James Hewett, of Magnuson Superchargers, was named the Emerging Trends & Technology Network's (ETTN) Engineer of the Year at the 2023 SEMA Show last November.
Get to know Hewett, in his interview with ETTN below.
ETTN: How long have you been in the automotive aftermarket, and did you plan to work in the aftermarket or OEM space after graduation?
JH: I have been in the automotive aftermarket since August of 2020. My only true career goal was, and still is, to work in a field that excited not only myself but others as well. Fast cars and rollercoasters both checked that box for me, and I've been lucky enough to have worked on both. I started my career in the entertainment industry, developing dark rides for the major theme parks and pivoted to the automotive aftermarket when I had the opportunity.
ETTN: Can you explain some of the challenges or obstacles you faced while designing the new Magnuson Supercharger kit for the C8 Corvette?
JH: The primary challenge was getting access to the accessory drive, which is required to provide input power for the supercharger itself. The factory accessory drive is barely accessible and I developed a patent-pending drive system that does not relocate the dry-sump oil reservoir. A second major challenge was to fit the supercharger below the extremely tight package environment created by the convertible closeout panel. I used CFD modeling to optimize the intake manifold design to ensure airflow and the hardware's ability to deliver the desired performance.
The countless roadblocks and design constraints that the C8 presented was something I was used to from my experience in Entertainment. The biggest challenge for me personally was being so new to the automotive industry. I had a lot to learn in a short timeframe. The C8 Corvette was my first major project at Magnuson, and a car I had been very excited about for some time. I felt a huge responsibility to Magnuson, and fans of the car, to produce a kit that I would want to install on my own vehicle… if I had one.
ETTN: How did you tackle these challenges, and did you have any failed attempts in your finished design?
JH: With a ton of support and patience from the entire engineering team at Magnuson. This group has lots of experience solving complex design issues and always made themselves available when I needed help or wanted to bounce some of my crazy ideas off them. They helped me feel comfortable in a new field from day one. There have been plenty of "face palm" moments but overall, the design has stayed much the same with a few changes to help improve reliability and maintenance access.
ETTN: Who is your "engineering hero"?
JH: Gordon Murray is a living legend. Fun fact, I was born and raised in the same town that he is from in the UK.
ETTN: What is your current weekend cruiser or your overall dream car?
JH: I'm in-between fun cars right now, my weekend cruiser is a supercharged jet boat (lol). A somewhat realistic garage goal would be a GT350R in Ford Performance blue with white stripes. Fantasy garage is never big enough but I would have to include a McClaren F1 and T.50, and a vintage VW Camper.