a number of very important announcements. For example, the first official announcement by GM of the groundbreaking LS series of engines was made by Ron Sperry at the AETC when he freely revealed the company’s design goals for the engine. Another year, Chrysler representatives spoke about the development of the new Chrysler V8 for NASCAR racing before the design was even complete! There has even been a frank discussion of a Formula 1 racing engine development program, which is quite surprising given the secrecy that usually surrounds most F1 organizations.

What to expect for this year

For 2009 the conference will zero in on the topic of Ford’s Modular engine family. Since its introduction in 1991, the Modular engine family has been produced in the millions and can be found in everything from Ford Mustangs and GTs on the performance end to Lincoln Town Cars and Ford pickups. A modern engine design based on overhead cam architecture and computer-controlled fuel injection, it is quickly gaining a following among performance enthusiasts and has proven to be a more-than-capable performer in high-horsepower drag racing applications as well as endurance-oriented sports car racing. The Modular engine has been accepted by everyone from casual performance fans, to professional racers, to the aftermarket

The Speakers

You can go to to see a complete list of speakers as well as the conference schedule, but just a few of the planned speakers include John Maddox of Roush Yates Engines who will discuss how RYE developed a championship-winning endurance sports car racing Modular engine, Jim D’Amore of JDM Engineering who will speak on supercharging secrets, and Sean Andrew of Diamond Racing who will reveal the results of Diamond’s research into the best piston designs for these motors.

“I’m looking forward to hearing many of these presenters myself,” says Roush Yates Engines’ Maddox. “There’s a lot that can be learned from these people, and I think some of the best discussions will be when we can all put our heads together during the round tables or even at lunch.

“Everybody there will have their own strengths,” he continues, “but that may help spark an idea for someone that they may take in a totally different direction. Take us, for example. What we are doing with the sports car racing program may be pretty out there. But the thing that we’ve worked on is endurance. We build engines that make good power and can survive in a pretty harsh environment for extended racing periods. I hope somebody can take what I’m able to share and really build upon it.”

And even if your area of interest doesn’t include Ford’s Modular engine family, you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking there is nothing for you to learn at an AETC. “Just being around all these very intelligent, very focused people in the industry can be a tremendous advantage,” Brothers says. “That includes the attendees as well as the guest speakers. Besides the opportunity to network and make new connections, just the casual conversations that can be had before and after the sessions can be quite informative.

“Plus, technology is technology, and what you are going to learn here you will be able to apply across any engine platform, whether it’s GM, Chrysler or even an import. It doesn’t matter; the concepts we’re talking about will work anywhere. I really think that everyone who attends this year’s AETC has the potential to take something away that will really benefit their program.”

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