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.
Then some new technology became available that would revolutionize supercharging.
"We gained knowledge in electronic controls through our industrial line," says Jones of the i-1. With this technology, it could control a variable ratio transmission incorporated into the supercharger assembly.
So all that was left was to bridge the gap between the electronically controlled variable ratio transmission and the turbine. The package had to be rugged, compact, and efficient. Traditional belts wouldn't work because of durability issues, and chain drives wouldn't work because of weight and fluid requirement. The solution: a dry hybrid belt-drive system. The dry hybrid belt provides the best of both worlds, acting like a belt, but with the durability and strength of a chain.
After the first prototypes were made, testing ensued for three years in the lab and two years of under-the-hood testing. Finally, at the 2012 SEMA show, the announcement was made and the i-1 was introduced to the world—the first programmable-ratio supercharger.
There are serious advantages to the i-1 over traditional centrifugal superchargers. The main advantage is the adjustability. With its three modes (four with the touch-screen upgrade), you can either have full boost on tap instantly or lock in the lowest possible boost ratio for maximum fuel economy.
Sport Mode allows you to be stealthy, and is probably the mode most will want for street driving. You retain the quiet operation of a standard centrifugal supercharger but can reach maximum boost within one second.
Competition Mode pre-spools the blower, so maximum boost can be tapped at any moment—instantly. This mode is noticeably louder, and can be used for the track or to just intimidate pesky Camaros on the street.
Touring Mode locks the transmission in the lowest possible ratio. This mode is good for valet parking, snow and rain, or cruising on the highway. It provides the best fuel economy of all the modes.
By the time you read this, ProCharger will have i-1 kits ready for '11-up Mustang GTs. For about $2,000 more than a standard kit, you get the latest supercharger technology. The kits include everything that a normal ProCharger kit contains, as well as the controls system, which mounts under the dash, and the mode selector knob and wiring. The knob can be mounted anywhere in the driver's reach and can be adjusted on the fly.
Optionally, you can get the touchscreen for an additional $450. Not only does it give you live feedback, but it also unlocks yet another mode, Custom. Custom Mode is for those that want to add their own touch, for whatever reason—a custom tune for towing, for instance.
Photo GalleryView Photo Gallery
Another advantage of he touch screen is being able to monitor impeller rpm, current ratio of the supercharger, engine rpm and boost level. You can customize the display to it your preferences, and the touch screen mounts in an A-pillar gauge pod or can mount to your windshield like a GPS.
While maintaining the advantages of ProCharger's standard product line, the i-1 produces more seat-of-the-pants feel and increased performance—up to 2-3 mph gain in the quarter-mile, according to ProCharger's testing.
"We have decided to set the boost level for the Mustang 5.0L i-1 ProCharger system at 7.5 psi, which produces a 200-rwhp gain on a bone-stock motor (with stock exhaust) running pump gas," says Jones. "Our 2011 5.0L Mustang with stock motor and exhaust is making 580 rwhp with 91-octane fuel with 7.5 psi. It made 380 rwhp on the motor in dyno-testing on the same day with the same atmospheric conditions."
Imagine these results with on-the-fly adjustability and better fuel economy. Is this the perfect supercharger? We'll have to get our hands on one to test before we make that assessment.
This breakthrough allowed the P600 kit to safely pump out 14 pounds of boost.
On The Web
Part of being a leader in a growing industry today is a strong Internet presence. ProCharger realizes this, and is continuing to update and improve its website. In fact, it is re-launching
www.ProCharger.com with a whole new look and feel.
Since it may not yet be live by the time you read this story, we've included a few snapshots of what it's going to look like. It will be easy to read, easy to navigate, and informative. You'll be able to not only learn about ProCharger products, but there will be a photo gallery, FAQs, and info about ProCharged racers. You can download printable versions of catalogs, and watch videos on ProCharger TV. There's even a place for you to tell your story about your ProCharged Pony. And don't forget the ProCharger Store, where you can get everything from apparel, branded bling, and hardware for your kit.