Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Procharger i-1- Innovation Of Power
ProCharger has a history of innovation, but the revolutionary i-1 is a true pioneer.
Centrifugal superchargers were at the forefront of the late-model Mustang movement in the late-'80s and early-'90s, and continue to occupy a large portion of the aftermarket. Centrifugal supercharger manufacturers cut their teeth on Fox-body Mustangs.
With the help of MM&FF and other automotive publications, these companies have thrived. And new ones are popping up all the time; there are no less than 14 supercharger systems available for the '11-up Mustang GT.
But with the release of its new i-1, ProCharger has removed itself from the horde of blower companies. The i-1 is a true revolution of supercharging, and this technology is here to stay. But it didn't happen overnight.
Where It All Started
Nineteen years ago, brothers Dan and Ken Jones launched ProCharger. Both were gearheads and the subject of neighbors' nightmares growing up, as the brothers were hot rodding anything and everything they could park in their driveway. Dan was the engineer/inventor, and Ken was the businessman/publicist.
Like its opponents, the ProCharger P600 series supercharger kit contained a front-mounted centrifugal supercharger and all the goodies to install it. The main difference was that the engineering team at ATI (Accessible Technologies Inc., the parent company of ProCharger) found a way to incorporate an air-to-air intercooler into the system, while maintaining an affordable price tag.
"Nobody was intercooling," Ken Jones tells us of the early days of Mustang supercharging. "We were both automotive enthusiasts, and looking at offerings at the time, saw a need in the market for an intercooled supercharger system." The intercooled supercharger kit was born, and the rest is history. Now it's hard to even find a blower kit that isn't intercooled. Heck, factory-supercharged Stangs are even intercooled—whether OEM or tuner-built. And it all started with the P600.
This breakthrough allowed the P600 kit to safely pump out 14 pounds of boost, compared to the 8 or 9 pounds that other blower companies were offering. "Others were running ignition retard and 8 or 9 pounds of boost with no intercooler," says Jones. "And we were running 9 pounds intercooled with no ignition retard—with the base kit!"
The first ProCharger test in MM&FF was "Getting Charged" (Nov. '94), written by then-associate-editor and now-editor Evan J. Smith. After running low 14s in baseline testing, the Fox-body test subject picked up two whole seconds in the quarter-mile with the ProCharger, running 12.20 at 114 mph.
Since then, ProCharger has grown alongside other Mustang parts manufacturers, evolving into an automotive aftermarket and racing giant that makes kits for not only Ford cars and trucks, but GM, Chrysler, and import vehicles. It dominates the motorcycle and powersports markets, and even makes marine kits. Not to mention its industrial arm, Inovair, which has revolutionized industrial compressor efficiency.
As more supercharger companies have popped up, some centrifugal and some positive displacement, competition has grown increasingly stiff for ProCharger. Much advancement has been made in the positive displacement supercharger, making it the choice of OEMs and builders such as Shelby American, Roush, and Saleen. But there are pros and cons to each type of blower.
Centrifugal superchargers make peak boost at the top-end of the rpm range, making them seem lazy down low, while positive displacement superchargers make peak boost almost instantly, giving them lots of low-end grunt. But positive displacement superchargers sit atop the engine, making them prone to heat-soak issues, while centrifugals are front-mounted away from the intake tract, which allows a cooler air charge over an extended period of time. Also, centrifugal superchargers allow for large air-to-air intercoolers, further cooling the air charge.
There was no way to get the best of both types of superchargers—low-end grunt, top-end power, and cooler IATs—so that's what the engineering team at ProCharger set out to do four years ago. "We took another look at the marketplace, and saw a need for a programmable boost curve," says Jones. "I found patents dating back to the '40s (for similar designs), so the key wasn't the idea, but how to actually do it."
But ATI had its hands busy, not only with re-vamping the ProCharger race line and releasing four new race models, but also launching a new line on the industrial side. Granted, the company had grown to a large team, 11 of which were engineers, but testing, launching, and promoting new products is time-consuming—however, ATI soldiered on towards its goal.