Sharad Raldiris
March 7, 2014

Horse Sense: Holley has been in business since 1903 and made a name for itself by selling over 250 million carburetors. However, Holley's high-technology Avenger, HP, and Dominator electronic fuel-injection systems have earned it a place among the finest EFI systems on the market.

Technology moves at a staggering pace. It's amazing to consider that NASA put a man on the moon using less computing power than the smart phones we carry around in our pockets. Last year's killer laptop computer is this year's standard model. Knowing how quickly technology progresses, we simply could not bring ourselves to run an EEC-IV-based EFI system with its '86-model-year technology controlling Project Shocker's monstrous powerplant. So when Holley announced its Dominator EFI system, we picked one up to see what it was all about.

Like most standalone EFI systems, the Holley Dominator system is ordered a la carte. For our setup, we ordered the Dominator ECU (PN 554-114), main harness (PN 558-104), SBF injector harness (PN 558-209), universal ignition harness (PN 558-306), auxiliary harness (PN 558-401), two wideband O2 sensors (PN 554-100), two 0-to-100-psi pressure sensors to monitor fuel and oil pressure (PN 554-102), a three-bar MAP sensor (PN 554-107), air temperature sensor (PN 9920-107), and the coolant temperature sensor (PN 534-10). These were all of the parts we needed to set up the Dominator EFI with dual wideband oxygen sensors, our existing dual inductive pickup distributor, and the factory throttle-position sensor and idle-air-control valve.

It should be noted that there is a lot of flexibility with regard to ignition strategies when using Holley EFI. It integrates perfectly with OEM and aftermarket TFI distributors for a plug-and-play installation using factory components. It can also be used with a crank trigger, a dual-inductive-pickup distributor, even a distributorless ignition system. We chose the dual IPU distributor because it was on hand when we installed our stroker Windsor.

Installing the Holley Dominator EFI was simple and straightforward. Rick Anderson at Holley supplied a base tune for our initial engine calibration. After we took care of the mechanical gremlins, which we addressed in the previous installment of Project Shocker, the 428ci Windsor fired right up on the first try.

Much to our amazement, it only took three full-throttle pulls for us to nail down a solid air/fuel tune using Holley's powerful self-tuning fuel-table Strategy. Rick told us that many of his customers rely solely on the system's base fuel Learn Mode to automatically create their tune as they drive along. After seeing the Learn Mode in action, we're sure that is a viable option. However, we opted to bring Project Shocker to J&J Performance (www.jnj performance.com) in Cape Coral, Florida, where owner and tuner Justin Nelson dialed in our combo.

Follow the captions to see how the Holley Dominator system came together, and don't miss the sidebar with our preliminary dyno results. The Shocker is already showing potential—and stay tuned for our next installment when we'll tighten up the converter and head back to the dragstrip!

When we ordered our Holley Dominator EFI system, Rick Anderson at Holley suggested we try this 5.7-inch LCD touchscreen (PN 553-103). It offers complete control over the EFI system once the initial calibration setup has been performed via laptop. It controls the ECU’s powerful datalogging functionality, and it has an amazing digital gauge feature which allows the user to monitor any of the system’s parameters using several different gauge layouts. Basically, this touchscreen controller alleviates the need for a dedicated in-car laptop computer or a high-dollar digital gauge cluster. It will probably even butter your toast, but we haven’t exhausted all of its impressive features in order to confirm that.
The Holley system features high-quality wiring harnesses wrapped in great-looking black wire loom, and every connector is clearly labeled. Holley offers all of the typical sensors, like MAP, coolant temperature, air temperature, and others, with connectors which allow them to plug right into the main harness. We needed a larger set of fuel injectors for the Shocker’s new Windsor stroker, and chose these Holley low-impedance 120-lb/hr fuel injectors, which are capable of supporting 1,900 horsepower.
Holley also offers 0-to-100-psi pressure sensors, which we are using to monitor fuel and oil pressure. We’ve set up the LCD touchscreen to display both of these parameters, and it can be programmed to display a warning if these parameters venture outside of the user’s desired values—for example, when oil pressure falls below a safe minimum value.
Project Shocker is packing a ProCharger-blown 428ci Windsor. With an engine this brutal, traction management is critical. While Holley’s V2 software does offer traction control when used with the Davis Technologies Holley traction control module, plenty of the cool kids still use MSD’s programmable Digital 7 ignition system, widely known as the MSD 7531, to control tire spin. We chose to mount the Dominator ECU and MSD ignition here in the passenger-side footwell. The installation will look much cleaner once we install black carpet from our friends at Latemodel Restoration and reinstall the factory kick panels.
The Engine Parameters screen is found under System Parameters and is only accessible when the ECU is offline. This means that the engine must be shut off in order to change any of its base parameters. Closed Loop/Learn parameters are also programmed through a tab found within the System Parameters.

Base Fuel is probably the most frequently accessed tuning table within the Holley system. Any changes made here take place instantaneously. Additionally, the Learn Table can be opened to view how the ECU has added or subtracted fuel in order to reach the target air/fuel ratio at any rpm and boost/vacuum level. The cells in the Learn Table can be cleared or transferred to the Base Fuel table at any time. The orange ball on the table indicates where engine rpm and boost/vac are at any given time. In this case, the engine is not running, so the orange ball is at ambient air pressure and at the bottom of the rpm range. Notice also that the Sensors window in the bottom left corner of the screen lists Stall as the rpm value since the engine isn’t running. This window can be configured to display any parameter which the ECU monitors in real time. Finally, you’ll notice that two of the cells in the Base Fuel table are red. This is because the ECU has calculated that those cells are outside the range of our fuel system's capability. However, this isn't an issue for us because those cells occur at 8,000 engine rpm and 30 psi of boost. Our rev limiter is set to 7,500 rpm. This extra column of cells is there in case of an accidental over-rev, which could theoretically occur in the case of an overzealous downshift.

This is the Base Timing table. We’ve spent a significant amount of time tweaking the values near the idle area in order to achieve a smooth idle. The Shocker idles and revs pretty smoothly considering its race-oriented setup. We’ll also play with these numbers when we experiment with pump gas and methanol injection using our Snow Performance methanol injection kit.
One of the most impressive features of Holley’s Dominator EFI is its built-in datalogging capability. Datalogs can be created either by manually activating the datalogger, or by programming automatic triggers to create internal logs. In our case, we have programmed the ECU to automatically record the system parameters for 20 seconds any time the throttle position exceeds 50 percent. Once recorded, the system can display any parameter which the ECU monitors. This particular log represents our first dyno pull at J&J Performance. Using the check boxes to the left of the screen, we’ve chosen to display rpm, target air/fuel, air/fuel average, manifold absolute pressure, fuel pressure, and throttle position. This information is useful for tuning, whether on or off of the dyno.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Project Shocker, when we’ll tighten up the torque converter and head out to the track to make at attempt at running in the 8-second zone in our street/strip brawler.

On the Dyno

The good news is that our wicked little ProCharger F-1R is pumping out 28 pounds of boost and the 428ci Windsor is taking it like a champ! By our crude estimate, those figures should be good for roughly 1,300 horsepower at the crankshaft. Unfortunately, we estimated that the blower would supply only 20 pounds of boost, so we overshot the estimated power level listed on our torque converter tech sheet by a significant amount.

On the dyno, the converter is stalling at 6,450 rpm, and our converter slip percentage wound up at 16 percent. These numbers indicate that we are making enough power to push through the converter. Fortunately, TCT offers a free one-time stall-speed adjustment within 90 days of shipment. By the time you read this, we will have already sent the torque converter back for its adjustment so we can take another shot at breaking 1,000 horsepower to the tires, which was our original goal.

It's worth noting that these dyno figures should not be viewed too critically because dynos load non-lockup converters differently than the street. For example, if you take the exact same engine combo and dyno it with a manual transmission like a T-56, then an automatic with a lockup converter like an AOD, then an automatic with a non-lockup converter like a C4, the manual-trans combo will make the most power because it has no slip and little parasitic loss. The automatic trans with the lockup converter will make slightly less power because there is more parasitic loss from the transmission. The non-lockup converter will make the least power because it has both parasitic loss and slippage in the torque converter. However, the non-lockup converter setup is usually the quickest on the dragstrip.

Also, our current torque converter, which stalled at 6,450 rpm on the dyno, actually stalled at 6,000 rpm on the street. So to some extent, the chassis dyno is primarily a tuning aid. Still, we know Project Shocker is capable of making over 1,000 rear-wheel horsepower, and we're determined to prove it!

Having previously made three full throttle pulls to allow the Holley Dominator’s self-tune fuel table strategy to create a decent base tune, we brought the Shocker to J&J Performance in Cape Coral, Florida, for a custom tune by owner and tuner Justin Nelson. At this magazine, we spend our lives around Mustangs of all kinds day in and day out. However, we have to confess that standing next to our ’89 LX at wide open throttle is downright scary! The sounds emanating from Project Shocker’s barely legal exhaust are exquisitely terrifying.
We made eight different dyno pulls and this was the best one. Max power came in at 822.62 and max torque was 632.36 lb-ft. Interestingly, this graph shows that the torque converter flashed to 6,450 rpm before it stalled, and the power and torque curves rolled off soon afterward at around 6,850 rpm.