Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Can a Small Block Chevy Be Built For Economy? Part 3

Can a Small Block Chevy Be Built For Economy? Part 3
Al Ritter 

First I need to apologize for taking so long for the third installment of this article. It’s been a challenge to say the least to not only build a vehicle with such a lofty goal, but to secure quality products that actually do what they are supposed to do. 

Anyone who has read my articles knows I’m a regular guy with no agenda or benefits from a paid endorsement. I build cars for myself and or family within specific parameters to accomplish certain goals. I was laughed at by quite a few people when embarking on Project Ecomino, who not only thought I was crazy, but in fact doubted it, could even be done. 

My initial idea to use a retrofit style fuel injection was well founded, and I had a reasonable expectation it would work out well and return that little extra in the MPG department to put me over the top as far as my goals were concerned. Sadly the FAST EZ-EFI didn’t live up to those claims of being “an easy fool proof replacement for a carburetor.” Their constant claims of the vehicle being the cause of RFI interference only magnified the inadequate shielding of their own wiring harness, (if in fact that was the problem.) They had suggested all sorts of changes to the car which I had done all to no avail, and after 4 months of wasted time I threw in the towel and removed their entire system and installed an Edelbrock carb that fixed ALL the problems immediately out of the box! It’s sad to see a customer step back in technology to secure a fix for a problem that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

It seems funny to me that FAST has the same problem with many other people on the forum boards on the internet, but refuses to acknowledge them publicly, and in fact has made moves to cover their problems, but I am jumping ahead too quickly. It also seems odd that FAST has now introduced their own ignition system to work in conjunction with the EZ-EFI system, something they had hinted at me replacing earlier.  

Any of you that follow HOT ROD magazine especially on YouTube have witnessed the antics of the boys in the Roadkill series, doing something you would never try with your own car. This episode made me chuckle for sure because not only were they driving an untested car across the country, but they were using products from two different companies that I used on Project Ecomino. One product was from FAST being the XFI fuel and timing management system they used on stack injection. Two problems they incurred driving cross country…….first day they only got about 7 MPG. The second day they had gotten that figure up to 17 MPG, but the car wouldn’t run at all at full throttle. So they left that “Alpha N” tune in the computer. The next morning the program took a dump and lost all their previous settings causing them countless hours to “retune the car.” This is the funniest part, after I reviewed the video today…….they edited that part out and claimed….. “We called Comp Cams about a fuel injection problem we were having.”

This is what happens when a magazine is being paid to promote a product! Roadkill certainly did some creative editing, first they edited the part out about how the 17 MPG tune wouldn’t run at wide open throttle, then, they edited the part out about how the car wouldn’t start one morning because the program was lost! I’m sure Comp Cams the parent company of FAST, contacted them to remove this from the video ……….the dates have been changed about the posting time for the video so I know something has been changed! Imagine having to drive cross country while a buddy constantly tunes and tweaks the computer system by laptop, not my idea of fun! PLUS they have lied!  Thankfully Scotty Brokaw at in SC stepped up and covered the problem and refunded my purchase. I have no problem endorsing people who go above and beyond to fix a customer service problem. 

The second product I used in Project Ecomino that they used in the 55 Chevy was an American Powertrain TKO-600 complete with a clutch setup. I used mechanical linkage in Ecomino and they used hydraulic linkage in the 55. They constantly said during their journey that the clutch never really “felt right” and chattered constantly. Their chattering was explained @ 15:45. Chattering is a MILD explanation as to what I felt on the Ecomino. If I had been a denture wearer my teeth would have been on the floor many times! There were times it shook so bad that the interior rear view mirror lost its adjustment. I waited the required 200 mile break in period but nothing had changed. I complained to them about how badly it chattered and they explained if I intended to return the clutch they would first “dyno test” it to see IF there was a problem. THEN and only then would they authorize a refund of parts only, the labor to replace the defective item was on my dime so to speak. I guess American powertrain didn’t have enough money to get their part removed from the Roadkill video!

This demonstrates an adversarial position from a company over a $300 part when I had just spent almost $4000 with them to buy their total package. If I had to do this all over again, I’d buy the clutch elsewhere, because their clutches are just not up to the quality I’d expect in the automotive aftermarket. 

With this being said watch the Roadkill Episode and see if you come to the same conclusions as I did.  

I’m afraid the engine will need to come back out of the car because of an overly leaky rear main oil seal and an oil pump that drops oil pressure to an alarmingly low level when hot, all that was supposedly taken care of initially, when I requested tighter clearances because I intended to run synthetic oil. I will most likely replace the clutch with a Centerforce unit while the engine is out. All this seems totally unnecessary if everyone and all the manufacturers had done their collective jobs and supplied me with quality work and workmanship in parts. 

Now you are all probably wondering “Was it all worth it?” The question certainly had me wondering in the past few months. The FAST fuel injection certainly didn’t work on this setup, and to be honest I will NEVER use another FAST product again in any of my vehicles, not only are the products of questionable nature, but the technical help hotline was useless in fixing my problems, plus they were condescending. 

The engine: The top end is very noisy, and if I were to do it all over I’d go with stamped steel rockers on such a mild motor. The carburetor is responsive and up to the task, I would however upgrade the intake to a “gap style.” The cam was basically an experiment special grind and needs a bit more duration and would make this combo come alive, but who knows what the cost would be in MPG. I’d say somewhere in the .480 to .500 lift with duration in the 270 advertised area would be a good compromise. The heads are nowhere near their potential. I’d do all the low drag items I did again. 

Gearing: The final overdrive gear, tire, and axle selection is pretty close. I recurved the distributor to bring all timing in by 1500 RPM. The final running RPM at 60 MPH is right at 1600 which is great for gas mileage but is tough hump to overcome if you want to accelerate. The problem lays in the gear selections for the rear……3:73 or 4:11 and nothing in between. The only thing left that can be played with is the rear tire height, and I think if given the choice now a shorter tire of maybe ½” would work better, because it would bring the RPM up slightly. The car wants to run at 70 to 75 MPH, in fact I wonder if better gas mileage could be obtained at that speed because it might be closer to its magic torque sweet spot. 

Ok finally the gas mileage. On a trip which included driving in the mountains and forcefully keeping it running 60 to 65 MPH, it got 22MPG on the nose! The city figure was not as good at 15MPG. All in all, not bad at all for a carbureted small block chevy with no additional tuning. I think with an A/F gauge we can zone in a little tighter on the jetting to give an even better result.
The new proud owners

Was it worth it? Yes I think so but then again, I’ve always been one to think outside the box, and do something nobody else has done!
                                                                Part 1
                                                                 Part 2

1 comment:

ben p said...

Doesn't say much for American products or TV does it?