Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
April 1, 2009

Nitrous Madness!
Adding nitrous oxide to your hot rod to make it faster is nothing new. In the late-model Mustang market, people have been using it to make their Ponies gallop faster since the '80s. The problem with using nitrous back then was that you got all of that horsepower and torque instantly, much like dropping the clutch with an extra 100-plus horsepower. Eventually, the folks at Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS) developed an electronic controller that would pulse the solenoids and add it gradually. Some of those controllers are still in use today, but we're here to show you NOS's latest progressive controller--the Launcher.

With the proliferation of handheld tuners, advancements in personal digital assistants, and other similar devices, the aftermarket tuner devices have come a long way from the plug-in chip. These days, you can reprogram the computer simply by pushing a few buttons on a handheld tuner. While this progress works wonders for enthusiasts, the graphic displays and interactions with them are limited. This is probably for good reason, as the majority of enthusiasts aren't knowledgeable enough to be programming their own rides. That, combined with the fact that flashing the ECM is basically a set-it-and-forget-it proposition, and it's easy to see why the graphics and interaction are limited. It also helps keep the price point down.

For those who are using nitrous oxide to make their cars go faster, maintaining constant control of nitrous delivery can offer great benefits when traction is limited. NOS takes this control one step further than its past progressive controller by utilizing a new handheld unit with a touch-screen graphical interface called the Launcher.

This powerful little black box is loaded with software that allows you total control over the nitrous delivery. The Launcher can control two stages of nitrous on its own, or if you add the optional slave controller, it can control a total of four, and all of them can be operated progressively. There's a wideband connection that you can use to shut down the nitrous in the event of an overly rich or lean condition, and an SD memory card is included with the LCD touch screen to store extra programs or to take advantage of the Launcher's data-logging capability.

You can set the progressive control to run off of engine rpm, boost pressure, or a time elapse, and you can also set the actual curve of nitrous delivery using the touch screen. The Launcher itself can be triggered by voltage inputs, such as a TPS switch, WOT switch, or tach signal. The touch screen makes it pretty easy, much like a video game, but you can also install the software on a PC laptop and program it that way as well.

Having all of this state-of-the-art technology available to us, we just had to install it on a car and see how it worked. After contacting Tony Gonyon of HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida, we found a great candidate in Jason Wells and his '93 Mustang. We've worked with Wells before, as he provided his 418-cid Windsor-powered coupe for a drag suspension installation. Wells uses a two-stage nitrous plate, but up until now, he had never used the second stage.

We met up with Wells at HP Performance and followed along as he and his father, Mike, performed the installation. The directions are fairly straightforward, and there are just a dozen or so wires to hook up. Wells employs an MSD 7531 programmable ignition, and we had to connect the Launcher to the 7531, as it provided us with two stages of timing retard. Once the system was installed and tested in the shop, we headed to our local quarter-mile strip of pavement, known as Gainesville Raceway, in Gainesville, Florida, and loaded up in the staging lanes. We set the first stage of nitrous for 225 hp, and the second for 150 hp.

Prior to our Launcher install, Wells had piloted the black notchback to a best elapsed time of 5.76 in the eighth-mile, on a single 225hp stage of nitrous. For the first run with the Launcher, we used one stage and left on 30 percent nitrous, with the rest coming in just 1.2 seconds later. Track conditions were not ideal, as it was pretty cold out, so we dialed the nitrous back a bit. The eighth-mile went by in 5.86 seconds at 120 mph, and Wells crossed the finish line in 9.14 seconds at 147 mph. The slower eighth-mile time was no doubt the result of starting off at 30 percent, rather than the full hundred. We wanted to gradually add in nitrous, so we felt this was a good place to start.

On our second run, Wells left on 40 percent with the same time delay, and engaged 50 percent of the second stage 0.9 seconds into the run with a delay of one second. The eighth-mile time improved to 5.77 seconds at 124 mph, and our quarter-mile e.t. dropped to 8.94 seconds at 153 mph. Sadly, our fun had come to an end as we ran out of nitrous, but we're sure there is an easy 8.60-8.70 in the car once we get more aggressive with the delivery curves. We now have total control of the nitrous oxide delivery, which can aid a poorly set up chassis, or a racing surface that is losing adhesion, or doesn't have any to begin with. Now you can launch your Mustang and be able to put the power down no matter what conditions exits.