5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Electromotive & Nitrous Express' Engine Control Computer
A Fully Programmable Aftermarket Engine-Control Computer With Nitrous Capabilities
Step By StepView Photo Gallery
Your '86-or-later 5.0 Mustang's engine is controlled by a computer. Simple enough, right? Yeah--when's the last time you ever heard a computer defined as simple? Computers are enormously complicated devices, even the now easily hackable Ford EEC processors, but as proven by companies like Hypertech, Superchips, and others, there is power to be found in those circuits and microchips.
But this computer trickery is not just restricted to the factory-approved EEC computers. There are a few aftermarket engine-control computers that are not only fully programmable, but are more tuner-friendly and have extra capabilities, such as for nitrous or other extraneous operations.
One of these aftermarket jewels is the Electromotive TEC-II, an exotic-looking, but understandable, engine-control computer and high-powered ignition system that, with specific software packages, also has the capability of data logging.
There are a couple different systems available, from the HPV ignition-only setup, to the full-boogie TEC-II with Proportional Air/Fuel blend software that allows full control of every operating parameter of the engine. What sets the Electromotive system apart from most other aftermarket controls is its direct-coil ignition system, which uses one coil for every two cylinders (four coils on a V-8). This allows more coil saturation (Electromotive claims that the coils are fully charged up to 9,600 rpm with a 12-volt battery) and, theoretically, more spark duration. The engine control portion of the system is fully programmable (depending on the system chosen), and adaptable for many different engine combinations, including pretty much anything you can do with a small-block Ford.
When our buddy Conrad Coffman called up and told us he was switching his race car from a blown configuration to nitrous, and that his EFI system was controlled by an Electromotive box, we wanted to watch and see what is involved in making a combination like this work. Coffman's '90 hatchback has run a best of 9.67 with a 514 big-block and a Vortech Mondo feeding an Electromotive-controlled fuel injection system. But the combination got to the point where even the mighty Mondo was overtaxed by the enormous num-ber of cubic inches. Coffman had two choices: add a second blower to the setup, or switch to nitrous. The nitrous seemed like the best solution.
The combination he came up with was a two-stage Nitrous Express system (supplied by the good folks at Excessive Motorsports) plumbed into a tunnel ram, using spray bars in the plenum and fogger nozzles in the base of the manifold. Even though it's a fuel-injected engine, the nitrous system is wet, meaning that the nitrous system's fuel enrichment comes through the spray bars and nozzles, not added to what comes through the injectors. The Electromotive TEC-II system controls the fuel flow through the injectors, as well as the ignition curve, and includes all the retards and rev limiters that you'd expect. We wanted to see how it worked, how easy it is to program, and how Coffman's Electromotive/Nitrous Express system was set up. For specifics on his engine combination, see the sidebar "Coffman's Combo," on page 92 and for options regarding the Electromotive systems that apply to 5.0s, check out "Other Options" on page 94.
As for the Electromotive TEC system itself, all TECs are essentially the same, but the software package that controls it varies based on the application. Coffman's car uses the Super Blend II system, which allows all the programming features to be used with a speed density metering system and a camshaft with lots of overlap. Most other systems using speed density compensate for a big cam by setting the idle based on a throttle position sensor. What usually happens is that a race motor with lots of overlap (and hence, not much idle vacuum) usually won't idle below 1,500 rpm or so with a speed density system, and the low-rpm performance also sucks. The Super B system combines a throttle position sensor with a manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor to allow a decent idle on even the most radical of engines. For a little time spent tuning, you can cruise your full-race 'Stang down to Burger King and show the locals what's up! We asked why Coffman doesn't use the top-of-the-line PAF Blend system, then realized that his race motor sucks leaded fuel, which will quickly kill the PAF system's oxygen sensor.
After the combination was initially set up, we joined Coffman at Automotion in Rockville, Maryland, where engine guru Larry Strouth, Sr., cinched the car down to the dynojet and went to work tuning it for max power. Strouth is a big supporter of Electromotive, and while his shop performs a lot of work on 5.0 Mustangs, they also have a hand in developing engines for everything from speedboats to a 4.6 Cobra-powered IMSA World Sports Car (WSC) being built to kick Ferrari's ass. Take our word for it when we tell you these guys know what they're doing!
The Electromotive system comes unprogrammed, but Coffman's blown configuration was similar enough that it would run the car. Strouth also has some base programs that he knows through experience will get most combinations close, but without the luxury of his knowledge, you and I would simply have to determine two numbers, which are explained in the instructions. Once the car is running, the dyno is by far the easiest way to tune, and the Electromotive allows real-time changes to be made. You can change any of the settings while the car is running, which is very handy for part-throttle driveability. Open up the laptop while cruising down the road, and you can instantly feel the effects of just pressing a button on the keyboard.
Coffman's program was close to start with, because it wasn't radically different than the program used with the supercharger. In the previous program, alterations to the timing and fuel curves would coincide with the onset of boost, whereas now it works when the nitrous solenoids are opened. The major changes Strouth made to the system were simply optimizing both curves to work with the nitrous. It really wasn't any different than changing jets in a carburetor or turning a boost retard. He'd make a pull, look at the power numbers, pull a few plugs to see how they looked, and then either add or subtract fuel and timing to compensate.
We don't want to make it sound like a 10-year-old could program the Electromotive system, because he couldn't, but it doesn't require a computer science degree from MIT, either. It works, and will blow some socks off visually.