The Truth About Cars » Engine mods http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Engine mods http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/product-reviews/engine-mods/ Product Review: E30 LS1 Conversion (Van Swearingen) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/product-review-e30-ls1-conversion-van-swearingen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/product-review-e30-ls1-conversion-van-swearingen/#comments Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:04:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=362240

For its day, the BMW E30 3-series was an impressive blend of German craftsmanship, understated and cohesive style with remarkable performance. Then again, the E30 may lack straight line performance but the handling remains stellar. And the look is almost timeless. But it needs more than 200 horsepower to truly shine outside of its numerous wins at the 24 Hours Of LeMons. Perhaps 345 horses will help the cause. So let’s put a lightweight, torque intensive V8 under the hood to fix that singular shortcoming.

Steve and Garret Van Swearingen found me via Piston Slap, and showed us all they had the resources to make it happen. Furthermore, these gentlemen possess the foresight to realize that others are similarly demented: though perhaps not as adventurous. Enter their self-published PDF document, E30-LS1, the definitive record on how to install a Chevy LS-X into the near perfect BMW E30.

Because of all the maniacal, pro-Chevy LS swap Piston Slap rants I’ve bestowed upon TTAC readers, Steve gave me a copy of the conversion article, gratis. No, I didn’t rush out and buy an E30, a late-model Pontiac GTO donor car (preferred) and clear my garage of my current projects, though his work is so detailed and intriguing that I considered it. Too bad the conversion isn’t a walk in the park: and his document is complete information overload.

With that in mind, legal liabilities come with this knowledge. Like anyone who lives in a cubicle, Steve and Garret understand CYA statements, which occupy the document’s first chapter. Such is life.

Without giving away the entire bill of sale, let’s hit the highlights of the E30-LS1 instruction manual. Most noticeably, the document is filled with CAD drawings of everything from the (modified) Pontiac GTO oil pan, brake booster linkages and transmission mounts. And that’s only a short list. While I didn’t make any of the parts to verify accuracy, anyone knowledgeable in CAD sees that Steve and Garret did their homework.

There are impressive hand drawings: while some are crude enough to require a second look, all are clear, detailed and valuable.  Take the custom intake tube leading to the LS-X’s centrally located throttle body: decent renderings, but with valuable notes that add to the document’s (somewhat) easy to read nature.  You know, for a deeply technical discussion.

Photographs abound, showing how the finished product looks: I especially like the photos of the rethought, re-engineered brake booster/master cylinder at the firewall, as that is a fairly complicated component to make for your average weekend wrench turner. But the stunning 3D renderings of the redesigned transmission mount might be the coolest diagram. Other renderings show how the T-56 6-speed transmission bolts into the E30 body, step-by-step. While not showing an exploded view diagram, this looks cleaner and easier to digest.

But pictures and drawings aren’t gonna get it done.  So they wrote easy to understand, somewhat un-technical copy explaining what parts are needed. It even tells you where to buy them. This saves a tremendous amount of time, even in the Internet age.

And even more details are sweated, telling you where a certain GM part fits under the E30’s bonnet, and what modification (hose, screw, clamp, etc) is needed to make it right. If words take too long, odds are there’s a picture to speed up the process. A great example is the content given to fabricate the GM-BMW hybrid A/C system under hood.  Yes, you have OEM levels of refinement here too.

Not every idea is set in stone: I imagine one can cut a corner or two with a zip-tie.  That is, if you’re a complete slacker. And that’s your call: everything needed to make that judgment is available.

But, on a limited production basis, Steve and Garret are offering a number of parts for the E30-LS1 swap. They went as far as removing the real-world tested parts on their personal E30: engine and transmission mounts, brake booster linkage system, second differential mount and the radiator mount.  The parts are removed to build welding fixtures from them, and many of the parts were redesigned to be laser-cut, in order to make it feasible to produce multiple copies.

Why is that relevant?  Because, much like a regular shade tree mechanic, Steve and Garret originally made these parts with crude tools like a hacksaw and file. So they are hoping to sell the kit (including the document reviewed here) for between $1200 and $1500. The standalone document is $99, which is certainly the best use of your time and money, should you buy into the E30-LS1 value proposition.

I see the light, and would take the plunge if I could. If this kind of mechanical mayhem is up your alley, pick up an E30-LS1 guide or the conversion parts by emailing E30LS1@gmail.com.

Steve and Garret Van Swearingen provided TTAC with a complimentary copy of their E30-LS1 Guide for evaluation purposes.

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Product Review: SCT Dyno Tuner http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/product-review-sct-dyno-tuner/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/07/product-review-sct-dyno-tuner/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2009 12:25:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=321893

Before the days of anti-smog legislation and catalytic converters, anyone looking for more power in their ride needed a few tools, access to a drag strip and intimate knowledge of their carburetor. This concept lives on today, but the names and faces changed: Hot-Rodders are now Tuners. Here's an idea: let’s see how much power is left on the table after a Tuner gets their hands on a fuel-injected, late-model performance machine. But first a word from our hacker . . .]]>

Before the days of anti-smog legislation and catalytic converters, anyone looking for more power in their ride needed a few tools, access to a drag strip and intimate knowledge of their carburetor. This concept lives on today, but the names and faces changed: Hot-Rodders are now Tuners. Here’s an idea: let’s see how much power is left on the table after a Tuner gets their hands on a fuel-injected, late-model performance machine. But first a word from our hacker . . .

SCT is one of the larger software and support providers. Their work is suitable for a farrago of fuel-injected American vehicles. Their plug-and-play tuners for 1996 and newer vehicles is ideal for your average horsepower junky seeking a quick fix. Custom packages installed on your race-ready laptop are also yours for the asking. Between these options lies a one shot, custom-tune performed by an SCT licensed dyno tuner specifically for your vehicle. Bingo.

My dyno shop of choice: Henderson Performance Technologies in New Braunfels, TX. The owner, Corey Henderson, offers a wide selection of SCT products, two dynos, a clean shop, years of EFI tuning know-how and a Mechanical Engineering degree. Safe!

TTAC’s test car: a Lincoln Mark VIII LSC. Originally, the American whip’s V8 made 290 hp and 290 lb·ft of torque at the flywheel. That equates to 232/232 at the rear wheels, using the universally accepted 20 percent drive train loss calculation for rear wheel-drive vehicles running automatic transmissions.

And then I started wrenching. I gutted a junkyard Lincoln’s (already large) mass-airflow sensor with a Dremel. I also installed headers with a mandrel bent 2.5″ diameter dual exhaust. Because FoMoCo’s factory tuning on the Mark VIII’s 32-valve 4.6L V8 was unbelievably fuel heavy and conservative, especially compared to its Mustang Cobra cousin, my shade tree tuning made the Mark VIII feel much faster than stock. I was about to find out by how much.

The baseline dyno pull was first on the agenda. I handed the keys to Corey Henderson, who strapped the big Lincoln on the dyno and spun the rollers. Nothing. Corey dug deep into SCT’s adjustable parameters to lock the transmission into third gear. (A 1:1 transmission ratio is required to accurately measure power to the wheels.) With that hiccup cleared, the Mark VIII managed a respectable 246 hp and 265 lb·ft of torque. That’s a respectable increase, considering the modifications performed are the logical start for almost every late model performance car.

And then we got stuck in, messing around with the (previously untouched) computer. Corey downloaded SCT’s base tune for the Mark VIII, attacking the factory’s air-fuel ratio to remove the lean-to-rich behavior at full throttle. The following dyno pull achieved a peak of 262 hp and 279 lb·ft of torque. More importantly, the Lincoln gained an astounding 20 lb·ft of torque below 3500 rpm. Adding that much twist with an automatic transmission in the way is pretty impressive stuff.

Like any good dyno tuner, Corey started on the ignition curves. He added one degree of ignition timing; the Mark VIII lost one horsepower. Too bad about that, so the previous tune was set in stone. [click to expand]

Actually, no. SCT tunes include engine and transmission tuning at high and low throttle inputs, cooling fan settings and a blizzard of engine parameters wholly unnecessary for this nearly stock application. Corey kicked in the cooling fans at a lower temperature and adjusted the transmission’s internal “line pressure” to eliminate the soft, lazy up shifts, which makes sense at full throttle, but that’s no small feat for low speed shifting with an aftermarket 2800-stall torque converter.

The end result? Anticlimactic: the Lincoln’s new programming feels slower, since the power curve is both fatter and more linear. But that’s a good thing. While originally engineered for 91 octane gas, the Mark VIII now exploits 93 octane, but still runs effortlessly on regular (87 octane) fuel. The aforementioned increase in low-end torque means top gear passing requires less throttle input, while the transmission’s programming overcomes the drag-strip worthy converter for stock levels of fuel economy, even in rev-inducing bumper to bumper traffic.

Considering the Mark Series of the 1970s had flat, torque-rich power bands and Cadillac-killing swiftness in their transmissions, perhaps SCT made my Mark VIII more of a Lincoln and less of a MK-Zephyr. Color me impressed.

If you’re thinking that SCT covers all the bases, you’re only partially right. On the Internet or near the Interstate, there are SCT approved Tuner Shops aplenty. But they aren’t equal: a human is still responsible for SCT’s actions.  Take the plunge without fear, but check your model-specific car forum for the right questions to ask a shop. Pick your Tuner wisely for the most bang for your buck.

[Henderson Performance Technologies provided their Dyno Tuning services at a discount.]

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Product Review: Shark Injector http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/product-review-shark-injector/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2008/12/product-review-shark-injector/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2008 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=184492 The full-page ad copy shouted, “I will boost your horsepower & torque.” Whoa! With claims like that, I felt personally challenged to test the Shark Injector. It's an OBD-II connector that overwrites a part of the BMWs DME (BMW speak for electronic control unit or ECU) with its own internal Conforti software to deliver claimed results. So I installed the Shark Injector on a BMW 325i, one of the many six-cylinder BMWs supported by the Shark (includes all sixes in the 3, 5 and Z series BMWs through 2005, plus the M3 and X5 3.0). Or should I say I set about installing the Shark injector...]]> The full-page ad copy shouted, “I will boost your horsepower & torque.” Whoa! With claims like that, I felt personally challenged to test the Shark Injector. It’s an OBD-II connector that overwrites a part of the BMWs DME (BMW speak for electronic control unit or ECU) with its own internal Conforti software to deliver claimed results. So I installed the Shark Injector on a BMW 325i, one of the many six-cylinder BMWs supported by the Shark (includes all sixes in the 3, 5 and Z series BMWs through 2005, plus the M3 and X5 3.0). Or should I say I set about installing the Shark injector…

Installation involves connecting the Shark Injector to the car’s OBD-II connector, following the detailed instructions, allowing the Shark’s software to copy itself over the default factory software.  Assuming all goes well, the programming takes about forty minutes. The lights on the device signal green for complete, and red for “issues”. In real life, installation can be tricky, requiring a battery charger connected to the car to provide the necessary voltage while programming.  Without this, the installation will not work; the device checks for the needed voltage.  Also, you need a mirror to see the programmer, as the car’s doors have to remain shut during installation.

Ebay buyers beware! Once installed, the device becomes locked to the car and will not work on any other vehicle. The Shark stores the stock DME program to allow reinstallation at a later date; such as when selling the car or taking the car to the dealer for engine issues (hint hint). Even though the federal Magnuson Moss warranty law specifically allows devices like these without voiding your warranty, many Bimmer dealers will look for any excuse to limit warranty claims if they can blame the software for the defect. Even if, in fact, the software did not cause the problem.

The  Shark Injector provides some real world benefits beyond the claimed power increases.  First, it changed the redline limiter of the vehicle, increasing permitted revs by several hundred additional revolutions. On my install, I was able to gain approximately 400 RPM over stock before the rev limiter kicked in. This extra room let me stay in a lower gear a bit longer, improving performance under certain… conditions. Needless to say, maintaining constant high speed revs is a sure way to decrease your engine life. Also note: this benefit may be illusory for most slushbox users without extra software to reprogram the shift points on the car’s auto transmission.

The second benefit (especially if you drive the autobahn frequently or rob banks for a living): removal of the 155 mph top speed limit. The limit is part of a gentleman’s agreement between Audi, BMW and Mercedes (but not Porsche) to appease Germany’s Greens.  Assuming you have the appropriate speed-rated tires and a long enough track, a Sharked car will surpass this limit. My test 325 only dreams of such speeds.

The third benefit: subjective drivability. After installation, I felt that the throttle was a bit more responsive. The car did not feel faster or more powerful, but power delivery was smoother. This could, of course, be the placebo affect, to justify the nearly $400 I paid for the device. But I stand by my feelings, immeasurable as they my be.

That said, several sites include dyno results for the Shark. They show slight increases for the 2.5 and 3.0-liter engines, with more power gains on the 2.8-liter engine. None of the increases is dramatic, ranging from five to 10 horsepower. This is due, in part, to BMW already tuning their cars for the best performance with lower octane gas. Sharked cars require at least 91 octane to operate without potential vehicle harm from engine pinging.

The Shark Injector is emissions legal in most states, but not California and its emissions compadres. It’s available online from several retailers, including bimmerzone.com and turnermotorsports.com, for $369.00.

I give a qualified recommendation for this product due to the price and limited gain.  Combined with a quality cold air intake, free flow exhaust and good gas, you will have a slightly faster, better driving and better sounding car. The only way to really gain power from these cars is via forced induction. That runs several thousand dollars, but delivers huge performance gains and more power-per-dollar than these choices. However, for most drivers, the Sharked car is a simple, slightly expensive way to improve the ultimate driving machine.

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Dinan Cold Air Intake and ECU Software Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/dinan-cold-air-intake-and-ecu-software-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/dinan-cold-air-intake-and-ecu-software-review/#comments Thu, 20 Dec 2007 19:39:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/product-reviews/dinan-cold-air-intake-and-ecu-software-review/ dyno2.jpgSay the name Hartge or Alpina to a BMW fan and you’ll get instant nods of understanding and respect. While Dinan doesn’t get the pistonhead props afforded these German uber-tuners, they’re rightfully considered America’s foremost BMW tuner. Steve Dinan’s mob has been modifying BMW cars since 1979. His Morgan Hill California-based company offers upgrades for Bimmer engines, suspensions, brakes and wheels. Like the Germans, Dinan also sells “Signature Vehicles” and creates special Factory Works programs. We concern ourselves here with an ECU upgrade and a cold air intake. 

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dyno2.jpgSay the name Hartge or Alpina to a BMW fan and you’ll get instant nods of understanding and respect. While Dinan doesn’t get the pistonhead props afforded these German uber-tuners, they’re rightfully considered America’s foremost BMW tuner. Steve Dinan’s mob has been modifying BMW cars since 1979. His Morgan Hill California-based company offers upgrades for Bimmer engines, suspensions, brakes and wheels. Like the Germans, Dinan also sells “Signature Vehicles” and creates special Factory Works programs. We concern ourselves here with an ECU upgrade and a cold air intake. 

Until the introduction of the sublime twin-turbo 335i, BMW prided itself on the fact that it relied on naturally aspirated engines to reach vaunted performance levels. Increasing performance of turbo-charged engines by modifying their Electronic Control Units (ECU) can lead to fairly dramatic performance upgrades on the order of fifty plus horsepower and foot pounds of torque. I tested Dinan’s ECU upgrade on a naturally aspirated inline six to see if similar gains could be found.

As stated in my previous review of the APR ECU upgrade for an Audi A4, ECU tuning is a difficult task. A tuner must examine thousands of lines of code to find areas where changes in parameters can add to performance. They also have to balance potential gains against potential engine damage.

BMW rates the 3.2-liter inline six in my '00 M Roadster at 240 horsepower. In its original state, the engine is relatively detuned; the same engine with variable timing and separate throttle bodies (as sold in Europe) produces over 300hp. This should mean lots of head room for Dinan to wring-out some extra power– without fear of dreaded engine “issues.”

The Dinan software is sold in various stages, partially tied to other Dinan products. I tested the Stage II software with the Dinan Cold Air Intake (CAI). In addition to increasing horsepower and torque, the software has two additional benefits. First, it removes the 155mph speed limiter, which is only in place to honor a German car manufacturers “gentleman’s agreement” between Audi, VW, Mercedes and BMW (originally made to forestall autobahn limits mooted by the Green Party). Second, the rather low redline limiter is lifted from 7000 to 7400 rpm.

Dealer installation is required; the software is transferred via an installer’s computer directly to the Bimmer via the BMW’s data port. (The leading competitor is the Conforti Shark Injector, which is user-installed via the OBD-II port, saving a trip to the dealer.)

The Cold Air Intake system can be fitted by both friends and foe (dealer). The CAI replaces the [allegedly] more restrictive factory air box with a long carbon fiber tube and a large cone-shaped air filter. In theory, moving the air intake away from engine heat improves performance. In practice, cold air simply allows the engine to produce more power. Unfortunately, many systems that advertise gains do so without merit, and car websites are rife with claims that CAI systems actually decrease horsepower. 

Dinan’s website claims that their CAI system adds 12 hp and 11 lb-ft of torque. They also claim a gain of 10 hp and 10 ft.-lbs. of torque for their software. However, they caveat the CAI claims by stating that “a Stage 2 version of Dinan's Engine Software is available for optimum performance from the High Flow Cold Air Intake System as well.”  Take it from a lawyer: it isn’t clear if Dinan’s claiming a combined gain or a cumulative gain for the two systems.

Measuring engine improvements requires both objective dyno-based tests and a subjective seat of the pants test. I went to a local BMW tuner, Road 'n Race. to check my installation's gains on their Mustang dynometer. Dynos measure wheel horsepower, not the crank horsepower manufacturers advertise. Therefore a correction factor must be applied. Also, the two most common dynos produce different results and are not directly comparable. To measure current performance of the M Roadster, I used a 17.5 percent correction factor. 

On my best run, the car produced 208 peak hp, or 244 hp. That's four more than factory. Torque was up five foot-lbs over stock. While a large fan was used to simulate air movement, some power is lost compared to real road driving.

On the open road, the car felt slightly faster than stock, with better pedal feel during acceleration. These improvements were, at best, slight. The redline limiter was definitely raised, but since peak power is produced earlier, the benefit was limited. 

The Dinan CAI sells for $649.00 and the Stage II software is $299.00. Add in a dealer charge for installation and you’re looking at over a grand for a very small gain. Therefore, except for bragging rights the Dinan name entails, I would not recommend this upgrade, though the CAI does look good in the Bimmer’s engine bay.

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