Modern Disguise – A Guide to Vintage-Styled EFI Systems
It was recently reported that for the first time in nearly 35 years, vinyl records outsold compact discs (yet music downloads still outweigh them both). Who would have ever guessed that the ancient technology of a pressed vinyl LP would still be relevant in our digital age?
Our hot rodding hobby shares similarities with album-seeking audiophiles as there are still many traditionally styled and era-correct hot rods being built. We really enjoy seeing these vintage-style rods and certainly appreciate the amount of research and work that go into the builds. There are also a contingent of cars and trucks with a vintage vibe that are incorporating modern technology with traditional flare, especially when it comes to the drivetrain.
The induction system is one of the most appealing aspects of any engine, and who doesn’t love to see a vintage multi-carb intake or stack-style injection mixing the air and fuel? The trouble with these older fuel setups is that trying to keep three or four carbs synched and in perfect working order can be quite a challenge. And do you know many people running mechanical fuel injection on the street? They look bitchin’ but they were meant more for wide open throttle, not cruising at 2,000rpm or idling in traffic.
Like spinning vinyl on a new turntable with a USB connection, you can have the drivability of modern EFI with the looks of a classic carb or mechanical fuel injection thanks to a few innovative companies and their quest for traditional styling. No more fouled plugs, no rich stench, no cold start blubbering – and all while retaining a classic hot rod or muscle car vibe.
2Gs for EFI
Autotrend EFI developed their EFI-2G throttle body with the same dimensions as the original Rochester carb in mind so they could work in a number of applications from tri-powers to single setups or many other trick multi-carb intakes.
One of the reasons you don’t find a lot of 4×2 or 6×2 setups is that they were a nightmare to tune accurately to run smooth at both idle and cruising speeds. Thankfully, Autotrend can set up their EFI-2G system for nearly any intake you can score. Not only will they provide an induction system that looks great, it will be delivered with a Holley EFI system and custom calibration for your application. In addition to their nostalgia throttle bodies, Autotrend EFI also specializes in updating Kinsler, Borla and Hilborn setups.
Jim Inglese Eight Stack Systems
If you’re a fan of vintage Weber-fed 8-pack induction systems, you’ll want to check out a contemporary EFI fueled setup from Jim Inglese Eight Stack Systems. These setups befuddled us with their full-on stealthy appearance, but even Jim Inglese himself explained that he needs to look twice to compare a real Weber carb setup compared to his own Weber-style EFI system!
You probably recognize the name Inglese, as Jim’s been building custom Weber-style carb and EFI systems for years and will customize any order with custom finishes in chrome, ceramic coatings, and any color you’d like. Intake systems are available for all popular Chevy and Ford engines and each system is individually tailored for the type of throttle connection and transmission TV cable if needed. When you call, Jim himself answers the phone and he’ll work with you to create a total EFI package for your application, including the right ECU and fuel pump.
Builder Sidebar – Rad Rides by Troy
Rad Rides has jumped through many hoops to convert several of their builds to vintage EFI while retaining a clean, hot rod feel. In fact, they’ve gone to the extreme of machining vintage carburetor bases to house injectors, positioning throttle bodies in the interior, and have built vintage air cleaners to cover modern components. Just take a look at the ’40 Oldsmobile known as Agnes, the Nailed ’56 Buick, or the 200-plus-mph Belvedere from recent years – you’ll understand.
“People want the power and reliability of fuel injection or an LS engine, but don’t want it to look like a new engine,” Troy explained. “Being able to hide or modify the induction system so it looks more in the style or with the age of the car is important. In the case of the ’66 Belvedere, there’s no way we could have run 9s on Drag Week or have gone over 200mph without EFI.”
One of the first Flatheads, actually one of the first cars we recall with a completely hidden EFI system, was Roger Ritzow’s ’32 Ford roadster. The car won the Goodguys Street Rod of the Year honor in 2004 and features a stock-appearing vintage Hilborn 8-stack. The Rad Rides team machined a 7/8-inch thick plate (on a Bridgeport!) beneath the intake that houses compact Peco injectors, the wiring, and MAP sensor. The Throttle Position Sensor was even placed on the throttle pedal inside to keep the wiring out of the engine bay while a Big Stuff III controlled the air and fuel.
Who doesn’t love a six-pack? Especially when it’s crowned atop a big cubic inch engine! FiTech EFI now offers their popular Go-EFI series of fuel injection kits in a six-barrel setup. The kit is supplied with three 500cfm throttle bodies finished in a classic gold to resemble the original carb setups of yesteryear.
Along with the three throttle bodies, FiTech provides their robust, compact ECU that uses their proven self-learning technology. The ECU requires just a few engine parameter inputs through the included touchscreen monitor to get the engine fired up and running and from there the self-learning capabilities get things running smooth. The Tri-Power 3×2 system supports up to 600 horsepower and will have your engine starting, idling and cruising as good as it looks.
LS Classic by Lokar
Classic LS Intake
When you’re trying to dress an LS to look more at home in a muscle car, the most important step is moving to a traditional-style intake. To make that swap easier, LS Classic by Lokar offers their new 14-Inch Classic Intake Kit featuring a single-plane aluminum intake manifold fitted with billet aluminum fuel rails, a 4150 carb adapter plate, and a 14-inch chrome round air cleaner.
The intake utilizes LS3 OEM fuel injectors and accepts a GM four-bolt, 92mm, drive-by-wire throttle body (not included), making the system compatible with factory and aftermarket ECUs. Manifolds are available for rectangular- or cathedral-port LS cylinder heads. This is a perfect start to you disguising LS performance as a small-block Chevy (or even a Ford) and LS Classic has the components to help finish your build.
Hot Rod Innovations
Go Big or Go Home
If you’re a fan of classic street machines and superchargers, you need to check out this trick injector assembly that is hidden inside the blower from Hot Rod Innovations.
HRI went through great effort to design an EFI injector plate and even a new Throttle Position Sensor dressed as a mock barrel valve. In the end, you get killer, supercharged mechanical injection looks with all the performance and drivability benefits that modern EFI delivers. The kit is supplied with everything you and is available with a number of injector sizes to fit your requirements.
Performance & Appearance
Fox Injection has been building trick, vintage-appearing mechanical fuel systems with the modern performance of EFI for 26 years. Many of their systems are based on classic mechanical systems from Hilborn, Enderle, Crower, Pete Jackson, Scott, and Algon.
With experience on the track as well as in the winner’s circle at shows, Fox creates induction systems that look as good as they run. They’re ready to build a custom system for late-model engines as well as vintage Flatheads. If you plan to top your engine off with a big, intimidating bug catcher atop a supercharger, they can build an injected Enderle to provide the fuel. Or, go with their vintage-styled Jenvy throttle body systems for a unique individual runner system with outstanding performance.
Builder Sidebar – Pinkees Rod Shop / Eric Peratt
Pinkees Rod Shop has built a lot of cars and trucks using fuel injection systems, so they understand the benefits, especially since their shop is based at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Windsor, Colorado, at 4,800 feet above sea level.
“The drivability benefits are huge,” Eric Peratt explained. “You get in, hit the key and go. There’s no rich fuel smell, cold starts are smooth, and any altitude changes are all taken care of. However, people need to realize that converting to EFI isn’t as simple as swapping out the carb for a throttle body.”
When choosing to go with EFI, there is a lot of extra work for a builder. There is a lot more wiring to package nicely along with an ECU to mount and control. Plus, the fuel system requires high pressure lines to and from the tank and an electric pump is required, which performs best when mounted inside the tank. “EFI is something you need to plan for when building a car,” Eric suggested.
As an example, Pinkees is just getting ready to start a traditional-flavored ’33 five-window build that will be powered by a vintage 331c.i. Cadillac. The owner wants the performance of modern EFI but with classic carbureted looks, so they’ve been working with Autortrend EFI to see what kind of a system they can top the Caddy engine with. We’re already looking forward to that build!
Summit Racing Equipment
If you’ve gone through the work and expense of hiding the signs of an EFI system on your hot rod, be sure to finish the job with an era correct air cleaner. Summit Racing has the finishing touch with classic air cleaners such as this Cal Custom teardrop design.
This cast aluminum air cleaner features a finned top that has been polished to a show-quality finish. A raised base and teardrop shape provide a timeless look and Summit includes a red cotton gauze filter element that picks up air from all sides to deliver plenty of flow to your engine. The teardrop fits four-barrel carburetors and throttle bodies with a 5-1/8-inch inlet and is supplied with stainless steel hardware.
Spread Bore Style
There are quite a few bolt-on throttle body systems available to replace square-bore carbs, but anyone running a spread-bore carb such as a Quadrajet has been left in the dark. Fortunately, Holley has come to the calling of GM muscle car fans with their new Sniper Quadrajet throttle body system.
The Sniper EFI Quadrajet delivers the proven performance of Holley’s 4150 Sniper EFI with four 100lb/hr injectors and built-in timing control. The system supports up to 500 horsepower (naturally aspirated) and is easy to calibrate and tune through a supplied touchscreen monitor. The classic gold finish provides a stock appearance and there are multiple fuel inlet configurations to enhance the stock form, plus the unit accepts most factory air cleaners.
Kinsler Fuel Injection
If you’ve followed sprint car, off-road, and serious road course racing, you’ll know the name Kinsler Fuel Injection. The Troy, Michigan-based company has been designing mechanical EFI systems for over 50 years and supporting EFI for several decades. Their individual runner injection manifolds have evolved for EFI use with provisions for injectors, fuel rails and a TPS sensor with the ability to tailor a fuel curve to produce the best torque and power from your engine.
Kinsler offers these intakes for modern muscle engines such as the LS and Coyote engines as well as classic Ford and Chevy small or big blocks. If you ‘re looking for the vintage Can-Am injection look, they have the canted stacks with the performance to match the cool appearance. They even offer their own Drive-By-Wire system that has been proven over the years during many 12- and 24-hour races in the U.S. and abroad.
Stacks of Eight
Borla Induction can build a trick, throttle-body-per-cylinder intake system to make your car really stand out. Not only do they add great looks to your hot rod, but they can be customized to support the maximum output of your engine while delivering smooth street performance and drivability.
The Borla systems are available in both a straight-stack configuration as well as throttle bodies that look like vintage Weber carbs from the ’60s, but without the need to change jets or calibration – all of those factors are handled constantly through the EFI system. There are loads of options including the traditional vertical placement of the throttle bodies, as well as some angled applications for increased hood clearance. Borla goes the extra mile with high-volume fuel rails, billet linkage, a low-profile fuel regulator, and billet air horns. They are available for Coyotes, LS, modern Hemis, and most classic V8s.
Builder Sidebar – Goolsby Customs / Jonathan Goolsby
The team at Goolsby Customs has seen the trend toward fuel injection grow over the last few years. Jonathan Goolsby feels that EFI is a great option for hot rods whether they’re driven daily or built for cross-country road trips.
“Cars are being built to full show quality, yet people are wanting to drive and enjoy them more, and EFI is helping that a lot,” Jonathan said. “A couple reasons we choose EFI over a carb is less maintenance, better mileage, and EFI will automatically compensate for the change in altitude while on these road trips. But we still want our old-school look, so hiding and disguising the top end of these engines is a fun challenge.”
One recent example is an LS3 topped with a custom dual-quad throttle body vintage EFI system (shown above) and dressed in 409 trim from LS Classics . To most people walking by, they’re going to see the large-diameter dual snorkel air cleaner covering a pair of gold-finished TBIs over a set of 409 valve covers. Most people will never know it’s fuel injected, let alone a late-model engine.
“Everyone wants the reliability and performance of their daily driver in their hot rod, and EFI delivers that. Plus, the technology really helps keep these cars cruising and on the road,” Jonathan added.