By on April 1, 2011

I’ve been driving the A100 Hell Project around with its horrible-at-best Carter BBD carburetor (which Chrysler almost certainly chose because it was 18 cents cheaper than a Holley), and every time it stumbles, refuses to idle, or performs any of the standard repertoire of BBD tricks, I swear to myself that I’m going to go to fuel injection real soon. That process began weekend before last, when I grabbed the intake and throttle body off an ’89 Dodge van.

Oh, I have a Holley 2300 in the garage, and an adapter to bolt it to the Carter-friendly intake, but that’ll just be a temporary measure. The long-term plan involves a Megasquirt setup controlling bolt-on Chrysler factory hardware. I need to rig a fuel return line to the A100’s tank, along with a high-pressure fuel pump and an oxygen sensor in the exhaust, but the first step involved scoring an intake/throttle body setup from a pre-Magnum 318 or 360 Dodge truck. A quick phone call to Andy, LeMons racer and owner of a Colorado yard packed with such goodies as this time-capsule ’66 Coronet and the King of the Molester Vans, and I was on my way to snatch the intake hardware off a Crusher-bound ’89 Dodge Ram van conversion. “You might have to help me move some other cars out of the way first,” he told me, and he wasn’t kidding. Here’s the view of the van when I arrived.

What van, right? After we dragged the ’02 Camaro, the Peugeot 505, the ’95 Caprice, and the ’79 Malibu station wagon out of the way and over to the other side of the yard, we still had the Golf, the Monte, and the Vanagon to go. Andy has plenty of inventory, and it’s all for sale!

There it is! It’s a shame to crush a running van conversion in nice shape, but the scrap value is higher than the real-world resale value these days; those who once wanted these vans now insist on giant SUVs.

Hmmm… that intake isn’t coming out from this side!

That’s better! Once the doghouse came off, access to just about all the fasteners was quite easy.

Rodents had been nesting on the engine, so I had to brush away lots of hantavirus-saturated mouse poop and nest material to get to the intake bolts.

The only real hassle was removing the AC compressor brackets, which attach to the front of the intake manifold. That part had to be done from the front, with every socket extension and swivel in my toolbox. Adding to the fun was the mixup of metric and SAE fasteners used by Dodge during the late 1980s (this concept served as the inspiration for a great 24 Hours of LeMons penalty.)

Success! Then it was time to admire some of the great machinery in Andy’s yard.

Like, say, this refrigerator-white big-block Satellite! I’ll share some more of my photos of Andy’s inventory in the near future, so check in later.

Intake, throttle body, air cleaner, distributor, various sensors, pretty much 85% of the parts I’ll need to go to a Megasquirt EFI system in the A100, all tossed in the back of my increasingly beat ’92 Civic. The intake should bolt right on to my 318, and the throttle body is more or less self-contained, with built-in fuel-pressure regulator, most of the needed sensors, and the correct downshift linkage attachments. Since I’m not trying to go fast, the power limitations of this throttle body won’t matter to me; I just want the van to start in all weather, idle smoothly, and crack the two-digit fuel-economy barrier.

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32 Comments on “Carburetor Bad, Fuel Injection Good: Custom Dodge Van Donates EFI System To A100 Hell Project...”

  • avatar

    Anyone who attempts a Carb-FI I give a tip of the hat to.

    I once considered an ’88 Caprice for a runner, but of course that was the last year of the Rochester.  After investigating the work that would be involved to convert to throttle body FI, I reconsidered that project.

  • avatar

    Did you grab the fuel tank also?  By far, if you’re going to do this conversion (I converted my 1971 Ford LTD 429 to TBI, lots of stories to tell) the easiest way to deal with the fuel system is to snag a suitably-sized tank that already comes with the built-in fuel pump, and even some of the long steel supply and return lines from along the frame rails (or you can make those up yourself using the long sections of double-flared brake line tubing available at the auto parts store). 

    Heck, even grab the stock wiring harness to the tank, from as far up front as you can extract it.  I’m lazy and I like to make things reliable as well as to look OEM, so I have found it beneficial to reuse as much of whatever system it is that I am swapping over.  The less splicing and hacking that you have to do with the piping and wiring, the better.

    • 0 avatar

      I would enjoy hearing that story.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford frame mounted pump is the way to go, I wouldn’t do a conversion any other way. No way I’d use junk yard steel lines, the Nylon ones from the truck or car that donated the fuel pump are the way to go.

    • 0 avatar

      OK, more details on the LTD, I’ll just touch on the fuel supply issue.  I installed a Holley TBI system (analog ECM with 5 potentiometer fuel adjustments, no O2 feedback although I purchased that kit later but never installed it) because the stock Motorcraft 4-BBL carburetor on the 429 is CRAP even if properly rebuilt, and the Edelbrock (Carter AFB) carb was even worse right out of the box (tolerances were horrible, super-loose throttle shaft bores on a brand-new carb, throttle plates leaked so much air when completely closed that it would still idle at 500 rpm even with the idle screw backed all the way out). 

      I seriously think that Edelbrock just bought the worn-out tooling for the carb castings from Carter and contined to use them.  The choke pulloff was a tiny vacuum-operated piston inside a bore in the casting, and that was so sloppy that it didn’t work either, right out of the box [note:  this was in 1992, maybe Edelbrock has rectified these issues since then, I don’t know].   So I gave up on carbs and went EFI. 

      The Holley kit included an electric georotor (positive displacement) fuel pump like the in-tank ones now used, although the kit instructed you to install it outside the fuel tank somewhere, which I did.  I had it near the top of the tank.  I learned the hard way that this was a really bad idea.  When the fuel level got down to about 1/4 tank and you took a turn, the fuel would slosh to one side of the tank and the fuel pump would suck air and lose prime.  And the georotor pumps have very little suction (which is why the mfgrs put them inside the tank down low)!  So I had to call my mom (RIP lost her last summer) to bring at least 5 gallons of gas to me in order to bring the level up in the tank high enough so the pump could prime and I could be on my way again.

      After this happened a few times (my mom was a saint for putting up with this), stranding me each time, the pump gave up the ghost and simply would not suck fuel at all, even if you poured fuel directly into it.  I took it apart and visually could find nothing wrong, but apparently georotor pumps are very finicky about being run w/o fuel (which is why you shouldn’t run out of fuel in a fuel-injected car BTW).

      So, I shelled out the $130 for a new pump from Holley (ouch!  The whole TBI kit was $600), and “fixed” my tank so this would never happen again:  I installed a second fuel supply port on the BOTTOM of the fuel tank.  I went out to the JY and obtained another fuel tank, used an air nibbler to cut out the sending unit opening, cut a hole in the bottom of my tank, and soldered the new sending unit opening onto the bottom of the tank.  Then I installed the modified sending unit with a screened collection pipe, gravity-feed, baby!  Then I installed the new fuel pump right underneath the tank, where I could have conceivably ripped it completely off the vehicle by accidently backing over a high curb or decorative rock or something (fortunately that never happened).

      The other thing that was extremely dangerous about my modification in retrospect (although I was really proud of it at the time) was the low melting point of the solder holding the whole port onto the bottom of the tank (I should have brazed it).  If ever there was a fire underneath the car for whatever reason, that solder would have quickly melted, creating a high-volume fuel leak right into the flames, fire fire (whoosh) FIRE!!!!

      A few years after having gone through all of this, I was reading one of those how-to carburetor performance books in the auto parts store (there was a chapter in the back about installing the Holley TBI system, who knew?), and learned that I should have installed a low-pressure electric fuel pump in the back of the car (one that has good suction) which then supplies the georotor high-pressure (40psi or so) pump mounted up close to the front somewhere.  Oh well . . . live and learn!

      Besides a balky “accelerator pump” fuel calibration which only occurred for a few minutes after cold startup, the EFI was far superior to a carburetor in every way and I never regretted installing it.  It improved the mileage by a few mpgs as well.  The cool thing was, I had the ECM right underneath the driver’s seat, so I could reach down while driving to dial in any of the settings.  I had no O2 sensor or any other feedback, it was strictly seat-of-the pants tuning (I had good sense enough not to run it too lean, I checked plugs and exhaust pipe after long trips to determine rich/lean conditions).

      I look forward to the next installment of the van’s project progress!

  • avatar

     throttle body efi systems rarely require high pressure fuel pumpage. I’d be suprised if that antiqe needed more than a $30 15 psi electric pump.

    I’d also try to re-use as much of the stock harness and the computer, if possible, and just winnow out extraneous wiring (or just have a custom harness made, plenty of services that do that)
    custom ECU’s have been more trouble that they are worth for a DD/cruiser type vehicle, in my experience.

    • 0 avatar

      Only GM used low pressure (12.5) TBI systems and even those can’t be run by a cheapo fuel pump. The pump of choice is the Ford frame mounted pump from the 80’s -90’s. The Chrysler system of that era is much more unreliable than a MegaSquirt.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an 88 Ramcharger with the TBI 318.  It runs 14.5-15 psi for the fuel pressure.  You might want to plan on replacing the injectors…I had to replace one because it wasn’t spraying well after it sat for a couple years of near zero use.  IIRC the 318/360 TBI had different flow rate injectors, so if you did hop up the van a bit  you could put 360 injectors in it to bump up your fuel delivery a bit.
      For tooling-around purposes I’ll second the recommendations to yank the tank and pump assembly from a vehicle that had this system initially if you think you could mount it in your A100.  Also the factory ECU for one of these beasts might help you get the thing up and running.  It would also help you debug your megasquirt if you have issues getting it up and running, but it may run well enough of the vintage computer that you’ll throw in the towel on plans to replace it with a custom unit.  The only problem with the factory ECUs for these systems is that almost all of them (the truck-platform ones anyway) housed the ECU adjacent to the intake snorkle as the pre-filter air flow provided cooling air to the ECU.  If you bypassed the snorkle for an open-element carb-style filter on a hot day sitting in traffic you could cook your ECU.
      Don’t forget you’ll need to add oxygen sensors.  I’m not sure if a B-van manifold or y-pipe (IIRC the O2 sensor is in the left bank side of the y-pipe) will fit your A, but if you reckon they will pick up a set to make adding the sensor easier, or at least quicker.

    • 0 avatar

      @Cdotson, I forgot there was a couple of years that used the low pressure system.
      I just don’t see how the POS factory ECU is going to help “de-bug” the MS. The MS is dead simple and as you noted with out the airflow through the poorly designed ECU they will suffer melt down in short order. Combine that with the poor diagnostic capabilities of that era of Chrysler computer systems and it would be a much bigger nightmare than a MS.
      For the O2 sensor putting a bung in the existing exhaust pipe is the way to go. Dead simple and only takes maybe 15min. I’d recommend spending the extra bucks for a Wide band it makes the auto tune find the right fuel map much much quicker.
      Again the Ford frame mounted pump is the way to go only $25 in the wrecking yard and way way simpler than doing a tank swap. Plus the Ford frame mount pump is one of the most reliable units there is. In the unlikely event it does fail it’s a 15 min change. A couple of bolts 2 quick disconnects on the fuel line and un-plug the wiring.

      • 0 avatar

        Scoutdude, Cdodson-
        Dudes I wouldnt have thought an older truck/small engine .318 could keep me dealing with issues. I have a holley 650 4bbl, fuel pressure gauge and currently a Mr. Gasket fuel pump for up to 9psi( I have a summit racing pump bolted on the frame in the same area the Mr. Gasket pump is for backup purposes.) I have taken everything out of the gas tank and installed a hose that extends to the bottom of the tank. With that said I keep dealing with fuel delivery issues. First the fine tuning of the carb to eliminate rough riding symptoms. Then fuel pressure issues. I’m still calibrating the carb trying to get that sweet spot. But I keep getting faced with the stalls and losing pressure. Could one of you, anybody, please help me out with a solution, my wife is close to driving it into a river!!

  • avatar

    Why not just rebuild the carburetor? Kits are only $3.50 or so…well, they were a long time ago.

  • avatar

    These carbs don’t need rebuilds, they need redesigns. Hence, horrible at best. TBI is a good call.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Wow is that Satellite his daily driver or something?

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to swap on a Dodge four barrel intake and then get an Edelbrock carb with a tuning kit?

    • 0 avatar

      Simpler in theory but in the real world the MS is way easier to tune than the Edelbrock and you don’t have to worry about fuel boil a constant problem with an Edelbrock when mounted on an iron intake w/o lots of air flow.
      The MS I have was done just because I got sick and tired of the fuel boil in the Edelbrock a previous owner put on my Travelall. I spent less time installing the MS than I did trying to “cure” the fuel boil problem.

    • 0 avatar

      I am done with carburetors. I’ve had Webers, SUs, Quadrajets, Holleys, Solexes, you name it, and I will be happy if I never see another one.

    • 0 avatar

      I hear ya, Murilee.  I wouldn’t go back to carbs for all the whisky in Ireland.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t be afraid of the factory ECU … if you hook everything up properly, it’s not necessarily a POS. If you grab the B-van’s engine harness and coil, you’ll also have an appropriate ignition curve when running the stock ECU. For diagnostics, you can probably find the Chyrsler DRBII tool on eBay for cheap (and the L-shaped diagnostic connector will be part of the underhood/engine harness you filch from the donor van). Take a look at the engine/ECU wiring diagram in the ’89 Service Manual, it’s not that complicated.

  • avatar

    Just drop in an LSA from a CTS-V

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    Murilee, while  you’re doing all this top end stuff are you going to grab a set of heads from a 340 or a 360 and slap them on top of your 318? Be sure to use the right year engine for your donor heads because of intake valve size…
    I did this on a 318-equipped ’68 Fury III many years back and it worked, let me tell ya.

  • avatar

    For good street performance and fuel economy with an early 318 it’s hard to beat an edelbrock performer intake with a small carb in the 600-650 range.  John……all 340-360 heads had larger ports and valves  than the early 318 heads.

  • avatar

    Why not just yank the whole working motor with factory EFI and use that in your van?

  • avatar

    If I was switching to fuel injection I would just find a later model running magnum with everything intact & drop it in. The MPI with beer barrel intake is way better than throttle body injection, which isn’t as good as some aftermarket carb/manifold setups.

    • 0 avatar

      While I would normally agree that the Magnum setup would be better, I think in Murilee’s case he’s on the right track.  I’m not sure how much overhead clearance there is on top of the motor in the A vans, but I don’t think it’s much.  The beer-barrel intake is pretty big.
      Also he’s at altitude…Magnum motors are ping factories, largely due to the intake manifold.  They eat belly pan gaskets for breakfast and carbon up the intake and valves from oil deposits in rapid fashion.  Magnums also don’t have as durable of a head design because they’re pushrod-oilers with individual rocker arms like Chevies rather than block/head passage oilers with rocker studs the way Ma Mopar intended.
      Murilee, you may want to revisit that 89 van and see what heads it had.  The “302” casting heads were the high-swirl/higher compression heads (my 88 came with them) that are more ping resilient.  They do have the small 1.78/1.50 valves (1.88/1.60 for a 360), but that’s easily updated if you’re going to swap heads.  They do have tighter ports and smaller runners to keep velocity up for lower-speed torque, which you’ll need with a van at altitude.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Very nice,
    Its different on bikes. All USA EPA regulated bike carbs since 1972 are slightly lean, start bad and run bad off idle, very easily corrected by drilling the anti-tamper caps and dialing-out mixture screws 2.5 turns (every bike I ever did has this number of turns as optimal) and then they work fine. FI bikes were not as drivable as carb bikes until not very long ago and to tune them you need power commander etc.
    Mikuni is a far cry from Carter.
    The fuel filter on my FI v-strom is a $220 part and requires more than 1 hour of skilled labor to replace. People gut them and install in-lines outside the tank.

  • avatar

    I forgot that he’s in Colorado, where it can be hard to make a lot of  engines with carbs run right due to the high altitude.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    This is a great project- FI on a junkyard budget. I’m seeing more and more FI retrofits in the old iron for the reasons that Murilee outlined. Here’s one of the most interesting ones that I’ve seen in person-GM EFI on a 392 Hemi in a 48 Plymouth convert. P.S.-since that piece was done he did have a system failure in Oregon but it’s back on the road.

  • avatar

    Dotson……I thought about the clearance issue with the beer barrel intake after i sent the post. It is pretty tall, but I have seen them swapped into cars with pretty low hoodlines, so if such a swap were to be attempted with an A100 it would be wise to check for clearance first.
    When the magnums first came out they did have a problem with intake gaskets, but the gasket was redesigned years ago, and all of the factory ones that went bad have been replaced with the newer design by now.
    There was never a problem with the way small block chevies oil the rockers through the pushrods, many engines did that. The problem they had was narrow cam lobes and small diameter lifters combined with a soft cam, which resulted in premature wear of the cam and lifters.
    The problem with the ball stud rocker arm design that they use is that it lets the rocker move around on the stud altering cam lift, especially at high rpm’s and with high lift camshafts. It’s not really much of an issue on a street driven stocker with a mild cam.
    It cannot be refuted that the shaft mounted rockers on the pre magnum small block chryslers and big blocks was a superior setup, but it was expensive to produce, which was why they came out with the fulcrum or pedestal style rocker setup for the magnums.
    It’s very similar to the setup used on ford’s cleveland, 429/460 and later model windsor engines, as well as 73-up AMC engines.
    This design is actually a pretty good compromise for a stock or near stock engine, it gives more stability than the slip-n-slide ball stud arrangement used by GM.
    I think murilee is going in the right direction with his setup. At first I was wondering why he didn’t just go with a small 4bbl and aftermarket dual plane intake, then I remembered that he lives in colorado where it’s often difficult to get a carbureted engine to run correctly.

  • avatar

    I’m curious to see how the Megasquirt controller works out.  I looked at using it on my K-car convertible, but instead opted for a TBI from an old Omni due to cost.  I scarfed out the entire wiring harness and am in the process of customizing it.  Only concern is the fuel tank.  Every one in the pick n pull has been stabbed with a screwdriver to get the fuel out, so a new tank is a must.

  • avatar
    The CHZA

    My 1967 Coronet wagon has a Carter BBD on its 318 and it couldn’t be easier to work on. I retuned the idle and idle mixtures in about ten minutes yesterday. Someone previously installed a Mopar electronic distributor and orange box controller, and it always starts and runs perfectly fine. Though based on my Googlings, apparently once emissions controls and electronics got tacked onto these things for Dodges and Jeeps, they became quite terrible. Swapping downwards to a new purely mechanical carb (Holley sells remanufactured/replica late 60s BBDs for about $190) would probably net a similar gain in economy (a friend got 14-18 mpg in his 2 barrel 67 Charger 318 when new) and reliability, and be a lot easier than figuring out Megasquirt.

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