KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
January 1, 2009
Photos By: KJ Jones
A smooth, free-spinning impeller is the mark of a happy centrifugal supercharger. Paxton's lead blower tech, Greg Dawley, cleaned, inspected, and freshened our T-top coupe's Novi 2000 with new seals and bearings, and then replaced the blower's volute with the straight-discharge piece we need for an intercooler system we hope to install fairly soon.

Horse Sense: We oftentimes find ourselves marveling at the infinite wisdom (Yeah, right.-Ed.) of our leader, Editor Steve Turner, who always seems to have the right view on challenging issues. Steve believes project cars are never really "finished" when it comes to making changes and upgrades, as long as they're still in our possession. Since our last report on Project T-top Coupe ("Score to Settle," Aug '08, p. 102), we've been battling with the dilemma of when we're finally going to say "that's enough" in regard to this project. For now, the answer is never. And with that said, read on to find out the new direction we're going in with our rare coupe.

Now that we've met-and in many cases, surpassed-nearly all of the appearance and performance goals that were set when the Fox-rod resto odyssey of our '86 T-top LX coupe began, many of you are probably wondering what's next for the project car. At this point, that's a great question.

If someone were to ask us whether we're happy with the 830 non-intercooled, streetable horsepower and 9-second performance that our Paxton Novi 2000-blown coupe has displayed on the dragstrip, the quick and definitive answer would be "of course we're happy." However, if the same person asks if we are satisfied with that performance, at this point, an affirmative probably won't come so quickly.

The reason we're somewhat hesitant to say we are fully satisfied with the T-top coupe is because deep down we know that despite the flashes of brilliance it has displayed thus far, there's another performance plateau our rare Fox trunk can reach. With that said, we're proud to let you know that Project T-top Coupe lives on. Our new mission is to somehow, some way achieve 1,000 hp "at the feet" (it's new slang for rear-wheel-horsepower that we think is pretty cool) of our street/strip project car. At this point, we're so close to laying down a full grand that not trying to get it just doesn't make any sense for power-mad 'Stangbangers like us.

You'll notice we stress the fact that our coupe's A.R.E. Performance [(805) 583-0602] 350ci, supercharged bullet puts out crazy oats without the benefit of an intercooler. That's right; you can almost say we're doing things NMRA EFI Renegade style, with the major difference being that we drive the T-top coupe regularly on the boulevards and streets of Southern California's San Fernando Valley instead of limiting it to the 1,320-foot confines of the dragstrip.

After giving our blower's exterior and case an overall visual inspection, Greg removes this oil-supply nozzle and checks its screen for metal particles or other debris. Blockage in this tube can lead to catastrophic failure of the blower by way of non-lubricated internals that succumb to excessive heat. Finding debris in this area is an indicator that there may be serious problems with the supercharger itself or the engine, as the oil running into this tube comes directly from the engine's oil pan.

Our quest for 1,000 hp is highlighted by a major addition to the supercharger system. If you're guessing "intercooler," you're absolutely right. Yes, we've decided to plumb a 'cooler into the Novi's ductwork. An intercooler will help bring inlet-air temps down, as well as make a considerable difference in the blower's efficiency and ability to produce more power. Early forecasts estimate we could see gains of more than 100 hp with an intercooler in place. Sure, we know it's a guesstimate and the gain could be less. But at this point, we also know we need to install an intercooler to see any improvement in the coupe's performance on the chassis dyno.

Our first step toward making the transition doesn't involve the intercooler just yet. The first order of business is to address our Novi 2000's internal and external needs, and the only way to do that is by letting the experts at Paxton handle things.

Changing the supercharger's volute (the snail-shell-shaped, cast-aluminum housing in which a high-speed impeller generates boost from inlet air and forces it into the engine through a discharge tube) from curved discharge to straight discharge is our primary need. The coupe's Novi currently has a curved-discharge volute, which expels supercharged air from the back of the unit. With an intercooler mounted at the lower-front portion of the project car, the setup requires a volute with a discharge that doesn't curve and can be pointed toward the passenger-side fender.

While the volute swap is the primary agenda item for our project coupe's Novi, it actually takes a back seat to the subject matter we're focusing on in this report, which we feel is much more important to those of you who have a Paxton (or Vortech) supercharger on your 'Stang and want to make sure they're always in tip-top shape.