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So here is our latest project!  Having owned a 1988 Formula 20 years ago (& regretting selling it every day since), when the opportunity came along to acquire this car in the virtually rust free condition its in, I jumped on it!

Not all was well though!  The primary reason I got such an impressive deal on the car was that it had some running issues.  The previous owner tried his best to resolve them swapping plugs, injectors & numerous other parts that failed to improve the running condition.  Eventually he lost faith in the car having been stranded numerous times from the car quitting & failing to restart.  The car got parked.

Several years passed & then I came into the picture.  Resolving an issue with an EFI powertrain was of absolutely no concern to me, so a deal was struck & home it came.  After spending some time with the car with my MPSI Pro-Link 9000 OBDI scanner (one of very few that you can actually view live data on), I noticed that the scanner would lose all data & the car would immediately stall out & quit, refusing to restart for quite some time.  Losing all data was the smoking gun……the pcm was pooched!  A refurbished pcm has been installed & that running condition has been eliminated!

The other issue the car has is miserable cold starts.  The car cranks for an excessive amount of time before it slowly fires up,.  Observing my fuel pressure gauge during this leads me to believe I have a fuel pressure problem.  Turning the key to prime the fuel system only generates 20’ish psi of pressure.  After cranking a short period of time & the fuel pressure rises into the mid 20 psi range, the car slowly fires to life, at which point the fuel pressure jumps up to 35 psi.  Given the excessive amount of time this car has sat stationary over the last 5 years, its not unlikely the fuel filter is plugged up, so a new one will be installed & then retest the pressure situation.  Realistically, I suspect I may be looking at a fuel pump, but the filter is far simpler/cheaper to try first before dropping the tank!

Update Aug 20, 2014

Well, unfortunately, the fuel filter did nothing to improve the fuel pressure situation so the process of dropping the fuel tank to put a new pump in has been completed & I’m currently awaiting my new pump to arrive.  I had forgotten what a hassle it is in these cars, having to remove the panhard bar, exhaust system, numerous heat shields, lower the rear end…..not a quick or pleasurable job by any means!

Update Aug 29, 2014

Well the fuel pump has resolved the hard cold start problems!  Now that all the running conditions have been resolved its time to start making progress towards getting the car ready to hit the road!

Not entirely unexpectedly, the rear brake line broke while I was attempting to remove it in order to drop the rear end down to facilitate replacing the fuel pump. Naturally every drop of fluid ran out at that point. Now given that the car hasn’t really moved since 2009, all the brakes are pretty much seized solid, so being in a situation where I was going to have to bleed the brakes now anyway after fabbing up a new brake line, I decided I may as well deal with the rear brakes now & just have to bleed the system once.
The rear PBR calipers needed some attention!

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After checking RockAuto & finding these things were upwards of $100 per side with the core charge, I elected to order 2 rebuild kits & tackle the problem myself. After a few hours at my sandblast cabinet, honing the bores out so everything operates smoothly once again, & a little paint, things are all well again in the rear brake department…..need to be bled still, but ran out of motivation for that today! Surprisingly enough, the pads and rotors were virtually new on the car, so I’ll evaluate how I like the existing parts once the car is on the road as to whether they get upgraded.

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One of the other issues that has been aggravating me since I brought the car home is overspray! The previous owner had the car painted about 10 years ago he tells me…..apparently masking off stuff wasn’t a huge priority to the person/shop that did the job!!! Overspray is EVERYWHERE!!WP_20140902_001WP_20140803_002During my days off/evenings that I’m not in the mood to get into anything major, I’ve been dealing with this. Slow going, but definitely an improvement!WP_20140908_005WP_20140803_001
When I first brought the car home, the battery was beyond dead, so I picked up a new one & popped it in. At this point I noticed the orange wire was not connected to anything! The previous owner had also put a replacement cable end on the positive terminal & wrapped it in red tape (I assumed to mark the cable as being positive!). After checking my wiring diagrams I determined that the orange wire was for the rad fans! Clearly that needed to be hooked back up (& also explained why the fans weren’t functioning!) With this in mind I peeled back the wad of red tape (to investigate how I was going to re-attach my fan wire) to find that the tape was what was actually holding the starter & alternator wires in the terminal!!! Alright then, that needs to be resolved ASAP!!An hour or so of re-wiring has made those connections much more permanent!WP_20140902_002

So last weekend was spent tackling the front brakes. As was the case with the rear brakes, the pads & rotors were essentially new. I assumed (incorrectly I might add) that the pull to the left the car was exhibiting during braking to be the result of a seized caliper, & proceeded to remove the calipers and rebuild them just as I had the rears.

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After the calipers were re-installed I went to bleed the RF…….rock hard brake pedal, & no fluid came out of the bleeder screw whatsoever! WTF??? Removing the flex line from the caliper netted the same result. The brake line was blocked somewhere between the brand new master I had put on several weeks ago & the caliper. Damn! Working back from the caliper, I undid the flex hose at the hard line & got fluid coming out at that point, so evidently the flex hose was blocked somehow. Relieved that I didn’t have to fab up a new hardline down under the engine, I went & picked up a new flex hose & popped it on…..all is working as it should once again.

Being the curious person I am though, I decided to cut up the old hose to see what happened to it to cause it to block all brake pressure. A few cuts later & I determined the blockage was happening at the sleeve crimped on the middle of the hose so I cut it apart there to see what happened.

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Turns out that over the last 24 years enough rust had built up in between the sleeve & the hose that it completely pinched the hose off! In 26 years of working on cars, I’ve never seen that happen before….always something new to learn!!!
Spent a couple hours with my polisher & compound. Car had all sorts of scuffs & marks all over the place…..I’d say about 95% of them all came out!

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Had a Fedex box waiting on my front step when I got home today!

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The exhaust system that is on the car currently looks like something that was cobbled together at the local muffler shop (and poorly done at that too). The bends are all crush bent, not bent correctly (the over the axle pipe is bent in such a way that it melted through my parking brake cable), and the pipes look like they’ve been on there for quite some time (holes rusted through in a few spots). It does however have a nice shiny Magnaflow muffler though!! Due to the holes, it was going to need replacement to certify next spring, so I elected to just replace the whole system. To be honest, I really wasn’t a fan of the sound of the Magnaflow either. It didn’t sound bad, but it wasn’t a “oooh….listen to that sound”either.

Now that the exhaust system is one the car, I have to say the sound is exactly what I was hoping for.  Fit was extremely good, so overall I’m very pleased with the Jegs Catback.

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Update Dec. 13, 2014.

Been working away on small detail stuff over the last little while.  Found a few hidden rust issues in the floor that I’ve been working away at as time permits.  At this point all I really have left to do to have the car ready for the road in the spring is to put some converters on it in order to pass emissions in the spring.  I’m unsure what the reason was behind it, but the previous owner had the original converters cut out & replaced with straight pipes.  In the area of the province the car was from this didn’t present any problem as there is no emission testing there, however in my area of the province this car will be required to pass an emissions test, so I will be needing to put them back in.  The problem this presents to me is that I have intentions of installing a specific set of long tube headers on this car.  OE sized converters however are not the appropriate size to work with the header/y-pipe combo I have planned for the car, so my decision now is either abort the long tube plans & put OE converters in, or just bite the bullet & put the long tubes on now with the appropriate cats & be done with it.  I’m leaning towards the later option.

In the meantime though, I’ve acquired some other stuff for the car.

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I scored a really good deal on a pair of 083 casting heads.  This is the OE casting number for this car.  I picked them up for a couple reasons.  First & foremost is the fact that the rad fans weren’t working when I bought the car, it has fresh coolant & a new rad……this leads me to believe that there is a pretty good possibility the car may have been overheated (maybe more than once).  So in the event that the existing heads are warped/cracked/damaged in any fashion, I have a replacement set ready to go.  Reason #2 is in the event that I don’t need these heads right away, I can spend some time porting these ones while still being able to enjoy driving the car!  I’m hoping reason #2 is the way things pan out once the car is on the road in the spring!!

Whichever reason turns out to be the case, they are going to need a thorough cleaning up, so they are currently in my cylinder head electrolysis tank getting cleaned.

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A lot of nasty stuff coming off after a night in the tank!

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After 24 hours in the tank, I’m pretty pleased with the results!!

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The other interesting thing I’ve acquired for the car is a chip burner!  The software I currently use for all the tuning I do is only good back to 1997, so I was going to need another setup to deal with this car once all the modifications I have planned are complete.

The system I picked up is the Moates APU1 Autoprom, with TunerPro software.  It combines chip reading, burning, & datalogging all into one package.  After spending a little time with the package it seems like a pretty straightforward system to use.  Once I’ve spent some actually tuning time with it & getting comfortable with it, I’ll likely start offering chip burning services alongside our normal OBDII tuning services in the future.

AutoProm Kit 5

Update Jan 10, 2015.

Had another delivery waiting at the front door when I got home Wed. night!My G1 adapter came in!G1I burned a test chip & installed it in the car to ensure everything is working correctly.G1 InstalledI don’t expect to be doing any tuning on it right away when it comes out in the spring, however everything is now in place to be able to keep the tune updated when I do start modifying the car.

Update Feb. 22, 2015

As I noted earlier, the previous owner cut the catalytic converters off the car for some reason.  Rather than just put some cats back in the factory pipes only to have to replace them again later when I put the long tube headers in the car, I decided to just go straight to the long tubes & be done with it……& they have finally arrived!HeadersInstallation is under way!I’ve also picked up the cam that I will be using in this car.  This isn’t the grind I had initially spec’d out for the car, but the deal on this one was way too good to pass up.  This will be sitting on the shelf till this coming winter when it will get installed with the ported heads.WP_20150126_001

Update April 25, 2015. 

So after a long winter the Formula is finally on the road!

Naturally one of the first things I did was grab my laptop &  APU1 to go see what Virtual Dyno had to say about the car!

I wanted to get a baseline on the car to see where it stands before anything else gets modified.  At this point other than the long tube headers & catback, the rest of the powertrain is 100% stock, so now is the time to get a baseline.

Headers catback 160 stat

Honestly, I was really just hoping the whp # would start with a 2.  Turns out the car is quite healthy & exceeded what I was hoping it would do.  Given that it was 80 deg f & ambient air pressure was extremely low on this given day, the numbers seem to be where I would expect them to be.

The first thing that jumped out at me after reviewing the data from the above run was the MAP reading dropped off pretty significantly (over 5 kpa) by the top of the rpm range indicating a restriction in the intake tract.  This will be the first area I investigate looking for improvements in power.

The second thing that I made note of was that the timing map (still running on the stock calibration), seems to be pretty much bang on for the 91 octane fuel the car has in it.  I’ve yet to put my wideband in the car to see where the air/fuel ratios are, but the narrowband o2 voltages would lead me to believe they are on the safely rich side.

The other baseline I went out and did was with TrackAddict.  Given that the car currently has the tires on it that I took OFF my Project GTP because they didn’t hook up worth beans, it was really not a huge shocker that the car would only muster a best pass of 14.86 @ 96.2 mph, spinning through most of 1st gear, but more consistently doing 15.1’ish ET’s.  Taking these tires off Project GTP in favor of something from this decade knocked 6/10 of a second off Project GTP’s 0-60 time, so I have no reason to  doubt this car should show similar improvements.  .6 seconds would actually put the car where the trap speeds indicate it really ought to be running in the very low 14’s.  New tires will be one of the first upgrades to happen.

May 1, 2015

Today I set about looking into the cause of the drop in MAP readings at WOT.  In order to evaluate whether the issue was with throttle body size, or with the intake system, I removed the intake tube from the throttle body & went out & did a full throttle pull to see what happened.

Some interesting things happened!!  The car’s MAP reading stayed fairly consistent with the intake disconnected indicating that throttle body sizing is fine & that the issue lies within the intake system.

Seeing those results made it a no brainer that I need to solve the intake restriction issue.

Update June 7, 2015

Finally got those old hockey puck tires off the car & got some new (& correctly sized) tires on!

The tires I chose are the Kumho Ecsta PA31’s in the OE size of P245/50R16.

Kumho PA31

My initial impression of them so far is quite good.  Ride comfort and noise levels are very good, but more importantly the grip level has improved significantly!  I experience far fewer unexpected sideways moments now!

Testing with Track Addict has also showed the car to hook much better off the line now, posting a new best ET of 14.75 @ 97.4 mph (and doing it quite consistently too), giving an improvement in the neighborhood of 4/10’s in the 1/4 mile.  A worthwhile upgrade!

Additionally with correct tire size back on the car it looks correct once again.

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Update Nov 1, 2015.

Back during the summer I decided to pop a new 160 deg thermostat in the car to let it run a little cooler. A 5 minute job I figured at most…….yeah right! Both thermostat housing bolts decided to break off in the intake manifold….Damn! I drilled & tapped the manifold & managed to get it all back together so the car is driveable again, but I don’t 100% trust it, so I’ve been watching for another lower manifold to put on this winter when I put my cam in. Well, I finally found the right deal on one and brought it home to clean it up. Also decided to start giving it a port job before it goes on too.  Just getting started in this pic, but looks like it should clean up nicely!

After working away porting my new manifold & finally having it all finished up to my satisfaction…….

2 days later……

Turns out my lack of trust was well founded!

Out with the old crappy looking, leaking lower manifold………

….and in with the fully ported, cleaned/degreased manifold.

 

Decided to do the throttle body coolant bypass while everything was apart.

Happy to report nothing is leaking! My driving impressions are that the car has a significant improvement in power at WOT. I did a few runs with Track Addict which also support what the butt dyno is telling me……car is noticeably quicker (it barks the tires going into second gear now).  Track Addict times have fallen into the 14.6x range pretty consistently now indicating an improvement in performance from the port work.

Virtual Dyno confirms the pick up in power, posting a +19 whp gain on the top end!

Stock vs Ported TPI

Decided to spend some time with TunerPro & my emulation cable getting the tune in the car dialed in. Given that my cam will be going in over the winter I want the current tune to be pretty spot on so that the pcm has it full range of correction available for when the car comes to life again in the spring (and I can start all over tuning! LOL!)

Car is running extremely well now…..much crisper, especially during the open loop warm up period. Wish I would have done it sooner…….I had all sorts of datalogs showing me that it really did need some attention, but there always seemed to be something more urgent that needed to be done most days. Happy its done now though.

Update Jan 4, 2016

Well after putting 4000 glorious km’s on her in my first summer with the car, as of Nov 1 it was officially parked for the winter.

Decided to put it up on the hoist and give it a once over to see if anything needs attention over the winter…..all seems well!

Soooo…….with no real maintenance stuff that needs to be attended to……..it’s time!

This is Lunati’s 10030 grind cam.  Its a little bigger than I had originally planned to use, but it was a fantastic deal, so I jumped on it.

It specs out just a tad larger than an LT4 Hotcam.

…………………..    Lunati                       Hotcam

Seat to seat     279/289                    279/287

.050″              219/229                    218/228

.200″              132/140                    132/135

Lift with 1.5    .503/,503                  .492/.492

After getting the motor stripped down and the old cam out, I decided to spend some time on some of the parts that will be going back on.

The timing cover is the first one to get dealt with……its not going back on the car looking like this!

It would be easy enough to throw it in the sandblast cabinet, but I’m paranoid about bits of that sand finding its way into the motor no matter how well I clean it, so out came the electrolysis tank again!

After cooking for 24 hrs I pulled the cover out.

Cleaned up well!

A quick shot of paint & its completely different with a net cost of $0, and a total of about 10 mins of my time all totaled up.

Same results for the crank pulley!

Before.

After

Balancer & waterpump now ready to go back on too!

Since the first day I had this car it has been plagued with smokey start ups after sitting for any length of time. I decided to take advantage of the rockers and valve springs being out of the way to put some new valve stem seals & o rings in to hopefully resolve that issue.

The old o rings just crumbled touching them, & the seals had gone hard…….I think my smokey startups should be a thing of the past. I was also pleased to find the valve guides seemed to have no wear to speak of……valves have no play in the guides at all…….pleased about that!!
Now we get to the interesting part of my cam & valvetrain upgrade!  Back when I picked up my second set of 083 heads, I took some measurements to see what sort of issues I would be running into with this Lunati cam & its .503″ lift.
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I measured seal to retainer contact @ .460″ on average….one cylinder was as tight as .435″.

Alright then…..that needs to be addressed before the cam goes in with its .503″ lift!!

That got the gears turning…….hmmmm……

For giggles I popped LS style retainers on to take some measurements to see if this may be a solution to my max lift problem. (& yes I realize these aren’t the correct retainer/lock combination…..this was just to see if there was merit in further researching doing a beehive spring swap).

In this configuration retainer to seal contact occurs @ .563″. If you look closely at the locks/retainer they clearly don’t locate the retainer correctly…….I’m guesstimating the correct combo should likely locate the retainer .050’ish further up the valve giving .600″ + retainer to seal clearance…….excellent! In reality, there is a groove on the intake valve where an o-ring sits in the OE configuration that would go into the seal at .545’ish lift, so it would be best to limit lift to something below that or the seals will have a very short life span & oil consumption would be horrendous, but this setup should easily cover the .503″ I need for my newly acquired cam!

So, given that I’m going to have to get new springs anyway, it would make sense to switch over to some modern stuff!

These appear to be my solution. These retainers allow for the use of Beehive springs on conventional SBC heads. That is the plan as of right now.

http://www.summitracing.com/int/parts/cca-787-16

As an additional benefit the LS style retainers save a ton of weight!

I then put them on the scale to see what sort of difference in weight there is.

SBC intake side 32 grams.
SBC exhaust side 42 grams!!!

LS style beehive retainer………11 grams!!!

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Luckily a friend of mine also went beehive this past summer, so I put his Comp retainers on my spare heads to measure out what was going to be necessary in terms of shims & locks.

Intake side requires + .050″ locks on 083 heads, exhaust side is needing .045″ of shims. With that info already figured out I was able to have the parts I needed already on hand when I got to this stage.  This gave me an installed height of 1.78″ on both intake and exhaust.  The spring I chose to use are GM Performance Part LS6 Beehives.  When my springs arrived I decided to measure bind height on them to ensure my bases were covered.  All my springs went into bind @ 1.16″-1.17″….considerably off the 1.085″ spec listed on Summit!!  Luckily they still have my requirements covered handily.  1.78″ installed height – 1.17″ bind height – .060″ safety margin gives a lift capacity of .550″.  No worries there at all.

With all that info everything went together without issue.
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She’s alive once more!!

Liking the noises she’s making now!

Some videos of her sitting idling……

I’ve made some alterations to the chip and have it running fairly well (as good as can be expected without being able to drive the car), but some tuning is going to be in order in the spring. Happy to hear her run again with no issues though.

 

Update Apr 24, 2016

Now that the weather has cooperated, I’ve been able to get out and start tuning the car. I finally got a chance to put the wideband in the car and do some WOT pulls to get the fueling in line.

The results are right in line with what I expected the car to do.

Lunati Cam Tuned

Pretty pleased with the results at this point.  The car is definitely making the power it should, driveability is almost like stock, fuel economy doesn’t appear to have suffered at all, and the car sounds great!!

Update Nov 14, 2016.

After spending a summer thoroughly enjoying the car its time to step matters up a notch!!  While 272 whp & 320 ft/lbs of torque definitely make this car entertaining, I know there is more left in there……specifically in the cylinder heads.  I’ve finally had time to complete the porting on the cylinder heads from above & plan to install them over this winter.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert head porter (or even experienced for that matter), but given what a stock 083 head looks like, I felt it would be really difficult to make them worse!!

My stock 083 heads when I brought them home. That bowl area is brutal!!
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The exhaust side was no better.

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I would have a hard time believing this shouldn’t work better!

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Not quite finished around the guide in this picture, but you get the idea how the exhaust side is…….

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All I have left to do is finish lapping in the valves & they are ready to go.

Once the car is finally parked for the winter, teardown will commence once again!  My measurements of minimum cross sectional area through the entire intake from throttle body to intake valve are suggesting the porting I’ve done to be an improvement in the 9% range……hopefully that should be enough that when I run the car with Virtual Dyno in the spring the whp number should start with a 3!!

Jan 1, 2017

Since I’ve had this car and started modifying it, I’ve had to rely on the internet with regards to what the compression ratio is supposed to be with this motor. As I’ve found many times before this info can vary widely, so now that I have a head off and can take measurements to determine the compression ratio myself I’ve decided to do so and have been taking measurements the last 2 evenings.

Most common information I’ve come across is that the L98 in the F bodies should be around 9.3:1.

My measurements suggest otherwise.

My measurements.

083 Head Chambers – 64 cc…..exactly what they should be.
Deck height – pistons measure .028″ down in the bore…..again, right in the ballpark of what I expected
Head gasket – 4.10″ diameter by .028″ thickness
Piston cc – pistons are flat tops with 4 valve reliefs, each relief measured 1 cc for a total of 4 cc.

Sooo…..if I plug all this info into a compression ratio calculator (I used several to confirm the results are actually correct)

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Well that is not what I was expecting at all! :?

I can’t confirm whether this motor has been apart before or if it is actually stock or not, but nothing I saw during disassembly gave me any reason to believe it isn’t all original.

I also got looking closer at the 083 heads I removed from the car & noticed some differences to the 083 heads that I ported (surprised that there seems to be variations of the 083!)

Each intake port of the heads I pulled from the car has a very pronounced ridge protruding easily 1/8″ or better (it doesn’t look as bad in the picture as it is)…..this was not present on the heads I ported. Perhaps the difference from these stock 083’s to my ported ones will be greater than I had anticipated!

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Had 1 of each head side by side out on the bench in my shed today swapping springs, locks, shims, retainers etc from the original head to the ported one & as I suspected, there are definitely variations on the 083 head.

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Without putting them on a flow bench its impossible to say which one is actually better, but visually I would think the 083-2 to flow better stock due to not having the huge ridge in each intake port.

Doesn’t really affect my progress at all, just thought it to be interesting info that I haven’t come across yet in all my googling!

After having everything apart and checking to ensure the block and heads were true I made the decision to go to a slightly thinner head gasket to tighten the quench up some.

Here is where the final result wound up.

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Given that the car is ready to go whenever the weather decides to co-operate I decided to give the heads I removed from the car a clean up so they spent some time in my electrolysis tank too.

Results were excellent again. Now I just need to decide what to do with them!

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March 29, 2017

Had a nice clear day earlier this week so I decided to see how the ported heads are working!  It has definitely picked up some steam!

Apr 18 GPS Dyno

While the peak power number didn’t have a huge improvement the torque under the curve has improved considerably!

Update May 3, 2017

Had some time to put the wideband in the car and do some work on the chip today.  Picked up power pretty much everywhere, but made some significant improvements below 3500 rpm……. as much as + 21 ft/lbs!

Ported Heads New Chip

Update June 2, 2017

As I’ve been working away at getting the most from this car, my old issue of the MAP reading falling as the rpm’s climb has resurfaced indicating the engine is moving enough air that something else has become a restriction in the intake.  Given that the only things in the intake tract at this point are the throttle body and a K&N filter, I felt the throttle body  was the far more likely culprit, so I removed it and spent some time doing some porting on it to see what sort of results that would generate (& I really don’t want to drop hundreds of dollars on an aftermarket unit).

As the throttle body is stock.

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After 45 minutes with sanding rolls on my grinder.  I made my best effort to smooth out the weird ridge and give it more of a velocity stack shape.

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But as with any modification I headed out to determine if all the effort actually accomplished anything.

Apparently it did.

New chip vs ported throttle body

I’ll take +12 ft/lbs of torque any day of the week for 45 minutes of messing around!

Looking at the shape of the latest graph though, it appears that I am once again up against an airflow limitation indicated by the plateau at the top of the torque curve and the hp curve.  It would appear the car has come full circle back to the OE (albeit ported) TPI manifold is the weakest link in the airflow chain.  Given that everything from the air filter down has been ported, it would seem like this is everything the stock components have in them (not that I’m disappointed…..that is a phenomenal amount of torque!)  To progress further would involve replacing a lot of components at a significant price tag, so at this point I don’t plan on any further engine upgrades.  At this point I’ll turn my focus to trying to put all that torque to the ground!  My back tires lead a very unhappy life now!

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