Russell Owen reminds me a lot of Carroll Shelby with his Texas drawl and his tall, blue-jeaned cowboy-style image. At 15, Russell wanted to design an engine that could win the Indy 500.
Russell's career started at Ethyl Corp., between 1955 and 1963, where he was a Fuels Specialist. He started working for Ford at the company’s proving ground in 1963. He then moved to the Special Order Department. In 1968, he worked his way up toa more exciting niche in the automaker’s NASCAR Racing Program.
Russell became the Power Plant Systems Group Engineer with responsibility for all of the moving and reciprocating parts in the competition version of the Boss 429 V-8. Russell says he worked on only the NASCAR 429 that developed 550-560 hp. A de-tuned version of this motor was then used in the 500 Boss 429 Mustangs built to make the engine race legal.
The engines that Owen helped build were used in cars driven by David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, Bobby Isaac, Bobby Allison and Lee Roy Yarbrough. “Ford never lost a race with that engine,” says Owen Russell, with a real sense of pride in his voice.
Russell's motor didn't make it to the Indy 500, but it did rack up a lot of 500-mile wins and I would say that he achieved what he set out to do at 15. What a great feeling that must be.