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1999 Ford SVT Lightning Blower Upgrade - Wretched Excess
When 2.3 Liters Weren't Enough, Whipple Gave Us A 3.4L Blower.
It's rare for us to say "go big or go home," but in this case it's oh-so fitting. We almost always pride our-selves on having self-control when selecting camshafts, cylinder heads, gears, and other size-sensitive components. This time, however, we didn't practice what we normally preach. Often, pulling back the reins on heads, cams, and blowers means better driveability and average power, even if the peak number suffers a little. But when Whipple Superchargers recently released its latest offering for the twin-screw supercharger crowd, a robust 3.4L blower, we just had to have one for our project Lightning.
This 3.4L blower is capable of moving a massive volume of air, provided the engine can handle it. We were smiling at the time of the announcement because our in-house Gen 2 Lightning, Project Fridge, has an engine that's more than capable of ingesting as much air as we can throw at it. The blower looks like it came straight off of an Alcohol Funny Car and isn't for vehicles that have fragile bottom ends, which doesn't apply to the Fridge with its solid, JDM Engineering-built short-block and ported heads.
If you aren't familiar with the Fridge, it's a '99 SVT Lightning that started life as a press vehicle for Ford and then was passed off to MM&FF for a career as an in-house project mule. Don't let its innocent looks fool you; this truck is a bare-knuckles brawler on the dragstrip. We took the 13-second whippersnapper from an unmolested Ford test truck down to a nasty 10-second daily driver. At 4,700 pounds, it has run 11.30 at 122 mph on Nitto 555s with a street tune and 93-octane fuel-but that was with the smaller 2.3 Whipple.
The Fridge's latest go-fast hardware includes a 5.4L JDM-built engine with steel crank, Manley steel rods and forged pistons, ported Two-Valve heads, and custom JDM camshafts. It also has a Level 10-built transmission and 4.10 gears. Over the past two years, we installed three different blowers on top of this potent engine combination.
First was a ported Eaton, and with that we managed to crack into the 10s without nitrous thanks to boost from the modded OEM unit (10.99 at 120 mph). Power output was near 500 at the tires, which is about the max for a ported-Eaton combo. That unit was swapped in favor of a Ford Racing Performance Parts/Whipple 2.3L twin-screw blower-providing mid-10-second-capable power with 669 rwhp at 21 psi, 18 degrees of timing, and C16 fuel. We never got to the track with this combo, but similarly prepared trucks ran 10.40s.
After we were comfortable with 669 hp at the tires, JDM added a single stage, wet-nitrous kit from Nitrous Express. The juice was run only on the dyno (720 rwhp with small jets) as we never track-tested the giggle gas. Editor Smith drove a nearly identical truck into the 9.70s on the bottle, so we know single digits were possible with the Fridge on the sauce. But now we've grown complacent with the current combo, and in order to combat the soon-to-come ZR-1 Corvette, we need a big(ger) boost setup.
Dustin Whipple of Whipple Superchargers offered the chance to upgrade our blower, so we had him send over the new 3.4 huffer. "For pump-gas applications, the 2.3 can support 750 flywheel horsepower," he says. "The 3.4 can handle 1,000 flywheel horsepower. In race applications, the 2.3 can support 900 flywheel horsepower, while the 3.4 can support 1,200 flywheel horsepower." His power figures had us asking, what did we get ourselves into?
The 3.4L blower is officially referred to as the W210 and can theoretically flow 210 ci of air through the compressor at 100 percent volumetric efficiency (VE). Whipple says it's impossible for the blower to operate at 100 percent VE, unless it's used in a compound boost combination and is force-fed. Even at lesser efficiency levels, this blower is more than enough to satisfy the most horsepower-hungry appetite. As you'll see, the blower's massive airflow capability will tax many of the systems on the Fridge.
Whipple shed some light on the internal workings of twin-screw blowers. "The supercharger is driven off the engine's crankshaft, via a belt," he says. "As the rotors rotate (which turn opposite each other), they go by the inlet ports, which helps create a suction phase, allowing air to fill the flutes of the rotors. The air is moved axially through the casing. As the rotors continue to rotate, space gets progressively reduced, thus it compresses the air charge until it reaches the discharge port, which has a predetermined pressure ratio. From there, it's forced out of the discharge port. Because it's exited at a higher pressure ratio, the air enters pressurized areas with far greater efficiency due to far less leakage." Twin-screw blowers have gained popularity over the past five years thanks to the aftermarket blowers for the Terminator Cobra and Gen 2 Lightnings. The twin-screw combo is highly efficient, and the results speak for themselves with 9- and 10-second Cobras and Lightnings at tracks across the country.
Installation was handled by JDM Engineering, and it went smoothly as the 3.4L unit is a direct bolt-on item. We encountered a few hiccups here and there, namely the hard intercooler hoses and the IAC (Idle Air Control) motor. "The hard intercooler hoses that run down the passenger side of the supercharger are no longer a direct fit, so we had to bend the mounting brackets on the lines and run two new coolant hoses to the back of the blower to make it work," says JDM's Jim D'Amore. "We like this option better than the alternative of just using rubber lines. The hard lines look much cleaner."
The IAC motor's location interferes with the coil packs, a problem that most people have with the 3.4L blowers, according to many message-board conversations. D'Amore had his machine-shop guys take down the IAC mounting location. This procedure was practically effortless and provided ample clearance between the IAC and coil packs. Other than those two issues, the installation was trouble-free and simple. We had visions of stupid horsepower, but we were thrust back to reality after only a couple of dyno pulls.
The first problem we encountered on the dyno was in the boost department. As D'Amore fed into the throttle and pushed the blade wide open, the 5.4 screamed, and we saw 31 psi of boost in the lower-rpm zone. The massive boost pushed off a few vacuum lines, causing the engine to run rough, and he quickly jumped off the loud pedal. Nevertheless, the engine was up about 80 hp from previous tests. This was promising. The blower pulleys selected for this application were in left field thanks to the massive blower sitting on top of our modular engine. Our truck features a 10-inch crank pulley (also known as an 8-pound pulley), which is combined with a 3.5-inch blower pulley. The pulley combo provided too much blower speed. Fridge was sporting a 3-inch upper and the same crank pulley when it was rolling with the 2.3L huffing 21 psi of boost. Even with a larger blower pulley, the 3.4 unit unleashed 10 more pounds of boost. D'Amore made the executive decision to keep the 3.5 upper pulley and put on an 8.75-inch crank pulley (4-pound lower). The new combo brought boost down to a more reasonable 24 psi. and Fridge rolled out 710 hp at the wheels. But this brought us to problem number two-a tapped-out fuel system.
"The Fridge was already equipped with 60-pound injectors, an SCT 2400 mass air meter, twin 255-lph fuel pumps, and stock fuel rails," D'Amore says. "We had to upgrade the mass air to the 2800, unfortunately we were stuck at 710 rwhp." We were stuck at that power level because the fuel rails were being sucked dry quicker than a keg of beer at a fraternity party.
If we wanted to see more than 710, then a larger fuel system would have to be ordered. Due to deadlines, we'll have to wait until next month to unleash the full potential of the 3.4L supercharger. But right now we'll settle for 710 at the wheels. D'Amore sent us out on the road with a mild tune-up, and we're happy to report that streetworthiness is nearly identical to the 2.3L supercharger. The truck is no louder, and driveability is as good as stock. We even recorded 15.8 mpg during our commute, and that's on oxygenated winter fuel.
Rest assured, we'll have the fuel system designed and installed for our next issue. With the proper fuel-delivery components in place, we expect to make well over 800 hp at the tires. If we're not satisfied with that, there's always the Nitrous Express single-stage system onboard.